“Come to me”
I know someone who is running from God. Hard. The fruit? Frustration, confusion, and despair. This hasn’t happened all at once, it has taken several years to get to this point. From the outside, one wonders why wanderers don’t just give in and return to the Lord. Can’t they see it is futile to try escape from Him? Besides, who in their right mind would want to run from God anyway?
It’s not that cut and dried. There may be lots of reasons. The bible is full of examples of chosen people to have run from God. To be clear, until we are saved, we ALL are avoiding the true and living God. I’m talking about believers who have thrown away their faith and are now running from him.
Jonah comes to mind as the clearest example, but there are plenty of others as well. Jonah didn’t deny God, but his hatred for the people of Nineveh caused him to flee Him rather than do them good as God commanded. In the end, Jonah did what God wanted, but he still had a bad attitude. Did Jonah ever truly come around? The bible doesn’t say, but I’m thinking he did.
How about John the Baptist? Here was a guy who was absolutely positive of his mission and who he served. Yet, when times got tough, even he doubted. How could that be? I don’t know, but it happened. Personally, I’ve never sat in jail, let alone a Roman jail, waiting for a king to whack my head off. Perhaps he wouldn’t be the only one to question things. Just sayin’. We do know that things turned out OK. No, John lost his head alright, but he was encouraged about Jesus. That was more important.
Then there is Peter who was pressured under awful circumstances to prove his allegiance to Jesus. One moment he’s attacking the guard to defend Jesus, the next he’s cussing at a servant girl and denying to all that he even knows him. Things eventually turned out OK for Peter. Oh, to be sure, Peter lost his life later on because of Jesus, but he didn’t deny him again. No, Peter learned his lesson well. I think this passage penned by him was a result of his denial:
1 Peter 5:6-11 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Hatred and fear. These seem to be the factors behind the denial of these men. What about other reasons? Jesus gives us an example that I’m sure we all could relate to in parable of the prodigal son. We don’t know the reason the younger son wanted his share of the inheritance – before his father was even dead! Maybe his older brother was too much to deal with. Maybe he didn’t see eye to eye with his father. Maybe his own lustful desires overwhelmed him. One thing is certain, he blew it. Another thing is certain, his father welcomed him home with open arms.
We see this in every one of the examples. Another thing is that each sought the Lord. Jonah cried out to God in prayer. John the Baptist sent his disciples. Peter wept bitterly. And the prodigal came home.
As I think about the person that I know who is running, in this light, I am filled with compassion. Yes, this person is sinning against God, but so did these other biblical characters who we portray as bigger than life. If they can doubt, who is to say it won’t happen to me? We have insight in Peter’s case when we learned that Satan demanded to have Peter, that he might sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31). Who is to say that that might not happen to you or me? That, my friends, seems to be out of our control. It could definitely happen.
And, if it could happen, who is to say that it isn’t happening right now with the wanderer I know? In fact, I would be willing to say that it is. And, if this is true, that Satan is – right now – sifting this person, that’s a really big deal. A REALLY BIG DEAL! Do I have an obligation to help this person? What can I do for someone who is blinded by the god of this world and their own sin?
In Jonah’s case, there was great turmoil for Jonah and all those around him. They asked Jonah what they should do, and he told them they need to throw him into the sea. “Therefore they called out to the Lord…. [and] picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.” (Jonah 1:14-16) Perhaps it’s as simple as asking if they need help. You never know, now might be the precise moment they need you.
In John the Baptist’s case, Jesus sent a word of encouragement. Remember that? “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” (Matthew 11:4-5). Maybe a phone call, a text, or a hand-written letter of encouragement is what is needed.
Peter’s story gives us greater insight, perhaps the most hopeful of all, in that Jesus intervenes directly to God for Peter. “[B]ut I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:32) After that, Jesus directly encouraged him with his famous, “Peter, do you love me?” questions. We can pray. Maybe the storm has now passed, and it’s time to encourage.
And with the prodigal? Well, we know that the father ran to greet his returning son. No doubt, he missed his son and was looking for his return. There is no doubt that he was also praying for him. We can always pray.
For now, I can pray and encourage when the time is right. I can’t make anyone change, but I can show my love and steadfast commitment for their return. Oh, and I can pray. Yeah. God is the one who delivers, not me. I’m along for the journey, and I’ll do what I’m asked. In the end, each one of us must face Jesus all by ourselves. One on one. Alone with God.
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,
Father, in your good time, but I ask that it be sooner rather than later. Why give the devil one more day to ravish a child of yours? Amen.
Copyright © 2020 Scott Powers