Read Jonah 1:3. At the very least, if you run from the demands of God’s presence, you will miss the supreme joys of that presence. Yet, en route to Tarshish, our Mediterranean paradise and dream ministry in the sun, we can always rationalize or justify such a flight. God will soon prick that bubble. So four frightening stages now open up on Jonah’s flight. It looked like Jonah was safe. He’d made good on his bid for freedom from an onerous task he emphatically refused to do. To him, everything was looking totally right now.

1. The circumstances seemed just right – ‘Tarshish’ is a fair-weather port in a storm for any weary and burned out Pastor or believer. It’s on the right shipping routes, enabling us to ‘keep in touch with home’ if necessary, even if we lose touch with God. Initially Jonah found good sailing conditions for the voyage, so it would now be ‘plain sailing’ to get to Tarshish. He arrived at sea-port Joppa (Jaffa) just as a ship was leaving! – “God understands after all!” Read the ads. There’s always the offer of a nicer town, growing church, good salary, excellent bonuses, somewhere other than here. So, let’s go! Surely, the sky won’t fall down!”

2. He was offered a safe passage – He embarks from a seaport in Philistine territory, on a Phoenician ship. This is traditional ‘Bandit country,’ but so what? Nothing bad has happened yet. The ticket office was open, the ship still in port, the sailors very friendly. The words, ‘I believe the Lord has been leading me to leave here, and try somewhere different all along!’, came readily to mind. This sometimes means dangerous company with ‘nice’ skeptics who seduce us away from the Lord, wrong relationships with attractive unbelievers at that new job, college, ‘cool’ bar or nightclub, or ‘post-evangelical’ Christians in an experimental church that sits loose to the Bible and that old ‘stodgy preaching’. It can all seem so attractive. All goes well. ‘No harm done’ then. It’s all quite innocuous, even liberating, to be away from the constraints of God’s harsh demands. “I made the right decision after all!”

Do you identify with these seductions in your past or present? Think about thanking God for not ignoring this. Repent, and renew your commitment to Christ, and ask him to lead you into his plans again.