Terry Virgo, writing in The Resurgence shares this thoughtful posting. This is a blog you want to bookmark.

Jonah’s Escape into Sleep

Terry Virgo » Biblical Theology Biblical People Sin

God told Jonah, “Go to Nineveh.” Jonah responded, “Not likely! I’m off to Tarshish.” Having secured his passage, he went below deck and promptly fell asleep.

Sleeping to escape

Tiredness can be perfectly wholesome, the natural result of hard work. But we can also experience a tiredness that is not healthy, a sleep that says, “I can’t face reality any more. I can’t cope with the responsibility.”

Jonah had already run away physically. Now he was running away mentally. He lost all sense of purpose and along with it all sense of urgency. Dejected and weary, he crawled below deck and fell asleep.

The world regards Christians as sleepy and irrelevant rather than provocative or prophetic.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told the disciples to watch and pray, but they fell asleep. They must have thought, “we’re weary of all this. What’s the point? If Jesus dies what’s going to happen to us? It’s just too much for us to cope with.” So they switched off and slept.

Like Vance Hayner said, “Taking it easy is often the prelude to backsliding. Comfort precedes collapse.”

Sleepy and irrelevant

How many Christians suffer from lethargy and general aimlessness? We have a glorious commission—to tell the world about Jesus—but how often do we give the impression of having a vital sense of destiny?

Forgetting God’s command to reach the nations, we simply adopt our own plans. We soon lose our sense of direction, get bored, and “fall asleep.” So the world regards Christians as sleepy and irrelevant rather than provocative or prophetic.

A storm-tossed world

Suddenly, a violent storm engulfed Jonah’s ship. Panic gripped the terrified sailors, who cried out to their gods to save them. Fearing they would capsize in the gigantic waves, all hands were ordered on deck, and cargo was frantically thrown overboard (Jonah 1:4-5).

Today the world is confronted by many terrible storms. People are tossed about by countless fears and countless social needs scream for answers. Though modern man is better educated and informed than ever, he still feels overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s problems.

Just as Jonah’s companions called on their various gods, society cries out to humanism, secularism, and materialism. Some are turning to occult or eastern religions – Islam, Hinduism, Hare Krishna, spiritualism, and so on. Not knowing who has the answer, each calls on his own “god” for help.

The sleep of a sinner

Jonah’s shipmates didn’t realize it, but the one man who knew how to stop the storm was asleep. “How can you sleep?” the ship’s captain asked him. “Get up and call on your god.” Everybody else was doing what they could—praying to their gods, bailing out water, discarding cargo—but Jonah only slept (Jonah 1:6).

Backslidden Christians are often faced with the same sort of question by well-meaning friends and colleagues, but it’s pointless trying to “bail out the water” when you, like Jonah, know the reason for the storm.

Jonah knew more about the cause of the weather conditions in the Mediterranean than the entire meteorological office of his day! The sailors may have calculated certain winds had reacted with high and low pressure areas, and the result was a storm. But this backslider knew exactly what was happening.

God will wake you up

Backsliders who’ve been apprehended by God often know more about the situation than anyone else, whatever the specialists may say. The backslider on the verge of bankruptcy can call in an expert to help him save his business. Or to help save his crumbling marriage, he may consult a marriage counselor. But in his heart the backslider knows, “God is after me.”

God has a heart for backsliders. He closes in on them, whispering through the storms, “I’m after you. You’ve run away from me, but I love you and I haven’t finished with you. I want you back with me again.”

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