Everyday Evangelism: Are We Too Good to Share? Part 4

Everyday Evangelism: Are We Too Good to Share?        Part 4: The Omnipresent God

 

One possible reason for Christians’ inconsistent evangelism might be confusion about the implications of God’s omnipresence.  He is everywhere, at all times, forever. Is it really possible for us to forget this? Do we suffer from spiritual amnesia? What believer would dismiss this truth?  The answer is closer than you think.

In Jonah 1:3-17, we encounter the prophet’s response to God telling him to evangelize to the city of Nineveh.  Like Jonah, we must acknowledge our flee, fee, and fear.
 
First, we learn that Jonah flees.  In Jonah 1:3, we discover the concept of fleeing that’s purposeful, intentional, and misdirectional. So “[i]nstead of traveling northeast he fled by sea in the opposite direction. He boarded a ship at Joppa (modern Jaffa), on Israel’s coast about 35 miles from Samaria and about the same distance from Jerusalem. The ship was bound for Tarshish, probably Tartessus in southern Spain, about 2,500 miles west of Joppa.” 1  Jonah flees to modern day Spain, which at the time, was considered the farthest west one could travel.  
 
Is it realistic to assume Jonah, God’s prophet, really thinks he can escape God’s presence?  Not at all but his intention to travel in the opposite direction represents his willingness to do the opposite of God’s will.  In fact, some commentators even suggest that Jonah actually rejects his calling as Prophet.  “It is, literally, he rose to flee from being in the presence of the Lord, i.e., from standing in his presence as his servant and minister.” 2   Philip De Courcy puts it this way:  “[Jonah] didn’t just say ‘No,’ he says no way.” 3
 
We are also reminded of this flawed attempt to truly escape God’s presence and calling in our lives in Psalms 139:1-12 and Jeremiah 23:23-24.   Practically speaking, our rebellion to evangelize might manifest when we walk away from certain people we feel don’t deserve God’s love or when we provide a half-hearted presentation of the Gospel.  Nevertheless, we can’t ultimately resist God’s call to minister in general and evangelize specifically.
 
Second, we learn that Jonah pays a fee.  The latter part of Jonah 1:3 reads “[Jonah] paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”  In this context, the fare refers to the cost paid to sailors for Jonah’s voyage. Fair compensation was due for enduring the challenges of sea travel including pirates, natural disasters, and even mutiny.  
 
 
In a greater sense, Jonah’s fee represents the cost or consequences for moving outside of God’s will.  Jonah’s “fare” costs him to temporarily lose his conviction and credibility. In Jonah 1:4-17, we see how God allows a great storm to take place and threaten the lives of Jonah, the sailors, and everyone else on the ship.  In these scriptures, sailors ask Jonah to pray to his god for deliverance. He ultimately confesses that the storm occurs because of his disobedience of his call to preach to Nineveh.
 
We, too, pay a tremendous cost when we find reasons to disobey God’s call to evangelize.  Our confession of Christian faith can be severely questioned. People may rightly label us as hypocrites.  How can we profess the love of God but reject sharing the Gospel?
 
Third, we learn that Jonah has a fear.  We cannot underestimate the psychological and spiritual effects of the near death experience for everyone on the ship.  Notice how scripture points out two types of fear:  irreverent and reverent.  
 
We see irreverent fear in Jonah 1:5 through the sailors who “became afraid and every man cried to his god” (emphasis added).  In this case, their fear leads to a misplaced trust in whatever deity they feel might deliver them.  They’re concerned about their bodies; their physical well-being.
 
In contrast, Jonah ultimately demonstrates reverent fear when the sailors press him about why he feels the storm occurs.  In Jonah 1:9, he confesses “‘I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land” (emphasis added).  In this case, his fear occurs because of his awe of and testimony about an omnipresent God who’s fully aware of Jonah’s location and who commands nature to achieve His great will.  In this light, Jonah now transitions to his concern about the travelers’ souls; their spiritual well-being.
 
Jonah’s experiences remind us that God’s imperative to evangelize doesn’t depend on our prejudice or presumptions.  And it certainly isn’t limited by our finite view of His omnipotence.
 
1   Hannah, John D. “Jonah.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 1. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 1465. Print.
 
2  Lange, John Peter et al. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Jonah. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008. Print.
 
3  De Courcy, Philip.  “Jonah: a Man on the Run–Headed In The Wrong Direction B.”  Know the Truth Podcast, Know the Truth, 24 January 2018, www.ktt.org/broadcasts/jonah-man-run/012418

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