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When You Run From Responsibility - Part 2 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
September 29, 2023 1:00 am

When You Run From Responsibility - Part 2 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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September 29, 2023 1:00 am

If we choose the wrong fork in the road, there are consequences. Jonah’s attempt to flee from God brought him to a great fish, a plant, a worm, and a scorching east wind. In this message, Pastor Lutzer provides three life-changing lessons from Jonah’s disobedience and lost opportunity. It’s time we take responsibility for our actions, owning our stuff.

This month’s special offer is available for a donation of any amount. Get yours at or call us at 1-888-218-9337. 

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. When facing a fork in the road, we have two choices.

If we choose the wrong fork, there are consequences. That's what happened for Jonah, told by God to preach to people he did not like. His attempt to flee brought him face to face with the God of the second chance, the God whose will would ultimately be done.

From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, was Jonah's second chance always in the mind of God? Could Jonah have simply obeyed and avoided the conflict?

Dave, one thing I like about your questions is oftentimes they are not very obvious. I have to say that on one level, of course, it was in the mind of God. Everything is in the mind of God. God never learns anything.

He is never cut short because of new information. But on the other hand, if you ask the question, could Jonah have acted differently? That also leads us into some interesting issues. But from our standpoint, it is very critical to realize that God held Jonah responsible for the decisions he made. We here at Running to Win exist to help you in the Christian life. And I've written a book entitled Making the Best of a Bad Decision. And of course, we know that Jonah is not the only person in the world who's made bad decisions. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Isn't it wonderful to know that when we make bad decisions, God is still there for us? God says, Jonah, I'm taking you back where you got off track. I'm taking you back to that point in the fork of the road where you pursued disobedience. And I'm coming to you a second time and I'm giving you a second chance.

Now, mind you, his attitude was no better, as we shall see in a moment. But God is the God of the second chance. But some of you are saying, yeah, that's maybe possible, but my problem is, you may be saying, my problem is I can't go back to that fork in the road where I got off track. The decision I made was too serious. Maybe it was a marriage.

Maybe it was a vocational decision. There's so many decisions that can be made. And now too many years have passed. Too many ruptured relationships have taken place. There's just no way that I can go back to where I was.

And that indeed may be true. You can't go back to the fork in the road. It's in your past.

So now what? When we repent, God begins to have a new series of forks in the road. We've learned enough in this series of messages making the best of a bad decision that God not only doesn't give up on us, but nor is it true that God can no longer use us.

When we are brought to the point of desperation, the point to which Jonah was brought, we are then in a place where God comes along and says, now that you've repented, now that you once know or finally acknowledge what you should have known, that I am Lord and King, you bow humbly before me every single morning for instruction, I will give you a new series of forks in the road and give you an opportunity to choose and to make the right decision from here on out. If I may speak very plainly, it is still possible to do the right thing after you've done wrong. It's possible to do the right thing after you've done wrong. And the word of the Lord, the word of the Lord comes to you a second time. Oh, yes, the past cannot be recalled.

It cannot be relived. But here you are opening your life to God and saying, God, from now on, and you repent before God and you make things right before man. And God says, I'm giving you a second chance and maybe a third and maybe a fourth. So Jonah is learning this, that when you run from God, he pursues you. When you repent, he hears you. Some of you may be today in the belly of the fish and God says, I've caught you. Are you willing to say, God, you've got me? Third lesson that he learned is that when you complain, when you complain, God teaches you.

Very interesting story here. We pick it up in chapter 4, verse 1. As you know, in chapter 3, Jonah goes and repents and even the animals repent. I often say that I don't know of any animals that need to repent, though I do think we had a cat at one time that could have, should have repented.

Not sure that she ever did, but should have. Can you imagine Mayor Daley proclaiming a fast and even saying, put sackcloth on animals and let all of Chicago repent? That's what's going on here. It is the most phenomenal revival in history, period. And the preacher wasn't that great and that interesting, and he certainly didn't preach with a good attitude. Isn't it amazing what God can do and override human frailty? And then he learned that when you complain, God teaches you, chapter 4, verse 1, but it displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was angry. The Hebrew says, these words, it was evil to Jonah, a very great evil.

Wow. What was the evil? Please, Jonah, could you tell us? Well, I preached and 600,000 people repented. That was evil to Jonah. We're talking about the human heart here, you know. You say, well, I've never met anyone that stubborn.

I wonder if your friends have met someone that stubborn. Think about that if it went past you. And he says, it's evil. He says, I want to die.

I want to die. Take my life, verse 3. And the Lord tries therapy in verse 4. And the Lord says, do you well to be angry? Jonah, let's talk.

Let's have some therapy. But he won't stay for the session. It says in verse 5, he went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself. And he sat under the shade till he should see what should become of the city of saying, even though they repented, I hope God judges it. What God does here is so interesting that it really deserves a separate message sometime and sometime it will be a separate one.

What God does here is to hold a mirror up to Jonah so that he can see himself and see whether or not he really sees what he looks like. And so God says, you know, it's hot out here, Jonah. Yeah, it's hot out here. You want to die?

Yeah, you want to die? Well, you know what? I'm going to be gracious to you. Verse 4, the Lord appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah that it might be a shade over his head to save him from his discomfort. Oh, Lord, thank you for this air conditioner.

It is just so, so wonderful. Praise God. And then the Lord appointed, it says in verse 7, a worm. God says to the worm, worm, do you see that plant over there? I want it down by morning.

I want it down by morning. And then not only that, Jonah was getting faint. And it says in verse 8, when the sun arose, God appointed a scorching east wind and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. God says, I want you to get a taste of some bad weather. Nothing will bring out the human heart like bad weather.

My wife and I live in a condo complex. And you can't just turn on the air conditioner until they tell you that it's on and it takes a day or two to make the transition. And I remember one time it was so hot in April, all these nice, wonderful, loving people that you meet, oh, were they steamed.

Were they steamed? You know, we appreciate the plant and we appreciate that. But now, you know, and so Jonah was really.

Notice this. You should underline the word appointed appears four times in the book of Jonah chapter one verse 17, the Lord appoints a fish. Here, the Lord appoints a plant and the Lord appoints a worm and the Lord appoints a scorching east wind. God appoints our comforts. He appoints our discouragements and he appoints our trials. A plant to shade him, a worm to bug him, and God also appointed a scorching east wind to exasperate him.

Why? God says, I'm holding up a mirror, Jonah, so that you can see what this is all about. Now, notice. And God comes to him then and now he's willing to stay a little longer for the session. By the way, people think, you know, all that you need to do is to take somebody who needs to be fixed and get them to the right counselor and they'll fix them. Well, the counselor here is God and he doesn't seem to be helping Jonah very much at all. He says again, it's better for me to die than to live. But God said to Jonah, verse nine, now, do you do well to be angry for the plant? And he said, yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.

Wow, that's quite a prophet. And the Lord said, you pity the plant for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came up into being in a night and perished in a night. Shouldn't I pity Nineveh, that great city in which there are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know the right hand from their left and also much cattle.

It's a reference to the children, the young ones who don't know their right hand from their left. Jonah, all that you can see is your air conditioner and your plant. And having the right environment means more to you than one hundred and twenty thousand children who would perish without a knowledge of God unless you told them about Jehovah. That's your heart, Jonah. And the book ends.

We have no idea as to whether or not Jonah ever got the point or if he did, whether he responded to it. You talk about the human heart being hard. It's possible that our creature comforts can mean more to us than the children of Chicago. And when we hear Denita and Sarah stand up and say that we need tutors, there should be a very, very good reason that God accepts as to why some of us say no. Because it is possible for just the same creature comforts to mean more to us than children who need tutors and who need friends and who need help.

This is a picture of the human heart. Three life-changing lessons for us. When we run, our disobedience has wider consequences. When we run from God, our disobedience has wider consequences. The Bible says that Jonah went to Tarshish and he went to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, and paid the fare thereof. Cost you to run from God. But he's not the only one who paid. The sailors paid. They threw their cargo overboard. That was their livelihood. They had no insurance in those days to recoup the loss. The people in Nineveh, they paid.

They had to wait a certain number of days and weeks and maybe months before they got the message that should have arrived earlier. And there's no doubt that many of them died and they would have been alive if Jonah had gone when God told him to. You, person today, to whom I speak, there are some of you and you know exactly that I'm speaking to you. That's a good way to say it. You are backslidden. You know God, but you've drifted away. And you say to yourself, I can live my life the way in which I want to.

I can do my own thing. And what you don't realize is you affect all the people around you negatively and the positive effect that you're to have in your families and in your ministries is all gone. You just don't sin alone.

You're influencing others. Can't be any other way. No man lives unto himself. No man dies unto himself. The meter is always running when we disobey. We always pay and we pay a whole lot more than we think we're going to. Second, we need to take responsibility.

Follow this carefully. We need to take responsibility for disobedience before we can expect God to take care of getting us back on track. We need to take responsibility. Jonah had to see himself and he saw himself only partially because he ends up still being rebellious.

If you ask me the question, what is the most common cause of divorce, of the rupture of human relationships, of all these other things, I would simply say this. It is because we as human beings do not want to own our own stuff, if I may use that expression. We simply refuse to respond to the mirrors that God has put in our path. And as a result of that, you can hear sermons, you can sing songs, you can have role models, you can do the whole thing and still be a Jonah.

Because we don't want to do serious business in God's presence in repentance and faith. I think of how many marriages perhaps could be saved if husband and wife were to sit down together and say, you know what, I'm going to own my stuff. Are you going to be able to own your stuff instead of blaming others, instead of making excuses?

We all own our stuff in God's presence and in the presence of other people. That's a process. It's a process in my life. Sometimes a painful process to own our disobedience and to call it by the right name. God is calling you back today. Wouldn't it be very understandable as I said Jonah hears the will of God very clearly and God goes through all of this to get the prophet back in God's will because nobody wants you back in fellowship more than God. And he set up all these things in your life and you don't pick up on them.

In some cases dragging you from briar patch to briar patch to say don't you hear me? What is it going to take for you to see yourself? The final lesson in that is that some opportunities are lost forever.

Some opportunities are lost forever. Jesus in the 12th chapter of Matthew said just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. He said this to people who wanted a sign. And then he said the men of Nineveh shall rise up and judge this generation because they repented at the preaching of Jonah and behold a greater than Jonah is here. The men and women of Sodom will rise up because a greater is here.

You think of the opportunities we have that the people in Nineveh didn't have. They didn't even have a good message. It was just judgment, repent or else you're going to be overthrown. Or he didn't even say repent or else he just said, you know, Nineveh is going to be overthrown. I mean, what a boring message to repeat over and over again.

They didn't have choirs and hymns and radio and bibles and all these things. And the men of that generation shall rise up and judge this generation because God is here, because God is here. And God is saying to some of you, isn't it time, two categories of people that I'm speaking to, some of you isn't it time that you opened your life to what Jesus did on the cross and believe on him?

Because he is much greater than Jonah and was obedient where Jonah failed. And then to the rest of you. Yeah, you know Jesus, but fellowship is so far off, so far off. God is saying, I'm pursuing you.

I want to catch you. I want you to be back where you belong in fellowship with me. Are you willing to say today, Lord, I've been running and I'm coming home? Well, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer.

One of the things that I picked up on is simply this. Isn't it wonderful to know that even a boring message can get results if it is true? And of course, we know that as a result of Jonah's very simple message, a whole town repented.

Well, this of course is our opportunity to say thank you to the many of you who support this ministry. I've written a book entitled Making the Best of a Bad Decision. One of the chapters has to do with regrets that you can't wish away. Also wisdom for decisions to be made next time.

It's a book intended to help you, but also to show you God's grace. We're making it available for a gift of any amount. Here's what you do. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Perhaps I said that too quickly. Hope that you have a pen or pencil in hand.

Go to or call us right now at 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Today's question comes from Doyle, a careful reader of your books, Dr. Lutzer.

Here's his concern. In one of your books, you make two statements that appear to be contradictory. You say, just as Jesus chose a man to be healed, so he chooses those who are to be saved. Then in the same book, you say that the invitation to salvation is given to everyone. Your first statement that God selects some to be saved and not others does not support your second statement that the New Testament repeatedly says, whosoever will may come.

How can you believe both of these statements? Well Doyle, you know, of course, that the Bible oftentimes has this tension. And what we must understand is that just because salvation is of the Lord and the Bible teaches that God chooses people to be saved, it is also true that the invitation is to everybody. So we say to everyone, whosoever will may come.

Absolutely. I preach that every Sunday. This radio station is committed to the idea that whoever wants to come to God can come. But at the same time, many of us know based on scripture that some people will come and others won't. And I believe that the distinction is the work of God in the human heart.

So I don't think it's contradictory at one time to believe the fact that God chooses people and at the same time to give the invitation to others whosoever will. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635, North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. The webs we weave through deception entangle us with unintended consequences. Next time, a story from the Bible about a faithful king named Asa who failed near his finish line, leaving Israel in a state of war. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-29 05:29:31 / 2023-09-29 05:37:50 / 8

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