[This appeared first at LifeChurchNC.com]
August 5, 2016
Tonight, eyes around the world will be glued to the opening ceremonies for the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Despite all of the turmoil and concerns facing these games – from risks surrounding the Zika virus; to the political upheaval in Brazil; to the lack of cleanliness, preparedness and safety of the sights – this remains one of the greatest spectacles representing global peace and unity. Where else can you find this kind of diversity of cultures and ethnicities in one location? And where else could you get a better glimpse of the creativity of God’s hand or a better view of His nature and a sampling of the world the Father’s heart both beats and breaks for than the Olympics?
Despite my obsession with the mountains and my preference for colder temperatures (which would be found in the Winter Olympics), I’ve always been more drawn to the Summer games. As with many of the competitions, speed tends to be the primary factor when determining winners and medalists. It’s a test to outrun, and in some cases outlast, that separates the qualifiers – the people who are just happy to be there – from the real champions. And regardless of the competition, there’s usually a sense of awe and appreciation to watch the precision, determination and the commitment with which the athletes compete – all for acylates, recognition and medals that of course will not last. The Bible, of course, speaks to this quite often, most notably perhaps in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
However, instead of pointing to a more obvious (and sometimes overused) spiritual connection between the Olympics and faith – it’s the thought of running from as opposed to running to that intrigues me a bit more right now.
Have you ever found yourself chasing so hard after something, but deep down, knowing that it was more about what you were running away from instead of what you were running toward?
It’s this attitude that so often drives obsessions to be successful and to stay one step ahead of everyone else. Because we’re running from a past…from failure…from obligations…from our conscience…from the consequences. Or perhaps we’re even running from ourselves or from God. Ask someone what they’re chasing after in life and often you will find is that it has less to do with what they’re running toward and more to do with what they’re running from that motivates them.
This will be the case with many of the Olympic athletes competing these next few weeks. And it’s certainly the case with many of us.
This weekend we will begin a 4-week journey through one of the most raw and honest books related to this dark, twisted and messed-up side of our humanity. Jonah is a story centered around a prophet who ran from God in a number of ways, but who found he could never outrun God’s grace and mercy, no matter how hard he tried. In fact, instead of Jonah running to share the Good News of God’s grace through a message of repentance, what he actually experienced was a God who is always running toward us…way faster than we could ever run toward him.
As you’ll see, all of us have more in common with Jonah than we realize. And as we’ll experience, it’s the relentless grace of God, illustrated in a Father who runs after His wayward children, that serves to unsettle us, and at the same time, is so transformatively beautiful that it compels us to stop running from and freely run to.
Don’t miss these next four weeks. If you’ve never heard the Gospel in the Old Testament, you will hear it loud and clear through Jonah!