Runaway prophets

Posted: Feb 19, 2005 12:00 AM

If you read the biographies of great Christian leaders of yesterday and today, you get the sense that the majority of these guys and girls heard clearly from God, obeyed readily and started immediately reaping Taco Bell Grande-size rewards.

The Bible paints a little less rosy picture of its characters. 

Yeah ? a lot of God?s heroes went through hell and were hammered with snafus and faux pas. In the Bible, there are huge chunks of copy where the saints? lives and walks with God reeked worse than old spilled bong water in the back seat of a taxi in Miami during the heat of the summer.  Some of the saints? setbacks and failures were the by-products of satanic interference, and some simply came about because stuff happens and life is not a movie.  Then there is the trouble, that special hell, which came to the believer because he was being a donkey with respect to his destiny.

Take Jonah?s story for example. 

The book of Jonah shows that the chaos in Jonah?s life resulted directly from his refusal to do what he was called to do.  This man is not in a miasma regarding his reason for being.  He is not on a vision quest trying to figure out what his destiny is.  He knows what he is called to and he is currently hauling butt in the opposite direction. 

So ? what happened when Jonah fled from his purpose? Well ? things began to go horribly wrong for him.  In this biblical storyline, God attacks the slacker who is not about his predestined business.  When Jonah ran from his call, God ran after him and used extreme measures, i.e., a violent storm, to get his attention.  So much for everyone wanting to have a purpose driven life.

I know this is not PC, but God will rock our world if we are avoiding our call.  God has His ways of waking us up.  Disaster comes to Jonah?s life not because of happenstance or demonic attack but because God is on the prowl.  God is allowing all hell to break lose on Jonah?s world because Jonah is not taking care of business.  God/life/circumstances will fight us if we?re blowing off what we were hardwired to do.

Check it out.  God is hammering this guy, and he still isn?t going to listen.  So ? what does a loving God do?  He cranks things up several notches and appoints a great fish to swallow Jonah?s rebellious backside.  Being eaten alive and stewing in the fish?s stomach acids worked God?s intended purpose of softening up this runaway prophet.  Jonah enters what he calls ? the belly of hell. 

Have you ever been there? 

In this putrid gurgling gastric percolator, the prophet starts to rethink his former course of action.  The horrible circumstances that hit his life served the purpose of getting him back to center court.  After three days in the fish?s gut, finally Jonah ceases the stubbornness and takes responsibility for his failures, regrets his stupid selfish desires, and is prayerfully ready to do what he has been destined to do.  Yes, the hell which hit Jonah?s life turned to healing because he fielded this bad hand in a humble fashion. 

When we go through storms and are forced to hang out in a fish?s belly, sometimes it feels like an eternity, like we will never ever get out of the seaweed we?re in.  When life disciplines us for goofing off, it can often leave us more depressed than a pimpled-faced 16-year-old boy just dissed by Lindsay Lohan.  Cheer up ? as much as God will ? um ? uh ? make things difficult when we are out of sorts with our calling, He will also cause the bad stuff to cease when the lesson is learned ? and just as it did with  Jonah ? the fish/circumstance will vomit you up.

After ten-plus years in radio and speaking all over this nation, I can say that most people I?ve met also have had a pretty checkered and muddled spiritual life and are more like Jonah than Joseph.  I cannot relate to the perfect flawless ones who follow faultlessly their purpose in life.  I find, thanks to my creepy heart, that I?m more like the guys who barely made it, who were seemingly always doing stupid junk, missing their purpose, chasing things they shouldn?t be chasing and paying retail for life?s lessons.  Usually it takes a celestially swung 2x4 to get me to wake me up and back on track.  

That?s why I get great relief from the bad boys of the Bible like Peter, Samson, David, and, of course, Jonah.  These were men who did great things yet were oft times more off base with their calling than DNC is in choosing Howard Dean to appeal to middle America.  The narratives that surround these men of messy spirituality show us how to move from disaster back to destiny. 

My ClashPoint is this: Purpose and destiny are serious business, and if we will not acquiesce to the call of a storm, then God will send a fish.  Yep ? the creator will appoint creation to bring chaos crashing in on our lives if we are not about our calling.  Never underestimate how hard life will pound us before we fall into lockstep with our purpose. 

However, when the lesson is learned, and one ceases to be the runaway prophet, he will be released from the woodshed of God?s love and restored to a great place in life.  As with Jonah, when responsibility is taken and when purpose is embraced, then one has just set in motion the forces for transformative positive personal change.  

Jonah, post-fish vomit, is now following his call, and the resultant effect is that hundreds of thousands of people are blessed because he ceased running from his purpose and, instead, embraced it.  If you have been stuck in life?s fish belly, feeling like there will be no tomorrow ? relax ? handle the discipline correctly ? and the situation will, as with Jonah, vomit you up, out and into greatness.

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