Hide and seek
"Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me."-Psalm 139:7, 9, 10
By BISHOP ROBERT E. HAYES JR.
I stand amazed at the number of people who -for one reason or another-think they can hide from God.
Just like in the games of childhood, there are well-intentioned Christians who run and hide from duty, responsibility, and commitment, hoping God won't find them and ask them to do anything.
They seek obscurity on the back pews in the sanctuary. They hide behind convenient work schedules that only allow time for a few football games. They have learned to blend into their surroundings when the pastor or other church leader comes near.
Their favorite hiding places are always "below the radar." When they do get discovered, they are experts of multiple excuses.
One couple had stopped going to church, although they lived only a few blocks away. The pastor visited them, and he was perplexed when he found no one was ill and everything seemed to be fine in the home. He remarked that he'd not seen them at church for some time.
Their response: "Pastor, we decided to stop going to church, because we figured that we lived to close to the church to get the car out of the garage and drive, and too far away from the church to walk!"
Shocked, the pastor got up and left.
You may smile or chuckle at this little story, but there are people in our churches who fail to understand their actions. They aren't hiding from the pastor or the choirmaster or the people who solicit Sunday school teachers-no, they are hiding from God.
They need to know there's no place you can go to escape God's attention.
When God says 'Go,' you don't say 'No'
An old African-American spiritual probably says it best: "My Lord's a writin' all de time, my Lord's a writin' all de time. He sees all you do, and He hears all you say. My Lord's a writin' all de time. Ya can't hide. Ya can't hide. Ya can't hide cause ya don't know how!"
As I share that song, I want to "re-introduce" you to a man who thought he could hide from God. His story is told in the Old Testament; his name is Jonah.
If Jonah had heard this song before God came to him, it might have saved him a lot of pain and trouble, because the one thing Jonah did was try to get away from God.
Ninevah was one of those cities that would make the worst sinner blush! It roiled with every wickedness imaginable. Even a good man would be drawn and quartered at the very mention of God. Yet, when Ninevah had reached its lowest, God stepped in to change things.
God went in search of the one man who could make a difference in that den of iniquity-and found him hiding.
God said to Jonah, "Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and speak out against it!"
But there was a problem: Jonah didn't want to go. Instead of obeying God's command, Jonah packed his bags and went the other direction.
A very bad idea.
Jonah went to Joppa and boarded a ship to Tarshish. Terrified by a storm at sea, the crew cast lots to determine what evil caused it-and the lots fell on Jonah. The seamen learned he was running away, trying to hide from God. They asked, "What is it that you have done for God to act this way?"
Finally, they threw Jonah overboard in order to save their own lives. As radio commentator Paul Harvey says, "You know the rest of the story!"
Today, I offer two lessons from this timeless story.
First: You can't hide from God. Nothing can withdraw itself from God's eyes. His hand leads because His eyes have already beheld our conditions.
Secondly, when God says go, there is no such answer as no.
God's will cannot be suppressed! God comes to us time and time again, as with Jonah, and God manipulates the circumstances which govern our lives, thereby causing the results to be exactly as our Creator planned.
The combination of God's seeing and knowing is a potent combination for dealing with our lives and our behavior. God knows us. God sees us and directs us along the path God has chosen for us.
This message is especially for all those who dash out the door during the benediction, who leave tire marks in the church parking lot, getting away because they fear being seen and asked to do something.
Remember: "Ya can't hide. Ya can't hide. Ya can't hide, cause ya don't know how!"
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