One of joys of coming to the Smoky Mountains is being with our friends Olie and Mary Williamson.
Olie is 90 years young. In addition to the rental business he runs, Olie teaches a Bible class every Sunday morning and Wednesday night. Preaches every Sunday morning, unless he can corral a guest speaker, like yours truly. Plays golf most every week. And writes a weekly column for the Newport Plain Talk newspaper.
In a recent column, Olie recounted an incident that occurred in 1946.
I was 14 years old, and up on the head of Hen Wallow. Old houses were still standing after years of being abandoned. One of those houses had been the home of Anderson Ramsey. All the land in the area had been bought for the GSMNP, or ‘The Park’. We were raised in a time of great superstitions; “haints” lived in many of the older abandoned or empty houses. So, we were scared to be around them.
But there I was on a Sunday afternoon, looking at initials that had been carved on the walls of that old house. No one was around but me. Then I heard something, and chills went up my back. As I peeked around the corner, I saw an old man, rather haggard, one arm, and the other shirt sleeve swinging as he came down the mountain.
BOY, I TOOK OFF! I went thru that old house and went up the creek to Hen Wallow Falls, hit the trail and headed home. I learned later that the old fellow was Kel Mathis, and he’d seen me. Or he saw where I was. And Mr. Mathis sent word he was sorry he’d scared me.
Olie, then observed that “We’re all victims of what we’ve been taught, whether true or not.” When he saw something unexpected, he ran. He makes the point that too often in religious matters, we run away from what we don’t understand, often because of some preconceived ideas.
As I pondered Olie’s story, I thought of Jonah in the Old Testament. God commanded him to go to Nineveh and preach against their wickedness. Instead “Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.” He boarded a boat in Joppa, going the opposite direction from Nineveh and tried to run from God’s presence.
If you’re familiar with this narrative, running from God didn’t work so well for Jonah. God sent “a violent storm” that threatened to destroy the ship. The sailors soon learned that Jonah was responsible for God’s fury. And Jonah realized it too. So, at his request, they threw him overboard, and he was swallowed by “a great fish” which God prepared. For three days and nights while in the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed, admitting his wrong doing and the folly of trying to run from God.
All of this raises some rather, serious and sobering questions, “Are you running from God?” If you are, “Why?” And “what are you running from?”
Are you running away from the authority of God’s Word? Jesus said “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). Through the revelation of the Holy Spirit given to the inspired writers, we have the word of Jesus preserved. We can read and understand it (Eph. 3:3-6).
Are you running from God’s command to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins”? (Ax. 2:38). Because of some preconceived ideas, some folks reject the divine mandate and run away.
Are you running from moral teaching of God’s Word? The Bible clearly delineates the “works of the flesh” which are opposed to the “fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 16-26). Some seek to justify a sinful relationship and immoral lifestyle by saying it makes them happy. And, after all, they believe, God wants them to be happy.
Are you running from your family responsibilities as a husband or wife? Or as a father or mother? The Bible clearly speaks to specific roles that are enjoined on us in the marriage relationship and as parents. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord…Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 5:22-6:4). Sadly, some reject the sanctity of God’s family order of one man for one woman for life, and run away to a more modern and socially acceptable idea.
Are you running away from your duties in the Lord’s church? The epistles clearly outline our mutual responsibilities in the Body of Christ with numerous “one another” commands. Love one another. Accept one another. Forgive one another. Care for one another. Encourage one another. And pray for one another.
Are you running from the Lord because you’re afraid? Or allowing superstition to influence you? Or trying to avoid responsibility? Or refusing to face the Truth? Or hooked on the pleasures of sin? Or consumed with greed? Or deceived by popular opinion?
Don’t run from God. It didn’t work for Jonah. And it won’t work for you and me either.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman