Greg Laurie - God In Pursuit
Years ago we were doing one of our crusades and we were staying in a hotel. My son Jonathan was very little. I think he was around three or four years old. He loved to push the buttons on the elevator. He would always run ahead of me and push the right button. We are walking down a hallway of a hotel. He ran ahead to the elevator. I said, "Now Jonathan wait for dad. I am almost there".
I turn the corner to see the doors of the elevator close with Jonathan alone. I panicked. I pushed every one of those buttons. Pushing. Pushing. Pushing. Finally the doors open. No Jonathan. I go down to the bottom floor. I go up to the front desk of the lobby. I said, "Ma'am my son is lost somewhere in this Hotel. Please call security. Call SWAT. Call the green berets. Call the navy seals. You have got to help me find my son". She is on the phone. "I am sorry sir. Just hold on". I am just like, "I have got to find him". I run back. I push every button of every floor. When the doors I yell out his name. Finally I found him I don't know five floors up. He is just standing there. "Jonathan listen to dad. Don't run off". I was in pursuit of my son.
I want to tell you something. Failure was not an option. Listen to this. God is pursuing you. But wait. He wants to pursue you to show you how much he loves you. Some of us have this concept of God who is chasing us down because he wants to give us some kind of a beating. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus told a story to show us what God is like. Phil alluded it to it a few moments ago. We call it the Parable of the Prodigal Son. What is God like? He is like a Father who lost a son. God is like a Father who misses his son. God is like a Father who longs for his son's return. God is like a Father who when his son returns runs to him and throws his arms around him and kisses him. God loves you and God will forgive you of any sin you have ever committed. God is pursuing you tonight. Stop running from him.
I want to tell you a story tonight about a man who tried to run from God. His name was Jonah. Now when you talk about Jonah what comes to mind? Jonah and the whale. That's right. We all think of that whale. Because of that we may dismiss this story as a fairytale or a myth. But listen. It is a true story. It was validated by no one less than Jesus Christ himself who said, "As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish". Or the whale. The Bible doesn't say it was a whale. Actually the technical translation would be "A sea monster". Whatever that beast was. "As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights so will I the son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights".
So Jesus validated it. Here is what it says. Jonah 1. "The word of the Lord came to Amittai, saying, 'arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it: for their wickedness has come up before me.'" but listen to this. "But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord".
Have you ever tried to run from God? Maybe you thought God was out to ruin all of your fun. God was out to mess your life up. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible tells us that God is good. The Bible says, "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his mercy endures forever". God's plans for you are better than your plans for yourself. He says in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope". Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life and that more abundantly". In other words Jesus is saying, "I came that you might live a life that is full, rich, and meaningful". Meanwhile the devil, and oh yes there is a devil. As surely as there is a God who loves you there is a devil who hates you. The devil wants to destroy your life. Jesus said of satan, "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy". But Jesus has come to give life because God is good. But sometimes we run from God.
Our granddaughters have a little rabbit named fuzzy. Every now and then they will pull him out. Fuzzy. One of my granddaughters. Little Allie. Alexandra is her full name. She will play with fuzzy. She is only two so sometimes she doesn't hold fuzzy the right way. Sometimes she kind of picks him up by the head you see. Fuzzy is like, "Oh no". "No Allie you have got to support him when you hold him". The other day when I was returning fuzzy to his cage he leapt out of my arms into the open cage. "I am so happy to be home". That is how sometimes we see God. It is like a cage with the bars. Look. That is one way to look at it. Bars keeping you in. I think fuzzy the rabbit says, "Those are the bars that keep allie out. I am safe here".
Listen. Following Jesus Christ I am not going to lie to you. There are things that the Bible tells us we should not do. There are commandments that are put there for our own good. Not to keep you penned in but to keep evil out of your life. God won't hold it away from you if it is a good thing. The Bible says, "No good thing will he withhold from those that walk uprightly". Not only is God good but God is love. You see these Ninevites, these people Jonah was called to they were wicked. That is why Jonah didn't want to go. He was a patriotic Israelite. It would be like God coming to an Israeli today and saying, "Go to Iran that great city and preach to them". Well maybe he wouldn't want to do that.
See Jonah's fear. It was effectively justified was that God would forgive Nineveh and his hope was God would judge Nineveh and destroy them. That would be one less enemy Israel had to worry about. So he didn't want to go. God says to Jonah, "Go to Nineveh". Jonah's response is, "God they drink hatorade in Nineveh. I don't want to go". God said, "Go". Jonah said, "No". God said, "Oh". Listen. The Lord will always have the last word. Yet despite the wickedness of these people God loved them. Graphic accounts are in historical records of the cruel treatment of captives from the Ninevites. They would burn boys and girls alive. They would torture adults. They would tear the skin from their bodies and leave them to die in the scorching sun. Yet amazingly God loved these people and was giving them a second chance. I want you to know that God loves you. No matter what sin you have committed he will forgive you. But you need to turn from that sin.
So Jonah got up and went. In the wrong direction. He went down. That is where sin is always going to take you. Down. We don't plan on going down. But one thing leads to another doesn't it? That flirtation that ruined a marriage. That pregnancy that altered your life. That pleasure that turned into an addiction. Think about these things. Especially you that are young. The evening of your life is determined by the morning of it. The end from the beginning. These things that you don't think are a problem now turn into big things.
Have you ever seen a little baby rattlesnake? They are actually kind of cute in a weird way. Everything is miniaturized. They have got their little fangs. They have got their little rattler. You might say, "Look at that little baby rattlesnake". And you pick it up and hold it up. He bites you. "The little baby rattler. Feeling lightheaded". Drop for drop the venom of a baby rattler is super potent. We will take a sin and say, "It is just a little sin. Just one time. I will never do it again". Little things turn into big things. That is what happened to Jonah.
I read about a rapper that had a number one hit. He was talking in an interview about the effective of instant fame. His shows got bigger. His partying became more extreme. He says, "I got more messed up than ever. All of a sudden," he says, "You are young. You have this newfound attention. I was hooking up with random females and the drugs started getting stronger. I always said, 'I will never do coke' but I broke that. I started doing a little bit of oxycontin. That scared me". His friends began to worry because he didn't respond to texts and calls. They thought, "Oh he is too cool for us now". The rapper says, "I was alone. Smoking in my bedroom". That is sin man. It just takes you down. Sin will take you further than you want to go. It will keep you longer than you want to stay. It will cost you more than you want to spend. Don't go that way.
A storm comes. A big old gnarly storm. This was so hardcore this storm that even the sailors started to panic. And they were used to rough seas. They had never seen anything like it. In a way this was a loving storm. God was allowing it to get Jonah's attention. Maybe you have had a crisis in your life recently. Maybe you had a close brush with death. You got a scary call from the doctor about the tests that they just did on you. Or something has happened to remind you of your mortality. C. S. Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures. He speaks in our consciences. But he shouts in our pain. Pain is his megaphone to arouse a deaf world". Sometimes God can take pain or a storm if you will to get our attention and show us we need God.
Actor Gerard butler who starred in 300 and also Olympus is fallen had a close brush with death recently. He was learning how to surf big waves and prep for his film chasing mavericks. He got hammered by a wave and he was pinned under water for nearly a minute. Now butler is not a seasoned surfer. He was panicking. He thought he was going to drown. Fortunately rescuers got to him and they told him the last guy that went down at mavericks had drowned so he was fortunate to be alive. Butler says, "You know how people say when you are close to death you get a sense of peace. Well I didn't experience it. It was violent. It went on and on. It was absolutely terrifying".
Yeah that could happen. Maybe that has happened to you. These sailors are freaking out and they are calling out to their gods. None of them had the right God. I think a lot of times when we are in trouble we will call out to God. I tell you I used to. One day when I was a kid probably around 16 years old I was with some buddies. We went down and bought a kilo of marijuana. Not to sell. We were going to smoke it all ourselves. We put it in the trunk of our car. We are cruising down pacific coast highway in Laguna Beach. It was raining that night. One of my friends was driving. Suddenly the car starts to fishtail. I am in the backseat. I am seeing the headlines in the morning newspaper. "Drug dealers die on pacific coast highway". I said, "God if you get me out of this I promise I will serve you". Suddenly the car corrected itself and we got home safely I said, "Thanks God. See you next crisis".
Have you ever done that before? "Oh God if you get me out of this one I promise I will follow you". He does. You forget your promise. That is what these men were doing. They were crying out to their gods but none of them had the right God. So they cast lots. They figure out the culprit is this stranger who is in the bottom deck sleeping. They wake him up. It is Jonah. They are saying, "What is going on with you? We figured out this storm came because of you". Jonah said, "Well I am a Hebrew. I worship the Lord God of heaven who made the sea and the land". They are blown away. They had heard of the God of Israel. The God who parts oceans. The God who sends food from heaven. The God who raises the dead. They are saying to him, "You are running from a God like that"?
Nothing is more pathetic than being busted by a non-Christian especially when they are right. Have you ever had that happen? A non-Christian says, "I thought you were a Christian"? "Well I am". "Then why are you doing that"? "Well. Good question". That happened to me years ago. I had become a Christian. I had started a church. I had real long hair and a beard. Duck dynasty style. I was sitting in a pizza restaurant. I looked over at the table next to me and there is this guy I recognized from elementary school. His name was Paul. I said, "Excuse me. Is your name Paul"? He said, "Yes it is". You know how some people don't change. They just get like bigger. He just looked like himself still. I looked very different. I said, "Paul it is Greg Laurie". He says, "Man I didn't recognize you under all that hair".
Use your imagination. I said, "Well Paul how have you been"? He says, "I have been good. How about you"? I said, "I have been good. I have changed a lot Paul. You see I have become a Christian. Not only am I a Christian Paul but I Am the pastor of a church". He looked at me like I was crazy. He said, "Greg you always used to get in trouble. You were always smarting off to the teacher. You were always doing pranks to other people. I can't believe you are a Christian". "Oh yes I am. I am serving the Lord. Hallelujah". He goes, "Ok Greg. That's great". "Thank you Paul. Good to talk to you". I was feeling so good about myself.
Well we are waiting for our pizza to come and it finally arrives. I was with a friend who went to the restroom for a moment. I forgot all about Paul. I thought it would really be funny to take the red pepper flakes and pour them on my friend's side of the pizza so when he took his first bite it would be really hot. So I am laughing pouring the red pepper flakes on his side of the pizza and Paul says, "Haven't changed much have you Greg"? he was kind of right about that.
Sometimes we are like Jonah. We blow it. We have lost our testimony. We are not being the representative of Jesus we ought to be. Let me just say something. If you are looking for a hypocrite free church please don't join it you will ruin it. Ok. Every Christian is going to be inconsistent at times. So let me apologize for us. If we have not been the best representatives of Jesus Christ. But check this out. Jesus did not say, "Follow my people". He said, "Follow Me". Jesus will never be a hypocrite. We follow him. Honestly the "There are too many hypocrites in the church" line is nothing more than a shallow excuse.
"Why would you run from a God like this"? They ask him. Sometimes nonbelievers have a better idea of what believers should do than some believers have. I read a true story about a bar that was being built in Texas. A local church started a campaign with petitions of prayers to stop it. Work progressed on the bar until a week before opening and lightning struck and burned the bar down. The bar owner sued the church saying they were responsible because of their prayers. The church denied any responsibility and there was no connection between our prayers and the fire. It went to court. The judge read the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's reply and said, "I don't know how I am going to decide this but it appears from the paperwork we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer and an entire church congregation that does not". That is interesting. So these non-believing men are saying to Jonah, "Why would you run from a God like that"? That is a good question. Why are you running from God? He just wants to love you. He just wants to forgive you.