Imagine meeting God face-to-face at the end of your life. After you get up off the floor and gather your wits, you may have a gazillion questions about Him, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. What if God has a few questions for you, too?
“Why did you run away from me?” Jesus might ask. “I called you every morning, whispered in your ear every night.” Or the Holy Spirit might say, “Remember when you felt compelled to make that decision, walk that way, or follow that voice? That was Me. Why didn’t you trust Me and get out of the boat?”
You may have a million answers, a gazillion reasons why you didn’t follow Jesus. Your excuses will die on your lips, though, because it’ll be too late. That’s the bad news. But wait, I have good news! It’s not too late to hear echoes of Jesus in your life and follow Him forward. It’s not too late to stop running way from God and start living more deeply, fully, and faithfully.
In Your Purpose as a Child of God – Matthew 1 I ask several questions, such as “If you were to be an ‘echo of Jesus’, what would you do with your day? Your relationships? Your life?” Now I realize those questions are meaningless if you’re running away from God. You can’t echo Jesus if you’re not in the same room, house, city, or kingdom.
3 Signs You’re Running Away From God
John the Baptist in the gospel of Matthew 3 isn’t just a brilliant echo of Jesus, he’s also a voice in the wilderness. When we meet him, he’s preaching in the wilderness and calling for believers to repent, be baptized, and prepare the way for the risen Christ.
First, the believers get to meet Jesus! John the Baptist and his followers are running to God — and their choices show you how and when you run from God.
1. You avoid the wilderness
The first six verses of Matthew tell us where John lived and what he did. “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!’ For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said: ‘A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight! Now John had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.’” – Matthew 3:1-6 (CSB). The first sign John and his followers weren’t running from God was their willingness to go and stay in the wilderness.
What is the “wilderness” of your life? It took me over ten years to realize that my three-year stint in Africa was the wilderness. At the time I just thought it was the most painful, lonely, hard time of my life. I was emotionally wrecked, spiritually seeking, and physically challenged. And then came nine months of counseling, which threw me into a psychological wilderness that changed my life. Now, looking back, I see Africa as the richest, deepest, most fulfilling season of my life…but at the time I thought I was just suffering a hard time. Africa changed my relationship with God — but I didn’t realize it until later. What about you? Think back to the hardest, most challenging time of your life. See it as a “wilderness experience” that offers depth, meaning and salvation. Avoiding the wilderness is a sign you’re running away from God. Going into and learning from the wilderness will draw you closer.
2. You refuse to repent (it sounds so strict and religious!)
John the Baptist encouraged believers to repent because the kingdom of heaven has come near. Matthew doesn’t define “repent” because his readers at the time would’ve known what it meant. The authors of Teshuvah, or Repentance on the My Jewish Learning website say, “In the Jewish tradition, repentance is called teshuvah, a Hebrew word translated as “returning.” One of the Hebrew words for sin is chet, which in Hebrew means “to go astray.” Thus the idea of repentance in Jewish thought is a return to the path of righteousness.” Repentance is not about feelings. Repenting is an action word; it’s about turning away from the past, old habits, destructive patterns, unhealthy ways of thinking and being. Repentance is a change of heart, a decision to walk forward in a different direction.
Think of “repentance” as turning back to God, where you belong. It’s not always easy for me to get up at 4 am every morning; one of my best tricks is to sleep facing the edge of the bed. I literally turn my body outward in the direction I want to go, instead of inward to my slumbering husband and snoring dog. This tiny act of “repentance” makes a surprisingly big difference in how quickly I get up in the morning. And that tiny act of repentance changed how I think about God. If you stumble over the word “repent”, think of it as simply turning to face Jesus. Instead of running away from God, turn your face upward and meet His gaze. He adores you.
3. You ignore or argue with Jesus
One of the most striking things about Jesus and His followers is how often they argued with Him. Even John the Baptist tried to tell Jesus the “right way” to do things! Matthew 3:13-15 tells us, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. But John tried to stop him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?” Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John allowed him to be baptized.” What do you make of that? John allowed Jesus to be baptized. John the Baptist was a preacher, a holy man, a prophet who did not run away from God — and even he argued with Jesus! John thought he knew how Isaiah’s prophecy should unfold, but he was wrong. Jesus had to insist that He knew the way, and that John had to simply listen and follow.
How might you be running from God? Me, I listen to other people’s voices. I worry what people will think, do, or say. I fear not having enough money, or not pulling my weight. I don’t know why I’m so scared of what people think, but I’m beginning to believe it’s part of my wiring. We as human beings are wired to live in community and relationship; being different or standing out means we might be rejected, cast aside, left behind, abandoned. The problem is that running away from God means running to the world. I can’t go in both directions.
What do you think? Reflect on what drew you here, why you were compelled to read these signs of running away from God. You’re here for a reason — and it’s between you and Jesus. Listen. Jesus is echoing in your heart and spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom, insight, courage, freedom. Feel free to pray or share in the comments section below.
With echoes of Jesus,
P.S. Are you tired of running away from God, but you don’t know what direction to turn? Read 6 Practical Ways to Find God’s Call on Your Life.