Smith challenges students to obey God's call
by Emily Grooms
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews)--"When you run away from the presence of the Lord, you always go down, and you always pay a price," said Evangelist Bailey Smith, a Truett-McConnell trustee.
Smith recounted the story of Jonah (1.1-17), focusing on four key lessons: God is inescapable, our sins affect other people, be thankful for the storms in your life, and God's will is life's greatest joy.
"It's amazing to see all that God did to show Jonah he couldn't get away from him," Smith said. "Jonah decided to go to Tarsus, away from Nineveh and away from the presence of the Lord."
When Jonah was thrown off the boat, Smith said he believes Jonah still didn't get it. "I'm sure when Jonah got on that boat, he thought, 'Well God, you're not such a big deal. I'm still not going where you told me to go, I'm going the opposite."
"Some of you are probably going the opposite of where God wants you to go," Smith said.
"Jonah thought once again that he'd gotten away from God. All of a sudden a big fish comes up and swallows him up," Smith said. "He was shot out of the fish's belly and onto dry land, away from Tarsus and toward Nineveh."
"God knew if Jonah was near the sea, the waves of rebellion and disobedience could wash him back out into the sea of absolute disrespect for the Almighty God; so he shot him way up on dry land," Smith said.
"God did all theses things to show Jonah, 'Jonah, you can't get away from me.' God's call is inescapable," Smith said.
"He is inescapable for a nation, inescapable for someone called into Christian service and inescapable for an unsaved person," Smith noted.
Referring to different nations and how they've tried to escape God, Smith said God wasn't finished with Nineveh.
When Jonah made it to dry land, God was still speaking to him; he wasn't going to let go of the call he had on Jonah's life, Smith said.
"Wouldn't you hate living life knowing you missed what God had for you to do...?" Smith asked. "The first thing -- not the fourth or fifth thing -- but the best thing God had for you to do."
"If God ever calls you, he'll not withdrawal that call," Smith said. "You may disqualify yourself, but he'll never withdrawal that call. He does not make mistakes."
Smith stressed how Jonah's sin affected others.
"Jonah was on the boat, but who was afraid? Not Jonah, he was inside asleep. The mariners were afraid; and because of one man, all the sailors were fearful.
"How about the people in Nineveh," Smith asked. "They were supposed to have a preacher, and I wonder how many teenagers committed suicide in Nineveh because their preacher wasn't there. I wonder how many marriages ended in divorce, and how many people started serving a pagan god because the preacher God sent wasn't there?"
"The town he was supposed to go to and witness to was dying and going to hell," Smith stated. "Nineveh stayed lost because of the disobedience of Jonah."
Smith commented on the stupidity of sin and shared a story about a freshman girl who got into a car with an intoxicated young man. The young man lost control of his car and the girl died. "The girl died because of the stupidity of someone's sin," Smith said. "Our sins affect other people."
"Jonah's sin affected others and yours will too. While God can forgive your sins, he won't forgive the consequences of your sins," he said.
During life's storms, it's often difficult to find joy; but Smith reminded listeners to be thankful for the storms of life. "Sometimes, when a storm comes, it comes to waken you," he said.
Jonah was sound asleep, but what woke him up? It was a storm, Smith said, and the rocking of the boat.
"God knows that we play in the calm but we pray in the storm. And sometimes when a storm comes, it comes to wake you up just like the storm woke Jonah."
The storm in Jonah's life was a turning point; God was knocking at his door, Smith said. "Sometimes, God knocks on the door of your heart to make you mad in order to later make you glad."
The greatest joy in life is to be in God's will, Smith said. "If God calls you to do something, don't fret but rejoice."
"There may be some of you God is leading now and you're trying to be rational about it. Don't be rational about it, be obedient," Smith said. "Some of you need to wake up and quit sleeping in your lethargy and complacency. You're not responsible for everyone else, you're responsible for you."
Emily Grooms is a Truett-McConnell student and freelance writer for the college.