How Far Will You Run?

Five years ago I wrote up one of Pastor Warren’s Sunday morning messages, as near as I remembered it.  Now I’ll post it again for my new site.

His topic was on accepting responsibility–which might include the need to go back and face the music. The scripture verses he started his message with were Genesis 16:6-11.

In Genesis 15: 4 Abraham was promised a son, but his wife Sarai had her doubts. At least she wasn’t producing any heirs. Then she had this bright idea — as we short-sighted humans often do. She gave her maid to Abraham thinking the maid would provide the descendants and Sarai would claim them as hers. After all, the maid belonged to her so any offspring would, too.

Alas for “the best laid plans of mice and man.” When Hagar knew she was going to have the heir, she got a bit “uppity” as Southern folks would say. Her smugness irked Sarai, who then became the classic slave driver, treating her maid harshly.

And when Sarai had dealt this way with her one too many times, Hagar fled from her face. (Verse 6) If she’s going to be so cantankerous, I’m outta here, she decided. She took the lad, Abraham’s son, and left for parts unknown.

Trouble is, the parts were unknown. She came to the end of the road, with no food, no money and no place to go. Her son was starving. And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness… And he said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou and whither wilt thou go?

God cared enough about Hagar to follow her; He let her run as far as she could and there He met her. Hagar, probably exhausted and hungry by this time, was finally ready to listen. That’s usually where God meets us, isn’t it?

So she told him, “I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.” And the angel of the Lord said unto her, “Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands… I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.”

Sometimes a few pointed words from a concerned Christian brother or sister will cause someone to run. Someone questions something they done, maybe implies they’re not the good Christian they think they are. So they feel hurt and offended. “He was too hard on me. She doesn’t really know me. I’m doing the best I can. They just don’t understand my situation. I’m not going back there again!”

There are people who go from church to church, from counselor to counselor, hoping to get answers they like. They may say they need help, that they need direction, but then listen “selectively” for the advice they really want to hear. Ten people may say “Don’t do it” but they listen to the one who says, “Yes, that would be okay.” Then they can go ahead and do as they wish, because “Brother so-and-so said it was okay.”

Naturally we want to be accepted by others as spiritual people. That we’re doing just okay. We don’t want to hear we’re wrong, that we have attitudes that are not Christ-like. We may feel so abused and unloved that we run. Perhaps not literally, but we avoid those who want to help us.

God is so good; He waits until we come to a quiet place, until we’ve exhausted every avenue and don’t know what else to do. Then He says, “Where are you? What are you doing here? How far have you already run? How much farther are you going to go?”

He tell us, “Go back. Go back to those ones that you think dealt so hard with you…and submit yourself to them. Listen to what they have to say. Consider that they may be right…that they may see something in you that does need changing.”

Heb 13:17: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

God promised Hagar a rich reward if she’d just go back and stick it out. And after all, wasn’t her attitude part of the problem between her and her mistress? Likewise, He promises us a reward. Though our attitudes may have to go through a refining fire, He promises we’ll be the better for it. Relationships will be stronger, our love purer, our light brighter.

Or will we keep on running? For how many years? Through how many broken relationships? And where will it finally end?