Why do men run from God? It has been a question with me for years and one I have had the deepest interest in because I cannot understand it and things I cannot understand when it comes to the way people behave have a way of bothering me. I have always wanted to know why men do what they do. I have wanted to know how men think and why they think the way they do and thus what motivates a man. The reality is only God can know for sure for only he can see inside a man and read a man’s heart. As for you and me the Bible says, “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” (1 Cor. 2:11 NKJV)
Our best hope for knowing another lies in their willingness to open up to us. Even then we may end up scratching our head in bewilderment. They may tell us what they think but do they themselves even understand the processes of the heart and mind that have led them to the point where they are at?
If there be a God (I am not expressing doubt) then by definition of what it means to be God it is clear one could not successfully run from him. Hear David in the 139th Psalm.
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether…Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.” (Psalms 139:1-4, 7-12 NKJV)
The writer of the book of Hebrews put it this way, “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13 NKJV) To try and run from God or win a battle against him is utter folly and only shows how foolish man can be to even consider such a thing.
Since man cannot run from God why try? While we may never know a particular individual’s thinking or motive for attempting to do so the Bible tells us of some who have tried to run from God in past history and gives us their motivation. Maybe we can learn from that for man has not changed in his human nature since creation.
Adam and Eve were the first to ever try and run from God. When they sinned in the Garden of Eden by eating of the forbidden fruit, breaking God’s commandment, they attempted to hide from God. Adam said to God he was hiding because of his nakedness (Gen. 3:10) but that had never been a problem before. Sin made it a problem and thus sin caused the first man and woman to run from God and try and hide from him.
Every case of running from God or away from God has been caused by sin in a man’s life. Those who love God and obey his commandments do not run from God. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” (1 John 5:3 NKJV) God is man’s great benefactor. Why run from one who is the only one who can bestow eternal life? There is only one ultimate reason, the fact of sin in one’s life, sin that has not been repented of or forgiven. Every reason we can list as motives for man’s attempt to run away from God ultimately will in every case come back to the matter of sin in the person’s life.
But what was the reason behind Adam and Eve’s sin? There are some things here that ought to teach us some lessons. Eve was willing to listen to someone other than God for guidance. Eve listened to the serpent. Adam was willing to listen to Eve. The world is full of people whose desire it is to get you to listen to them and follow them and their lead not only out in the world but even in what is styled Christendom. What folly! The word of God lies in the hands of the man who holds the Bible, there and there only will you find it. God’s word is the only sure guide man will ever have.
I would dare say that last Sunday the majority by far of those the world calls Christians engaged in a worship service (if they went at all) in which they did at least some things which cannot be found in the New Testament of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, things that sprang up in some man’s mind once upon a time and that was taken up by a body of believers and has been handed down by tradition through the years as if it came from Jesus’ own mouth. They placed God’s stamp of approval on those things without a single word from God voicing his approval. They took it upon their own authority, forget God, to do it and they want you to take their word for it that God will be pleased. They are sure of it even though God has not spoken. This is nothing other than pure presumption. They know it will please God because it pleases them. The problem is they listened to man to get the practice as Eve listened to the serpent. If God never spoke of the practice in the pages of the New Testament how can it be of God? It cannot.
Add to that we are now living in a generation that is outdoing all past generations in finding new ways to worship (?) God, things unimaginable to my grandparent’s generation. Adam and Eve were God’s children. Eve sinned by listening to another who was enlightening her so she thought, who knew better than God himself. We ought to learn a lesson here. If you cannot quote book, chapter, and verse from the New Testament for your practice or doctrine you have listened to someone other than God. Adam and Eve did not have a New Testament but they had God’s word. In our dispensation of time the New Testament is the last will and testament of Christ our Savior and thus God’s word for man to live by until time shall end and Jesus shall return. Are you listening to it or listening to men and their desires and traditions?
But, why did Eve do that, why did she listen to another? Because she liked what she heard from the serpent more than she liked what she heard from God. So the second thing we can learn from Adam and Eve is to not allow our personal desires to guide us. Always remember it is not what seems good or right or desirable to you or me that counts with God but whether or not we are obeying him by obeying his word.
I know it is our desire to want everybody in Christendom saved and the entire world saved for that matter unless it is for the mass murderers of the world and the world’s most evil people. But if God is God and he gets to make the rules then his word gets to decide the matter. John equates Jesus as being the Word in John 1. If God’s word is good then only a few relatively speaking will be saved whether we like it or not.
Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14 NKJV) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21 NKJV) God’s will is found only in God’s word, not outside it in man’s proclamation.
I don’t know that a man can have too big a heart but I do know our great love for a wife, a husband, a child, a parent, a friend, or whoever can lead us to reject God’s word in order to have them saved. They will either not accept or obey the gospel or if they have done so go off into false doctrine or apostasy, as the case may be, and we want them saved so badly we start looking at scripture differently. Suddenly we find the word of God changing and old passages that use to teach us one thing now seem to be teaching us something entirely different. What has changed? Has the Bible changed or has it been our heart? Our great passion for and love for our fellowman can easily result in our rejection of God’s word for the word we want it to be rather than the word it actually is.
Do we think God is unjust in condemning those who will not believe the truth and obey it? Do we think we love more than God who gave his only begotten son on the cross to die in order to give to man a means of salvation? Do we think we love more than Jesus who died for us all? Do we think God is just too strict (I guarantee you many, many, many do)? However big your heart is I can assure you it is not as big as God’s but do we really expect God to save unrepentant sinners and people who do not love him? If he did how would heaven be any better than life on earth?
Have you ever thought that perhaps Adam loved Eve just a bit too much? Did he love her more than he loved God? Love is a wonderful thing but we must love God foremost. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me,” said Jesus. (Matt. 10:37 NKJV) If this be the case certainly he who loves a husband or wife more than Jesus is not worthy of him either.
The Bible says regarding Adam and Eve’s sin, “Adam was not deceived” (1 Tim. 2:14 NKJV) but Eve was (same verse). God in speaking directly to Adam in the garden says to him, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you…” (Gen 3:17 NKJV) thus the case with Adam may well have been one of wanting to please Eve more than wanting to please God.
So what lessons have we learned from Adam and Eve? (1) Sin led them to run from God. (2) This sin was caused by or the result of listening to the words of another who was not God. (3) Eve listened to another other than God for she desired the doctrine he brought more than the doctrine God gave. (4) Love for one’s mate, or for others, even for all of humanity as a whole for that matter, cannot supersede one’s love for God and if it does so it will only result in disaster. Are you and I immune today from falling into one or more of the same traps? No, not at all.
Jonah is another example and with little doubt the best known example in the Bible of a man who attempted to run from God. God sent him to Nineveh to preach against that city’s wickedness. Jonah did not want to go and do that for fear that Nineveh would repent and God would not destroy its inhabitants but rather forgive them and spare them (see Jonah 3:10-4:2) which is exactly what ended up happening. The story is well known. Jonah wanted to see the city destroyed and fearing that preaching God’s message to the people there would end up saving the city he tried to flee from God, got caught up in a storm on the sea, a storm God sent purposely, and was tossed overboard by the sailors to save their own lives. He was thereafter swallowed by a great fish, a fish that spit him out, after he repented of disobedience to God’s command.
Once again then we have another example of a man running from God because of disobedience to God but this would be a good time to pause and try and get behind the sin of disobedience to see what caused it? In Jonah’s case the motivating factor was a lack of love for his fellowman? Indeed, one could call it hate? He wanted to see the people of Nineveh die, 120,000 of them. Jonah had a heart problem.
When a person has a heart problem they will want no part of God and will naturally flee from him. Not every sin is heart related. One might sin out of ignorance or weakness of the flesh (Peter denying Christ out of fear) but when sin is in the heart man wants no part of God and will seek to run from him. The heart must be changed to change the man.
Then we come to the rich young ruler we find in the New Testament who thought he wanted to obtain eternal life and came to Jesus seeking an answer as to how to do it. We find this account in Matt. 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-23. Jesus invited the young man to sell his goods and come follow him. You know the story. The young man could not bring himself to do so and we could with correctness say he ran away from God. Why? Because he loved his wealth, his money, more than God and eternal life. He had a heart problem, the love of money.
There is another account found in John of those who ran away from God. The text says, “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42-43 NKJV) Again, the problem lies within the heart of the man. It is man wanting the wrong things out of life leading him into sin and away from God.
Finally it needs to be brought out that the place many run to when they are running from God is to religion itself. In the example just given the rulers were going away from God but headed out to the synagogue for worship. In today’s world men will search and search and search to find the denomination that will teach it the way they want to hear it so that Paul’s prophesy finds its fulfillment. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4 NKJV)
You tell me what it is you want to hear today and I think I can find you a place to go if you will let me research it just a little. You can find the doctrine that comforts you in whatever state of sin you are living in and in whatever beliefs you are holding if you will only search around awhile. You may well end up in a place you do not want to be in the next life but for here and now you can find a place of comfort, a place where they will tell you the lie you are living is nothing other than God’s own truth.
The Bible only teaches one church and one faith and it does not teach a thousand different competing doctrines. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4:4-6 NKJV) Churches today have many, many people in them who are in reality running from God but are not willing to admit it to themselves. They left the old place and came to the new so they could persist in their sin rather than be cleansed from it.
Yes, we can run from God; we just cannot stay hidden from him. We must give an account. The day of accounting will be a terrifying day for many for in that day the heart of man will be revealed and we will all have to come clean. Why did we believe what we believed? Why did we practice what we practiced? Was it because of God’s word or was it because we had a heart problem we would not admit to or face up to? Is your faith and trust in your own heart, in your own mind, in what seems best and right to you, or is it in the words spoken by the Holy Spirit? God’s word is just an extension of himself. He is revealed in his word. Are you running away from God? I hope not for I can promise you he will find you in the Day of Judgment when you do not wish to be found.