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'Run with God,' Vines tells students
March 26, 2007
By Garrett E. Wishall

Jerry Vines challenged students to submit to God, as he walked through the book of Jonah, March 20, as part of the E.Y. Mullins Lectures on expository preaching at Southern Seminary. Photo by John Gill

Longtime Southern Baptist pastor and leader Jerry Vines challenged students to maintain their personal walk with God through seminary and preach the whole counsel of the Word of God during a chapel service March 20 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Using the entire book of Jonah as his text, Vines urged students to learn from Jonah's experience and submit to the will of God for their lives. Vines noted that though Jonah knew God's will, he rebelled against God.

Vines said the early portion of Jonah depicts the reluctant prophet as an escapist who is running from God.

"It says in Jonah 1 that the Word of the Lord came to Jonah," he said. "God sends special people to special places for special purposes. The call of God on Jonah's life was to go and preach to Ninevah. Jonah knew that inherent with preaching comes the possibility that people might repent of their sin. Jonah did not want this, and instead of arising and going to Ninevah, he arose and went to Tarshish."

The sermon was part of the annual E.Y. Mullins Lectures on expository preaching. Vines is president of Jerry Vines Ministries and is a two-term president of the Southern Baptist Convention. A noted author and speaker, Vines also served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., for 24 years before retiring in February of 2006.

Vines said that though Jonah knew he could not escape the presence of the Lord, he still attempted to get away. However, God reigned in His rebellious prophet.

"The Bible says the Lord assigned the big fish to swallow Jonah," he said. "We are dealing with a miracle here. The Lord prepared this fish to be a prison house for Jonah. R. T. Kendall says this fish was not a pleasant place to live but it was a good way to learn. If you run from God, you will find yourself in a whale of a mess, maybe not in the belly of a whale, but in a situation just as severe."

In chapter two, we see Jonah turn into a biblicist who is running to God, Vines said. Like the prodigal son in Jesus' New Testament parable, Jonah turned from his rebellion in humble repentance, Vines noted.

"Jonah made the best decision of his life in the worst place of his life," he said. "Jonah begins praising God for his deliverance and declares that salvation is of the Lord."

Vines said that according to Hebrew scholars, Jonah's prayer included eight to 15 references from the Psalms, which suggests a pattern for our prayers.

"The Bible gives point and passion to our prayer," he said. "The Bible activates our prayer and prayer applies our Bible."

Quiet times should include two elements: the Word of God and prayer, Vines said. He challenged students to be serious about their devotional walk with God during seminary because preparing for ministry can be spiritually draining.

"As a student in college, I studied my Bible to take examinations and read Scripture for the purpose of testing," he said. "I was not reading the Bible for my own spiritual growth, and I became cold in my heart toward God."

After repenting, Jonah is restored by the Lord in chapter three and becomes an evangelist running for God, Vines said. When Jonah submitted to God's call and went to Ninevah he didn't declare a story of his own creation, but preached a message from the Lord, Vines said, which should be instructive for Christian ministers.

"It is not for us to derive our own message from our own minds," he said. "The Bible says in 2 Timothy 4, 'I charge you before God ... preach the Word.' That is the command of the Bible. You are accountable before God for your message. He gives us the message. We don't make up the message."

After declaring the Lord's judgment against Ninevah, Jonah went outside the city to wait for the result. Upon hearing of Ninevah's repentance, the prophet became angry with the Lord, turning into a nationalist who, instead of running with God, was running into God, Vines said.

"Jonah says to the Lord, 'I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. I knew that you were a compassionate God and that you would forgive them,'" he said.

"It is not that Jonah did not want the Lord to be compassionate it is just that Jonah only wanted the Lord to do that for Israel."

While the Bible is silent on Jonah after this account, Vines speculated that the prophet eventually repented again and became an apologist who ran with God. Vines challenged seminary students to do the same throughout their lives and ministries.

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