An amazing thing about these Old Testament stories is how much we find ourselves in them. Take Jonah, for example. Here's a guy who was born in 750 BC, but he's so much like us -- running from God. The truth is, we have all -- at one time or another -- done it.
Here's how the story usually goes: "I was raised in a Christian home, and we went to church a lot. But then I hit high school or college, and I just kind of started to drift. Eventually, the whole God thing just didn't make any sense to me. It didn't fit with my lifestyle anymore, so I left it behind."
As a general rule, we run from God for the same reason. Usually, we think we have to run from God in order to get what we want. We think God has his agenda, and we're not sure his agenda is really for our good. "God, I know you've got your plans and all, but I have plans of my own. I've got stuff I want, so I'm going to go over here and do my own thing."
Ultimately, that just comes down to trust. We don't trust that God has our best interests at heart. We think if we stay with him, we'll end up missing something really great. God can make billions of stars and thousands of different types of beetles, he can speak the world into existence and paint the sunsets and all that. But I'm not sure he can handle planning out my life. I have some plans of my own, and I think I know how the world works better than he does. God can stay "over there", and I'll come visit him on Christmas and Easter. In the meantime, I'll be "over here" living a real life.
Sometimes, it's not a wholesale thing. We don't often say, "God, I don't want you to have anything to do with any area of my life." We're more likely to say, "God, I still believe in you, I'll still go to church, I'll even put money in the plate, but don't touch this one area of my life."
Maybe it's a relationship with someone you know is not a God-honoring relationship. God's saying it's time to cut that relationship off. You're saying that God can talk to you about anything except who you date.
Maybe it's a marriage that you want out of. God's telling you to stay in. You're telling God to mind his own business when it comes to your marriage.
Maybe it's your finances. You know that if you ever asked God, "How do you want me to budget my money this Christmas", he would probably say, "Well, not like THAT!" So, you just don't ask him about it anymore. God can protect your kids and help you on the job, but leave my money alone! You'll even give him a portion of it if it will keep him from wanting a say in what you do with the rest of it. There's his money and your money -- two separate categories.
I think most of us have some area of our life where we're running from God. As much as we may want to think our situation is unique, it's not. We're all runners. We all run for the same reasons. We've all run from God at some point in time. And we've all had to deal with the consequences of running from God. Some of us are still dealing with those consequences.
That's why the church is so screwed up.