There is an old saying “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” We have many of these pithy statements that pass down easily memorized wisdom. I would like to introduce to you a new saying of warning: “There’s Always a Ship to Tarshish.”
We often have an idea of what God is calling us toward, whether that is full-time ministry, missions, engineering, athletics, or accounting. We know that we have a passion and the Lord has placed us on a path. However, we don’t always choose to follow that path. We instead try to please others or downplay in our hearts the magnitude of God’s desire for our lives. Sometimes, we don’t want to see God’s grace and mercy in action because of our own hardened hearts. This was the case with Jonah.
Jonah, a prophet of God, was called to preach repentance to the enemy nation of Nineveh to the east. When he arrived at the docks, hesitant and not wanting to go, he conveniently noticed there was a readied boat to the west, to Tarshish – an easy route away from God’s call. God was not done with Jonah, but appointed a whale to swallow him. From the belly of the beast, Jonah repented and devoted himself to following God’s will toward Nineveh.
Have you ever felt like Jonah, standing before the Almighty God who has given you a task that you fear or perhaps even hate? Have you ever been swept up in the storm of life when you disobeyed His will?
As J.D. Greear illuminates in his study “The Gospel According to Jonah,” God allows us the choice to obey or to flee. As Greear puts it, “if you want to disobey, there will always be a ship prepared to take you to Tarshish.” You may not be choosing what is best for you or those around you, but there will always be a practical way for you to choose something else. Don’t mistake the “readied ship” as God’s approval.
Some students are pressured into missions work to please their parents or pastors. If so, being a missionary is a readied ship to Tarshish, a place away from where you’re designed to go. However, sometimes being a missionary is a calling that we flee out of fear, anxiety, questions, or doubts.
This is the danger of finding clarity in our calling through feelings and shows the need for confidence in God. When we believe that we know what we must do, we must then walk through the door confidently, trusting in God. Luckily we have a God who equips us for the work ahead (Hebrews 13:21 and 2 Timothy 3:17).
There will always be a ship to Tarshish. But through God’s power and grace, we can choose what He has for us.
When we have clarity in our calling, God gives us the gift of confidence to walk faithfully into His work. No matter how big or small the act or task, let us be faithful to and confident in our God.