Rebellion is how I want to finish my series on brokenness, by looking at our response to it. I’d love to tell you that most Christians yield to the will of God, that they willingly allow brokenness to shape and form their character, trusting and knowing that God has their spiritual maturity in mind, but that is simply not true.
All of us naturally rebel against God, if we don’t like what He is doing. We all have a rebellious streak in us, stubbornly wanting our own way, wanting our will not God’s. Jesus said,
Luke 6:46 (ESV Strong's)
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
But we need to understand that God does not treat rebellion lightly…
1 Samuel 15:23 (ESV Strong's)
For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
People today believe they can run away from God, resist his claim on their lives, do their own thing and then ask God to bless them. They believe they can sin and escape the consequences of that sin. They are wrong. A price must be paid for rebelling against God.
JONAH- RUNNING ON REBELLION
Jonah was OT prophet and God asked him to prophesy repentance to the city of Nineveh, an evil and wicked people whom Jonah thought unworthy of forgiveness. Jonah was racist, he hated these people, and wanted to see them punished, not forgiven, so he ran away from God and the task God had for him.
Jonah went and bought passage on a ship headed for Tarshish in Spain, pretty much 1000 miles the complete opposite direction! It wasn’t fear that drive his rebellion, it was anger, anger against God, and resistance to God’s will.
How many times in your life has God asked you to do something and you’ve actively rebelled and run the opposite direction? I know I have, especially if I’m angry at God. How many times have we bought something, or pursued someone we know is not right for us, but we want them anyway? You can call it stubbornness, strong will or determination, but God calls it rebellion.
JONAH- GOD GETS HIS WAY
So Jonah fled on a ship, but a huge storm arose and he was revealed as the one rebelling against God. At his own request he was thrown overboard, God is merciful and arranged for a huge fish swallowed him, and after 3 days in the fish’s belly, he finally relented, got sick of playing sardines and prayed for God’s help. Then he was thrown up by the fish on dry land, went to Nineveh and preached.
Jonah 3:10 - 4:1 (ESV Strong's)
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.
The reluctant prophet then got mad at God’s compassion for saving a wicked people that he thought deserved to be destroyed. Then God used a vine to drive the point home.
Jonah 4:9-11 (ESV Strong's)
But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Jonah was so mad he wanted to die. People matter to God, and they must matter to us also, and matter more than our opinion!
I’m always wary of phrases like “That’s not fair”, or “They don’t deserve that,” because it indicates that we think our opinion is superior to God’s. Today, people honestly believe their opinion is more important that anyone else’s, just look at Facebook and you will see this.
So next time, before you start an argument on Facebook about something trivial, ask yourself, do you want to connect with people to win them to Jesus, or do you want to win an argument.
THE ROOTS OF REBELLION
We say that we love God, we claim that we serve Him, yet this stubborn rebellious streak runs a mile wide though our hearts. When being martyred, Stephen accused the Jews, God’s chosen people, like this…
Acts 7:51 (ESV Strong's)
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
Interestingly, Paul uses a Greek word sklēro-trachēlos; which literally means stiffnecked, stubborn, headstrong, or obstinate. Sometimes I wake with a stiff neck, unable to turn it, and to try and look where I want to look encounters not only resistance but also pain. And that’s a pretty good analogy… Rebellion is going to cause pain, sooner or later.
So where does this rebellion come from, and what is the root of it? Here’s 4 roots…
Pride is the basis of rebellion. Whenever we choose to do something our own way and rebel against God’s call, we are saying, “I know better than you know, God.”
Sometimes when God calls us to salvation, we say “I don’t need you God, I can save myself.” When God calls us to live a holy life, we say, “I know better than you God how to live my life my way, so what right have You got to tell me how to live.” When God calls us to serve Him, we say, “Don’t tell me where I should serve, I know what I’m good at.”
Proverbs 16:5 (NIV-WS)
The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
When we resist God’s methods and means and instead choose our own way, we are in prideful rebellion, and will not go unpunished, but you will be broken.
Fear is a huge factor in rebellion. Jonah feared the vicious Ninevites, and he also feared that if he preached repentance they just might repent, when he thought they deserved death and punishment, not a second chance, so he rebelled and ran!
So many today are controlled by fear. Fear of pain, fear of failure, fear of rejection. Yet as FD Roosevelt said to the American people as he took office in the middle of the Great Depression, “we have nothing to fear except fear itself.”
Psalms 34:4 (ESV Strong's)
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Fear is false evidence appearing real. Most of what we fear never happens, but it is fear that controls our thoughts.
A few years ago I learned SCUBA diving, but on one dive my air stopped 18 meters under the water. I could have died, but my life was spared, yet I have had fear ever since. Last week I dived again, and had to conquer this fear. I felt the fear as I went under the water for a few seconds, had to control it, and then I was able to enjoy the dive.
Fear ruins lives, it sucks enjoyment, peace, unity, love and everything out of your life, but
1 John 4:18 (ESV Strong's)
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Sometimes we resist God’s direction out of fear, but
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong's)
God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Knowledge can be another source of rebellion, and knowledge is often good, but sometimes we kind of know too much, and this saps our faith and causes us to rebel and try and figure things out on our own. Paul writes,
1 Corinthians 8:1 (ESV Strong's)
“knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
As a medical person, sometimes I know too much. We talk about Dr Google at times, because people are googling conditions and not believing their physicians. Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and when we think we know better than God does, this is actually called rebellion.
I’m not stubborn, I’m just determined! If you ask my wife, she will tell you the opposite. Have you ever made a bad decision, and kept pursuing it hoping it would all turn around. You know it’s doomed, but you keep digging your own grave, right? That’s stubbornness.
Psalms 81:11-12 (ESV Strong's)
“But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.
When we stubbornly rebel, when we insist on our own way, God’s chastisement or discipline if you like, is often just to give us what we want. Sometimes God gives you that girl or guy you want so much, or that investment, or that house, or that job, He gives them to us, even though He can see the disaster that’s coming like a freight train!
When He reveals His will to us, we need to listen and not be stubborn.
REBELLION IS A PRICE YOU CANNOT AFFORD
I always wanted a Ferrari, but I said I couldn’t afford one. That’s not true… If I sell my house, cars, business, and maybe a child, I could afford it, but I just don’t want one that bad.
In the same way, rebellion is a price you simply cannot afford! The price for rebellion is too high, and the consequences too great. But God in His love and wisdom allows us to experience the consequences of our stubbornness and rebellion, to teach us obedience.
With kids sometime you have to let them experience the consequences to teach them not to do things. A huge problem in our society is that the courts, and schools, and governments insist on removing consequences for actions.
Like the Israelites in the desert, if you rebel you get to go round and round the same mountain until you get it right. You get to experience the pain of your rebellion, trying Plan B, Plan C, on and on until you exhaust all your stubborn ideas, and finally give in and let God rule!
That’s right, if you don’t learn the lesson, God will never write you off. You just get to resit the exam over and over again.
Psalms 32:8-9 (ESV Strong's)
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
We need to recognise that God wants the best for us, but the amount of pain and brokenness we face is pretty much determined by how quickly we learn the lessons. So let’s not be the stubborn ones He has to curb with bit and bridle, but let’s be willing follow and yield to the plan He has for us, even if we don’t understand.
NO EXCUSES, CALL IT WHAT IT IS!
You can dress it up, you can say I’m just headstrong or I’m just stubborn, but I believe if you’re going to get mad at God and decide to do things your way, we need to call it what it is… Sin, and rebellion!
God doesn’t want you to offer excuses, He wants you to offer your life to Him as a living sacrifice. Jesus said this,
John 14:21 (ESV Strong's)
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.
All excuses aside, it boils down to this… If you love Jesus, you will obey Him. You might feel broken, you might feel pain, you might have questions about what God is doing, but you need to trust Him and be obedient. If you disobey Him, if you take control of your life in rebellion to God, then I’m sorry, you don’t really love Him. I didn’t say it, Jesus did!
As humans we are so good at playing the blame game, and we love to make excuses instead of taking responsibility. But excuses are usually just well planned lies. God says, don’t cover up your sin, own up and let me cover them over with my love and forgiveness.
UNDERSTAND THAT GOD TREATS DISOBEDIENCE AND REBELLION SERIOUSLY
Mankind seems to admire and like rebellion, mankind thinks “I did it my way” is a mantra for success in life, but God treats rebellion seriously…
When Jonah rebelled against God, God showed great compassion and restraint in dealing with him, but God never was deflected from what He wanted. And that’s the thing. Your rebellion is futile, because God will have His way, and if you truly rebel and refuse to obey, He will find someone else or some other way, and you will miss out.
Rebellion comes down to a simple choice… Will I obey God, or not?
1 Samuel 12:15 (ESV Strong's)
But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.
YOU CANNOT RUN
Are you willing to decide for obedience and against rebellion, and to allow the decision to be obedient become your guiding light? God loves you so much that He longs for your obedience so that He can lead and guide you into the destiny He has planned for you. But He cannot lead you if you refuse to obey and insist on rebelling and doing things your way.
Perhaps, like I’ve done at times, and like Jonah did, you want to run. Maybe you’re running from God right now. We’ve all done it at times, but King David learned this,
Psalms 139:7-10 (ESV Strong's)
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, 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.
Some of you have been avoiding God, or doing the bare minimum and hoping He doesn’t require more of you. Some have been actively running from God, unprepared to trust Him with what He wants you to do. It’s all rebellion, folks, and you are destined for brokenness, heartache, pain and disappointment if you keep in this path.
IT’S TIME TO CHOOSE
When it comes to obedience, I find it helpful to make a general, rational, carefully thought out decision in principle, rather than decide on a case by case basis. Hebrews says,
Hebrews 3:15 (ESV Strong's)
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Israel spent years suffering because of rebellious decisions, and the smart move is to figure that out at the beginning. As Moses challenged them,
Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV Strong's)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,
So rather than deciding whether to obey God at the time He asks me something, I’ve decided to make one, overriding, exceedingly smart decision that is my default position… that I am going to obey, no matter what.
John Calvin said, “For there is no one so great or mighty that he can avoid the misery that will rise up against him when he resists and strives against God.”
Join me now and let’s make the pronouncement that we will be obedient, no matter the situation and no matter the cost. This colours every decision you make. Be obedient in reading His Word, be obedient in how you speak and act. Pledge to be obedient, and trust God to lead you and produce fruit in your life that lasts for eternity.