All of us, some more than others, have had or are having times of rebellion against God. For some, the rebellious spirit is obvious by our attitude and actions and in others there may be an outward pretense that covers a rebellious heart. Jonah best characterizes the spirit and actions of a rebellious person. Instead of obeying God's command and going to Nineveh, he “rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord.” (Jonah 1:3a) He went in the opposite direction.
All rebellion is against God. All rebellion is an demonstration of self-will. Whether it’s a teen rebelling against his parent's authority or an adult turning away from the church, the real issue is our refusal to do what we know God expects from us. To hide or justify our rebellion we seek to justify it by pointing to our parent’s defects, hypocritical Christians, personal slights and the church’s inflexibility. While there may be some justification for those attitudes, there is never any justification for using them as an excuse to rebel against God.
As you read the book of
Jonah, you will find three major thoughts on rebellion. One, the longer you
live in rebellion against God, the harder it is to go back. My observation
in over 45 years of ministry is that the longer one lives in rebellion, the more
drastic the measures that God uses to get our attention and to turn us back to
him. Two, God is relentless in His pursuit of the rebellious. God just
doesn’t sit there and say, “It’s too bad he has such an attitude toward me. I
can’t do anything about it.” No, God in His love relentlessly pursues those He
Three, ready does not always equal right. When Jonah rebelled against God, there was a ship ready to take him to Tarshish. He jumped on board and sailed away. As children of God, we cannot use right circumstances as the only criteria to justify our choices. In our rebellion, we can always find a way to justify what is wrong. In fact, Satan often encourages us by lining up circumstances to ease our way down the road to rebellion.
Rebellion may not be a life style. It may be a small area of our life that we refuse to give to God – music, videos, sports, a relationship, an attitude toward a particular person, etc. God views rebellion and stubbornness as one. Samuel said to Saul, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23) The only solution to rebellion is confession and total obedience. When we confess our rebellious attitudes and actions, God will not say, “I told you so!” He will, like the prodigal’s father, welcome us back with open arms, compassion, forgiveness and joy.