FINDING JOY IN AFFLICTION
A blog series on navigating through the challenges of life with purpose
The Difficulty of Disobedience
What does it mean to be disobedient? Webster's dictionary defines it as “refusal or neglect to obey.” In total transparency, I sometimes think of disobedience as a wrong or sinful behavior. Doing things that I know I should not do yet doing them anyway. Therefore, when I say my prayers, I am asking God to forgive me for the areas of my life where I have behaved in a manner that is the opposite of who He has called me to be and certainly not aligned with His word. But what about the times that He has clearly asked me to do something for the purpose of Growing His Kingdom and I walked the other way? It was not the “typical sins,” so does that still make it disobedience? What about you? Have you ever sensed that God was asking you to do something that you just did not want to do? Maybe it felt too difficult, you felt unqualified, or maybe it was to the benefit of someone of whom you were not very fond. Do you say yes, or do you simply run in the other direction?
“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “arise, go to Nineveh, that great city and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” Jonah 1:1-2
Jonah was a prophet of the Old Testament that discovered rather quickly what disobedience was as well as the consequences of it. The first sentence in the book of Jonah jumps straight into what God is asking of him. God first asked Jonah to go to Ninevah and second, for him to cry out against it. Ninevah was not just any city; it was a large, very prominent city. Ninevah was intimidating, dominating, and overflowing with an enormous population of evil people. Not only was God asking Jonah to drop everything and go to the city of which the inhabitants were, in Jonah’s eyes, undeserving of God’s mercy. He had also told him to call the Ninevites out on their sin and next lead them towards the path of repentance.
“But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah 1:3
Ninevah was so evil and distasteful that Jonah attempted to run away from God rather than do what was asked of him. I realize that from our perspective, it seems silly that Jonah thought that he could literally go to another city and run away from God, but that is exactly what he did. Not only that, but he also decided to jump on a ship and flee to Tarshish. This city was not only a great distance from where he was at that moment, it was so far that it was thought to be towards the end of the earth. That is the degree to which he wanted to have nothing to do with what God had asked him to do. Regardless of what Jonah had hoped to accomplish, we can never run from the presence of God. So, what happens to Jonah? He gets on the ship but was soon welcomed by a great storm, sent by God, which was so intense that the ship threatened to break up. You can imagine the people on the ship were not overly welcoming when they realized that the cause of the storm was a result of Jonah’s disobedience to God. Jonah requested to just be thrown into the sea so that God would save the ship and its passengers, and they did just that.
“And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17
So, Jonah was thrown into the ocean but instead of being consumed by the sea, he was swallowed by a big fish. I guess that is one way to spare a man’s life that is acting in disobedience. Maybe this was discipline, consequence, or maybe God needed Jonah in a place where he was completely reliant on Him. But still, it was not until day three in the belly of that fish that Jonah decided to pray to God. I cannot pretend to know the reason for his delay in crying out to God, but I do know that sometimes we must sit in the discipline of our Father to understand what we should have done versus what we did. After he finished praying, the big fish immediately spit Jonah out. And could you guess what God asks Jonah to do next? The same thing He asked him to do first. For the second time, God told Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah. This time, Jonah did exactly what was asked of him, and the result was that the city responded in repentance to the LORD.
You see when Jonah looked at Ninevah, He saw a large population of evil people who, from his perspective were too far gone and undeserving of God’s mercy. But God desires for every person to come to repentance and trust in Him. Have you ever been in a place where God has placed someone in your life to share the truth of Christ with them and your thought was that they were too far gone? That way of thinking results from a lack of trust in believing that we serve an all-powerful God with whom nothing is impossible. We do not get to choose who is deserving of his mercy, because at some point we have all been a recipient of it. Our decision to make is not deciding who is worthy, our only decision is this: Are we willing to be obedient regardless of the calling? Are we going to say yes when our flesh is screaming to run away? Are we going to walk in obedience because we know that our purpose here is to make His name known?
So back to the question that we started with: What does it mean to be disobedient? For so much of my life, I thought that if I could not do the “bad things” then I was doing what God wanted me to do and walking in obedience. The truth is that obedience to God does not just mean that we do not do the things that He tells us not to, but that we willingly do the things that He tells us to do. Our actions that follow when God asks something of us quickly reveal our heart towards God and our level of trust and commitment to His plans. Obedience requires surrender. And surrender means that we do not get to choose which areas we say yes to and which areas we say no to. What God asks of us; we do. We do it even when it is difficult, challenging, or just does not make sense. We do it because we serve a God who knows what is best even when we cannot see it. God does not want a partially obedient, half surrendered Christian or better known as the lukewarm Christian. The one that walks in accordance with the world and Christ. It is this in-between relationship that will never grow the fruit that abiding in God grows. God wants us to be fully committed to His Will and His plans. We do not wait to surrender and walk in obedience when it makes sense to us. We offer our hearts to him by responding Yes Lord, to whatever the call or the cost.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
Have you positioned yourself and your life in a place where you can hear from God? The world is loud, distracting, and crazy busy. But even with all the things that attempt to divert us from the path Christ has laid out for us, He speaks, guides, and directs us all along the way. Has God been calling you to something that you have walked away from? Maybe you do not know what He is asking of you. If this is you, here are some questions and practical tips to help you hear from Him each day.
1. My question to you would be are you seeking Him daily? Are you spending time reading the Bible? It is the true word of God, and it is living and very active. So, if you want to hear him speak, open His true Word. Allow it to be your foundation and your direction each day.
2. “Speak, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:10): Know and trust that God hears you when you pray to Him. Knowing this; create a quiet space where you can confidently pray to God and sit in the quietness and rest in Him.
3. Find times to just be alone with Him without any distractions at all.
This week's Bible reading will focus on people of the Bible who were disobedient as well as ones that were obedient to God's calling for their lives. We must remember that we serve a Holy and very loving God, filled with grace and mercy. But we also serve a just God who rebukes and disciplines His children when they walk in opposition to His Word.
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Growing in God
Would you like a tool to encourage your growth in God? Check out my newly released 12-month spiritual disciplines book/journal. This journal will give you a brief understanding of 8 tangible spiritual disciplines as well as give you a space to implement these disciplines into your daily walk with God.