The Dysfunction of Disobedience
Have you ever been around someone who lied often? What about someone who was always "joking" or "kidding" and was never serious. It can be frustrating. Whether in jest or malice, when someone consistently doesn't represent the truth accurately, we eventually interpret everything they say as a lie. Since childhood, we've all known what happened to the boy who cried "wolf!" one too many times. One of the greatest dangers of disobedience to God's Word is that it conditions us not to trust God in the future. As I've often said, doubt in God's provision is the root of our rebellion. Every time we are tempted to sin, our faith is at stake, and when we sin, a little bit of our ability to trust God is chipped away. It begins with our doubting God's words of warning or judgment. "Stay away from that!" "Don't do that; you'll hurt yourself!" This is Satan's oldest tactic—"You will NOT surely die!" he told Eve. We begin by doubting God's words of warning or judgment.
But eventually, our disobedience robs us of our ability to trust God's Word when it is spoken for our good. We find it impossible to believe or cherish the promises of God. When a word of blessing is spoken by the Lord, we doubt it. When that word is spoken for our good, we ignore it. There is even the chance that we acknowledge that word is true cerebrally, yet we follow through with our doubt and rebellion anyway. It's like we can't help it. One might say we have become a slave to sin, doing the very thing we loathe and hate (cf. Rom. 6-7).
I see this in the life of Ahab in 1 Kings. He is remembered by the divine narrator as the worst of kings, more wicked than is even imaginable. He was the archenemy of God's prophets, including Elijah. God certainly spoke words of warning and judgement—no rain for three years—yet Ahab refused to believe that such would be so. Ahab's was a pattern of doubt and rebellion against God's Word.
Eventually, Ahab found it virtually impossible to believe God's Word, even when it was spoken for his good. In 1 Kings 20, God told him that Israel would vanquish their Aramean enemies, not once, but twice! Yet as the humiliated Ben-hadad came before a victorious Ahab, the king of Israel invited his enemy up into his chariot and made peace with him as an equal instead of executing he who had been placed under God's curse.
A few years later, Israel was still suffering from Ahab not disposing of Ben-hadad as he should have. Ahab decided to attack Aram and solicited the help of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. Many prophets came forward predicting a blowout win for Israel and her allies. But Jehoshaphat insisted on hearing from a prophet of God. Ahab's response is telling: "And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” When Micaiah was summoned, though he first played along with the false prophets, he later revealed that Ahab had been deceived by God himself. The truth was that Israel would lose and Ahab would die if Israel went to war. Israel went to war anyway. Ahab died. In an extraordinary act of grace, God had tried to speak a word in an effort to save Ahab's life. But Ahab, though he knew God's word was true, could not trust it.
I've seen this happen to teenagers. They first doubt God's words of warning and judgment. They wander off to experiment with sin, believing that something wonderful has been kept from them. They become conditioned to doubt all of God's Word, not just the "thou shalt nots." Eventually, they become incapable of believing God's Word, even when it is spoken as a blessing for their good.
I've seen this happen to adults. As teenagers, they became conditioned to doubt God's words of warning and judgment. They ping pong around in life, seeking some source of satisfaction, all the while ignoring the peace that passes all understanding that only comes from God. It's as if they believe that if they come back to God, he will bless them at the beginning, but immediately pull the rug out from under them as punishment for having rebelled in the first place. For them, God's Word of blessing is simply too good to be true.
What is the dysfunction of disobedience? Sure, hell at the end. There is no place in heaven for those who rebel against the Word of God and never repent. But if we believe that to be the only penalty for disobedience, then we too have been deceived. Satan and sin rob us of so much, not just in the here-after, but in the here and now. Arguably, the harshest penalty for rebellion in this life is that we become seemingly incapable of believing all of the good things that God has spoken to us and about us in his Word. Words of hope, offers of redemption and reconciliation, opportunities for blessing and joy—they will always seem too good to be true. Perhaps at the end of our lives, before we make our final self-destructive decision, the Lord might attempt to intervene with a final word of warning and blessing. And perhaps we will know him to be right. But we won't trust and obey.
Because we've become conditioned to doubt and rebel against the Word of the Lord. Just like Ahab.
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