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The Cost of Disobedience

Jonah 1:1-5 - The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me." But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. And the Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. Then the sailors became afraid, and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, laid himself down, and fallen sound asleep.

The story of Jonah has probably been ridiculed more than any other account in the Old Testament. How could a man possibly be swallowed by a fish and live?! Even some Christians have a hard time "swallowing" this story and have called it merely an Old Testament parable. No! The book of Jonah is the historical account of a real man who lived in the 8th century B.C. (See 2 Kings 14:25.) Our Lord Jesus had no doubts about Jonah and his traumatic experience. In fact, He used it to predict and illustrate His own coming death and resurrection. (See Matthew 12:38­41.)

There are many lessons we can learn from the life of Jonah. God has included the story of this prophet of Israel in the Bible so that growing Christians in the 20th century may learn what God expects of His servants. Jonah was a servant of God, but he disobeyed the Word of the Lord and fled towards Tarshish instead of preaching at Nineveh. In His mercy, God reached down and brought Jonah back where he belonged, but it took a very thorough shake-up in the life of the prophet. (Read the whole book of Jonah.)

The experiences Jonah went through were all part of the cost of disobedience. As servants of our Lord Jesus Christ we are all to be obedient to His Word. When we disobey, there is a cost involved. Yes, God will always reach down in love and completely forgive us and bring us back into His fellowship, but consequences always follow sin.

Part of the cost of disobedience is separation. When, in disobedience, Jonah "rose up to flee," it was "from the presence of the Lord" (verse 3). Of course Jonah could not literally escape from God, but there was a separation as far as fellowship with God was concerned. Disobedience results in broken fellowship with the Lord!

Is it because of disobedience in your life that the Lord seems so far away at times? What about the matter of family relationships? (See Ephesians 5:22­6:4.) What about forgiving one another? (See Colossians 6:4.) What about the question of friendship with the world? (See James 4:4.) Jesus said, "He who has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him" (John 14:21). Obedience is the secret to intimate fellowship with our Lord!

The cost of disobedience also includes the danger of shipwreck. The ship in which Jonah was traveling "was about to break up" (verse 4). The disobedient Christian runs the risk of tubing his whole life of Christian service. Note that it is the Lord who hurls out the great wind which brings the storm. God did not purposely want to shipwreck Jonah. This was discipline! God was acting to bring Jonah back. If we disobey the Lord, He may permit our lives to be disrupted so that we will turn back to Him. Hebrews 12:6 says that "those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines." There may be quite a "great storm" before the power struggle is over. But if we persist in our disobedience, and refuse to humble ourselves, our life of service for Him may end in shipwreck.

More of the cost of disobedience is seen in verse 5. Other lives were also endangered because of Jonah's disobedience. We may ask ourselves, how many other lives are messed up because of my disobedience? Is my boss still not a Christian because my life of disobedience is inconsistent with what I preach? Are there shattered relationships in my family because I refuse to submit to God's commandments concerning family life? Is there someone who has been badly hurt because I have been disobedient in my sex life? What a network of tragedies we build when we are disobedient Christians.

Finally, the cost of disobedience involves sleep. Verse 5 states that "Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down, and fallen sound asleep." What a picture of the disobedient Christian! He is hardened and asleep to the claims and commands of the Lord. Meanwhile, the sailors are struggling for their lives. Jonah has the answer, but he's fast asleep!

Like Jonah, we have the answer to man's struggle, but like Jonah, we often are unconcerned. People all around us are "afraid and crying out to their gods," desperately trying to maintain meaning and purpose and direction in this life. On the surface, many of them seem to be "expert sailors," but they really don't have the right answers. We have the only right answer, but we sleep on! What a serious and sorrowful situation it is when we hold back the answer because of indifference. This hardened condition of our hearts is the result of disobeying our Lord. Loss of sensitivity is part of the cost of disobedience!

The cost of disobedience is high. Many times it is not easy to follow and obey the Word of the Lord, but how much better to suffer for the sake of obedience than to suffer the consequences of disobedience. (See 1 Corinthians 11:31­32.) If you have disobeyed the Lord in some area of your life, repent and confess this sin now. Our heavenly Father will always forgive and restore us completely as He did with Jonah. Continuing on in disobedience is a serious mistake in the life of the growing Christian. Jonah "paid the fare" of disobedience--and so will every disobedient Christian.
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