I had dinner with a dear friend of mine recently. I hadn’t seen him in several months and I was looking forward to our time together. He is a mature, godly man whom I respect greatly and I am always so encouraged by him. We sat at the restaurant catching up on life and the time was passing quickly. But then he got serious for a moment. “I learned something about myself recently,” he said to me. I was intrigued. “I learned I was in rebellion to God,” he continued. I could not believe what I was hearing. How was this possible? What did he really mean? This is the gist of his answer.
He began telling me about his frustration with his job and the stresses there. (Aren’t we all, I thought to myself). He then told me about his frustrations with his church and the new direction it was going. He was questioning his role and his purpose. He was re-thinking what ministry even meant and whether it was all worth it. He was so discouraged and you could almost see the anger bubbling up.
I was actually so surprised. This was a man I looked up to and seemed to have such a positive attitude about life. I realize that life isn’t always roses and puppy dogs, but I had never seen him so off balance. “What does that have to do with rebellion? We all get frustrated sometimes,” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “I realized that every time I complained, every time I questioned my situation, every time I questioned God, I was being ungrateful and unfaithful to His call.” He explained to me that he truly believed God had placed him in this place (work or church) at this time. He believed that God had a good reason for putting my friend where he was, but by rejecting those purposes he was snubbing God, he was rebelling against His will. Instead of settling into the rhythm of God’s life and purpose, he was kicking and screaming to do it his own way. He had better ideas of how his life should look. That is nothing less than rebellion he concluded.
The conversation soon turned to other, lighter matters. We finished dessert and left, but I have not been able to forget that conversation. I had always thought about rebelling against God in terms of the “big” sins – alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, adultery, violence – but I never thought about ungratefulness as being rebellion. It would not have occurred to me that questioning His purposes or calling could be rebellion. But isn’t that just the same as the “big” ones? When we tell God that we don’t appreciate where we are or what we are doing; when we tell Him that our life is useless and has no purpose; when we tell Him that our calling is bogus, aren’t we just saying that He has screwed up and He should do things OUR way? Isn’t that the very definition of rebellion? “No thanks God, I think I’ll go along on my own. You obviously can’t be trusted with my life.”
I had to admit that my friend was right and I had to take a hard look at my own attitudes, but what do I do now? So I called him up. “The answer,” he said, “is repentance, but not in the way you think it is.”
I’ll tell you about that conversation next week in Part 2.