I could have chosen Adam as a study in the far-reaching effects of disobedience. He has touched every human being which has ever lived, is living, or will be living. I could bring Achan before us, whose disobedience cost every member of his family. A modern day study in disobedience could be the church and its far-reaching effects of disobedience on 3.4 billion people who sit in darkness today. But I have chosen Jonah because he is a very, very disobedient missionary and my personal opinion is that our churches are full of Jonahs.
Please do not let familiarity rob you of research. Sometimes we think we know a text so well that we cease to draw from its resources. Such is the case with Jonah. We know his response to God and he ended up in a whale. But there are other great truths you can learn from his life, such as the far-reaching effects of disobedience.
It is interesting to me that the book of Jonah is an autobiography. At this point in his life, he is not a good believer, but he is an honest one. He is telling on himself. Perhaps he wants to keep us from failing by showing us his failure. I wonder if you or I were to write our autobiography, would we be as transparent and honest with how it would read? It is not that Jonah was a failure in everything. He was a prophet, which says volumes about him; but he did fail in the important things, such as world evangelism.
Obviously the book of Jonah is an incomplete autobiography. I wonder if he learned from his lesson and spent the rest of his life majoring on the things God considered as major, such as reaching to the ends of the earth with the good news of God’s forgiveness for the wicked … or were there other whales?
Let me return to the theme of this article and the far-reaching effects of disobedience in the life of a Christian today. There are three negative results of disobedience in the life of a Christian:
- There are the personal effects of disobedience in the life of a child of God, as witnessed to us in the whale experience with Jonah. From this he lost his position as a prophet, personal fellowship with God, and even lost sight of his purpose in life. Many a good sermon has been preached from this point of the whale, so I will leave that and move on to my second point which is also obvious, but perhaps addressed less often.
- The effects of our disobedience on those around us. In Jonah’s case, it was the mariners. They represent innocent people who must suffer because the conduct of a Christian in their ship (lives). These men were in a storm not of their own making. If things did not change, their wives would go to bed widows and their children would wake up in the morning fatherless. We all know innocent people’s lives who are being destroyed by those who live without considering the consequences of their own disobedience.
- Our disobedience can affect those across the sea in other lands. Nineveh, a great city of three days journey where 60,000 people lived, did not know their right hand from their left hand spiritually. If Jonah’s disobedience was not corrected, 60,000 people within days or a few years would go to hell. This is an awesome thought that should shake us to our core. If Jonah’s act of disobedience could damn this city to hell, could our disobedience be the indirect result of many across the sea, whom Christ died for, missing the presence of God and suffering the torments of hell?
Time and space forbid us to research the reasons for Jonah’s disobedience or ours. Sufficient to say there’s no good reason to live a life that is both damaging and damning to ourselves, others in our acquaintance, or those across the sea. And time would not allow me to deal with the effect of his obedience afterwards.