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Overcoming Defiance

Note: This is the twelfth article in a series called Overcoming the Five Failures of Us. Previous articles are always available at

Revelation 3:14-22, To the angel of the church in Laodicea, write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Defiance is defined as open disobedience — a complete disregard for rules, law, or authority. For the sake of clarity, duplicity (last week’s article) is hidden rejection of God’s authority; defiance is public rejection of God’s authority.

The defiant make no attempt at concealment. They pride themselves on not being hypocrites like most of the religious people they know. The defiant openly reject God and His authority — unless they need someone to blame for their misfortune. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

The defiant see themselves as highly sophisticated and intelligent. They are too enlightened to put their faith in a Santa Claus god who grants wishes to some and puts others on the naughty list. They see religious faith as something for weak, needy, and ignorant people who need a crutch to get through life.

When the defiant are healthy and prosperous, they openly shake their fists toward heaven because they have proven their philosophy to be correct. God is not needed and does not exist.

When tragedy strikes, the defiant openly shake their fists toward heaven because they need an unjust and unfair Darth Vader god to blame for their troubles.

Isn’t that convenient? When all is good, pat yourself on the back for being so incredibly smart and independent. When life goes sour, hate and blame the villain-god for smiting you.

The Old Testament Israelites are a prime example of defiance. When they were prosperous and healthy, they forgot about God. When things went bad, they blamed God. Do you see it? Take credit for the good and blame God for the bad.

This is the lukewarm neither-in-nor-out defiance Jesus was describing in Laodicea. Defiance is especially repugnant to God. Jesus warned the defiant that He would spit them out of his mouth. God warned Israel in Deuteronomy 8 that they would be destroyed for their defiance:

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws, and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold increase, and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud, and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery … You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.

We all know openly defiant people, but what about us Christians? Are we tempted to do the same things? Isn’t it easy to forget God and the difficult disciplines of the Christian life when all is rosy and good? Isn’t it also convenient to blame God when severe trials and troubles come?

The temptation to live the lukewarm life of defiance is strong. It always has been. It is a failure of us humans. So, how do we overcome defiance?

First, respond quickly to God’s convicting and awakening grace. God rebukes and disciplines those He loves. You think you are sophisticated? You’re not. You are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. God says you are a fool. See Psalm 14:1. If you continue in your defiance, you run the risk of developing a hard heart, making you incapable of responding to God’s redeeming grace. Respond to God’s grace now. Listen to the urgency in II Corinthians 6:2, For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor; now is the day of salvation. Friend, tomorrow may be too late. Respond to His grace today.

Second, surrender the lordship of your life to the sovereignty of God. Allow God’s grace to purify you from double-mindedness. See James 4:8. Be at peace and live in contentment under God’s sovereignty. See Job 1:21 and Philippians 4:11-13.

Third, give thanks in all circumstances. See I Thessalonians 5:18. When suffering, thank God for His steadfast presence and hope and for the difficulties that make us stronger and mature. When blessed, thank God for His provision and seek ways to bless others with the abundance He has given.

By God’s grace, we can overcome the failure of defiance!