Do you ever struggle with stubbornness? You know—those times when it’s clear you should change your mind about an issue, but you just can’t? Or maybe you even refuse to do so? (Please tell me I’m not the only one who struggles in this area!)
Maybe a situation is coming to mind right now—a matter where the Holy Spirit is nudging you to change your opinion, but you are resisting that urge. Or perhaps the Lord is simply working on you to become a little more pliable in your positions and/or attitudes.
I’m not trying to get into your business. But if, like me, you periodically deal with stubborn tendencies, this letter may provide some light and life to you. I sure hope so!
A Gripping Message
One of the amazing aspects of reading the Word of God is discovering a verse I have read before, but never truly “seen.” It happens to me regularly, and it was my experience once again just a few weeks ago.
It began as I was driving in a familiar part of town. I noticed a new billboard featuring these four bold words: JESUS LORD REMEMBER ME. At the bottom of the billboard was the citation: Luke 23:42. Recognizing this as the request of one of the criminals crucified with Jesus, the four words gripped me: JESUS LORD REMEMBER ME. I thought, “What a good prayer to offer regularly to the Lord!”
But there was also a nagging question: “Did the thief on the cross call Jesus by name?” I didn’t think he did, so at my first opportunity, I checked the passage. Technically, the billboard was correct: those four words do appear consecutively. Luke 23:42 reads: “Then he [the second thief] said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (NKJV). Even better, we know the wonderful way our Savior responded: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Never Saw It Before
My next thought was, Maybe in one of the other Gospel accounts the thief called Jesus by name. When I checked in Matthew, I found the verse I had never noticed before.
In the account of the crucifixion in Matthew 27, beginning with verse 38, I saw the depiction of the two robbers crucified with Jesus—one on the right and one on the left. The next verse described the crowds of people walking past the crucified Christ—blaspheming Him and heaping abuse on Him: “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (verse 40b, NKJV). The chief priests, scribes and elders also joined in with other abusive statements like: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save”(verse 42a, NKJV).
Then came the verse that blew my mind: “Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing” (verse 44, NKJV). Robbers—plural. At the start of the crucifixion, both of the thieves were scoffing at Jesus. But at some point, the second criminal changed his mind. As a result, his words took on a completely different tone.
We don’t know how that change in attitude occurred, but clearly it did. Luke 23:42 marks the moment this second thief went from railing at Jesus, to an absolute turnaround. So complete was the change, that he even rebuked the other thief for scoffing. Then he asked Jesus to remember him. For that man, his change of mind was the difference between eternal death and eternal life–the difference between his damnation and his entrance into Paradise.
Seeing this dramatic shift in the thief’s attitude—which I had never noticed before—my first thought was, You might want to consider changing your mind.
The Dangers of a Stiff Neck
In Webster’s Dictionary, the definition for “stubborn” is: “unreasonably or perversely unyielding: MULISH. (See OBSTINATE).” Not at all complimentary, is it? Likewise, the Bible has nothing good to say about stubborn people. Scripture usually refers to them as stiff-necked or obstinate, always with a severe penalty attached to their behavior.
Here’s a brief sampling of passages on the dangers of stubbornness. To the children of Israel, God said: “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way” (Exodus 33:3, NIV). The Hebrew word there for stiff-necked is the same word used in earlier chapters of Exodus to describe the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart toward the Jews.
Particularly sobering is Proverbs 29:1: “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (Taking our cue from the thief on the cross, we might want to consider changing our minds.)
Finally, the convicting words in Acts 7:51 that were the cause of Stephen’s martyrdom: “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” Even the slightest sign of stiffness in my neck ought to prompt me to consider changing my mind!
Softening Our Hearts and Our Necks
In a powerful teaching, “You Must Decide,” Derek Prince highlighted our need to respond to the Lord’s prompting by changing our minds. However, he added one very encouraging fact: we can count on the Holy Spirit for help in our response.
Now, whereas we have to make the decision, we need to bear in mind that we cannot make the decision without the help of the Holy Spirit. The initiative actually comes from God; it always does.
There is a beautiful verse in Lamentations, right at the end of the fifth chapter, verse 21, where there is this pathetic plea: “Turn us back to you, O Lord, and we shall be restored.” But if you look in the margin of the New King James, it says “we shall be turned back.” That is the literal translation. The prophet says, “Turn us and we shall be turned.”
The first move comes from God. If God doesn’t turn us, on our own we are unable to turn. On the other hand, if God begins to turn us, we will not turn unless we make the right decision.
I suppose this is the most critical moment in the life of any human soul. It’s the moment when the Holy Spirit is saying, “Turn. I’ll help you.” Then we have to decide, “Am I going to cooperate with the Holy Spirit–or am I going to shrug it off and say I don’t want to?” Your decision is what makes the difference.
The Holy Spirit will plead with you. The Holy Spirit will move upon you. But He will not make the decision for you.
What Will Be My Response?
Is the emphasis of this letter helpful to you? If you do recognize areas of stubbornness in your life, what action can you and I take to deal with those tendencies?
One encouraging piece of logic is that if the Lord commands us not to harden our hearts, He must have a means for us to obey that command. Are there some positive steps we can actively take to soften our hearts and our necks? One response could be to follow the admonition of King Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 30:8: “Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were; but yield yourselves to the LORD; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you.”
Those are three helpful ways to avoid hardening of the heart: 1) yield to the Lord; 2) worship Him; 3) serve Him. Would you like to respond in prayer right now along those lines? Let’s do so together with the following proclamation:
Lord, I don’t want to be stubborn or stiff-necked in any way, because nothing good comes from those behaviors. Above all, I don’t want to be displeasing to You by a stiff-necked attitude. I ask now for Your forgiveness for any wrong-headedness or resistance to Your ways, and I repent of all stubbornness. By faith, I receive Your cleansing from this sin in my life.
Help me to be more pliable in Your hands and more useful for Your purposes. If I am holding to opinions or positions that are displeasing in Your sight, I relinquish them. I am willing, like the thief on the cross, to change my mind and my behavior—moving from death to life. Turn me, Lord!
I want to take positive steps that lead out of a stiff-necked condition. I yield to You, Lord. I enter into worship, giving You all glory and honor. And I offer myself in service to You.
Not my will, but Yours be done. Not my opinion, but Your wisdom alone. Not my decisions, but Your direction for me. I gladly consider changing my mind, so that I might be Your obedient servant. Amen.
Yielded and Still
Your prayer has opened up your spirit to the Lord in a brand new way. Right now, I’m thinking of words from the first verse of the hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” Here is the prayer we sing to the Lord in that verse: “Mold me and make me after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.” If you and I could only stay pliable in His hands—“waiting, yielded and still” for His direction—what might we accomplish for Him?
Let’s try it and see what happens! Of course, all of us here at DPM–USA join you in that pursuit. Being pliable in His hands is our goal as well, so let’s pursue that objective together. Would you allow us to help by providing some teaching materials for you? Can we begin with the full message of “You Must Decide,” from which we drew the excerpt of Derek’s teaching in this letter? Simply click here to download it, and it is yours with our compliments.
Encouraging you in your progress as a disciple of Jesus Christ is one of our greatest joys. On your part, you have brought tremendous encouragement to us through your faithful prayers and financial assistance. Thank you for your concern, contact and support. We simply could not do the work before us without your involvement. Thank you for linking arms with us as we all move forward in obedience to Him.
Keep This Word in Mind
You and I have taken a pivotal step together today. It’s not every day that we tackle tough issues in our lives like the problem of stubbornness.
Let’s allow this process to continue. Let’s ask the Lord to keep showing us the obstacles that need to be eliminated from our lives. Let’s wait before Him regularly, “yielded and still” enough to hear His voice of encouragement and correction.
You and I can trust the Lord Jesus to make the adjustments He desires in our lives. Even when we may be heading initially in the wrong direction—like the thief on the cross—He can turn us. We can complete that turn—if we will consider changing our minds.
All the best,