“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” Acts 7:51
Eleven years ago, I found myself in the middle of a mess. I quit teaching elementary school and decided to go back to school for a business degree. Taking four graduate classes and working as much as possible at a retail store (which did not even come close to paying our bills at the time) was taking a toll on me mentally and physically. In the middle of that semester, my grandmother passed away and a few weeks later after that, I shockingly discovered that someone whom I loved dearly was addicted to cocaine. I woke up one morning and could not move my neck. It was completely stiff. The pain was unbearable! I went to the doctor and the first thing she said was, “Honey, are you under any stress?” My response must have said it all. I burst into tears and sobbed about school and work and bills and death and addiction and pain and heartache. So she prescribed some muscle relaxers. Although the muscles in my neck did eventually relax, I still had not addressed the root cause of my stiff neck or my hardened heart.
What’s so sad about this story for me is that I was so consumed with the world that I didn’t even think to trust God with the struggles of this life. I turned to muscle relaxers instead of the One who could rescue me from my suffering. My pride and control issues were blinding me from seeing the only way out. My heart was boarded up, bound in chains—hard as a rock! And the physical effect was a stiff-neck.
Did you know there are 19 references about stiff-necked people in the Bible (NIV)? The Hebrew word is qasheh, an adjective that translates to words like obstinate, difficult, sorrowful, stubborn and stiff of neck. The Greek word is sklērotrachēlos, meaning stiff-necked, obstinate, or headstrong.
Moses tried to tell the Israelites how to live and be blessed. He gave them clear instructions. They knew what to do, but chose to disobey God anyway. Obstinate. Stubborn. They put their trust in the wrong place.
“For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die!” Deuteronomy 31:27
He was right! And we still do the same thing today. We read the Bible and we know what He says to us, and yet, we choose to pretend like we can do life our own way. We become difficult and headstrong… and sorrowful. We reject His commands and fall into our culture’s way of life instead of our Father’s way of life. This obstinance brings on pain and suffering…in our neck, but also in our hearts. Romans 2:5 says, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” God desires our devotion and obedience and yet—we are so stubborn!
So how do we loosen those neck muscles and circumcise our hearts? We need to admit that we can’t do this life on our own and seek His guidance each and every day. Surrender control. Let Him have it. All of it. We can rest in our faith that Jesus Christ has already fought the battle (and won)! Recognize that when we are stressed about our worldly issues, we are misplacing our trust. Instead of trusting God to do His will in our lives, we are being blatantly disobedient. We start to attempt to control our lives in our own will.
In what or whom do you put your trust? Finances? Material things? Other people? A job or status? Or…in God, who loves you so much that he offered up his one and only son to die on a cross as a sacrifice because He knew we’d make mistakes and need grace and mercy—daily. Put your trust in the only thing that lasts—go against the culture of self-righteousness and cling to THE ONE who is truly righteous. Eventually, you will feel the desire to obey His will out of love and gratitude (not out of guilt), which creates a heart of flesh instead of stone, and eliminates the stiff-neck.
“Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” Deuteronomy 10:16