“BUT UNDERSTAND this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear]” (II Timothy 3:1).
Turn on the television tonight and watch the world, our country, and local news and you will see and hear nothing but BAD NEWS! In the economy, in wars and rebellion, natural disasters; are we living in “the last days”, in “perilous times” bringing “stress and trouble”? If your answer is, YES or MAYBE, continue reading the next verse in 2 Timothy:
“For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, PROUD and ARROGANT and CONTEMPTUOUS BOASTERS. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane” (II Timothy 3:2).
“PROUD, ARROGANT, CONTEMPTUOUS BOASTERS…” Do you know anyone who might be exhibiting these traits and symptoms of the classic “Stiff-Neck Syndrome“? Perhaps your neck is becoming somewhat stiff from reading this.
BEING FULL OF PRIDE
Like a lot of things in life, there can be a positive and a negative outcome. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary deals with the positive and negative meanings of PRIDE: In the positive sense, The noun in the Hebrew, ga’ on signifies “excellence” or “majesty”. God’s majesty was expressed in Israel’s deliverance through the Red Sea (Exod. 15:7).”
The majority of the uses of ga’on are negative in that they connote human “pride” as an antonym for humility. The negative meaning always leads to a “Stiff Neck”.
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a [“stiff neck”] fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
Many people who have degrees in business, psychology, engineering, or medicine trust God in the “religious” areas of their life, that is, in going to church on Sundays, making moral decisions about lying or cheating, or even tithing their money. But when it comes to their own speciality – business, psychology, engineering, or medicine – PRIDE begins to give them a stiff neck and causes them to reject God’s guidance.
WE’RE NOT ROBOTS
God never expected us to be robots. His guidance almost always depends upon our thinking. He longs for us to mature to the place that we can use our “sanctified intellect” and “understanding” to make the right decisions in following His guidance. With “stiff necks”, our ‘I want too’s’ become blocked in our thinker; our body, soul and spirit. God knows infinitely more than we do about any given subject in which we may consider ourselves experts. His desire for us is that we acknowledge Him a sovereign God and recognize our own need for Him.
Ordinarily we think that the more we learn of God’s ways, the more we will be able to move with self-assurance and certainty. But in reality, the more we understand, the more dependent upon God we become.
“O Lord [pleads Jeremiah in the name of the people], I know that [the determination of] the way of a man is not in himself; it is not in man [even in a strong man or in a , man at his best] to direct his [own] steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
Jeremiah had come to recognize his own need, and this is a primary condition for direct guidance. A person with a ‘stiff neck’ caused by PRIDE is not willing to be taught. Only the meek and humble can learn. Psalm 25:9 says, “He leads the humble in what is right, and the humble He teaches [His] way.”
ARE YOU A “RUGGED INDIVIDUALIST?
“I [the Lord] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Be not like the horse or the mule, which lack understanding, which must have their mouths hed firm with bit and bridle, or else they will not come with you” (Psalm 32:8, 9).
A hardened neck; a stiff neck is a “blessing blocker”; a hindrance to guidance and “The Blessing of the Lord” (Proverbs 10:22). There are many Christians who know what God wants of them but they simply refuse to obey. I feel a stiff neck coming on!
I started out with The Hardness of Stubbornness–A “Stiff-Necked People” and I want to conclude there as well. Chances are there is a stubborn streak hidden somewhere which prevents you from doing what you ought to do right now! Stubbornness can prevent us from even seeking the will, through His Word, of God. If you are reading this right now in front of your computer and thinking, “I’m NOT STUBBORN. I am a rugged individualist”. Stiff-necked people who are stubborn individuals say, “I like my plans the way they are, I don’t want God to interfere.” There is a place for individuality; but in our relationship to God our Father, we must be yielded in prevention of that dreaded “stiff neck”!
DON’T BE A STIFF NECK “FOOL”
“A [self-confident] fool has no delight in understanding but only in revealing his personal opinions and himself” (Proverbs 18:2).
“Through skillful and godly Wisdom is a house (a life, a home, a family) built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation]” (Proverbs 24:3 Amplified).
One last thought to leave with you from Proverbs. I call ‘Seven things God Hates’:
1. A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimates others].
2. A lying tongue.
3. Hands that shed innocent blood.
4. A heart that manufactures wicked thoughts and plans.
5. Feet that are swift in running to evil.
6. A false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath].
7. He who sows discord among his brethren [amongst Christians and the church].
All seven things listed in Proverbs 6:16-19 are things that lead to ‘stiff-necked people’; and God hates them all!