Have you ever been told that you are too stubborn for your own good?
For us to grow as a person, I tell you that an open mind is required. We believe our perseverance to keep trudging along no matter how hard the journey becomes is special. To be full in our convictions is something that we also pride ourselves on. Truly, these two characteristics are definitely something that makes us special. However, both of these characteristics have a cousin that we must be able to recognize and need to talk about – stubbornness. How do we know when our perseverance and conviction has turned into stubbornness?
Stubbornness: dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something.
Are you a stubborn person? Is it possible that our stubbornness can affect our faith? I want to take a look at the dark side of our perseverance and conviction and focus on how our stubbornness can be detrimental to us. I say to you today, do not become too stubborn for your own good.
What’s so bad about being stubborn?
The definition of being stubborn is pretty straightforward. Many of us would say that there is nothing too bad about being stubborn because, after all, we are stubborn and we aren’t bad people! Let’s evaluate the stubborn characteristic for a moment.
We would say that our society suffers a lot today because people are being stubborn in their ways. The one thing that society shows us is that the stubbornness of a vocal minority can hold back and stunt the growth of a majority.
Some would say that stubborn people are simply being closed-minded. Being closed-minded: to be unwilling to consider different ideas or opinions.
So, in our society, in order for there to be growth, the collective society must be made up of many open-minded individuals. If we shrink the scale down from a society, to just an individual person, we would say that in order for that person to grow, they cannot be closed-minded. Being stubborn, in essence, prevents an individual from thinking differently and accepting new ideas. Therefore, being stubborn has stunted that person’s growth.
This person’s stubbornness has been detrimental to them and to others. We would say that being too stubborn is simply no good for anybody. Stubbornness is no good in school nor in the workplace. We would certainly agree that stubbornness does not work well in a relationship. The idea is that in order to grow, at some point, you have to put your stubbornness in check. All of this we are considering so far is from worldly logic, right?
The result of failing to be open-minded in life
There is a failure in life when you cannot be open-minded.
In life, change is often required of us because life itself is always changing day to day. If we refuse to recognize these changes, we end up getting left behind in past times while the world moves forward. If enough people get stuck in a mindset of the past, you get what we see going on in our society today.
Change can certainly be scary, but oftentimes, change is good. As we grow older, we mature and we make changes.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.1 Corinthians 13:11 NKJV
Paul said that he learned how to reason when he became a man. (The child is stubborn, but the adult should no longer be acting like a child). We learn how to change our diets so that we can be healthier. We also learn to accept that we need to try to exercise so that we can improve our health. So we do some type of calisthenics be it walking, jogging, yoga, weight lifting, etc.
In life, when change is required, we must learn how to stop being so stubborn but be open to change. We learn that with change comes growth and growth is a necessity for us as a person. A closed-mind that refuses change, loses an opportunity for growth. Growing is how we become better individuals, and ultimately growth is what would create a better society. (Again, all of my thought thus far has been focused on our worldly logic.)
Failure to be open-minded spiritually
Spiritually, however, there are many of us who become so dogged in our ways that we are unable to recognize when we are too stubborn for our own good. Some of us are even unable to recognize when growth is required of us in our faith. We become believers and think there is no more to it, yet the writer of Hebrews said (Heb. 6:1) that we should leave behind the elementary principles of our faith and strive towards perfection.
So, the believer is also required to change and grow because we must be prepared to share the word with any and everybody. We cannot be backward thinking and think that we can share the gospel with someone in our world today. Refusing to be open-minded not only stunts our own growth as a person but it stunts us and others spiritually as well. Stubbornness, unfortunately, is something I see many believers struggling with today. The believer must be willing to have a listening, understanding, and an open mind. So, we as genuine believers must learn how to correct our stubbornness.
Examining Paul’s stubbornness
We often see our perseverance and our conviction as a good thing, but how can we tell when our perseverance and conviction has become the dangerous kind of stubbornness? I want to examine a man that many preachers admire.
Paul is highly admired in the faith because he possessed a great amount perseverance and conviction to go along with his faith. Paul pushed harder than most; his three missionary journeys recorded in scripture are well known by many who are of the faith in Christ. Paul also wrote the majority of the books and letters that make up the New Testament.
However, at the same time, there are some who believe that was Paul’s perseverance and conviction that lost him two of his traveling mates from his first missionary journey (Barnabas and John Mark). Paul was such a driven person that he could become overly dogged in his view. When he made up his mind about something, it was very hard to get him to change it. (That certainly sounds like the definition of being stubborn.)
Admittedly, Paul was a stubborn person though I do not view his stubbornness as negatively as some do. I believe Paul had learned how to put his perseverance and conviction to good use by the time he wrote the scripture I quoted earlier (1 Cor. 13:11). What did Paul do to grow his faith in such a way?
The awful stubbornness of Saul
When he was known as Saul, Paul was an even more closed-minded person that was full of conviction and perseverance. However, this led Paul to be too stubborn and his stubbornness was causing more harm than doing good. (When your perseverance and conviction is doing more harm than good, that’s a sign that you’re probably being too stubborn.)
He used his perseverance and conviction to be a ruthless persecutor of the early church. He had early believers of Christ arrested for merely practicing their faith (Acts 22:19). Paul even admits to standing by as Stephen was stoned for preaching the name of Christ (Acts 22:20). Early believers lived in so much fear of this man that they were running for their lives to Damascus. (That is how he ended up on Damascus road.)
His refusal to listen
Saul was a man of faith (so he proclaimed). However, as I stated before, faith in the Lord requires a mind (heart) that is open to growing. At that time, Saul’s faith was solely in the Mosaic Law; he was not open to the way of Christ. His view was completely dogmatic and nobody could get through to him because he knew everything.
There are many who are like Paul, they get stuck in their way and close themselves off to any and everybody (including Christ). A believer that refuses to grow in their faith end up remaining as babies (immature) in their faith.
In our key verse, I want you to see how Jesus describes Paul’s stubbornness.
Jesus says, “it is hard for you to kick against the goads,” to describe Paul’s stubbornness. (Paul was overly stubborn.) How many of us are kicking against the goads today? I’m sure somebody is probably asking, “what is a goad? What does this mean?”
Kicking against the goads
A goad is a sharp or spiked stick used to herd (move) stubborn cattle. (Interesting that Jesus uses the goad to illustrate Paul’s stubbornness.) Jesus is the good shepherd that watches over His flock and guides His flock. I believe Jesus had been trying to get Paul to move for the longest of time, but Paul simply would not budge or move in the direction Jesus would have Him to go.
(Makes you wonder how many of us Jesus would say are kicking against the goads today. Are you kicking against the goads?)
Imagine being so stubborn that when Jesus, the good shepherd, is trying to herd you in a direction to go that you stubbornly kick against the goad. We would think that Christ should not have to need a goad to move us but we can be stubborn sheep. Many of us kick against the goad and then we wonder why we are where we are in life.
The recognition of being too stubborn
I feel like if we can learn to be open-minded in our faith, that we can learn to not be so stubborn when it comes to many things.
However, if you are being too stubborn for your own good (kicking against the goad of Christ) you will find that this action is being detrimental. Kicking against the goad is being detrimental to you and likely to all the other cattle (sheep) that are in your vicinity. We should probably stop kicking against the goad of Christ if we want to go in the direction Christ would have us to go.
The Lord first had to get Paul to recognize that he was causing more harm than doing good. Paul had to first be blinded (Acts 9:3). I believe that sometimes the Lord has to do things that seem drastic to us just to get our attention. (Sadly, some times it takes for many drastic things to happen before we realize we need to have a conversation with the Lord.)
Paul, we are told (Acts 9:4) fell to the ground. In the Old Testament, we often saw falling to the ground as a sign of worship. It takes a humble person to fall to the ground to worship the Lord. You can be so stubborn that something causes you to fall to your knees and talk to the Lord. We millennials often joke that this is a “come to Jesus moment”. Many of us need to stop being so stubborn and have our come to Jesus moment like Paul.
Listening, understanding, and being opened-minded
A closed-minded person will never hear the voice of God. To hear the Lord’s voice you have to be perceptive. My uncle often speaks of how he used to expect he would hear a voice from heaven (I used to think the same thing myself.) However, I learned that the Lord communicates in different ways that only an open mind will be able to perceive. If you’re too stubborn, you will always miss His message.
Therefore, we have to learn how to be open to all things. You have probably heard it said before that believers of God are a closed-minded people. I disagree with this thought. If you are genuine in the faith, you have learned or will learn not to be too stubborn for your own good. God cannot guide you if you are too busy kicking against the goads. God cannot do anything for you if you are too busy kicking against the goads.
Paul, in the end, said to God, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” There is a lot of growth when we can go down on bent knees and ask the Lord, “what do you want me to do?” It takes an open mind to be accepting of the Lord. I truly believe, if you learn how to have an open mind with the Lord, you can certainly learn to be open-minded to many things.