February 29th

Stubborn Heart

11But My people would not hearken to My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. 12So I gave them up to their own hearts' lust and let them go after their own stubborn will, that they might follow their own counsels. 13Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! 14Speedily then I would subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their adversaries. 15[Had Israel listened to Me in Egypt, then] those who hated the Lord would have come cringing before Him, and their defeat would have lasted forever. 16[God] would feed [Israel now] also with the finest of the wheat; and with honey out of the rock would I satisfy you.  Psalm 81:11-16 AMP 

The problem of the stubborn heart is something that the Israelites struggled with throughout their existence. God tried again and again to persuade the Israelites to follow him, but they rebelled repeatedly. He ultimately gave the people up to follow their lusts, “to go after their own stubborn will, that they might follow their own counsels.”  Notice how God didn’t force them to obey him. He gave them a choice, and allowed them to follow their stubborn wills.   

In the final verses of the Psalm, God reflected on the benefits that the people would have enjoyed, had they hearkened to his voice.  Specifically, he would have turned his hand against their adversaries and permanently subdued them.  He also would have prospered and satisfied them with good things, such as the finest wheat and honey.   

Unfortunately the problem of the stubborn heart is alive and well in our day. It is especially prevalent among sex addicts.  I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise, as today’s temptations perfectly cater to lust and much of our culture is focused on the pursuit of pleasure.  It can be very easy, even for the most committed Christians, to get the purpose of life confused from pleasing God to pleasing ourselves. 

How do we know if we are suffering from a stubborn heart?  Well, from the above Psalm we can find several symptoms of a stubborn heart.  Specifically, the stubborn heart:

The stubborn heart resists the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  It causes tension in our lives when we set out to seek God and bring our lives into alignment with God’s commandments.  The tension comes from the basic fact that the sinful desires of the flesh run contrary to the desires of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17).  Each time we yield to the flesh by sinning, our heart is hardened to some degree against God.  Conversely, each time we yield to the Holy Spirit by obeying, our heart is sharpened for God and molded to his will to a corresponding degree.  This reflects the law of sowing and reaping as Paul described in Galatians 6:7-8:

7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  (NIV

God has empowered us with the Holy Spirit in order that we overcome the will of our stubborn hearts and obey the Spirit’s leading.  This requires belief and action on our part – we need to believe that the Spirit lives in us and we need to act on that belief by abstaining from gratifying sinful impulses.  Though this won’t be what our flesh wants in the short term, it will bear far better benefits than temporary pleasure could ever bring.  Imagine what life would be like without the constant nagging of the demons who tempt us with the delicacies we formerly were enslaved to.  Imagine the blessings coming from the Creator that will bring true satisfaction to our flesh and mind…good things that we are free to partake of without fear of punishment!  

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord Jesus, thank you for shining the light of truth into my life today.  If I have allowed stubbornness to corrupt my heart in any way, I confess it and repent from it right now.  I renew my commitment to live for you, Lord and not for sin.  I present my body and mind as instruments of righteousness today and not for sin.  Please cleanse my heart of all impurity and fill me afresh with the Holy Spirit.  By faith I will yield to the Spirit’s convictions and abstain from the sinful impulses of my flesh.   Lord, please strengthen me to stick to this commitment.  Thank you, Jesus.  I praise you now and forever, Amen.”