Stubbornness is something we are born with - at least I think it must be this way. I don't think we one day just decide to be stubborn - I think it is something we have a tiny root of within our character at birth and the more we cultivate it, the stronger it becomes evident in our lives. To break this down a little, stubbornness is being unreasonably obstinate - kind of like when you dig your heels in and just won't budge on a certain topic. There is a sense of resolution which keeps you anchored - no matter that your choice may be wrong, or the results imminently bad. In the most literal sense, a stubborn child is difficult to manage - because it is constantly a battle of the wills. I'd like to challenge us to consider yet another definition of stubborn which may help us better understand it - difficult to shape. When God speaks to us and we don't take notice of his instruction, we may get by with a firm warning and not much of any consequences the first time, but keep doing the same thing and digging your heels in deeper, and the consequences will grow much bigger!
If you keep being stubborn after many warnings, you will suddenly discover you have gone too far. (Proverbs 29:1 CEV)
All of following Jesus is about having our lives shaped - in fact, it is about having our lives "reshaped". The tendency to be headstrong and unyielding in our opinion or determination to do something is what often gets us into the tight places in our lives - where we don't have much "breathing room" and life seems to close in around us. The sooner we learn we need a little "reshaping", the sooner we can begin to allow God's Spirit and Word to begin the process. I have a tree which is growing in the direction of our predominant winds. It is not the tree which is stubbornly growing in that direction, for it is yielding to the force it most often is influenced by. It is the wind which is stubborn - it is not easily changed, and it is exerting force against the tiny tree. In time, this tree has yielded to the force which is greater. This is often the case with each of us, going along with the most predominant force exerting whatever pressure it brings. Now, think on that one a little and couple this with our own stubborn "bent" in life - if the force is strongly opposed to the way we "should" be growing, no matter how much we try to "stake up" our lives, the force we are most influenced by will continue to exert just enough force to "bend us".
The Word of God and his Holy Spirit indwelling us does more than just "stake us up" against external opposing forces and poorly based internal opinions. They can actually reshape our lives - working first to reduce the impact of the forces we are subject to externally and then ensuring the forces which are contrary to his will are transitioned from resistant to submissive internally. What I am doing with my little tree out back is staking it us against the prevailing winds. I am also giving it good fertilizer, tending the soil around it, and ensuring it has sufficient water for deep roots. In turn, I am giving it a solid base upon which to grow and become strong. All God's Word and his Holy Spirit do within us is give us solid base upon which we grow and become strong. What we do is obediently yield, not to the forces which are contrary to their instruction, but to the wisdom of their pull in the opposite direction of the opposing forces!
Resistance to change is a difficult thing to deal with - because it is rooted in stubbornness and self-desire. God's Word works within us to reveal our resistance. If you have ever felt a little tinge of guilt when you hear some truth from the Word of God, you might just have been "marked" for a little "reshaping" in your life! You see, I don't have to reshape the entire tree, I just have to ensure it remains consistently growing in the direction which will eventually bring it the greatest endurance and stability against the prevailing winds! God doesn't have to totally make us into robots in order to have obedient children - he just has to capture our hearts! He does this through the faithfulness of applying his Word in areas where our lives are hurting and falling apart - even when we don't recognize these places exist. We are often the most resistant at the place we most need change!
The good news is that God isn't going to let us go "too far". We will continue in our rebellion only so far - but all the while, God's voice will be consistently repeating the same message to our hearts. We may try to ignore the call to "reshape" our lives, but if we are honest, we somehow know the voice we are hearing is really working for our good. The desire to see us grow strong and upright is never going to be swayed by our stubbornness. In fact, our stubbornness only increases God's desire to see our lives reshaped by his love, grace, and truth! Just sayin!