Hope for the Stubborn (Proverbs 29:1, 11)
He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. ¹¹A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. —Proverbs 29:1, 11
A friend rebukes you for sin, and you think, I don’t care or They don’t get it. Pride and selfishness creep in and poison your heart. Perhaps your friend warns you a couple of times. After a while, you stop listening and the situation gets worse.
If this describes you, you’re in the unwelcome company of the proverbial fool. You might think, What? Me, a fool? No, not possible. But consider, just for a moment, both a warning and an encouragement.
If you regularly ignore the rebukes of a friend, you’ll become “stiff-necked.” "Stiff-necked" is exactly like it sounds—your neck is immovable. Picture a neck injury, where your sore muscles prevent you from turning your head. In the same way, your disposition (in the face of rebuke) is stubborn. You’re unwilling to listen and do what a friend suggests. To use an old fashion word, you’re “pigheaded.”
What if a friend exhorts you about your pride, and deep down you know he’s right, but you don’t follow his advice to repent and turn away from it. If you do this too often, you’ll get to a place spiritually where you can no longer hear and heed his admonitions. Solomon says such a person is “broken beyond healing” (29:1). You’re so arrogant that you’re ignoring your friend’s warnings and no longer listening. You’re in a really bad spot spiritually. Does this at all describe you? If so, you should be concerned.
God can change you. Jesus—who humbled himself to the point of death (Philippians 2:8)—came and died for stubborn people. You don’t have to be stuck and “broken beyond healing.” There is hope in the gospel. If you know yourself to be prideful, don’t give up. Jesus came for you. He’s on a mission to rescue you.
What’s required of you? Repent of your pride (Luke 5:32; 13:3; 15:10). Confess your arrogance to another believer (James 5:16). Don’t lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5); rather, trust in God (Proverbs 3:6). Exalt in Christ (Colossians 3:1-16). Beg God for mercy (Proverbs 28:13) and humility (James 4:6).
These things turn you back toward God, kick pride to the curb, and soften your heart, preparing you to heed the exhortations of others. A God-fearing man or woman will listen and heed the counsel of their friends (Proverbs 1:7-9; 15:22).
Julie lived in a difficult marriage with Tony for years. He did things his own way, didn’t follow her advice, and would expect her to follow whatever he wanted. This led to lots of conflict in the early years, and at some point, Julie gave up. For the sake of the children, she didn’t push Tony anymore.
But God in His kindness broke through. Tony felt convicted during a sermon on Christ’s humility. It gave him insight into his own arrogance. He started meeting with an older believer in the church, and over the course of a year of one-on-one meetings, time in the Word, and gentle challenges from his new mentor, Tony’s heart softened. Consequently, things at home started to change for the good.
Through the conviction of the Spirit, we don’t have to remain pigheaded. Jesus came to die for the prideful. If you’re stubborn, there is hope in Jesus. Through Him, we can learn to hear and heed the counsel of our loved ones and friends.
The last time a godly friend or family member challenged you about sin in your life, what was your response—prideful or humble?
Where is your pride hindering a godly life? When did you last repent of your pride?
If you are stubborn, have you begged God for His mercy and help?
Deepak Reju is a husband to his best friend Sarah, father to five children, and pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Washington, DC). He is the editor of the 31-Day Devotionals for Life series, and co-author of Build on Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide to Gospel-Based Children’s Ministry, Rescue Plan: Charting a Course for Prisoners of Pornography and Rescue Skills: Essential Skills for Restoring the Sexually Broken.