As a pastor’s wife I have done a lot of counseling over the years. One character trait that can cause a multitude of problems in homes, churches, friendships, and businesses is stubborness. The funny thing about stubbornness is that if you call it determination, persistence, or endurance it doesn’t sound so bad. I have found that it is all a matter of perspective. When someone doesn’t want to change and do something my way, then they are being stubborn. But if I stick to my guns and insist that that person go along with me then I am just persistent and right!

I have also found that sometimes I have a hard time determining when God is setting up roadblocks because He wants me to change directions.   Am I just being too stubborn to see it or am I being tested to see if I will throw up my hands and quit.

Many of my struggles throughout life have been caused because I was too stubborn to do it God’s way. I was convinced that I was right and God or whoever the Lord had placed as my authority at the time did not understand the situation. Therefore, I would figuratively stomp my foot and hang in there trying to do it my way until I couldn’t stand the conviction and would go ask for forgiveness. Does this sound like a 2 year old? Yes! Sad to say, just being over 21 does not always mean that we are mature.

So what does God have to say about stubbornness? In I Samuel 15:22-23a Samuel is confronting Saul about his disobedience to God’s directions. And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.   For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

This was a great verse to quote to my children when they were being stubborn and rebellious. But does it apply to adults also? Of course it does! In fact it’s hard to tell your children that they should submit and cooperate if they do not see you having that kind of spirit with the authorities in your life.

Stubbornness doesn’t just affect us personally. It can wreck marriages, split churches, cause us to lose a job and ruin friendships.

So how do we determine the difference between stubbornness and endurance?

1. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in 10 years or in the light of eternity?”. When you are in the middle of an argument or disagreement you should check your attitude. Why do you want to win this discussion? There are so many things that we can argue about that we won’t even remember in ten years. Unfortunately, in some cases, the results of that argument will still be evident. A good example of that is the family that one half is still not speaking to the other half but they don’t know why. When you ask them why they are mad at “Aunt Susie”, they don’t know why. In fact, they may not have even been a part of the original fight. How sad! All those years missed because two people were too stubborn and full of pride to give in and say, “I’m sorry.”

2.When in the midst of a battle, choose the hill you wish to die on. A few years ago a friend of mine used this saying to describe a decision that she made about not continuing an argument with her husband. Ladies, some battles just are not worth winning! When you have a difference of opinion at home, church or on the job, you must decide is this important enough that I am willing to fight to the death to win this argument.

There are battles you have to win.   It doesn’t matter who you alienate…you must win! There are times when winning is not worth the cost. Remember that a wise general understands that he must keep his eyes on the goal–winning the war.  He may lose a few battles in the process of getting to the hill that his troops will die, if necessary, to conquer and win.

So what “hills” should we be willing to die on? We cannot sin to please someone else. For instance, if our boss expects us to lie or cheat as part of our job then it is not stubbornness to tell him that you will not do that. If he doesn’t like it and won’t change, then it is time for you to look for a new job.

3. Submit to the authority over you. The concept of submission to authority is considered almost archaic today. But, like it or not, it is Biblical. God tells us over and over in His Word that we are to submit to authority. He promises to bless us if we obey and to punish us if we refuse to submit.

Now for some people submitting seems easy. For others of us, it is a constant struggle. I have never taken commands easily! My natural tendency is to argue and question every side of an issue assuming that I know the best way to do something. I even tend to have this attitude with God. Naturally, this plan has never worked well for me; but, I still sometimes have to try it just to see if something has changed!! 🙂 Guess what? Nothing has changed. God’s plan is still best and will work every time.

Even our Lord and Savior submitted himself unto the will of His Father when he prayed in the garden …O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. Matthew 26:39.  If Jesus could submit to God’s authority, we should also be willing to submit to our Heavenly Father.

Besides God’s authority, the Lord has put other people in places of authority over us and He expects us to obey them. Colossians 3:22 says Servants obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God. In today’s language that would mean employees obey your employer. You may think that there is a better way to do it. There is nothing wrong with suggesting a new method to your boss, but, if he or she says no, then it is your responsibility to obey.

God doesn’t say, “you may disobey if your boss is an idiot.” He simply tells us to obey. I have told my children that someday they may be in authority and they will want others to follow them. Right now it is up to them to follow their leaders. Good followers make good leaders.

We must remember that sometimes those in authority know more than we do about the situation or they have had “this” happen before. They may be making their decisions based on information that we do not have and do not need to know. All we need to do is quit being stubborn and give in to the authority over us.

We also need to remember that whoever that authority is, must answer to God someday for his or her actions. It is not up to us to make them do right, it is up to us to obey God by humbling ourselves, giving in, and submitting.

If you simply cannot do this because it is sin or you just can’t swallow their reasoning, then it is time to move on. Start praying and asking God to direct you.

In most of the cases that I have seen, this is not the problem. It is merely a matter of sinful pride and rebellion. The toddler mentality of “I want it my way”!

Let me insert one note here. When I say move on if you cannot submit, I am NOT suggesting that a wife leave her husband because she doesn’t like some of his plans or methods. God’s word is very clear that wives are to submit to their husband’s authority (Eph. 5:22). If the husband is asking the wife to sin she should refuse. But, in most of the situations that I have counseled, it was simply a matter of she wanted to do it her way. This is not a time for separation it is a time for prayer and maybe counseling.

A wise pastor’s wife once told me that she learned after years of marriage that she could accomplish much more change in her husband by nagging God about her husband’s problems then by nagging her husband. The end result was a peaceful and happy marriage. This plan of attack can work just as well with your children, on the job, or in a church situation.

4.  God calls us to be peacemakers. I am not suggesting that we work for world peace. What I am saying is that God tells us that our goal in any given situation should be a peaceful resolution. The Lord tells us in Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Notice that God knew that some people simply would not cooperate with others. He did not make us responsible for their sinful attitudes. The Lord simply told us to do everything within our power to bea peacemaker. That means that sometimes we must be the one to give in and let the other person have their way. We don’t have to agree with them, we just swallow our stubborn pride and let them do it the way they want to so that there can be a spirit of peace. Remember, not all hills are worth dying on!

I understand that there are times we just can’t stand to let someone else think that they are right. I remember one time when I was a teenager, my mother and I were having an argument about what I would wear to a church picnic. When Mama went outside, I called my father at the office and informed him of my problems. Daddy, in his mature wisdom, said calmly, “Marcia what difference does it make? Just wear what Mama tells you to.” I being a very wise 16 year old said, “That’s not the point! If I do that, she will think she won!”

Isn’t that the way we are as adults sometimes? It’s not that we have to do it our way as much as that we don’t want the other person to think they won! 🙂

What does God call that kind of attitude? The term is foolish pride. Proverbs 16:18 says Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. When we allow stubbornness and the desire to always win to rule our lives, we can be sure that disaster will follow. God will not bless that kind of attitude.

On the flip side, God tells us in Matthew chapter 5 that He will bless those that work at keeping the peace. I used the word “work” because sometimes it takes work and humility to keep the peace in families, churches, and in the work place. We may be the one that has to give in or apologize even when we don’t see that we did anything wrong.

5. We must remember what our goal is—to be a good testimony and effect people for eternity. That sometimes requires us to keep our mouth shut, back down, and even let the other person think they won. So what! God knows the whole story and He is in control.

Remember, God will not hold you responsible for the other person’s actions. He only holds you responsible for your reactions.

6. One last thought—How do we discern the difference between stubbornness and endurance? If this has not happened to you already, it will at some time in your life. All of us go through times when everything just seems to be hard. Nothing we do seems to go right. So you question. “Lord are you just testing me to see if I will quit or are you telling me that I need to change direction?” How do you find the answer?

First, get into the Word of God and ask the Lord to direct you. Look up and study verses pertaining to the situation in question.

Secondly, ask yourself is there any sin involved in what I am doing? Is the Lord trying to tell me that this is wrong? Sometimes the Lord is causing everything we do to fail because he is trying to get our attention to help us see that we need to change. Hebrews 12:6-11

Third, seek help in wise counselors. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 11:14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in a multitude of counselors there is safety. By this I do not mean that we go to our peers for advice. A wise counselor is someone that is mature in the Lord and maybe has been through a similar experience and been victorious.

Finally, if you determine that you are not sinning and the Lord is not directing you to move on, then you must accept that he is just testing you to help you grow. Read and study the book of Job and James chapter 1. Also remember that everything that we learn, and the Lord gives us victory in, we can use to help others (II Corinthians 1:4).

May each of us learn to serve the Lord with humility and the discernment to know which “hill” is worth dying on. May the Lord give us the grace to be peacemakers.