The Horribleness of Stubbornness

Sun, Sep 10, 2017
Teacher: Mark Hull
Passage: Luke 15:25-32
Duration:29 mins 42 secs

Message text

The Horribleness of Stubbornness

Luke 15:25-32 & Hosea 4:16

A number of years ago, after announcing that an old time minister was going to preach on the subject of stubbornness, he had had several interesting reactions. A couple of people told him "I know someone who needs to hear that sermon." And one lady even volunteered to let him use her husband as a horrible example.
Hosea 4:16 says, “The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer.” Now, we have heard about someone being “as stubborn as a mule,” but this verse says that the people of Israel were as stubborn as a heifer.
A friend of mine who lived on a farm said that his grandpa always had him do the "fun" stuff, like slopping the pigs & trying to round up the heifers.
He discovered that wherever you want heifers to go, that's exactly where they're not going to go. They'll stand out in the rain before they will come inside the barn, if that is where you want them, because a heifer is stubborn.
Now, to be stubborn means, in effect, that you plant both feet on the ground, clench your fists & say, "I'm right, & I don't care what anybody else says. That's the way it’s going to be."
The Bible contains many examples of stubbornness. Probably one of the best-known examples would have to be Pharaoh. You know the story. God said, "Let my people go," but Pharaoh was stubborn & wouldn't let them go.
So God sent the plagues, & after each plague Pharaoh cries out, "OK, I'll let the people go." But after God lifted the plagues, each time it says that Pharaoh "hardened his heart." He wouldn't let the people go. The end result was the 10th plague, the death of the first born in every Egyptian home the result of stubbornness.
The difficulty is that most people don't realize just how devastating stubbornness can be. Our stubbornness builds walls around us, instead of bridges. And we end up in our own stubborn, opinionated little world.
So the subject this evening is "The Horribleness of Stubbornness."
But maybe the best example for us to consider is found in Luke 15 in the story of the prodigal son. In fact, there are 3 stories in that parable.
Story #1 is about the prodigal who went into the far country, squandered all his money in wild living, & then finally went back home.
Story #2 is about the father who watched & waited anxiously for his son to return. And when he did, welcomed him with love, & even threw a party for him.
Finally, there is the older brother who usually goes almost unnoticed when we read this parable. He is a perfect example of stubbornness & its results.
Listen to Luke 15:25-27. "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music & dancing. So he called one of the servants & asked him what was going on.
'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe & sound.'"
Now how does this older brother respond to that? He has just heard some good news. His brother who had been gone so long is back home safe & sound.
And if we weren’t already very familiar with the story we would expect the older brother to rejoice. We'd expect him to say, "I'm going to the party! I can hardly wait to see him. I'm glad he's home!"
But as you know, his response was just the opposite. Vs. 28 says, "The older brother became angry & refused to go in." He planted his feet on the ground. He clenched his fists. He stubbornly refused to go in.
Now look at vs’s 29-32, "So his father went out & pleaded with him." Some translations say, "He begged him to come in."
"But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I have been slaving for you & never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
"But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!"
"'My son,' the father said, 'You are always with me, & everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate & be glad, because this brother of yours was dead & is alive again; he was lost & is found.'"
Now can you see that older brother standing there while everybody else has gone to the party? There is music & laughter & celebration! Everybody is having a great time, except this older brother who refuses to go to the party. And because of his stubbornness, he imprisons himself behind a wall of bitterness.
If it hadn't been for his stubbornness we might never have known what kind of person this older brother really was. So let's look at him, & then look at ourselves. Pull back the curtain & ask ourselves honestly, "What kind of person am I?"
The first thing his stubbornness reveals is that this older brother was a selfish & ungrateful son. He looked at his father, & instead of being grateful for all the things he had received, he complained about what he didn't receive.
What a terrible attitude! He was the older brother. In Jewish culture that meant he would receive a double inheritance, & all the family lands would be his. To him belonged the Birthright & his father's Blessing. His father even reminded him, "Everything I have is yours."
But right now that wasn't enough for him. The only thing he was focusing on was that "You never gave me a fattened calf."
Now fattened calves were saved for special occasions. You kept that calf separate from the others, & gave it the best feed you had.
Today it would be called "corn fed beef." And everybody knows that "corn fed beef" is advertised as better tasting than beef raised on hay or grass because there is more fat, more "marbled beef."
So here is this calf that was being saved for a special occasion. And the special occasion came when the prodigal son returned home.
But the older brother is not thinking about all the good things he has received in life. He is not counting his blessings. Instead, he is angry & ungrateful because of the one thing he hasn't received.
I like the story about the 4th graders who were asked to write down the 7 wonders of the world. So they started writing down what they thought were the 7 wonders of the world.
After a while, the teacher began collecting the papers & looking at their answers, answers like the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal in India, the pyramids in Egypt, wonders from all over the world.
But one little girl was still writing. The teacher asked, "Aren't you through? I just asked you to write down the 7 wonders of the world. What are you writing?"
The little girl answered, "Well, I don't know if these are the right ones or not, but I have a whole lot more than 7."
The teacher said, "Let me see what you have written." Then he started reading the little girl's list of the wonders of the world. "To be able to see, hear, think, breathe, touch, run, love, laugh." And the list went on.
You see, our problem is that we think the great things of life are material things - things like fattened calves. And we overlook the blessings that our Father is giving to us every day.
What a list the older brother could have written. But no, he's standing outside, selfish & ungrateful, refusing to heed his father's invitation. And many people are doing exactly that same thing today.
Not only was the older brother selfish & ungrateful, but his stubbornness reveals that he was also a very unhappy & unfeeling man.
In vs. 29 he says to his father, "Look!" He doesn't even address his father with respect. "Look!" he says. "All these years I have been slaving for you. . ."
A slave? Now that's a deliberate slap in the face of the father, isn't it? I don't know what the son could have said that would have hurt his father more.
His oldest son. His heir. For years they have worked side by side. All his life has been poured into that boy. I'm sure his father was proud of him. He didn't go into the far country. He stayed home. "That's my boy!"
But it took only a few bitter words to destroy that feeling, maybe forever. He thinks of his father as a slave driver. And he sees himself as a slave. What went wrong?
B. Whenever our relationship with God goes wrong, we soon face problems in other areas, too. Work, school, home if there is a shaky relationship with God, it affects all these other areas of life, too.
Instead of considering how good God is, & how much God has given; instead of rejoicing in His mercy & grace & salvation; instead of rejoicing at the fact that you can see, & hear, & walk, & think, & work; instead of doing that, we often complain about the things we don't have.
"You have a new car, & I have an old clunker. You have all these things, & I don't have anything. Why is it that everything always works out for you, & it doesn't work out for me?" That attitude leads to all kinds of unhappiness in life.
Now the 3rd thing his stubbornness revealed was that he was unloving & unforgiving towards his brother. "This son of yours," he said. He didn't even call him a "brother."
There is something interesting to consider here. Do you know why the prodigal came home? Because he woke up & realized that his father was probably the most generous man he knew. Did you notice that?
Turn back to vs. 17. Here is the prodigal son sitting in the midst of the hog lot, & he says, "How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, & I am starving to death?"
It is interesting how our circumstances effect our attitude. On one hand, the older brother has always been there, eating at his father's table. He's always had enough food. He has always had clothing to wear. Yet he thinks his father is stingy.
But the prodigal, away in the far country in the midst of the hog lot, begins to remember how generous his father has always been. As he sits there smelling the slop, he suddenly remembers, "Even my father's servants have more than enough food to eat." So he goes home, because he realizes that his father is generous.
The older brother who thinks his father is stingy, is unloving & unforgiving towards his brother. He won't even recognize him as a brother.
Someone wrote, "If Jesus had been the older brother, think how different this story would have been. Instead of the older brother staying home while the prodigal was away in the far country, Jesus, as the elder brother, would have gone into the far country to search for him."
"He would have gone to the bars & brothels. He would have gone to the hog lots until finally he found his brother & brought him home. Because of his love he would not leave his brother in the far country."
Folks, isn't it amazing that we can see how stubborn other people are, & yet never realize that the Bible is talking about us?
Listen to what Paul says in Romans 2:5. "But because of your stubbornness & your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed."
Did you hear that? He said, "Because you are stubborn you don't repent. And because you don't repent, you are storing up wrath against yourself."
Then he says, "Because of that, God's wrath will be revealed on the Day of Judgment," all because of stubbornness.
Do you remember King Agrippa? The Apostle Paul was a prisoner of Gov. Festus, & was being questioned by King Agrippa.
Paul spoke with such power & conviction about Jesus & why he had become a Christian. Acts 26:28 (NKJV) says, "Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'You almost persuade me to become a Christian." "Almost." But no, he was a King & he turned his back & walked away.
I hope that is not your case this evening. I hope you aren't stubborn. I hope you will respond to the invitation of the Holy Spirit, & receive the marvelous grace & love of God through Jesus.
The Lord patiently waits for you as we stand & sing.

Contributing Sermon
by Melvin Newland


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