Posted On November 8, 2019

Stubborn as a Mule

by | Nov 8, 2019 | Theology

I played Donkey Basketball one time. After that experience, I can say I have firsthand understanding of what the phrase “stubborn as a mule” means (Yes, I know. A donkey and a mule are two different animals, but you get the illustration).

The whole reason “donkey basketball” is funny is because you can’t really make the donkeys do what you want. They are going to stop when you don’t want them to or go when you don’t want them to or buck you off when you definitely don’t want them to!

The Bible actually teaches us that when it comes to the human heart, we can be as stubborn as a mule.

Jeremiah and Stubbornness

I’ve been recently reading through the book of Jeremiah and 10 different times in the ESV the English word “stubborn” “stubbornness” or “stubbornly” is used. God consistently shows Israel that her disobedience was a direct result of her stubbornness.

3:17 – At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.

5:23 – But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away.

6:28 – They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders; they are bronze and iron; all of them act corruptly.

7:24 – But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

9:14 – but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them.

11:8 – Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”

13:10 – This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loin cloth, which is good for nothing.

16:12 – and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me.

18:12 – “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’

23:17 – They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’ ”

One of the things the Lord shows us through these verses is that one major reason so many do not follow Christ and His ways is stubbornness of the heart.

A Theology of Stubborn

When it comes to discussing one’s “inability” to come to Christ apart from effectual grace, people often get rather upset. In their mind, reformed soteriology is positing a view whereby people want to come to Christ but are unable to and thus eternally lost.

But this is not a correct understanding. The idea of a sinner’s inability to choose Christ is directly connected to their own stubborn heart. Just like unbelieving Israel, all lost persons follow their unbelieving, stubborn heart. Essentially they cannot come to Christ because they will not come to Christ (John 5:40).

The stubborn heart is wicked and perverse. It loves self supremely and absolutely refuses to recognize any other ultimate king. So, when the gospel is heralded and the King’s terms of peace are offered, the stubborn heart refuses to heed and the scattered seed is snatched away by the Evil One (Matthew 13:19).

But God…

Thankfully, God is gracious in not leaving us all to the stubbornness of our own will. Rather than letting us all run like stubborn mules headlong into the Lake of Fire we all deserve, He is constantly stopping people in their tracks with His grace.

John writes of Christ, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

It’s not that the stubborn heart decided to make itself unstubborn by its own will, but that God in His grace opened up the stubborn heart so that it would be able to now joyfully receive the truth about Christ and His gospel through saving faith (Acts 16:14).

What Must I Do?

In the words of James Montgomery Boice, “‘With God all things are possible’ (Matt. 19:26). And so they are! They are possible for you” (The Parables of Jesus, p. 21). Meaning, God is even able to break through your stubborn heart! But the call you must heed is repent and believe the gospel. Look to Christ! Come to Christ! Believe on Christ! Let God worry about fixing your stubbornness, while you trust Christ even now. Perhaps you ought to cry out to God even now, “Help my unbelief!” (Matt. 9:24).

And for those of you sharing the gospel, trust in the God grace. Keep sowing the gospel seed to the stubborn knowing that grace is still saving. You may encounter hard soil, rocky soil, and soil filled with weeds. But by grace, you’ll come across ground that will ultimately produce fruit (Matthew 13:23).

The solution to stubborn hearts is God’s grace through the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Related Posts

Parable of the Talents: It’s Not About the Talents

Parable of the Talents: It’s Not About the Talents

The Parable of the Talents is more than just about "talents." A lot more! But how are these talents typically portrayed? Money, time, power, resources? So often we hear sermons on this text, and so much time and ink are spent describing what the talents symbolically...

Ep. 049 | Conley Owens and The Dorean Principle — TAU Roundtable

Ep. 049 | Conley Owens and The Dorean Principle — TAU Roundtable

It gives us great joy to return to a roundtable episode with an interview with Conley Owens, author of The Dorean Principle. You can read or order the book at https://thedoreanprinciple.org What are your thoughts about money and ministry? Do you see a problem with the...

Family Camp – (guest) Movie Review

Family Camp – (guest) Movie Review

Family Camp I’ve been on every major production company’s list of “Christian” bloggers for over a decade so when I heard about Family Camp, I was interested because the Skit Guys had made some good content years ago. But when I watched the trailer I was annoyed within...

Reformed Systematic Theology – Vol 3: Spirit and Salvation (book review)

Reformed Systematic Theology – Vol 3: Spirit and Salvation (book review)

Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley’s Reformed Systematic Theology Vol. 3: Spirit and Salvation is another theologically rich entry in what has already become a modern classic series. As with the previous volumes, the authors effectively balance academic theological precision with pastoral and devotional care.

Book Review: How Can We Rescue Those Being Taken Away to Death?

Book Review: How Can We Rescue Those Being Taken Away to Death?

Brett A. Baggett, Dusty Deevers, and James Silberman: Rescue Those: How Can We Rescue Those Being Taken Away to Death? Copyright 2021  Rescue Those INC. You can order copies here. These booklets are given away for free. I suggest Christians who benefit from this work...

Church Discipline is for Restoration

Church Discipline is for Restoration

Below is a teaching outline that I've used to train others concerning the process and purpose of church discipline. In short, church discipline is for convincing the wayward of their sin and restoring them. I pray it would be beneficial for your congregations....

0 Comments