One of my strongest motivations for going regularly to the local gym is that it really helps reduce my intermittent neck pain. It is interesting how often physical aliments have parallels in the spiritual realm. Being stiff-necked can sometimes be both a physical and a spiritual reality. Twenty-eight years ago while at a renewal conference in Anaheim, the Lord spoke to me about my need to repent over my stiff neck. Rather than make excuses, I decided to agree with the Lord, and be willing to change. God did a deep work in me that I will never forget, teaching me how to be more surrendered to God’s will in my life.
I had no idea how serious the spiritual ‘stiff-necked’ condition was, until I read through the bible, finding nine references to this affliction.
In Exodus 32:9, the Lord said to Moses: “I have seen these people, and they are a stiff-necked people”. One of the main reasons why God made the Moses’ followers wait forty years before entering the Promised Land was the problem of their stiffneckedness (Deuteronomy 9:6) God’s solution in 2 Chronicles 30:8 was “Be not stiff-necked as your fathers were, but rather yield yourselves to the Lord and enter his sanctuary.” Being stiff-necked seems to be a generational condition, as Stephen mentioned in Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked…, you are just like your fathers. You always resist the Holy Spirit.”
My family has physically suffered from stiff necks for generations. That is why we have often turned to physiotherapists and menthol rub. Regularly going to the gym appeals to the frugal part of myself, because I estimate that I am actually saving money on medical bills by preventative maintenance. By working out regularly and using a neck-stretching machine, I have significantly reduced headaches, and the need for aspirin or Tylenol.
The Good Book says in 1 Timothy Chapter 4: “Exercise daily in God: no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts at the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today, and forever.” The Bible is pro-exercise, but realizes that physical exercise will only take you so far. That is why the famous YMCA Red Triangle stands for Spirit, Mind, and Body. All three parts needs exercising, not just the physical!
Bishop Tom Wright commented: “The last time I made a serious effort to get physically fit, I had a specific purpose in mind. We were about to launch into a complicated move of house, and I knew that I was going to be on my feet all day for a long time, carrying boxes, books, pictures and goodness knows what else. I was going to be climbing ladders and moving furniture, not to mention sorting out a garden. I needed to go into training, and I did. It worked. I really ought to be doing it again now…”
I remember several years ago moving and unpacking what felt like a thousand boxes! If it wasn’t for my years of training at the gym, I would have been stiff necked and aching everywhere. But instead I felt fit and free.
But it is not enough to be physically fit, while letting our spiritual life go flabby. Have you ever thought of the Church as God’s Gymnasium? Would you like God to remove a few kinks in your stiff neck? My prayer for those reading this article is that we would exercise the whole person, in Spirit, Mind, and Body.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
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