PT, the abbreviated terminology for physical therapy, became a common term in my vocabulary in August when I began the process of regaining movement and strength in the arm I broke in June. My Reader, if you were to describe the meaning of physical therapy by choosing words with these two initials, what words would you choose? One person told me they stood for pain and torture. I did not like that! So, I decided to create my own descriptive words that I wanted to focus upon while going to PT. My first choice of words were patience and tenacity. I knew it would take time to regain the mobility and strength that I had lost while my arm was in a cast. These words helped me keep the proper perspective that use of the arm would return little be little as I diligently did my exercises and went to the therapist. The other phrase I chose to think about was prayer and trust. I did not have to recover muscle and movement only by my own power. God was there to help me if I would only ask Him. I asked for His help through prayer and then trusted Him to be faithful to answer my prayers.
While being aware of the stiffness in my hand and arm, I thought about how God refers to the Israelites as being stiff-necked people. Exodus 32:9 is the first scriptural reference to the Lord describing them as being stiff-necked. This happens after the people had made the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai with God. In Exodus 33, the Lord reveals to Moses that He will not go with the Israelites into the Promised Land because they are stiff-necked. Moses responds in Exodus 34:9 by praying, “Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.” (If you want to read more details regarding this condition found among the Israelites, you can read Exodus 32-34 and Deuteronomy 9.)
So, what does God mean when He refers to the Israelites as being stiff-necked? According to Deuteronomy 9:6, I believe it refers to their being unrighteous because this verse says, “Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people” I think any person who is stubborn, obstinate, rebellious, or defiant is stiff-necked. I think the Israelites were in need of some PT for their stiff necks! They needed to personally spend time in prayer and not just rely upon Moses to seek God for them. They needed to trust God to lead them into the Promised Land. Where was their patience and tenacity to wait upon God to do what He had promised? Maybe I should say they were in need of some ST. What is ST? I am defining ST as spiritual therapy. What is involved in ST? I would like to suggest that the Israelites should have been singing and testifying. While on their journey to the Promised Land, they could have been singing songs of praise to the Lord reminding themselves of who God truly was. They also could have been testifying among themselves as to what God had done for them and how He was still in their midst. Just like muscles that can become frozen from lack of use, faith can become cold and impersonal if not actively lived out on a daily basis.
In Acts 7:51, Stephen says, “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” Yes, the Israelites were stiff-necked, but so can I be stiff-necked if I do not follow the leading of the Holy Spirit today! What might be some of my symptoms of being stiff-necked? I think being stiff-necked can be an attitude problem often manifested as pride. Could I be suffering from a spiritual stiff neck if I insist that my way of doing something is the only way it should be done? How about when I make excuses for my shortcomings or become defensive when I am criticized? Maybe I am in need of ST as well as PT! One way I can procure ST is through studying and tutoring. I am referring to my daily setting aside time to study God’s Word and to learn it well enough that I will follow His principles in all my actions. By tutoring, I am referring to discipling – asking another person to speak into my life and to hold me accountable for my choices while helping me grow in my faith.
My Reader, how about you? Do you need some PT or ST in areas of your life that have stiffened up? Another couplet of words defining PT could be praise and thanksgiving. This is one of my favorite exercises to loosen up some spiritual muscles that I do not use often enough. The Lord inhabits my praise (Psalm 22:3) and His joy becomes my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). His provision allows for both my physical and spiritual strength. I express thanksgiving to God for His love and faithfulness that reach to the skies (Psalm 57:10). Since His love reaches to the skies, it helps me to be able to reach to the skies with my hands physically and spiritually. I am still doing some physical exercises to get full use of my hand and arm but there has been much improvement. However, muscles can still become tight if I do not keep limbering them up. I also need to remain flexible spiritually so that I am ready for the Lord to be able to use me the way He desires. PT helps me gain strength in my hand and arm, my physical being. ST strengthens my inner being, my spiritual nature. Ephesians 3:16 tells me that I can be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man. I need both PT and ST in my life in order for me to be able to physically raise my hand as high as I would like as well as to be able to raise my hands spiritually to God in praise of who He is.
Challenge for the week:Join me in some stretching exercises of PT and ST!