Walking with a limp?

painIn the middle of a mess, when a crisis strikes, do you ever just want to scream, “I quit!”?  In four decades of serving God’s church as a pastor I confess that I have wanted to leave my post on several occasions. One Sunday morning, about 25 years ago, I had every intention of ending the worship service with my resignation. The conflicts had wearied me and obscured the vision, leaving me joyless. While praying in my office before going to the sanctuary, I felt the Spirit say, “No, not now.” I was equally furious and broken hearted.  But, in obedience, I tore up the resignation letter and pushed ahead. The following years God blessed that church and we had an effective ministry. 

There are things about God and yourself that you cannot discover except through difficulty!

Jacob had made a mess of his life.  He conspired with his mother to defraud his older brother by stealing his father’s blessing.  Realizing that Esau would kill him, he ran for his life.  He ended up living in Laban’s camp,  where he got what he had given; deception.  (The story of his marriages to Leah and Rachel are the stuff of both tragedy and comedy.) After years in exile, he decided it was time to go home to face the music, so to speak.  On the way, he heard that his brother Esau was coming to meet him. Jacob expected violence and schemed to buy his brother’s forgiveness.  He did not run this time.  And, in his crisis, he became a changed man.

The Bible tells it this way. “Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. … When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.” Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’  … Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.”

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered.  Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.” (Genesis 32:3, 6-9, 11, 22-32, NIV)

A new name in the Bible is about a new identity!  Remember when Jesus renamed Simon?  He called him “Peter,”  the rock, foreshadowing Peter’s critical role of leadership in the first generation of Christians.

Jacob, whose name means “deceiver” spent the night wrestling with God and came out of the struggle with a new name and a new way to live.  God named him  Israel,  which means “God overcomes.”  Do not miss a key fact in that story.  Israel’s encounter with God left him with a limp, a source of pain that kept that proud schemer aware of the importance of relying on the Lord, not on himself.

Are there messes in your life created by your past sin?
Is there some difficult, frightening, miserable, challenging thing facing you?
Do you want to turn and run?

A better choice is to push through the pain!  I am not just talking about gritted teeth and grim determination.  Take your troubled heart, your fearful thoughts, your dread, your uncertainty to God in prayer.  Wrestle with Him honestly, humbly.  Feeling fury? Tell Him. Feeling confused? Tell Him. Trapped? Tell him.  But, do not walk away from Him.  Work it out. (It might take longer than a day!)  I promise you that if you will be honest with Him, wait patiently for Him, and keep your heart right – He will meet you.  He may not change your situation, but He will change you, equipping you to live differently.  The struggle may leave you with a limp, but it will always remind you of the time you wrestled with God and discovered new things about Him and yourself.

The word from the Word is a song of David. “I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God. Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God, turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,” ignore what the world worships.” (Psalm 40:1-4, The Message)

______________

You Are God Alone (Not A God)

You are not a god created

By human hands.

You are not a god dependent

On any mortal man.

You are not a god in need of

Anything we can give.

By Your plan,

That’s just the way it is.

 

You are God alone

from before time began;

You were on Your throne-

You are God alone!

And right now, in the good times and bad,

You are on Your throne –

You are God alone!

 

You’re unchangeable!

You’re unshakable!

You’re unstoppable; that’s what You are.

 

You’re the only God whose power

None can contend.

You’re the only God whose name and

Praise will never end.

You’re the only God who’s worthy

Of ev’rything we can give.

You are God,

That’s just the way it is.

 

And right now, in the good times and bad,

You are on Your throne, You are God alone!

Billy J. Foote | Cindy Foote

© 2004 Billy Foote Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI))

Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI))

CCLI License # 810055

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