Wrestling With God?

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A small group of Christian friends gathered and as we usually do, we made a list of our concerns for prayer. This week the list was long, evidence of the ways that we encounter sin and suffering in our world. Our list included sick friends, the grieving Christians in Sri Lanka, people who have lost their way, among other things. That we would pray is, hopefully, evidence that we are engaged, not apathetic about the state of the world in which we live! Ah, it’s a struggle, isn’t it? Are you ever tempted to lose yourself in distractions, to watch too much TV, play mindless games? Perhaps you want to be like a turtle and just pull into your shell and forget about the struggles out there?

I meditated on an episode from the life of Jacob this morning. His name means ‘Deceiver’ and he lived up to it! He ripped off his brother, tricked his old father, and manipulated his father-in-law. He is a shameless schemer until one night when he has a life-changing encounter.

Here’s how it’s told: “…during the night Jacob got up and sent his two wives, two concubines, and eleven sons across the Jabbok River. After they were on the other side, he sent over all his possessions. This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until dawn. When the man saw that he couldn’t win the match, he struck Jacob’s hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is dawn.” But Jacob panted, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “It is now Israel, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won.” “What is your name?” Jacob asked him. “Why do you ask?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel—“face of God”—for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” (Genesis 32:22-30, NLT)

Like many of the Genesis stories, the details are spare and sometimes mysterious, but the core lesson comes through here, loud and clear. God had not given up on Jacob. In the middle of the night the Lord (or an angel representing Him) met Jacob and challenged him! It was a wrestling match that lasted all night and left Jacob a changed man with a new name, and a limp to remind him of the encounter.

God wants to lead us, to love us, to transform us from sinner to saint, but it won’t happen without struggle.  The character of Jesus develops as we experience the life of the Spirit Who comes to us through the daily practices of the disciplines – prayer, meditation, Bible intake, worship, service, confession – among them.  We don’t just drift into spiritual maturity. We wrestle with Self, Satan, and Systems that resist God’s work in us.   We must be willing to contend prayerfully for the work of God to be accomplished in us and through us.  Will we?

Don’t be discouraged by the struggles of life!
Don’t think you’re doing something wrong because you’re in a wrestling match.
It may be the very means that God is using to develop you into a champion for His purposes.

After Jacob spent that exhausting night, he realized that the strange encounter was more than a night of bad dreams! “I’ve met God!” And, “Mr. Slick”  became Israel, meaning “God wins.”  Everyday when his new name was spoken, he was reminded that his best life was found in submission to the Lord, that God always prevails. He came to understand, more deeply than ever before, that the center of God’s will is the place of greatest peace. That revelation came at the price of wrestling, not apathy.

Those struggles that are making you wrestle with faith, that cause you to question God’s plans and purposes, that make you groan in prayer, that drive you to seek out the wisdom of the Word, are not a bad thing. God will use them to shape  you into a person worthy of His high calling and to reveal new depths of Himself to you. Don’t throw up your hands and just drift with the current. Prevail in prayer. Let God make you new.

Here’s a word from the Word. “And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.” (Ephesians 6:10-13, The Message)
_______

Defender
(a prayerful recognition of His love in our struggles)

You go before I know
That You’ve even gone to win my war
You come back with the head of my enemy
You come back and You call it my victory

 You go before I know
That You’ve even gone to win my war
Your love becomes my greatest defense
It leads me from the dry wilderness

 All I did was praise
All I did was worship
All I did was bow down
All I did was stay still

 Hallelujah You have saved me
So much better Your (this) way
Hallelujah great Defender
So much better Your (this) way

You know before I do
Where my heart can seek to find Your truth
Your mercy is the shade I’m living in
You restore my faith and hope again

 When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart

 All I did was praise
All I need to do is worship
Lord I will just bow down
I’m just gonna stay still

John-Paul Gentile | Rita Springer | Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger © 2015 Gateway Create Publishing (Fair Trade Music Publishing [c/o Essential Music Publishing LLC]) Kindred Joy Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

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