Wrestling With God
Wrestling With God • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 46:44
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Where is God when life falls apart?
Where is God when life falls apart?
That is a question we all wrestle with… amen?
Where is God when everything seems to be going wrong?
Where is He when we cannot seem to “hear” Him?
How many times have we heard someone say: “How can a ‘loving god’ allow innocent people to get hurt? A god who allows tragedies to happen to innocent people is not a god I want to worship.”
And that’s a fair question, amen?
Even Jesus knew we would struggle with it…
Matthew 5:45 (NRSV)
45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
“Evil is atheism’s most potent weapon against the Christian Faith.” — C.S. Lewis
Think about the truth of that....
How do we explain tragedies… how do we explain struggles… how do we explain things like… the Columbine and the many mass shootings like it…?
How do we explain where God is in the midst of typhoons and tsunamis and famines?
How do answer: “Where is God in war… terrorist acts… fatal car wrecks… infant deaths… the Holocaust… or even in diseases like Cancer?
If God is in control, Why do these things happen?
Jesus made it clear, in this world, we will face tribulation… we will face trials… but … (look at John 16:33)
John 16:33 (NRSV)
33 I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
Many people look at the world around them, and acknowledge that “evil is obviously real,” so naturally the question is “Why does God allow it?”
Others of us wrestle with God in other ways…
Some of us look to our past… We see the things we’ve done, the things that have happened to us, and we wonder why God would allow them to happen?
We hear other Christians talk about their experiences with God… and we wonder, “Where is God in our mess?”
or, “Why don’t I experience that? Is there something wrong with me? Is my faith weak? Am I not worthy?”
We might even wonder if we truly are saved!
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve faced these questions…
Let me tell you… “I don’t know. I don’t know the mind of God.”
But I can tell you this — “It is “OK” to wrestle with God!”
Because… when we do, we will receive blessings from Him.
I want to tell you a story about a man…
His story begins before he was even born…
He was a twin, and his twin brother and he wrestled and struggled against each other even in the womb… In fact, when they were born, he came out clutching his brother’s heel!
And his struggle didn’t end there!
He spent his life struggling for his father’s attention…
Struggling for recognition…
He wasn’t as good a hunter… He wasn’t “athletic”… He spent more time helping the women with their duties then doing “manly” things…
Because of this, he became a “trickster”… often cheating and tricking people to get the things he wanted…
He even tricked his brother out of his inheritance!
You know who I’m talking about… it’s Jacob!
He tricked his brother into giving up his inheritance… He his father by deceiving him into giving his brother’s blessing to him… he even cheated his uncle Laban out of — not only — sheep, but also his daughters…
Jacob’s very name revealed his nature — “Trickster, Deceiver”…
But we need to pay attention to his story…
Look at Genesis 32:22-30.
22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”
The Jacob we see here is the same Jacob we just described!
We need to understand that.... This was the same Jacob who tricked his brother into giving up his inheritance for a bowl of soup!
Seems like a minor thing to us, right?
But understand… this was no small thing… Esau wasn’t supposed to inherit a small portion of his dad’s estate, it was all his!
The eldest son inherited everything! That is what Esau gave up! That is what Jacob took!
And he didn’t stop there!
He went on and dishonored his father in order to steal Esau’s blessing by tricking him into thinking he was Esau.
Is it any wonder Esau wanted to kill him?!
So, here we find Jacob…
He has fled from Esau… He has lived for a long time with his uncle, Laban… He has cheated and tricked his way into two wives and a ton of wealth!
And look at what God says to him:
13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and return to the land of your birth.’ ”
Can you imagine what Jacob must be dealing with? Can you imagine his struggle?
He knows what he has done… He knows how he has wronged Esau… He knows Esau’s just anger toward him… and yet… He knows that he has to go home…
So… He sends some messengers to Esau in the hopes that they will be able to lessen his anger and hopefully save his family.
But look at what they tell him:
6 The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”
Talk about terrifying!
Jacob was hoping his brother’s anger had subsided, but here he comes with an army!!!!
Have you ever noticed that Christians — I should say people — , when faced with a tragedy… a threat… a challenge in their lives seem to always run to the same place?!
Where is that?
Even non-believers seem to seek God’s intervention in times of trouble!
That is not a bad thing!
But… What do we usually do after we run to the altar in prayer?
All to often, we rush to our prayer closet… we rush to the altar… we lay our needs out there… we beg and plead for God’s help… and then… we get up, we pick them up, and we go try to deal with it “our way”…
This is exactly what Jacob does!
7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, 8 thinking, “If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it, then the company that is left will escape.” 9 And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good,’
Do you see what He did?
He began his own plan of action…
— divided his people into two groups
— sent gifts ahead to try and “appease” Esau
Then He prayed for God to bless his plan!!!
How often do we do that?!
How often do we lay out our own plans, and then ask God to bless them instead of waiting on God?!
Have you noticed that when we do that, rest doesn’t come?
Jacob couldn’t rest either.
22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
At some point in the night, Jacob realized that his plan probably wasn’t going to work.
So, he sends everything else he has… his family… his possessions… everything across the river, and he stays behind.
Maybe he was thinking — “If I am not with them maybe Esau will spare them.”
Maybe he was thinking — “I might loose them all, and I cannot bear to watch that happen.”
All we can say for sure is that Jacob was completely alone, and that he was probably seeking God…
At this point in his story, Jacob had effectively abandoned all that he had to God’s care!
Yet, he still hadn’t completely let go of himself…
24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
Who is this man?
Hosea calls him an “Angel of the Lord,”
4 He strove with the angel and prevailed, he wept and sought his favor; he met him at Bethel, and there he spoke with him.
Jacob refers to him as God…
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”
Many scholars believe that this was the “preincarnate” Christ…
Why would Christ try to prevail over Jacob?
Because Jacob needed Him to…
Christ comes to wrestle with us in our time of need for two reasons: 1. To reveal to us the fullness of our need, and 2. To reveal to us who He is.
This is exactly what happened to Jacob.
Somewhere in the night… as he wrestled with this man… Jacob realized that this man — this being — had the answers he needed, and he determined in his heart that he was going to get those answers!
25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
Did you catch that?!
In one touch, God revealed himself to Jacob… In that one touch, Jacob realized that this was God himself he was wrestling with, and he instantly quit fighting and began clinging…
26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
Jacob was so desperate for God’s help that he refuses to let go until God gives him what he needs!
How often do we do that?!
How often do we refuse to stop “clinging” to God until He gives us what we need… Knowing that He is the only One who can?
Now, her’s the cool part… God not only gives him what he needs, but He changes his life as well!
27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
Now… God did not ask thins for His own benefit! I am pretty sure God knew who Jacob was!
But … Jacob had to recognize who he was. He had to acknowledge it!
God’s question wasn’t “Who are you?” It was — “Are you going to continue living up to that name, deceiving yourself and others, or will you admit what you are and let me change you?”
He asks us the same thing?
God wants to change us, but we have to recognize who we are first!
And not as, “God loves me the way I am” either!
We have to be honest with ourselves first, then God to change us.
28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”
Let me ask you — How do we struggle with God and prevail?
I want you to see something here…
This fight, this wrestling match between God and Jacob… was fixed!!!
Think about it: How could Jacob win against God?! How could anyone?!?!
Here’s the truth:
God wants us to wrestle with Him.
18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
Jacob won against God, because God WANTS us to win!
It’s not the wrestling that’s important, it’s the commitment to the pursuit of God that matters!
33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
When we engage in a relentless pursuit of God… when we wrestle relentlessly with Him… we not only get the answers we need, but we are changed in the process!
That is what God wants!
He wants to change us… He wants to grow us… He wants to see us experience the fullness of the life He created us for!!!
But… in order for that to happen, we must engage in a relentless pursuit of Him!
Jacob prevailed against God because he refused to give up!
He refused to “let go”…
He refused to quit!
I don’t know what you are going through… I don’t know what you are struggling with… I don’t know the details of your wrestling match with God… But I do know this…
If you want to prevail against God, then you must be “relentless” in your pursuit of Him… You must “cling” to Him with everything that you have… like He is the only thing that can bring you an answer… because He is!
R. W. de Haan tells the story of a small town in which there were no liquor stores. Eventually, however, a nightclub was built right on Main Street. Members of one of the churches in the area were so disturbed that they conducted several all-night prayer meetings, and asked the Lord to burn down that den of iniquity. Lightning struck the tavern a short time later, and it was completely destroyed by fire.
The owner, knowing how the church people had prayed, sued them for the damages. His attorney claimed that their prayers had caused the loss. The congregation, on the other hand, hired a lawyer and fought the charges. After much deliberation the judge declared, “It’s the opinion of this court that wherever the guilt may lie, the tavern keeper is the one who really believes in prayer while the church members do not!”
What are you struggling with?
What are you wrestling with God about?
How willing are you to let go of everything else, and engage in a relentless pursuit of God?
I can promise you three things that will happen if we choose to engage in a relentless pursuit of God:
We will be changed by Him.
We will see God move in our lives and in our church.
We will see Bonham Community Church make a major impact on this community.
Let me close with this:
What is it that you are absolutely desperate to see change in your life? In your family? In this church?
I can’t help but think that if we would get desperate for God… If we would get desperate to see God move… not just one or two of us… but ALL of us… that we will see God move in ways that will absolutely blow our minds…