by Russell Brownworth Apr 2, 2001
Of all the mysteries I would like solved before I die, it is the one that says you must struggle if you are going to grow. Growth always means struggle in one form or another. I struggled when I was a youth, trying to grow physically. We all struggled as children attempting to grow emotionally, psychologically and intellectually. We struggle when we grow.
In Genesis 32 we find a man named Jacob who faced a lot of struggles as he grew to be the man God wanted him to be. Jacob left town in great disgrace — I’m certain it had to be that he slinked out of town at night. It is also certain that aside from his mother, no one knew where he was headed. Jacob’s brother Esau was so mad at him that Jacob had to leave town in a hurry — just to survive.
Jacob struggled all through his life. God wanted him to be God’s man; Jacob fought it with that old nature that says, “Forget what God wants…be your own man! Do what you want to do; Hey, it’s your life isn’t it?” Each of us faces that tension today. There are struggles with relationships, morality, the physical realm.
We struggle in every area of life. We struggle with why some things must be. Why does a plane crash, or a bridge collapse in Korea? Why do children die?
Even though we accept struggle as a part of life, we still question its value, its purpose. Along with our questioning, there is one immutable fact that, if accepted, will give your suffering — your struggling some meaning…
In life’s crucible, God is there!
And He will help you through it all!
Note three PRINCIPLES about wrestling with God in the struggles of life. These principles are seen in the life of Jacob. He is camped at the river Jabok on the night before he is to confront his brother Esau. Jacob is coming home. He doesn’t know what to expect. It’s been twenty years. This is a time when Jacob could really use a friend to help him.
Principle #1 —
Get alone with God
“And Jacob said, O God…” Ge 32.9a
Note that Jacob prayed, but he didn’t get an answer right away. Jacob had grown accustomed to following God by this time. He was committed to going back — to doing the right thing. This prayer was public. But Jacob got no answer until he got alone with the Lord.
Many of us depend too much on the prayers of others, such as the preacher, friend or spouse. God often wants to do something personal in us, and we, like Shakespeare’s weak-kneed would-be lover, want someone else to plead our case. When you’re going to wrestle with the problems of your life it is important to get alone with God. Note verse 24: “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.”
When we get alone God is able to speak in that still small voice, asking us the hard questions: “What is thy name?” (Ge 32.27b). To Jacob that question meant more than simply what people called him. It meant he had to answer God concerning his character. Here, alone, Jacob was finally able to answer God. We need to appropriate that kind of honesty with God. Public prayer is general. When you get alone with God all the veneer and outer facades melt away. There is no one to lie to. And you wouldn’t have the nerve to lie to HIM anyway! Get alone.
Principle #2 —
Get Authentic With God
We don’t have to settle for the superficial things in our relationship with God. The name Jabok means “to run about and stir up dust.” Jacob did a lot of that on that night. It wasn’t a physical battle, but an emotional upheaval. It was a battle within. In Hosea 12 the same word is used for prayer and weeping. There was much prayer and weeping that night for God to strip away everything superficial in Jacob’s life. He was doing what we used to call “praying through.” Jacob was not willing to have a religion — He wanted God!
What’s authentic about you today? Is it your clothes? Is it the way you comb your hair? Or is it an authentic relationship with an Almighty God — so honest and open that you will not settle for anything less than Him. And you want no less in your human relationships.
Principle #3 —
Get Amended By God
When you get alone and authentic with God, the next thing that WILL happen is change. God will change you. Jacob hung around the whole night waiting for answers. God honors that kind of persistence. In Luke’s account of the Gospel, Jesus told the parable of the man who is asleep, and another comes knocking at the door in the dead of night. He has company; he needs a loaf of bread. The sleeper doesn’t want to get up, but he can’t get rid of the man, so he finally gives in and the persistent knocker has his request.
Here is the bottom line. Jacob wrestled all night long with the angel of God (Jesus). The dawn was about to break. Jacob knew, as did the Lord, that the morning light would bring Jacob’s death if the angel did not leave. (No man can see the face of God and survive.) And so the angel entreated Jacob,
And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
(Gen 32:26-28 KJV)
With all the wrestling that night, Jacob wouldn’t give in, even with his life in the balance. He would not let go of God’s presence until he firmly established whom God was going to be in his life. Nothing else mattered! And it changed his whole life.
The questions are already in your own mind.
“How about me?
Am I ready to do business with God like that?
Do I want God that much?
Am I willing to get alone with Him,
get authentic with Him?”
If you are willing — He is willing to meet you there at the place where the dust gets stirred up. And your life — like Jacob’s is going to be different.
“I’m not sure about that.”
Neither was Jacob.
“I’ve never done that before.”
Neither did Jacob.
“I don’t see how……”
Like Jacob, you don’t have to see beyond your need for God. You only have to see that you need and want Him more than
A man was traveling in his automobile along a deserted country road when the dark fell. He switched on his headlights. In another two hours it became pitch black, except for the headlights. He slowed to a stop to look at a road sign. The sign had been taken down and laid against the post. There were three directions, two for cities, and one announcing a washed-out bridge. But which direction was which? Pondering his next move, the man became frightened. He thought to himself, “If I choose the wrong way I could go over that washed out bridge and plunge to my death. I could wait until dawn so I can see.” Then it occurred to him that he could see as far as the end of his headlight beams. When he would go forward, the headlights would move ahead also. He would be able to see what he needed, when he needed it!
My dear friend, you only (always) have two choices with God. Trust Him or don’t. If you want Him as much as Jacob wanted Him, then you only have one choice. Trust Him.
Russell Brownworth, Pastor
Cedar Lodge Baptist Church