Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Lord Arm Throws Jacob to the Mat!!

Every fall, the profession of teaching does something many professions don’t do often enough. Each teacher has the opportunity to start afresh, apply new approaches, new ideas and hopefully, improve his or her effectiveness.

Better than the above is the promise of the Father:
The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3: 22-23

The love and faithfulness of the Lord are at the center of walking with Him. Believers will hear a wonderful promise from the Old Testament such as this one, then the reality of life and its disappointments cause some folks to doubt or even reject the truth of God’s existence. Recently I had the opportunity to offer encouragement regarding the faithfulness of God to both a man in his seventies and a man in his early thirties. The former simply asked me if I ever doubted God’s existence, as he revealed such thoughts after a lifetime of church-going. The latter was raised in a Christian home and attended Christian school. He has maintained his faith all of his life, including notable faithfulness in what we call the disciplines of faith.  My young friend is frustrated by what he sees as a lack of God answering prayer. All of us face one or more times of examining what we think we believe about God compared with how He appears to work in our individual life.

Scrutinizing one’s faith is varied in depth and outcome depending on individuals, but all believers will experience this  as part of the faith walk. It is a “wrestling” we must each do with the Lord. (Remember the Old Testament story of Jacob wrestling with God? Genesis 32) Though believers have received the Holy Spirit, there is a life-long quest for deeper knowledge of the Lord from the moment of decision to accept the redemption of Christ. Within the believer, there is a mixture of motivations for that pursuit. It is fairly common to seek after God for what one perceives God can provide, while He seeks that a person know Him for Himself. Don’t we all prefer our friends to accept us for whom we are and simply enjoy our company rather than seek to be with us for what we have to offer them? Sifting our motivations down to only pure ones can be a root of the wrestling match. There are other issues symbolic in Jacob’s wrestling with the Lord, but the outcome of the story is why I bring it up here. When Jacob remained committed to the wrestling through the night and prevailed against God (there’s something to ponder!!), Jacob asked for a blessing; and the Lord renamed Jacob Israel. He became the father of the twelve tribes, the entire nation of God’s chosen, the group of humans in which we as gentiles have been adopted. The point: we must each wrestle in the relationship with God before we enter the path of our full blessing and destiny of our being in Him.

I may be wrong, but my guess is the friend of mine in his seventies avoided the deep things of God in the first place while following a social tradition he called faith; as he approaches the end of his life, such wrestling has begun. Never too late!

Another reason people experience a discrepancy between what they believe and expect from the Lord compared with what they actually find is incorrect or incomplete instruction embedded in traditions which are built around believing in the Lord. My young friend is overwhelmed with a sense that God isn’t Who He says He is.  The actual fallacy is that God isn’t exactly Who man has said He is.

Why does our Father engage us in wrestling? Maybe in reevaluating our faith, something impure in us wants to reject God and begins looking for “relief”. Or, the opposite is true. Something within is hungering and thirsting for more of godliness. The Father confronts the believer and ordains the wrestling as a means of revealing these inner motivations to him or her. The believer gains spiritual insight or rejects its revelations. For the one who determines to go on with the Lord, the wrestling has served the development of spiritual trust. Deeper trust in the Lord is a vital and blessed state. So, the wrestling is good for the believer. 

Some wrestle and shrink back from faith, even reject it. Some move forward into greater spiritual knowledge of God. The heart must be challenged; it needs to be weighed and known…by the individual. The Father already knows. Wrestling with Him helps us believers know ourselves.

Are you on your back spiritually, wondering what's going on? It may be your hunger for our Father and Lord has motivated Him to answer your maturity with a challenge toward growth in the area of trust. You currently feel thrown to the mat as you wrestle with Him. Every morning He greets you with fresh love and compassion, encouraging you to prevail against His challenge!

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5:6


LindaB said...

Thank you, David. Keep writing.

ded said...

Hey, Linda! Thanks for the encouragement. I'll write as I can. School keeps me fairly busy.

careyrowland said...

Yes, keep up the good work. Teach on!

Anonymous said...

I like your blog. it is inspiring