Overcoming Struggles

Genesis 32:22-32

22That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25When 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.

26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32Therefore 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.

#MeToo Era

Do you agree that most women are not given fair treatment at workplaces?

The Wall Street Rule for the #MeToo Era: Avoid Women at All Cost.

No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings. Men across the country check their behavior at work, to protect themselves from what they consider as unreasonable political correctness — or to simply do the right thing.

For obvious reasons, few will talk openly about the issue. Privately though, many of the men interviewed acknowledged fearful of being alone with female colleagues, particularly youthful or attractive ones. It’s potential liability.

One wealth adviser said, “Just hiring a woman these days is ‘an unknown risk.’ What if she took something he said the wrong way? In the business world, men are adopting controversial strategies for the #MeToo era and, in the process, making life even harder for women.

Such employment-related biases and struggles represent not just struggle of women in the work force but the reality of individual struggles in all aspects of life. We all face struggles/concerns of life in this world, young or old, rich or poor.

We may admire Jacob for his material abundance but he also had his fair share of struggles in life. The Lord changed his name from Jacob to Israel because he struggled with God and with humans. The night when Jacob sent his household ahead of him, he wrestled with the Lord who disguised as man.

1. Wrestle

22That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25When 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.

Observers may consider Jacob’s action to be unacceptable! Why did he send his household ahead while he stayed behind? Did he try to save himself? Did he plan to escape if ever Esau attacked his household? Did he plan to spend the night praying? Did Jacob expect to encounter the Lord?

It’s safe to interpret that Jacob planned to seek God’s intervention for the safety of his family and his entire household. When Jacob wrestled with God who disguised as human all night long, that event has been popularly used by preachers/theologians as practical illustration of steadfast/resolute prayerfulness.

Jacob did not want his family to know what he felt, that he was scared of his brother Esau but even while he was afraid, he preferred to seek God’s will.

If you were scared of something, what do you normally do? Jacob was afraid that Esau may harm his family. Jacob remembered that after he received blessings from their father Isaac, his brother Esau held a grudge against him and planned to kill him—that’s one reason why he left Canaan, to avoid Esau’s anger.

Jacob can only imagine that Esau was still mad at him. He can easily plan on how to avoid Esau’s revenge. But, he preferred to meet his brother face-to-face to settle their conflict once and for all. And as preventive measure, he sent selected gifts ahead. But, he stayed behind to pray. And, he wrestled with God.

Jacob exemplified what the Lord Jesus preached in Matthew 26:41, 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The night when Jesus was arrested, His disciples were exhausted. They were tired emotionally. Jesus told them that He will be crucified and betrayed by one of their companions, and it was tough for them to accept or imagine. Why?

For three years, they have bonded together as brothers. They shared in almost everything, hardship and challenges. And, one of them betrayed their Master? What happens to their dream, plan, or expectation for each other?

It is easy to point fingers, to blame others for failures or tragedies.

People blame Judas, Pilate, the Romans, the Jewish people for the death of Christ. The disciples may have blamed themselves for not protecting the Lord.

Yet, everything, including the death of Christ was ordained by the Lord for the betterment of humanity—to save all who believe in Christ, right?

Given! But, it is still not easy for believers to accept such reality that God ordained good and bad situation. Why? Our limited mindset cannot comprehend why God allows terrible things to happen. Our mindset dictates that God’s love should be displayed on our terms and expectations. We can’t understand God.

As a church, we hope to be with God together one day. We expect to grow together in our faith in the Lord. We expect each of us to be loyal to our church. But, reality proves otherwise. We join this church to be God’s instruments.

But, there are also events that we don’t expect but will happen eventually.

Church Budget

After the Benediction, church members will vote for the approval of church budget for next year. Let your vote be an expression of your faith in the Lord.

Did God ordain the proposed church budget for next year? If you agree, then, vote “yes.” If you sense that it’s not God’s will, then, vote “No.”

Be prayerful. Don’t just vote because someone told you to vote for it. Even if you ask others what they think you should vote, whether you vote “yes” or “no,” decide for yourself. Again, let your vote be an expression of your faith in God.

As much as the Board of Trustees wishes to have unanimous decision, we also want to see where we are together as a church spiritually. It is beneficial and helpful agree to disagree if there are things that we need to be corrected.

Ordinarily, disagreement appears to be negative, yet disagreement can be positive factor for us to adjust or re-evaluate our approach to ministry. So, don’t hesitate to agree or disagree as long as your decision reflects what you believe to be God’s will for you. This is why we wrestle with God in prayer.

When Jacob sent his selected gift to Esau, he did not force the issue. That was why it was called gift. Jacob expected nothing in return. He didn’t even think that the selected gift he sent to Esau was payment for his shortcoming.

He waited how Esau responded to his gift. As he expected for positive result, he also wrestled with God, and his willfulness was a factor to be noticed.

2. Willfulness

26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

How old was Jacob when he returned to Canaan? Scholars estimated that Jacob went to Paddan Aram at 77 years old; married after 7 years at 84 years old. He stayed in Paddan Aram for 20 years; so, when he was 97 years old, Jacob returned to Canaan. And, at the age of 97, he was still strong to wrestle.

When God disguised as man asked Jacob to let him go, it exemplifies the willfulness of Jacob to win. Jacob wanted to win at all cost. He bought Esau’s right as firstborn with stew. He deceived Isaac to get his blessing; he served for 14 years to get his wives. He escaped from Laban to make sure that Laban won’t take his wives, children and livestock; and  he sent selected gift to make sure that Esau would calm down before they meet. All of them point to Jacob’s willfulness.

Jacob’s willfulness was a great factor in overcoming his struggles in life.

Jacob believed in God, yet, he did not have a desirable ideal life that we may aspire for. When he was about to be born, he had struggled. At birth, Jacob and Esau started their sibling rivalry. Esau was stronger and came out first when they were born, but Jacob didn’t want to be left behind. He held onto Esau’s heel.

Jacob had resorted to trickery to get his father’s blessing. Because of that, his brother Esau promised to kill him, and Jacob had to escape to his mother’s relatives in Paddan Aram. In Paddan Aram, he had also dealt with his father-in-law who was unfair in his business practices. And as he returned to his own homeland, he struggled with the idea on how he would reunite with his older brother Esau. What should he do? What if Esau was still angry with him?

The Lord was very attentive to Jacob and his struggles. Jacob’s willfulness was helpful for him to overcome his struggles. He was not easily discouraged. Although God has promised Jacob to be with him and watch over him, Jacob wrestled with God, even in his prayer. And most often, God sent timely help.

Jacob did not hesitate to tell God about his fear and struggles. He kept on trusting that God has wonderful plan for him—that God will take care of him, watch over him and provide for his needs. Yet, he was still scared not for his life only but for the safety of his loved ones. Can we identify with Jacob?

We want to live a lifestyle pleasing to God. By God’s grace, we regularly attend almost all church activities. We give God’s tithes regularly. But when problems or concerns of life visit us, we wrestle in prayer, as if God is far from us. We can barely hold onto God’s promise in Hebrews 13:5, 5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Contentment is freedom from love of money. Contentment is practical proof of faith in God in every situation. Faith is trust that God uses circumstances around us for our betterment, whether they are desirable or not.

King David

King David exemplified willfulness to trust the Lord, even when terrible things happening in his family were not very ideal and desirable. He personally experienced that God never forsake His servant.

David did not have an ideal desirable family life. Not all his children had ideal behaviors. His son Absalom killed his brother. Absalom tried to grab the throne away from his father David. David did not want to confront his son, so he escaped together with his loyal soldiers from Absalom.

While running away from his son Absalom, King David said in 2 Samuel 15:25-26, 25If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. 26But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.

King David exemplified willfulness to trust God in whatever circumstance. He said in the hearing of his men that he was willing to accept if God won’t let him get his throne back but he didn’t quit trusting that God has great plan for him.

Parents: Keep praying that your children will have successful career but be willing to accept if God would lead them to a different path or direction.

Employees: Keep praying for your promotion or increase in salary but be willing to accept if you see others promoted and you are not.

Students: Keep praying that God would enable you to complete the degree you are pursuing but be willing to accept with thankfulness if circumstances would delay your expected timeline to complete your degree.

Church members: Keep praying that each of us will grow spiritually mature but be willing to accept when God allows others to have slow growth.

Willfulness is wrestling with God in our prayers even with our weaknesses.

3. Weakness

29Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32Therefore 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.

God blessed Jacob but He also let him limped so that he cannot walk straight, why? Jacob was about to meet his brother with his 400 companions. For Esau to see Jacob limping could have made him compassionate to his brother. Esau can easily perceive that the limping Jacob was no match for him, right?

Even if you are very angry, will you really want to fight a helpless person? Spiritually speaking, it is when we are helpless that we want to pray harder. And, countless believers are less spiritual because they don’t feel like they need help.

God allows struggles in life for our own sake, for our betterment, to compel us to pray and grow character of willfulness to trust Him in every circumstance.

Israel Test

God has chosen Israel to be His people but the Israelites did not get whatever they wanted. Actually, God tested them and allowed them to struggle. When the Lord brought them out of Egypt, they complained of the hardship. After they entered Canaan, their life was not easy either. It narrates in Judges 3:1-4, 1These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience: 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.

Let’s reflect on that! If God allows His chosen people to be tested, should He leave us alone on our own? Christians with Gentile background are adopted children of God. God has already arranged series of events to test if we truly have faith in Him. He loves us. He doesn’t want us to just pretend to have faith.

God wants us to experience more of His grace, and we can access it only by genuine faith in Christ. God’s grace and truth can only be accessed and experienced through Christ. God has given all authority in heaven and on earth to Christ Jesus, and that includes the authority to distribute of His grace.

It teaches us in John 1:16-17, 16For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (ESV)

By God’s grace, we can overcome our struggles in this life. Do you agree?

What is the worst struggle of humanity? What is the most difficult problem that mankind has no solution ever? Death is the worst struggle mankind has to deal with. Death is the worst problem that mankind cannot solve ever.

Because of sinfulness, we deserve to deal with eternal death.

Not anymore! Why?

Because by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we have overcome death! So, if we believe that God has given us the solution of the worst problem of death, we should also have the willfulness to wrestle with God in prayer to help us trust Him that He has great plans for us.

Willfulness to wrestle in prayer is a result of faith in God. It’s good work!

It says in Ephesians 2:10, 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Do you agree that God has prepared you to do good works?

Do you agree that you are God’s instrument for His great purposes?

When we let God use us to be His instrument of righteousness and let Christ reign in our hearts, it is when we experience more of His grace, we experience more of His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

As we now vote for our church budget, may Christ prevail in our heart for us to vote according to our conscience for His glory

><(((‘> … ><(((‘> tmec\2018 <‘)))>< … <‘)))><

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