Genesis 32: 22 - 32
Seems to be a common question. What would you like to change about yourself – attitude – habit - way you look - some kind of weakness in your life? All of us want to change in some way. Maybe we make a change for a while but nothing seems to last. I think it's because we focus on the externals rather than the internals. We're looking at behaviour and God's looking at attitude. We look at the actions; God looks at the inside. For lasting change you've got to have a change on the inside and that requires God's help.
We're going to look at the story of Jacob - wrestling match with God - filled with symbolism and principles for us to apply in our lives to show we can change. This was a turning point in Jacob's life - never the same again. We’re going to see the 4 phases God uses in how He changes us. Jacob's weakness was that he was a manipulator, a swindler - name means "cheater". He was always using people and always getting into trouble because he used people. This experience transformed his life and from this turning point he was never the same again. How does God change us?
PHASE 1: CRISIS
v. 24, 25 "So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw 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." v. 28 - actually God who was wrestling with Jacob.
The point of wrestling is to pin a guy down until he cries "I give up!" Have you ever felt like that? Struggled with something until you're in despair - realize you're in a no-win situation? This is a long fight - lasted all night - no-win situation.
What are you wrestling with? What problem in your life are you struggling with and you're getting tired? Sick and tired. What is the crisis in your life? Maybe it's an internal struggle and you feel like you're being torn apart. Maybe it's a relationship - been strained, ripped apart. Have you ever thought that it is God behind those circumstances? Maybe God is behind that problem, crisis, difficulty, irritation. God often uses a crisis to get our attention. Sometimes it's the only way He can get it through our hard heads. If you are in a crisis this morning - God's getting ready to change you. He wants to work in your life.
Like the mother eagle - disturbs the nest - becomes so uncomfortable that the little eagle has to jump out and learn to fly. It is human nature to put off changes in ourselves! "One of these days..." How many times has God had to bring crisis into your life to motivate you to change? Point: We never change until the pain becomes greater than the fear of change.
Jacob struggles all night. Finally the pain was so bad that he finally had to do something.
God brings a crisis into your life. God loves you just the way you are. But He loves you too much to let you stay that way. If it takes a crisis - you can count on it - He will use it for your best.
PHASE 2: COMMITMENT
v. 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.’” Jacob's attitude is persistence – determined - going to stick with it, fight it out - will not quit. Saying to God, "I'm sticking with this struggle until I benefit from it! I want something good out of all of this. I've made an effort. I've put a lot of energy into this. I've made an investment of time and energy in this struggle and I'm not going to give up!"
Some of you have put time and money and energy into your marriage and you feel this way. You don't want to lose the investment you've put in. You're going to fight for the marriage. You want it to work.
While God does use a crisis to get our attention, He often doesn't solve the problem immediately. He waits for a while. God often waits to resolve a problem in our lives because He wants to see if we really mean business. Am I serious about change or is this some passing fad?
The normal reaction to our weaknesses and problems is to run from them - get out of the situation – leave - quit. God says, "Let's see how committed you are." Many people miss God's best because they give up too soon. The answer is right around the corner. We are great starters but we don't finish.
We're great starters! People come to me, "I prayed about my weakness!" How many times? "Once." We live in a microwave society. We want instant change - now! If God doesn't solve it overnight then forget it, God! Where's the commitment? First, the crisis, then the commitment. Am I going to stick with it? A lot of married couples - about to give up when the answer may be just around the corner.
Jacob said, “I'm committed to this struggle and I'm not giving up until God turns this burden into a blessing”. Often we want to change and God wants to change us but it just takes time! It took some of you years to get into the mess you're in right now. It took years of bad choices and mistakes. You have ingrained patterns and habits and ways of reacting and ways of responding. Usually God has to remove it layer by layer. That takes commitment.
Galatians 6: 9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." “Hang in there!” Be committed to getting God's best. There is hope. You will be able to change, but don't give up! This is an encouraging message. If God could change Jacob, God can change me.
PHASE 3: CONFESSION
v. 27 "The man asked him, `What is your name?' `Jacob', he answered." Why did God ask his name? God wanted him to admit who he was. In Bible times, the name you were given was a description of your character. When Jacob said, "I'm a cheater" it was an act of self-revelation, an act of confession - reminder of all the people he had hurt, all the heartbreak he had caused, all the problems that had been the result of his hang-ups and personality. He was admitting what he was.
If today you were named for your greatest character weakness, what would your name be? Temper? I can't keep a lid on it. Lust? Unreliable? Guilt? Depressed? Worrier? What would be your label? Greedy? Resentful? - Confession.
The lesson is that I will never be able to change my weaknesses until I admit them. To who? First to yourself, then to God, then to at least one other significant person in your life. That's difficult. But the fact is, God won't work in my problem until I admit that I have one. When you come to God and admit you have a problem, He's not going to be surprised. He's not shocked. "God, I have a problem with my thought life!" "I just can't get control of my appetite." "I just blow up at a moment's notice." He's not shocked or surprised. He knows it. He wants you to know it. Come face to face, not just with God, but with yourself. Until I admit I have a problem, God can't help me.
To change we've got to stop making excuses, blaming others, passing the buck, rationalizing - "Everybody's doing it! I'm not as bad as... It's partly his/her fault." It's humbling to admit a weakness. Good - "God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble." Grace is the power to change. If you want to change, you can't change until you get grace. If you want grace, be humble. How do you be humble? Admit your weaknesses! I'm praying that WPBC will be a place of unconditional acceptance. We're all struggling. No one is perfect. We all need grace.
PHASE 4: COOPERATION
We've got to cooperate with what God wants to do in our lives. v. 28, 29 "Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome. Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face’” The moment Jacob began admitting what he was and began to cooperate with God, He began to change. Peniel means "the face of God". Jacob came face to face with God. All of us have to do that some day. You can run from God for the rest of your life but then you can't run any more. Why not face Him now? He wants to be your friend, not your enemy. Jesus came to save us, not to scare us. All of us eventually face God. Sometimes we have to come face to face with ourselves first. When we do, God says, "OK, now I can get down to business in your life! We can start working on those faults that we both want changed. Relax and cooperate with Me and I'll make those changes that we both want." God says to Jacob, "I will bless you."
God wants to bless you, too, just like He blessed Jacob. God gave Jacob a new name, a new identity - "Your name is no longer going to be Jacob; it's going to be Israel." Jacob means crook. Israel has 2 meanings ‑ "he who struggles with God" also "prince of God".
When God wants to change you, He starts with the way you see yourself - that affects everything. God saw Jacob's potential and He knew it. He saw beneath that schemer was a prince. He changed Jacob's name and from this point on Jacob was a different person. The entire nation of Israel was named after this man. What a privilege and joy! He changed his identity.
v. 31 "The sun rose up above him and as he passed Peniel and he was limping because of his hip." While they were wrestling, God dislocated Jacob's hip and his thigh was damaged and for the rest of Jacob's life he walked with a limp. Reminder of 2 very important truths that we need to remember every day.
When God touched Jacob He touched him at his point of greatest strength. As he limped the rest of his life Jacob was to depend on God and not his own strength. It's a reminder for us to remember. I must depend on God not my own strength to work the changes. God said, "I'm going to touch you at the point of your greatest strength so you know that from now on you're not to walk in your own strength but in My strength."
As you study Jacob's life you find that every time Jacob got in trouble he ran. God said, "I know how to fix that - I'll just put a limp in his walk so he could never run again." Reminder to Jacob that it is never God's will to run from a personal problem. Running away never solves a problem.
The lesson of Jacob is You don't have to stay the same! If God can change Jacob He can change anybody. Romans - "Jacob have I loved..." If God could love Jacob with all of his hang-ups, He can love me with my hang-ups. He can love you with your hang-ups. God named a nation after this guy.
Which of these 4 step processes represents where you are right now?
Crisis. Has God been trying to get your attention? God wants to change you. But we rarely change until the fear of change is exceeded by the pain. We won't change until we get desperate. Commitment. Have you made a commitment to stick with the struggle until God brings some good out of it and God turns that burden into a blessing? Right now it may seem easier just to walk away. If you're walking from a problem that's really in you, you're taking it with you. Ask God for staying power and then get some professional help. Be committed.
Confession. What is your name? What weakness do you need to admit? What problem do you need to face up to and realize that the thing is destroying your life, your marriage, your career? The heart of every problem is always a problem in the heart. I challenge you this morning to move into Phase 4.
Cooperation. Take a step of faith and say, "Father, I want to cooperate with You." Ephesians 4: 22, 23 (GN) "So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to ... and put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness." That is good news! God can change patterns in your life! There can be healing of memories. There can be a change in my outlook. Jesus said it very simply. He said, "You must be born again." This is what Christianity is all about. Christianity is changed lives. He wants to do it to you, that's why He brought you here today.
Prayer: "Father, I want to cooperate with You. I want to trust You to change me. I want to relax and place my life in Your hands. Jesus Christ, I need to change. I want to change. I ask You to help me to change. With Your help I believe I can change. Help me with my unbelief."