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Have You Wrestled With God?

Gen 32:24-28 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. 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.

Hos 12:3-6 He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial. Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.

“Wrestling” implies that it is a hand-to-hand and foot-to-foot struggle for the mastery: to wrestle successfully with Satan, we must wrestle with GOD in irresistible prayer like Jacob. (From J, F, & B commentary)

Have you wrestled with God? This is the story of Jacob’s sanctification. He was Jacob – the supplanter, and became Israel – Prince with God. His struggle with God was actually His struggle with His own flesh, and finally, surrender to God. Many times we feel we are in a struggle with God. I don’t believe any Christian has really come to know God until He has wrestled with Him.

In our wrestling we are made aware of our sinful nature. We come face to face with our own failures, and our deep character flaws. The angel said to Jacob, “Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.” To voluntarily tell an opponent your personal name was to surrender to him; in Jacob’s case it was also to confess a deep character flaw. Jacob – supplanter. He had come face to face with what he really was and where his own strength had taken him. Suddenly he was aware that his own strength, his own supplanting, and scheming would not cut it. He was desperate now for God, and His power alone to save him and change him and be his deliverer.

We also come to the place in our Christian life, where we finally see that all our own efforts will not cut it. We have tried to make our life work out the way we thought it should by our own scheming, plans, works, strength, and somehow now we find ourselves in a place where no matter how hard we try, no matter what we do, we are faced with a hopelessness in our situation – something beyond our own power to change, manipulate, or do anything about. We see that we have tried to live the Christian life in our own power and we have failed miserably.

We are forced to wrestle with God – or is it that God is wrestling with us – with our sinful nature, to conquer it? In our wrestling, we are finally to the place where we are desperate enough before God that we just won’t let Him go until we prevail in this struggle – this struggle to overcome our flesh. Even as we do we may find ourselves coming through wounded, as Jacob was given a limp as the angel touched the socket of his hip and put it out of joint. In Jacob’s struggle he still desired power and control. But it was in his weakness that he finally found strength. From that day on Jacob was a changed man. He was no more Jacob, but Israel. His behavior and demeanor had changed. God let him know that He would only give him so much advantage but that God was the one still in control. When Jacob asked the angel his name, the request was denied. Jacob’s limp was a constant reminder of his utter dependency on God.

Have you wrestled with God to the point where you have been wounded? Have you realized that He alone is your strength and you are completely dependant on Him alone for all? Have you surrendered your entire self to Him?

Paul also knew what it meant to wrestle with God. And he knew what it was to be wounded by God.

2Co 12:8-10 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

He knew what it was to be free of dependence on his flesh and utterly dependant on God to be his life and strength in all things.

Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

In order for Paul to have found “power with God” and for Jacob to have become a “prince with God” both of them had to have surrendered to God and prevailed in "grabbing hold of God" to be the presence in them that made them a new person, giving up living by their own strength, and allowing God to be their all.

Abba, Father, I pray that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened to the hope to which you have called us, and to the power you have for us – that same power that rose Christ from the dead and lives within us to raise us up to newness of life unto You.

The Revealing of Our Heart

The greatest revelation many Christians are in earnest need of and don’t realize it, is a revelation of their own flesh – what’s in their heart of hearts. We see all the things in another clearly that they need to work on, but we fail to see our own flesh. We all too often are like the man James describes…

Jam 1:22-25 ”But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

What our natural tendency is, is to look into the Word, hear it, and then judge someone else by how they are keeping it, and fail to see our own blindness, and the lack of love in our own heart. We are quick to point our finger at the one who offended or betrayed us, yet fail to see that there is little of God’s love or forgiveness or willingness to look at our own heart or see our own pride.

When someone or something reveals our flesh to us for what it is, rather than humbly turning to God, we defend, justify, and try to cover it up. We can even find a good self-righteous, spiritual reason for doing so most of the time. Our flesh can be amazingly spiritual!

How can we know our own heart? We can’t! It is hopeless! We will never see the truth of its wickedness or see how deceitful, manipulative, and cunningly it holds on to self and excuses it – not by ourselves!

Jer 17:9-10 ”The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”

The Holy Spirit alone in you can search your heart, and know it, and reveal to you what is there. He has many ways of doing that. He may use people that He has brought into our lives. These can be friends or foes. How do you react if someone angrily tells you something they see in you that is offensive? Of course your reaction, if you’re human is to defend yourself. We all do! But what if you looked at it as an opportunity for the Lord to reveal a blind spot in you that you are not able to see about yourself? What if instead you take it before the Lord and ask Him, even though the words were spoken out of spite or cruelty or anger at you, if there were some truth to them? Only the Lord can truly determine your heart and if it is true what was spoken. If it is true, then wouldn’t you want to know it and let the Lord have His way in you to take that to the cross, crucify it and replace it with His own character? Or do you want to go on holding on to your own “life”.

Many times the Lord will continually bring the same type of circumstances or people again and again into our lives that bring out in us our worst! We grumble and complain when this happens. Actually, what God is doing is revealing to you your weakness – your flesh. He’s revealing to you your lack of godly character and love. When there are differences between brothers and sisters in Christ He’s revealing to you your selfish ambition, your pride, and your lack of love by the way you respond to them, whether they are right or wrong. How do you respond? Can you esteem others as more important than yourself? Can you respond with forgiveness when you are wronged, or do you run to others to gossip and have them lick your wounds? Do you quietly take it before the Lord and ask Him to reveal your own heart and see if there be any wickedness in you? Do you pray for your brother or sister in love for their best? Do you quietly, in love and humility go to your brother who has offended you to show him his fault, as the scripture says? Or do you tell everyone else? Are you really finding that you can “bear with” the one who irritates you day after day in your life as God would have you to, showing His love? Maybe there is something in a brother or sister that just rubs you the wrong way - a “personality clash”. Can you love that one? Or do you shun them? Do you only look for the people that make you feel good? Or do you love the unlovely? God has a way of forcing us to have contact with the “unlovely” in one way or another. If we keep getting away from them, He will keep bringing them into our lives until we learn the lesson! Better to learn it!

Sometimes God brings people into our lives to be a “mirror” of ourselves. We see a fault in them and are maybe hurt by it and realize that we have the same fault and have hurt others in the same way that now we have been hurt by them. But we had to get hurt ourselves before we were able to see how we have hurt others and made them feel. Then we are able to see and pray, “Lord help me not to ever make anyone feel this way.” Some of my most heart crushing hurts, as I went to the Lord for comfort, only made me realize that I had done the same to someone else. It was God’s way of opening my eyes. I was able to forgive, realizing how all along God had forgiven me when I so blindly hurt someone else who He loved. I was able to be more sensitive.

None of us can see ourselves the way others see us, so when others reveal to us, however it is done, whether kindly or not, what is in our hearts and how they see us, we should pay attention, and take it to the Lord. There may be truth in it! It’s true there may be misperception because of the error in their heart, but there may be truth in it. If we are hearing the same thing from others again and again, and we fail to listen, then we are hardening our hearts to the Lord’s working in us to humble us and expose our flesh.

Let us all pray - Psa 139:23-24 ” Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

And as we pray it, let us truly be willing to let Him do it. We will never know it by searching ourselves or by introspection, but we must be willing to let God Himself reveal it by His Spirit, and when He does, we must be willing to recognize it, and submit to His correction and humility.

The Little Foxes That Spoil The Vine

”The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away!” Song of Solomon 2:13 ”Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.” Song of Solomon 2:15

From Watchman Nee’s commentary on Song of Solomon…

“Take us [Let us catch] the foxes” is very much a command. Big foxes go after the fruit of the vine, but little foxes break the tender vine branches. Though damage may be done by big foxes, you may still have a chance to bear some fruit, but with the damage done by little foxes the chance of fruitage is almost destroyed….”

“What are the little foxes? Every small appearance of the old life – a habit, a retrospective look – such are the little foxes. They are not necessarily grave sins. We are told in Ecclesiastes 10:1: ‘Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.’ Little foxes hide themselves behind the vines. If unnoticed they can easily destroy the vine. Subjectively speaking, the first step of hindrance is in the matter of following the Lord. Little foxes do their damage and cause conditions of fruitlessness usually before the resurrection life in Christ is strongly established within. We must therefore beware of the little foxes.”

What are the little foxes in your life? Are you aware of them? Are you watching for them?

God is calling us to an intimate relationship with Himself. He is working in us the power of His Cross, and the power of His resurrection life. As we learn to abide in Him and His Word abides in us, much fruit is able to come forth in our lives, even in the winter of our lives, through much trial and suffering, we learn, as we abide in Him, that there is a fruitfulness that comes out of our suffering.

But many times there are the little foxes to contend with. We go on ignoring them day after day and finally we realize they have destroyed our fruit, and we cannot ignore the damage they have caused. Each of us has something of our sinful nature that we just haven’t dealt with, even while serving the Lord, and growing in our walk with Him. It is an irritation, a bad habit, something that we just get by with….but we never take it to the Lord and surrender it to His cross. It may be an attitude. It may be a habit. It may be a “small” besetting sin, that others don’t really see, but you know it is there.

These “little foxes” have a way of creeping up on you, just as the Lord is beginning a work in your inner being, and spoiling it, so that it bears no fruit.

Matthew Henry…”The first risings of sinful thoughts and desires, the beginnings of trifling pursuits which waste the time, trifling visits, small departures from truth, whatever would admit some conformity to the world; all these, and many more, are little foxes which must be removed. This is a charge to believers to mortify their sinful appetites and passions, which are as little foxes, that destroy their graces and comforts, and crush good beginnings. Whatever we find a hinderance to us in that which is good, we must put away.”

But too often the little foxes get ignored. We don’t think they are big enough to deal with. We put them on the back burner, and say we will deal with them later.

Time wasters are little foxes. There are so many time wasters in our lives. Have you ever had a day where you were busy all day and accomplished nothing? There was no fruitfulness in your day. By the end of the day you were exhausted and yet you said to yourself, “What did I do? This was a wasted day.” I’ve had too many days like that until I have to realize that my time belongs to God, and there is enough time in each day, given by Him to do what He would have me to do with that day. I can’t let the little foxes spoil the fruitfulness He intends.

Worry is a little fox. We spend so much energy worrying about what may happen or not happen that it robs us of our strength and our joy in accomplishing what the Lord would have us to do. Our job is to obey Him – His job is to work out the details and the problems. Worry is fear that God won’t do His part, or that He is not really active in the things in our life that concern us. Worry is dread that our purposes and our will won’t see the thing that we hope for transpire, instead of accepting God’s purposes to be accomplished in the matter and accepting whatever His will is, that it is perfect and that He works all things together for our good.

Instead, we let the cares of this world choke us as in the parable of the sower… Matt. 13:22 ”He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.”

Gossip is a little fox that spoils many vines that are bearing good fruit. Nothing will more quickly destroy a fruitful vine. It betrays confidence, spoils reputations, brings discord, and is the most difficult to repair. It destroys God’s vine and the fruit of others lives also, besides our own.

Prov. 11:13 ”A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” Pro 20:19 ”He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.”

Slothfulness is another little fox that must be dealt with. If not dealt with then the work God has given us, the fruitfulness He intends for us, and the growth in our spiritual life will never take place. Procrastination is a robber of God. The thing we are putting off doing usually never gets done.

There are many little foxes. Maybe you can think of more of them in your own life. The time to deal with the little foxes is now – not after they have spoiled your fruitfulness and your intimacy with God. God is calling you – “Come away my beloved!” Will you put off His call? He wishes to bring you into a life of abundant fruitfulness and intimacy with Him. The time to answer is now.

Abba, Father, we say, “yes!” to Your command to “catch” the little foxes, and Your call to intimacy in an abiding relationship with You, so that You may have the fruitfulness in our lives that You deserve. Help us to catch the little foxes. Reveal them to us, and help us to deal with them by Your Spirit. Shed Your light on the little foxes in our lives.

Walking According To His Light

Joh 1:4-5 “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

Joh 1:9 ”That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. “

Joh 3:19-21 ”And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

1Jo 1:5-7 ”This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

There is so much talk these days of “enlightenment”, but there is no true enlightenment other than thee light of Jesus Christ. If you are not walking in His light, then you are walking in darkness. It hurts to come into His light. It exposes all that is in our hearts for what it truly is.

What is that light? How can we know we are walking in it? Is it knowledge? Is it doctrine? Is it religion? Is it walking according to a certain moral code?

I would like to present to you that there is no brighter light than the love of God, which has been shed abroad in the hearts of those who have received His unmerited grace, by His Holy Spirit. There is no other true light, and to walk in it means to walk in that love, in that Spirit, in that grace.

I would like to share an experience I had recently. This week there was strife in my home…selfishness showing its ugly head…temper…intolerance of one another. I was grieved and greatly discouraged by what I saw. It was not what I had striven so hard to build in them. We’ve been through a lot as a family. We’ve had much grief. Our oldest has walked out on us and we don’t know where he is. There are many problems to solve. It is at a time of year we are suppose to be enjoying each other as a family. It’s a time when families are supposed to come together and celebrate His love and His gift to us. It’s a time of year when the absence of harmony in a family causes all the lack and all absence of what one hopes and dreams of in a family to stand out and make you feel that lack like a big empty hole, more strongly than ever. Our grief over the years stood out to me this night, all coming down on me at once, crushing me.

I was overwhelmed, like a tidal wave of grief had poured over me. “God all I ever wanted in life was a family to love. All I ever wanted was to give them You. I can’t make them love. I can’t make them see. I can’t make them unselfish. I can’t solve their overwhelming problems. I can’t I can’t I can’t…I can’t make them love me or You! I can’t make them respect me!” Grief was pouring over me. It was drowning me. No amount of willpower could pull me out of it. “God if a person can really die of a broken heart, then let it kill me now. Please! I see no reason to go on. Why should I put up with this anymore? What good is it? What is the reason for my being here? Just give me a reason to keep doing this….to keep struggling with them…to keep trying to get through to them when they take and take and take and give nothing back but ungratefulness and disrespect and misunderstanding.”

Suddenly “His light” filled my heart. That wonderful sense of His presence and His still small voice speaking to me…”What about loving them for me? Will you love them for me?” As the words were spoken, I was lifted out of my own self and my own grief. There was a joy in loving Jesus by loving them. But it was more than words given…it was an understanding of His love. His love was “shed abroad” in my heart. My heart was set free.

Rom 5:5 ”And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

I could feel His love for them – the same love that caused Jesus to go to the cross. I could love them for Jesus and not for me. There was an indescribable joy in that. The grief was gone. I understood. His light had been given to me to walk in. His purpose filled my heart, and He was my life and satisfaction and joy. A song came to my heart that I had heard long ago that had left such a strong impact on me and had become a prayer in my life:

Will you be poured out like wine upon the alter for me?
Will you be broken like bread to feed the hungry?
Will you be so one in me that I can do just as I will?
Will you be light, and life, and love, My Word fulfill?

The light of life, is Jesus Christ Himself. He came into this world of darkness, leaving all He had in heaven and all His glory there. He took on the form of a man. He brought the light of heaven with Him and showed it to us by the way He walked, the way He loved, the way He gave and the way He died. He freely gave that grace to all who asked for it…to all who believed in Him. That same light, if you have received it is the light of His grace, enabling you to walk that same way…in truth, in love, in righteousness. It is not of yourself, but it is the gift of God. You receive it by faith alone. You walk in it by faith alone.

The power of that light is very real and a sure thing for all those who receive it. It is not a struggling to live a certain way. It is a real power within your heart, shed abroad there by the Holy Spirit enabling you. You walk in it by daily trusting His Word to be true, and giving yourself to the Living Word to live it in you. By abiding in His Word of truth, your heart is filled with light daily and you are lifted out of yourself, and enabled to walk His way. You are able to give yourself to His cross, and allow His resurrection life to flow through you.

How do we know we walk according to that light? I have seen many with sound doctrine yet little love or grace to give to others. They have much in their head but little in their heart. Have we forgotten His command? If we have truly received grace, is it too hard to show grace to our brother? If we have truly received love, is it a hard thing to show it? Truth and sound doctrine is important and cannot be overlooked…. yet it is overlooked if we forget the greatest truth of all…

1Jo 2:7-11 ”Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”

You see, what a person has truly received is what he will truly give out. It is what others will see in him. If he has received grace he is gracious...if he has received a bondage of legalism, he will be legalistic with others, pushing that on them. If he has not received God's love for himself, he will not be loving towards others...but if the love of God is shed abroad in his heart he will shed that love to others. If he has received light, he will become light to all those around him illuminating their path as well.

He is able and powerful. This is the message I want all to know today. Where we cannot see the way, He is able to show us. Where we cannot go on…He is able to empower us. Where we cannot love…He is able to shed His love abroad. It is not our light that guides us, or that will carry us to the end. It is His love and His light that He has freely given.

Don’t be afraid to bring your heart before that light. It hurts when the darkness in us is first exposed to it. It is so brilliant that we feel as though it will slay us. And it will! Let it! Let it cleanse your heart, and penetrate every corner of your life until you are full of it! Don’t be afraid. His light is truth. It will cleanse every false thing out of you. His light is love. It will enable you to forget yourself and delight in giving all you have to those around you, even the most unlovable without looking for something in return, because you will need nothing else to satisfy if you will let Him be your satisfaction.

Have you truly received His light? Then walk in it! Show it to the world around you. Show it to your brother and sister. Be a light to others around you.