Much of pro wrestling today is fake. Sadly much of pro wrestling with God - what we call 'religion' is fake too. We desire an authentic relationship with God, one which allows us to grapple with the hard questions of life. In this post we will discover 6 takedowns of real God wrestling.
Every week I publish my sermon notes so that you may read them for yourselves. For my parishioners, this could be a good review from the weekend before. And it gives you a chance to see what I intended to say! For other pastors and ministers, feel free to borrow and use any of this material. I'd love for God to be glorified by you incorporating these notes into your own worship.
Summer Singles Part 6: "Wrestling With God" 07.08.12
Listen to this week's CR Sermon & Podcast (fast forward to minute 50 to listen to sermon):
Intro: If we could just pick up the phone and talk to God, would we? Sometimes we have real issues that we have to work out with God. Some struggle with “Why” questions: “Why did God allow this to happen? Or “why not” questions: “Why won’t God allow me to... have this job, have better health, be in this relationship?” Often we give up trying to wrestle through issues or questions with God. We think it might be better just to leave things the way they are. Or we think God really wouldn’t be interested in me. Or that we are just too busy going about our own lives to wrestle out these things with God. We are wrong on all 3 counts!
Single Idea Today: The greatest blessings in life come from __WRESTLING WITH GOD__. Today we are going to learn the story of Jacob, who wrestled with God. This is a real story and it is both one of the oddest stories in the Bible AND one of the most helpful ones. Jacob had been a deceiver and had cheated his older brother from his father’s blessing. After decades of being away and growing his own family, now he wants to return to home. But he is afraid of Esau, his brother. Fast-forwarding to the end of the story, we see that God blessed Jacob after wrestling with him all night long!
“And there he blessed him.” Genesis 32:29b ESV
Wrestling God can be one of the greatest blessings we ever possess, if we are willing to do it. Much of wrestling is fake. Just a show. Religion can be same way. Today I’d like to use Jacob’s story & talk about 6 Takedowns for Real God Wrestling.
“And Jacob was left alone.” Genesis 32:24a ESV
Wrestling comes not when times are good, not when we are comforted by company, but in the alone moments of greatest doubt. There is no team sport when it comes to figuring things out with God. Sure, we can talk to other people and hear their wise counsel. In the end, though, we must come to our own conclusions about God. Our faith - one way or the other - comes not from our families or our church, but from our own, solitary, private time - wrestling through with God. This is especially true when things go wrong in our life! Pastor Steve says it like this: "With real God wrestling there are no tag outs!"
“And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.”
Genesis 32:24b ESV
If you’ve ever actually wrestled, you will know just how exhausting a thing it is. There is a reason High School wrestling matches only last 3 periods of two minutes each. Wrestling with God takes priority over everything else we do. Becomes the focus of our life. We don’t sleep. We don’t eat. It’s on our minds all the time. It’s not a casual, take-it-or-leave-it, I-don’t-care-either-way kind of thing. Some of us don’t wrestle out our relationship with God simply because we are too busy with our lives, with the things we want to do. Like the first lady in the video - we don’t listen to hear God’s advice, because we’re already too busy pursuing what we want. How different would your faith be if on those times when you really need God’s blessings and directions, you stayed up with him all night long? (Eg. - Jesus’ disciples at Gethsemane.)
Takedown #3: Real Wrestling with God strips my __LEVERAGE__. Sometimes, in our relationships, we like to think we have leverage over someone else. This is usually fatal to any relationship, but especially with God. Ultimately we have to know that when it comes to understanding, God’s mind is greater than my own. When it comes to physical power, there is no contest. Sometimes God allows us to have the false sense of wrestling as equals. At any time God can...
“When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.” Genesis 32:25 ESV
Have you ever wondered, “Why the hip socket?” There’s an important lesson. All the power and leverage in real wrestling comes from the hip.
The ability to use your hips correctly and to take the opponent's ability to use his hips is one of the major reasons for success or failure in wrestling. The hips and thighs are the most powerful parts of your body. If you can drive forward or backward with your hips you can move your opponent out of a good defensive position. All lifting in wrestling should be done with your hips and thighs, not your back. - http://www.grapplersgym.com/public/321.cfm
When we are ready to give up our self-preserved advantages, we are ready to fully rely on God for his blessings and protection. Jacob had always been clever, but his cleverness got him into this mess with Esau.
“The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” Genesis 32:30 ESV
After wrestling with God, Jacob (now Israel) was ready to meet Esau, but not with his old tricks. Outwardly he limped, but inwardly he was strengthened by God. Ask: Are you willing to limp weakly on your own abilities and more fully rely on God’s strength?
Takedown #4: Real Wrestling with God requires me __TO HOLD ON__. This is where the story takes a weird twist. It is impossible for us to think of God as being so weak as to not be able to break free. Our focus, however, should not be on God’s strength (or lack) but on Jacob’s determination to hold on no matter what until he was blessed!
Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Genesis 32:26 ESV
We too easily give up when we are wrestling with God. We are scared of where this might go, of what it might lead to. It’s easier to quit than to hang on to God. Seeking blessings from God requires audaciousness on our part. Requires someone to take Psalm 8:4 (Who is man that You are mindful of him?) seriously.
Wrestling is all about the “holds.” Wrestlers work hard to get the best, most secure hold on their opponent. How is your “hold” on God? Are you working on it? Practicing it? Consider the possibility that there are blessings - physical, mental, spiritual, financial - real gifts of blessing that God might want to give us, but He allows us to wrestle to see how determined we might really be to ask, believe & trust Him!
Takedown #5: Real Wrestling with God changes ___MY IDENTITY___. Here we arrive at the crux of why many of us refuse to wrestle with God. We are determined to hold on to who we think we are. God may have other ideas in mind for us. In Jacob’s case, his name changed...
And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:27-28 ESV
Wrestling with God changes how we see ourselves. Changes our purpose in life. Changes our identity. It requires that we are willing to risk how we see ourselves to begin to understand how God sees us.
Jacob = “one who follows on another’s heels. Supplanter. Deceiver.”
Israel = “one who wrestles with God and prevails. Nation promised.”
Question: Are we too tied in with who we think we are? Or are we ready to become the man or woman who God has designed?
Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying”For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Genesis 32:29-30 ESV
It’s easier to hold on to religion than relationship. It’s easier to hold on to pretend god than Real God. Our answers to real God questions are always too easy, too simple, fit together in our comprehensive, systematic theology all too well. Real God doesn’t always give out the answers we seek. Sometimes - like here - He answers our questions with questions of His own. There’s a mystery to God. Every time we think we get one thing figured out, there’s yet another mystery to solve.
Yet one thing is true: when we come face to face with God, it changes everything. Changes who we are. Changes where we’ve been (Penuel). Changes how we see God and everyone else, including ourselves. I become more patient, more tolerant, more inquisitive, more appreciative, more fascinated with the complexity of real truth, more amazed at Who God is and thankful that He knows who I am.
Conclusion: How about you this evening? Are you willing to come face to face with God? Are you willing to risk your perceptions of Who God is to see Him for Who He really is? At least as much as you are able and as much as He is willing to reveal of Himself?
The truth about God is that He is willing to reveal so much about Himself. That’s why He sent His Son. That’s why He gave us His word (the Bible.) That’s why He invites us into relationship with Him and asks us to pray, to converse, to ask... yes, even to wrestle with Him.
I’d like to conclude by singing a song together, ‘Til I See You, by Hillsong United. The lyrics go like this: “The greatest love that anyone could ever know, That overcame the cross and grave to find my soul, And till I see You face to face and grace amazing takes me home, I'll trust in You. This is not a blind trust. Not a take-it-or-leave-it. God is willing to wrestle with you to reveal more about Himself and His ways to you and to me. This is not a matter of salvation. God freely gives Himself and His Son to all who ask for forgiveness. God is willing to reveal even more in His relationship with us, if we are willing to seek Him to wrestle with Him.