WRESTLING WITH GOD
· Today’s message is about our relationship with God in Prayer.
· James Montgomery’s poem says this about prayer:
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire.
Uttered or unexpressed --
The motion of a hidden fire,
that trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.
· We communicate with God in many different ways.
· Sometimes our soul is stirred to humble Praise.
· Sometimes we are moved to silent meditation as we contemplate God’s awesome wonders.
· There are also times when our prayers take on the form of a wrestling match with God.
· when we don’t understand God and the circumstances that befall us.
· Everyone of us could tell a story or two from our own life’s experience, when God didn’t make sense.
· Times when the unfailing Love of God seemed to skip a beat...
· Times when we have gazed up beyond stars bewildered and asked, “Lord, have you put me on hold forever?!”
· There are times in every believer’s life, when our prayers take on a more urgent nature.
· when we must try hard to reconcile our understanding of God’s love and mercy with our life circumstances.
· Take, for instance, the cry for understanding that rises from a young girl’s soul, whose heart has been broken by a boyfriend who left her for someone else.
· Or a wife or husband who’s been abandoned for someone else.
· Or, think of a young student, who has all the potential in the world to become a world class professional, but hasn’t the financial means to turn that dream into reality.
· Or, take for example the widow out of Luke 18, who was stripped of her right for justice, only because of her social status.
· These are times, when prayer goes beyond the mechanical utterance of words that we think God would like to hear from us.
· Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18, so that his followers may be encouraged to persist despite unanswered prayer.
· I want to read Luke 18:1-8
1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a
widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, `Grant me justice against my adversary.' 4 "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, `Even though I don't fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'" 6 And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
· The parable tells the story of a widow who refuses to stop speaking out, and who demands justice for herself.
· The corrupt, self-gratifying judge makes excuses, and obviously doesn’t care about the widow’s concern
· But the widow persists in her demand
· She’s really gets on the judge’s case and is exhausting his patience.
· The word that is translated as Wear him down also means to beat black and blue, or to smite so as to cause bruises.
· Jesus seems to humor his followers by emphasizing just how intolerable and annoying the widow had become in her request for justice.
· Can you imagine the picture?
· This little old lady becomes the judge’s shadow wherever he goes.
· She tugs on his robe, forcefully tapping him on his shoulder, embarrassing him in front of his peers, and so on.
· She becomes to him like a horse-fly at Moose Lake that keeps coming back.
· The judge goes, “Oh no, here we go again.” “Give me a break already, Lady.”
· Finally, he’s ready to jump off a cliff, and gives in to her insistence -- not for her sake, but for his own peace.
· The widow has endured in the struggle and as a result has reaped justice.
· Jesus seems to imply that, if we want something bad enough we have to persist and not give up.
· If we want God’s blessing and love hard enough, God will give it to us.
· Jesus says, “Don’t give up! Keep insisting before God for an answer. Wrestle with Him until you get His blessing.”
· It seems to me, what Jesus is saying is that God really enjoys an intense dialogue with us.
· God is not afraid of our questions.
· God is not intimidated by us when we question His judgment.
· In fact God welcomes a good roll in the dust with us.
· Indeed, God desires our companionship and our trust.
· But more than anything, God desires an honest relationship in which we have the courage to ask
hard questions and where we grapple with the answers He provides.
· In the History of God’s people we have many good examples of men and women who have stood their ground and not let go before their intense quest for truth and God’s blessing had been satisfied.
· In all of these stories we perceive a deep desire to experience the love and blessing of a God whose ways are sometimes hard to understand.
· We hear the cry of a bare soul demanding answers from the One who has no need to answer.
· Let me give you a few examples from the Bible:
· First, we have the story in which Abraham pleads with the three divine visitors to spare the city of Sodom
· Listen to the dialogue in Genesis 18:22-33
22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing -- to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" 26 The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." 27 Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I
have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?" "If I find forty-five
there," he said, "I will not destroy it."
· Abraham bargains with God, and talks him down all the way to only 10 people.
· Listen to verse 32
32 Then Abraham said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." 33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.
· Abraham is trying to strike a bargain with God on the basis of God’s character.
· Surely a just and loving God wouldn’t just go and call down a disaster upon the righteous as well as the unrighteous.
· Abraham’s persistence lets us believe that he is trying real hard to understand what God is all about.
· Secondly, we have the story of Jacob, and how he wrestled with an angel until daybreak.
· (Bible Reader) read this passage to us before...
· This experience takes place at a time in Jacob’s life when he is going through some deep spiritual searching.
· All his life he has had to deal with the reputation of his name: Jacob.
· The name Jacob means "heel-holder" or "supplanter" or “the one who is displaced” or “deceiver”.
· Jacob was the later-born twin.
· And the Bible story would have us believe that he was holding on to his brother Esau’s heel when they were born.
· All of his life Jacob was the one who struggled hard to gain the approval and the blessing of his father.
· He tried to buy the birth-right from his hungry brother with a bowl of hot pea-soup.
· He would have done anything to get his father’s blessing, even to deceive his blind father and cheat his brother out of his inheritance.
· In any case, Jacob had lived with this reputation (this name -- this demon from his past) for many years.
· And the time had come to settle the score
· He was on his way to meet his brother Esau.
· And while he was anticipating the encounter with his brother, Jacob was scared stiff.
· He sent gifts of sheep and live-stock ahead with his servants.
· He took measures to protect his family in the event of a violent confrontation.
· And then, he stayed up all night wrestling with God.
· In fact, the story says that he persisted till daybreak.
· He would not let go of the issue
· Jacob would not be satisfied with pet answer
· “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
· The angel gives him a new name: Israel
· Jacob comes to terms with his past, and he determines to take hold of his new God-given identity:
· You are no longer the deceiver
· You are no longer the one who has been robbed of God’s blessing
· From now on your name will be ISRAEL
· “God prevails”
· This event was so significant that Jacob goes on to name the place Penuel, which means:
· I have wrestled with God face to face and my life has been spared.
· And he had the limp to prove it.
· Thirdly, the story of Job also offers a great deal of insight into the topic of wrestling with God.
· He is smitten with diseases and disasters.
· Yet, Job maintains his innocence and cries out to God for justice
· God remains silent throughout Job’s piercing questions
· Then, after He hears Job’s accusations
The Lord said to Job: 2 Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? Let him who accuses God answer him!
6 And the Lord spoke to Job out of the Storm: 7 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 8 Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? (Job 40:2, 6-8).
· Here again we perceive an intense questioning of God by a human being.
· Job prevails throughout his ordeal and God’s blessing and a greater understanding of His Love is restored to him.
· In the New Testament, we have the example of our Lord Jesus himself
· The night that he was betrayed he wrestled with God in the Garden.
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him... Then he said to them: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
· When he finished praying, he found his disciples sleeping, and went back to pray the same prayer two more times.
· We can be certain that Jesus argued to save his life from every conceivable angle.
· Could it really be that there was no other way!?
· His struggle was so intensely personal, and yet it had such far reaching implications.
· And in the end Jesus prevailed.
· He found the strength to obey the will of His Father.
· He understood the love and mercy of a God who would give His own life for the life of his children.
· Does all of this sound like it could be you?
· Are you wrestling with the stranger at daybreak?
· not willing to let go -- unless you get the answers your heart is yearning for?
· If so, the words of Jesus in the Parable encourage you to persist in your petitions before God.
· God can handle your arguments.
· In fact, God welcomes a good arm-wrestling match with us as we search for truth and deeper understanding.
· Soren Kierkegaard said: “Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays.”
· When we honestly wrestle with God for his blessing and a deeper understanding of His love, we will never be the same.
· Our life will be transformed forever.
· God seeks to make His Love and compassion known to us.
· Let us persist in our wrestling with God...
· Let us persevere...
· ... and we too will come away with His blessing
· We will rise up with a deeper understanding of the loving and faithful nature of God
· We may be dusty and limping in the end ...
... but, we will be blest!