What propels us to do what we do?
What reasons do we have for the decisions we make?
Do we worry what others will think before making certain decisions?
It is the Christian's objective to live for Christ, to stand up for His word and challenge others to stand up as well. And yet, it is so easy to simply avoid speaking out about our faith or addressing those topics that are "socially unacceptable." It is the good things, godly things, that are hard to do and take intentional commitment. We all fear something, and sometimes the root of what we fear lies in what we expect others will say or how they will treat us. Although we hate to admit it, we fear man more than we fear God more often than not.
An Example of Fearing Man
"Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him." (Genesis 32: 11)The other morning I was ready Genesis 32 where Jacob is anxious about how his brother will treat him after all the years he's been away. His brother's last words were a death threat and Jacob had no way of knowing whether the years had mellowed or intensified his brother's feelings.
That night, Jacob sent everyone on ahead and remained behind alone. I imagine he was struggling with what the coming day might bring and how he was to blame for the danger his family was in now. But what could he do?
While Jacob sat alone with his thoughts, the Angel of the Lord came and fought with him, physically wrestling. As I read this passage, like I had many times before, I wondered why Jesus, whom the Angel of the Lord is said to truly be, would wrestle with Jacob. What's more, why did Jesus allow Jacob to hold his own against Him? If this was Jesus showing Jacob his power then wouldn't he have overpowered him immediately? Granted, God's ways are strange to man and his methods not normally what we would choose.
I was suddenly struck with a thought: Jesus was showing Jacob his power. Jacob was well acquainted with the abilities of the Lord, His power over mankind and all creation, and he knew that Jesus could easily overpower him, mind, body, and soul. However, Jesus was giving Jacob a lesson of restrained strength.
From a human standpoint, to be the ultimate victor means to be the greater, stronger opponent. And yet how much greater is the opponent you know can win who has the power to hold back for a greater good?
This encounter of Jacob's with the Angel of the Lord was an answer to his prayer of verses 9-12. What God was saying was, "Do not fear your brother who is just a man. I hold life and death in My hand, fear Me instead."
In fear of his brother, Jacob needed reminded that God was still in control of the events of his life. And the beauty of it is that God already knew how the situation would turn out. Esau was indeed a changed man and God knew that Jacob had nothing to fear.
Bringing it HomeWhat about you? What are you so focused on that you can't see the hand of God? Is he trying to get your attention by "wrestling" with you? Remember, Jacob came out of the struggle with a permanent limp to remind him of his lesson.
God uses many ways to refocus our attention on Him. Sometimes it's as simple as a thought, while other times, when we are especially distracted or disobedient, He can get tough.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14: 26-27 NKJV)
Recently the Lord brought to my attention a certain aspect of my life that I was holding back on. He began a theme in my bible reading --I consistently, and from unconnected sources, ran across passages like Luke 14:25-33 where Jesus calls us to forsake everything and everyone for Him. Our loyalty and commitment must be so strong and fierce that our feelings for ourselves and others would pale in comparison, registering figuratively as hate.
I was convicted. In being completely honest with myself I had to admit that I was not courageous enough to follow Him come what may. If He called me to a different sort of life, instead of an immediate "yes," I would hesitate and wonder how this would affect my present life and relationships.
I was ashamed at that realization, and I must say, admitting it here kind of intensifies the feeling. I would be seemingly justified if I hung my head and gave up. But when God calls us to do something, He gives us the strength to do it. He knows my failures and He knows my heart. The next thing I did was write down this specific request in my prayer journal so that I would remember to pray again and again for it: that God would show me what it looked like for me to give up everything that mattered to me and follow Him.
Like Jacob, I have been fearing man and circumstances instead of God, and my struggle with this is of God, trying to get me to open my eyes. What I will do in regard to this, I still don't know.
Who or what have you been putting before God? Has He had to "wrestle" with you to get your attention? Are you listening now? The God who knows how to balance a just nature with a heart of mercy and love can be all that we need for the journey.
Once again, although more humbly now, I say, "Here am I, Lord, send me," and pray that I have the courage to follow through.