Striving With God
Genesis 32 contains the account of Jacob wrestling with God. For a long time I struggled with understanding what exactly took place and even why. To really appreciate this text you have to go back to at least chapter 28 when Jacob’s faith seemed to be very shallow and unsure of God’s faithfulness. After a period of 20 years and going through some difficult trials Jacob has learned and is convinced that God is faithful and that He’s greatly blessed God. Facing another difficult encounter with his brother Esau, Jacob pleads with the Lord.
You see a man who at the beginning was self-reliant and used cunning and deceit to determine his path to now a man who seems to be fully reliant and dependent upon the giver of everything that is good. It’s at this moment that the angel identifies that he will have a name change, which is later confirmed in chapter 35, and it’s because of his faith and determination.
When’s the last time you strove with God, begging and pleading for His mercy, blessings, providence, etc.? How determined are we to hold on to him even when things are difficult and hurtful? Here’s a few things I think can help us learn to strive with God that we learn from Jacob.
What It Takes To Strive With God
Sometimes Trials – v.11
There are times in our lives that it takes difficult days and trials to teach me what it takes to strive with God. We can see all throughout scripture the Lord intentionally putting his people through situations and even conflicts to teach, train, and mold them into who He wants them to be. James tells us in James 1:2-4 that the same is still true today.
A Thankful Perspective – v.9-10
To strive with God it takes a thankful perspective. You can see Jacob’s thankful perspective only in his prayer but even back in chapter 31:42 when talking to Laban. It a perspective that acknowledges and responds to the fact that God is in control and it is He that holds everything together. It is from God that we have all the blessings we have. Paul tells those in Philippi and Colossae the same thing in Philippians 4:6 and Colossians 4:2
Faith In His Faithfulness – v.12
Striving with God takes us having faith in God’s faithfulness. Jacob shows is faith in God’s faithfulness as he recounts the promises God had made. Previous to this account when the Lord appeared to Jacob in a dream in chapter 28 Jacob’s faith was conditional on God keeping His promises. By this time in his life he seems to have to doubt that God is faithful and will keep His promises. Paul reminds those in Thessalonica that the Lord is faithful in 2 Thessalonians 3:3.
Action On My Part – v.13-21
I think its important to note that even though Jacob had faith that God would be faithful in His promises, he still recognized the need for action on his part in that he still put his plan into motion and action in v.13-21. There’s a difference between believing yourself to be fully self-reliant and trying to do things your way and saying to ourselves that we can just sit back and do little to nothing because after all God is faithful and will provide for us. Paul would admonish those in 2 Thessalonians 3 that action is required even of everyday things.
A Determined Grip – v.24-26
Lastly I think Jacob has taught us that in order to strive with God we have to have a determined grip. Jacob, even after having his hip put out of joint, which had to be extremely painful, refused to let go wanting to be blessed by God. So often in our faith we hold on as long as things are pleasant but sadly at times it doesn’t take much for us to let go. The Hebrew writer seemed to embrace this concept as he said to “hold fast” in Hebrews 3, 4, 6, &10.