Wrestling With God
Proving your love for God by holding on to Him in every circumstance
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days;” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
There are times in life when we are faced with situations that seem dark; Situations that cause us to question our faith in the promises that we have received from God’s Word. Sometimes we struggle with circumstances in the world that cause us to be distracted away from God as we try to battle and win by our own efforts. Even struggles with our own flesh can become a battle that causes us to focus more on our internal war than on God. But our struggle should not be with these things for the battle is the Lord’s. Our struggle should be focused on holding on to God and His Word no matter how dark, and no matter how hopeless, the situation seems. Clinging to God with all perseverance is a part of loving Him.
The Bible tells us about an experience that Jacob had when he faced a situation that caused him great fear. Years before this Jacob had tricked his older brother, Esau, out of his birthright. Esau became very angry and plotted to murder Jacob. Jacob then fled from Esau to another land and stayed with his uncle Laban. While there Jacob married wives, and had children. He also had become wealthy with livestock because God had blessed him. Now Jacob was returning to his father’s land with all that God had given to him. He was about to come face to face with his brother Esau for the first time since he had deceived and fled from him. Jacob sent messengers ahead to greet Esau and to see if Esau still wanted to murder him.
Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed…(Genesis 32:6-7)
Esau coming to meet Jacob with four hundred men caused Jacob to have great fear. The situation did not look good for him and his family. But Jacob prayed to God and he reminded God of His promises to him.
Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.'” (Genesis 32:9-12)
Then Jacob sent his wives, children, and servants out of the camp. This was probably to hide them in case they were attacked. So Jacob was left alone in the camp that night. Then a man came and wrestled with Jacob.
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. (Genesis 32:24-31)
At first Jacob may have thought that he was being attacked by one of Esau’s men. How often in the darkness of a challenge do we fail to recognize God at work in our lives? We blame the devil, we blame other people, we blame fate; ignoring the fact that God is in control even when bad things happen. But as the light of dawn began to reveal the truth Jacob realized that he was wrestling with God. (Many Bible scholars believe that Jacob was actually wrestling with Jesus.)
God saw that Jacob was determined with his whole heart and all of his strength to hold on to God. Then God injured him. Why? So that He could bless him. God humbled Jacob into total dependence upon God. Why, because God gives His grace to the humble. Humility is the revelation of our own weaknesses and our desperate need for God. It is when we are humble that God can trust us with His strength, and with His blessing.
With a hip out of socket Jacob was easy prey without God’s help. Now Jacob was ready to receive the blessing, now Jacob was ready to fully trust in God to fight his battles. God gave Jacob favor with Esau and their meeting went well. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. (Genesis 33:4)
When facing problems, temptations, and sufferings it is far better to focus our strength on clinging to God rather than trying to overcome by our own strength. In order for us to fail and give in to problems, temptations, and sufferings we must first loosen our grip on God and even turn away from Him. In order for us to have success God’s way we must cling to Him with all of our strength and perseverance until He commands His blessing upon us.
Trials in life try to distract our attention away from God. When our attention is turned away from God we are then also pulled away from God. But the real purpose for the trials that we go through are to perfect perseverance in us, which is the ability to cling to God in every circumstance without letting go. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4) Patience means cheerful endurance.
Obedience to God is a very important part of clinging to God. In Genesis chapter 22 we are told that God tested Abraham to see if Abraham would be willing to sacrifice his only son in obedience to God’s command. Abraham rose up early the next morning and began the journey with his son Isaac to the place God had told him to go. The journey took three days. What would those three days have been like for Abraham? But Abraham faithfully obeyed God and in the end God provided another sacrifice instead of Isaac. At the end of the trial Abraham was ready to receive the blessing from God.
The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Gen 22:15-18 NIV) The greater the sacrifice that we go through and endure by clinging to God, the greater our blessing will be.
There are times that God will test His people to see how much they love and trust Him, to see how much of their strength they will apply to clinging to Him. “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3) When we go through such trials we come out on the other side with a much greater measure of faith than we had before.
The book of Job in the Bible records the story of Job’s sufferings. God allowed Satan to attack Job in devastating ways. Job suffered tremendously he lost his children, his wealth, and his health. But through it all Job held on to God even when his wife told him to curse God and die. Job said even if God kills me I will still trust Him, (Job 13:15). Job’s suffering and His commitment to cling to God through it all caused Job to have a greater revelation of God. “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. (Job 42:5)
Because of Job’s perseverance of holding on to God through all of his suffering he was now ready to receive the blessing. Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters…In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. (Job 42:12-16)
One day Jesus encountered a Canaanite woman who wanted Him to deliver her daughter from demons. At first Jesus seemed to ignore her. How often it seems like God does not hear your prayers, but even this may be a trial to see how long will you persevere. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” (Mat 15:22-23 NIV) Jesus then tested her faith with insults, even calling her a dog. He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” (Mat 15:24-26 NIV)
But the woman persevered holding on to Jesus through it all and as she humbled herself before Him she was then ready to receive her blessing. “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Mat 15:27-28 NIV) If we allow ourselves to become offended at the circumstances that God allows us to go through we will end up letting go of God and even turn away from Him. It is pride, which causes us to be offended. Pride is easily offended, but humility is never offended. Pride causes us to let go of God; humility causes us to cling to God.
The book of Daniel tells the story of three young Hebrew men that were commanded to worship an idol or be thrown into the blazing fire of a furnace. They told the king “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 NIV) They knew God would deliver them one way or another because even if God allowed them to be burned up by the fire they would instantly be receiving their reward in heaven.
But God chose to save them through the fire. Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. (Daniel 3:26-28 NIV)
The greater the sacrifice that we go through and endure by clinging to God, the greater the blessing will be. The greatest blessing is to those who fully give up their whole life to cling to their Creator, through perseverance and obedience. These are the things that prove our love for our God. Jesus says, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21 NIV) The greatest blessing is when God reveals Himself to us. In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalms 16:11)
How to Cling to God
You cling to God or let go of God deep in your thoughts and imaginations. Your thoughts and imaginations determine the course of your heart and behavior. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7) When you are a believer in Christ your mind receives influence from the Holy Spirit of God. But you can also still receive negative influences from evil spirits and from your own lust that can tempt you to think about things that cause you to let go of God and turn away from Him. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matthew 15:19)
God has given us His power and authority to fight and win over negative thoughts that would cause us to loosen our grip on God. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NIV)
In the times when we are facing problems, temptations, and sufferings we need to hold on to God all the more as those things are trying to pull us away from Him. Fortunately as we cling to God we can call upon Him to supply some of His strength to us. But the key is to not let go until you receive the blessing. He will not allow us to endure more than we can stand. Stay at the throne of grace until you find mercy and grace for your need. When you are in God’s presence He will speak to you. As you focus on God and not your problem He will give you wisdom about your problem also.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:12-16 NIV)
Only God can keep us from falling away from Him. We cannot solve our problems, temptations, and sufferings by our own efforts. In fact our own efforts cause us to turn away from God and try to fight the battle on our own, leading to failure. To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 NIV) Even Jesus taught us to focus on God and pray to God to keep us from temptations. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13)
God promises to give us His peace if we keep our minds focused on Him. You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3) The word stayed means to take hold of, lean upon, and rest in.
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days;… “(Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
Every circumstance of trial, temptation, and suffering is an opportunity to prove your love for God
by clinging to Him.