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The Struggle Is Real

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Have you ever felt like your Christian faith was a struggle?
Ever felt like will I really make it from the point of giving my heart to Jesus to the eternal hope - the PROMISE OF ETERNAL LIFE IN HEAVEN
Ever felt like your own ideas, temptations, desire and will just stand in the way at times...
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!!!!
Philippians 2:12 NKJV
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
Hold it, I thought the gift of salvation was free, and that God bestows His abundant grace — why then “work out - or work hard to show our salvation”?
Because salvation is free, but then living out that faith requires our wrestling through our human nature in pursuit of His divine nature in life!!!
Were you aware that the name Israel, which is the name God gave to Jacob before He came back to the land he was promised - means - wrestle or struggle with God and prevailed!
That is right.
When Jacob was leaving the “Promised Land” to his grandfather and father, a land he had to flee because he had stolen his brother’s birthright - and his brother was angry, and yet God gave Him a dream and promised that land to HIM!!!! Before he left it...
On the night he returned - 20 years later - he encountered an angel according to , and according to most Theologians - a theophany (an appearance of the preincarnate Son of God in the OT) and he wrestled with Him all night long until He blessed him - renewing the promise.
You see --- all of us when we yield our hearts, surrender our will, give our lives over to Jesus - do so with the hope and expectation of ETERNAL LIFE in HEAVEN...
Hebrews 11:13–16 NLT
13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:13 NLT
13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.
Hebrews 11:13–14 NLT
13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own.
In the Hebrews Hall of Faith - it talks about those in the OT, primarily the book of Genesis seeking for the Promise land God had committed to them, but it points to the REAL PROMISED LAND - which is HEAVEN and the city that God has prepared for those that love and serve Him.
Striving for that HOPE - can be a real struggle!
There are parallels between Jacob’s struggle and ours that I want us to look at this morning.
Let’s read from:
Genesis 32:12–31 NLT
12 But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count.’ ” 13 Jacob stayed where he was for the night. Then he selected these gifts from his possessions to present to his brother, Esau: 14 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 15 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys. 16 He divided these animals into herds and assigned each to different servants. Then he told his servants, “Go ahead of me with the animals, but keep some distance between the herds.” 17 He gave these instructions to the men leading the first group: “When my brother, Esau, meets you, he will ask, ‘Whose servants are you? Where are you going? Who owns these animals?’ 18 You must reply, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob, but they are a gift for his master Esau. Look, he is coming right behind us.’ ” 19 Jacob gave the same instructions to the second and third herdsmen and to all who followed behind the herds: “You must say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’ ” Jacob thought, “I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.” 21 So the gifts were sent on ahead, while Jacob himself spent that night in the camp. 22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions. 24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” 28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” 29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. 30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.
Genesis 32:21–32 NLT
21 So the gifts were sent on ahead, while Jacob himself spent that night in the camp. 22 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. 23 After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions. 24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” 28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” 29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. 30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. 32 (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)
genesis 32.
Here is Jacob getting ready to cross into the land of Promise, but also having to face his brother Esau - a brother whom 20 years before he stole by deceit the birthright that was Esau’s. The blessing came down on Jacob, and therefore God honored that blessing and told him that as numerous as the stars in the sky, sands on the shore - he would make his offspring and they would inherit the land within the boundaries.
Now, coming back after serving in his uncle’s house to gain the right to marry his daughters, he returns with wealth and livestock, but an uncertain future… and he meets this angel of the Lord
Hosea 12:1–5 NLT
1  The people of Israel feed on the wind; they chase after the east wind all day long. They pile up lies and violence; they are making an alliance with Assyria while sending olive oil to buy support from Egypt. 2 Now the Lord is bringing charges against Judah. He is about to punish Jacob for all his deceitful ways, and pay him back for all he has done. 3 Even in the womb, Jacob struggled with his brother; when he became a man, he even fought with God. 4 Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won. He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him. There at Bethel he met God face to face, and God spoke to him— 5 the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the Lord is his name!
The account remembered in the book of Hosea...

Struggle 1 - Ourselves Trying to Take Control

The first struggle we see in Jacob’s life is struggle to be in control of his future rather than trust God.
In we see that the Lord told Rebekah that the older son of her twins would serve the younger son — they had struggled with each other within the womb! At birth Jacob had hold on Esau’s heel.
When it came time for the blessing of the birthright, it was Rebekah who encouraged Jacob to deceive his father (although his name already meant supplanter/deceiver) - however, Jacob though resistant to being caught, was never resistant to the idea.
He willingly engaged with his mother a plot to deceive his father and steal his brother’s birthright. He had already been given the birthright by Esau when he tricked Esau, but he finished attaining it when Isaac blessed him.
The birthright in this instance was to attain the land promised to Abraham and Isaac - he wanted that inheritance - the PROMISE OF GOD...
The reality is he thought he would gain that promise in his own way, time and plan...
There are so many “Christians” People - trying to attain ETERNAL LIFE AND HEAVEN on their own terms.
They live for themselves, do their own things, and plod their own trails --- but they have never surrendered to God’s plan...
God knew all along that Jacob would be the one to hold the birthright — but Jacob did not await for God’s plan, but struggled to gain the blessing by his own means...
We cannot gain heaven by our own means!!!
There is only one plan that gets us into heaven, and our SURRENDER TO THAT PLAN - through Jesus Christ is the only way!!!
Our own goodness will not warrant it, nor will our justifications of why we deserve it warrant it!
Many Christians struggle today because they have not fully yielded to God’s plans for their lives...
They want all of God’s promises but on their own terms!
They want eternal life, but on their own terms…
We cannot obtain His promises and blessings by doing things our way.
Jacob than reaped what he sowed having his father in law deceive him for the woman he loved, and he experienced the consequences of deceit but from the other side...

Struggle 2 - Fear to Receive the Promises

When Jacob arrived at the entrance to the land promised to him and his father before him, he feared entering into the promise because of his failures and mistakes.
He struggled with the danger he faced when returning to the promise because of the choices he had made in life.
He anticipated Esau to be there ready to kill him and his family and steal his wealth back...
Rightfully so!
He had harmed Esau greatly! It was not an abnormal expectation to think he would be met with hostility. (the offspring of both are still at war in many ways today)
However, that fear did not allow Him to trust God for the promise.
How many Christians today are defeated by their past mistakes????
Defeated by the wrong choices they made, and anticipating them to come and devour them every time they try to receive what God has planned for them.
The amazing thing about grace is that God is not condemning what He has forgiven...
Romans 8:1 NLT
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1–2 NLT
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Romans 8:1–3 NLT
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
Romans 8:1–2 NLT
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
Romans 13:1 NLT
1 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
Romans 12:1 NLT
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
Romans
God is for us, not against us!
It is our own flesh and fear that struggles - and often demonstrates that we are trying to control things still ourselves.
Jacob even sent his less loved concubines and their children ahead of his more beloved to protect them! Trying to control the outcome instead of really trusting God.

Struggle 3 - Recognizing the Blessing When it Comes

So here is Jacob, his family has all crossed over and he has gone back to camp to make sure everything has been moved forward and is ready to go...
While there a man appears to him, one Hosea records as an angel… we know as the preincarnate Christ.
The man comes and wrestles with Jacob until dawn the Scripture tells us...
We do not know all the details, but I think there is something to glean here.
God comes and wrestles with us to get our attention --- we have been so busy doing things our way and trying to control situations and even being afraid of what is ahead, that we are far from receiving what GOD ALREADY WANTS TO GIVE US!!!
SO the angel of the Lord wrestles with Jacob and Jacob will not give up --- how often do we actually put ourselves in a wrestling match with God ---
Jacob however was not wrestling for a blessing - God was wrestling with him to get his attention....
Then the angel touched his hip and crippled it...
It was at this point that Jacob realized he was wrestling with God!!! and he choose to NOT LET GO UNTIL GOD BLESSED HIM!
God had succeeded in getting Jacob’s attention - - and now Jacob was holding on until the blessing came.
After we are done struggling within ourselves and overcoming our fears we realize that God is trying to get our attention — the struggle has been real, but it continues to be real, for we must hold on until the blessing comes
HOLD ON UNTIL THE PROMISE IS RECEIVED!!! Don’t let go!!!
As he held on, the ANGEL changed his name ---
from deceiver to One who wrestles with God and prevailed...
God wants you to go from one who did things their own way to one who learned how to wrestle with God and prevail!!!!
Jacob -now ISRAEL - would go forth, encounter a welcoming brother and dwell in the land God promised him!!! A land that would return to his descendants...
God’s promises are real church - HE WANTS YOU TO ENCOUNTER THEM - but we have to hold on until we prevail with the answer!!!! with the promise!!!!
The ultimate promise is eternal life — and God wants us to stop struggling within ourselves and against our fears, and learn to prevail by holding onto HIM to gain the victory!!!

CONCLUSION

You see, God is for us and not against us -
God’s plan is to bring us into His promises
But are we struggling with His plan by controlling things, fearing things, and not grabbing hold and prevailing...
Prayer is the means by which we hold on and prevail...
Will we wrestle it down with God until we have prevailed in prayer!!!
We always want the EASY BUTTON in life today...
The reality is God’s promises (including eternal life) require us to work in holding on and prevailing...
They require us to be persistent
They require us to trust when we don’t see the answer
They require us to let go of our control and yield to HIS control
HOLD ONTO THE PROMISE!
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