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Journey Toward Identity 3

Journey Toward Identity   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:08
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Genesis 32
We are on a journey toward identity. This is based upon some things I learned while on sabbatical. What I’m doing is letting you in on the process of how God prepared me to tell me what He wanted me to know. And my hope is twofold: 1) That we will see the importance of engaging God through His Word, spending consistent alone time with God, thus giving Him an opportunity to speak. 2) That we will discover a little more about our own identities - embracing who He created us to be and reaching our full potential in Christ.
This is Part 3 - sermons are online if you need to catch up. Just a reminder, the main lesson for me was and is I am not be a pastor. I am to be a godly man who serves as a pastor. God didn’t tell me that at first, but He led me to that conclusion through a series of revelations.
I didn’t know this at the time, but the difference between being a pastor and being a godly man who serves as a pastor is huge. Being a pastor is about identity, and performance, and filling a very broad roll. It’s about meeting realistic and unrealistic expectations - either self-imposed or from others.
Remember, this is just about me - I’m hoping that some of this resonates with you and your journey.
When identity is mixed up in performance, rolls, expectations and so forth, there is an enormous amount of pressure to become someone we were never designed to be.
When that happens,
We feel the pressure to become someone we’re incapable of being.
That leaves us struggling with doubt, it destroys our self-worth and value, and often becomes pass / fail.
We’re left thinking, “I can’t do this. I’m not cut out for this. I’m a failure. God called the wrong person. Why can’t I do _____?”
Now, we have a serious problem in our nation. Roughly 1,500 pastors (maybe 1,700) are leaving the ministry every month. This is our problem! These are our brothers and sisters. This affects us, the Body. It affects our church, our communities, our nation.
Why are so many pastors leaving the ministry? According to Churchleaders.com, the number 1 reason is discouragement. Number 2 - Failure (not measuring up to expectations) and so on. No doubt this is a complicated issue and many factors are involved. But knowing what I know now, it would not surprise me to discover that the main factor is a lack of knowing one’s identity - the pastor and/or the church doesn’t truly know who he or she is, how God designed them and thus the pastor is exhausted from trying to fill a roll they were never designed to fill.
Doesn’t mean God didn’t call them to serve as a pastor. It means that the way they pastor may not fit a particular roll or expectation. And the pressure of trying to be someone they are incapable of being wears them down and they quit.
Before sabbatical, I was wondering, I’m not cut out for this. I can’t do this. It’s not just me. I’m coaching a young pastor on our district who is struggling with the same thing. He said to me last week - “I’m not cut out for this. God has the wrong person. I can’t be everything a pastor is supposed to be.”
I find this interesting. Pastors are taught to fill a roll. We’re given a very long to-do list. Here’s all the boxes and the really good pastors check all the boxes. I don’t remember being taught, “Chad, be who God designed you to be and serve as a pastor in that manner.”
I wonder, how many of you are in a similar situation - you’ve been taught to do, to perform, to check off boxes, to meet everyone’s expectations … but you were never taught to be who God designed you to be. We are His workmanship ….
Last week we ended the message with me wrestling with the question that if it’s not about performance and meeting unrealistic expectations, then why do I still struggle with performance - not for salvation - Jesus secured my salvation. My struggle was not with my calling to pastoral ministry - by why is my performance less than what a pastor should be and do? Why am I failing in certain areas of ministry?
Remember, God didn’t answer my questions. He allowed me, or rather He wanted me to wrestle with those questions. So, over the next week or two, there was an internal wrestling match with me and God - if it’s not about performance, then what is it about? That’s a good question to ask yourself,
If it’s not about performance (whatever it is for you), then what is it about?
Let’s take a little detour from my journey to look at something very significant that didn’t emerge until last week. I believe that some of us do not know who we in Christ. We don’t know who He’s made us to be. We don’t know how unique we are and how we could best serve in God’s Kingdom. And I think it’s because some of us have never wrestled with God. What does that mean?
We’re in Genesis 32. Here’s a quick summary of the events leading up to chapter 32. The Patriarchs, the fathers of the nation of Israel are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God called Abraham to leave his home and follow God. Abraham said ok. He didn’t seem to struggle with identity. He had a clear picture of who God was and who he was. Jacob on the other hand, his life was marked by trials and tribulations - nothing easy about Jacob’s life. Esau, Jacob’s brother hated him and wanted to kill him, so Jacob ran away. He married two women who were sisters - there’s some trouble. Jacob’s father-in-law hated him. Jacob and his wives and kids ran away.
When we come to chapter 32, Jacob has left his father-in-law’s country and is approaching the country where Esau lives. He doesn’t know what to do or where to go. For all he knows, Esau still hates him and wants to kill him. He’s in a pickle - a Kosher pickle. Let’s start in verse 22.
Genesis 32:22–28 ESV
The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
Let’s keep this simple. Here are the nuts and bolts and this passage:
Jacob was in a desperate situation.
Jacob separated himself from everyone and everything - he was alone.
God met Jacob where he was.
God and Jacob wrestled for a long time.
Jacob prevailed and he discovered his identity.
When God asked, “What’s your name,” in that culture a name was connected to identity and often, with performance or character. Jacob’s name meant one who cheats or literally grabs by the heal.
God gave Jacob a new name - not a new identity - a name that revealed his real identity.
“Jacob, you’ve been chosen to be the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. You’re no longer a cheater. A conniver. A scruffy nerf-herder - goat herder. You are now Israel.”
See,
It’s in our alone times with God, in our wrestling with God that some of us discover who we are and who God is.
- provided that we don’t quit and wrestle long enough to prevail.
Look again at that list of reasons why pastors quit. I don’t know what your situation is, but some of you can find yourself in this list. You’re about to quit. And maybe some of you haven’t taken the time to get away from everyone and everything and be alone with God and wrestle. And maybe, a lot of it comes down to you just don’t know who you are in Jesus Christ.
Some of the greatest men and woman in Christian history discovered who they were by wrestling alone with God. St. Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Charles Finney, Billy Graham … all had to wrestle with God. Even our Lord Jesus Christ wrestled alone with God - “Father, remove this cup from me! Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”
Admit Believe Confess
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