We hear it again and again, "My God is the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings." Normally this phrase is used right before we dust our hands off and declare ourselves independent from anything God might want to do through us.
"I don't know what's going on with this country, but my God is the King of Kings and He has a plan!"
"I don't know what is going on with the church, but it is the bride of Christ and He is working it out!"
"I don't know how to help our young people, but I know that God created them for such a time as this and He will reach them somehow."
Do you hear it? Do you hear the dusting off of our hands. Do you hear the surrender?
Now, don't confuse this surrender with a surrender towards the things God wants to do. This is the surrender towards what we want to do. If we were to be honest, most of us would finish the phrase with something like:
"...so I just go to work every day and be the best version of myself I can be."
"...so I just let my light shine and try to give the world hope through being a good example."
"...so I just control what I control, which is my attitude and my response."
None of these responses would be wrong, per se, but all of them are wrong if we aren't wrestling with how God might be working so we can understand how we fit in it.
What is lacking in today's mindset of us who profess to follow Christ is a desire to understand our purpose. The reason the holy church will give way to the increasingly corporate church is the corporate church offers purpose. It offers vision. It has an easy way for people to get involved on the outskirts of what God might be up to. And, it offers this purpose, vision, and hope without any of the wrestling that is required by us for actual self-surrender and sanctification.
God's purpose for the church is not to grow the church wide. God's hope for us is not to give us a purpose. God's plan for us, and through us, collectively as the church, is sanctification. He wants to grow us deep. And, how can we be sanctified in this way if we refuse to wrestle?
Most of us look at the story of Jacob wrestling with God as a negative event in his life. By way of refresher, in Genesis 32, we have this weird excerpt that shows up out of the blue of Jacob in a wrestling match with a man, who he later identifies as God. Where did this man come from? Where did he go? Why did they wrestle all night? Ya. Weird.
But, I think we can learn something from it. It says "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 wrested with him."
Now, I've wrestled with my girls before. It is a blast. Sometimes it ends in pain. But, most of the time it ends in laughing. Other kids would look on and watch the wrestling and declare it a great wrestling match. But is it really? When I am ready to, I can simply throw them off, stand up, and declare I am ready to go eat dinner. I imagine a man wrestling with any heavenly being is much the same way. And, it is how this is depicted if we really look at it.
If this heavenly being couldn't best Jacob in an actual wrestling match, and then when he is ready, simply touch his hip to make him lame, was it really a wrestling match in the first place?
But, what it revealed to Jacob, and us, by example, is the difference between wrestling against God and wrestling with God. We can't wrestle against God. He is God. If we could actually put up a fight, he wouldn't be much of a God, right? And yet, this heavenly being went all. night. long. against Jacob. Why? Because in those hours, Jacob realized he couldn't go on in life without a blessing from this being.
The account goes on that the being couldn't get away from Jacob and Jacob demanded a blessing before letting go. Now, if I can touch you and throw your hip out, don't you think I could touch you again and paralyze your whole body while I stood up? Doe my girls really keep me from getting up when we are wrestling? No. But, sometimes, I might beg and plead and ask for their demands. Again, this is how I picture this account.
It is here, that a new identity is found, and an entire nation of God's chosen people is created. "Israel." Jacob was renamed to "Israel." by God. Israel means, "contends with God." It was in this wrestling, which may have started out against an opponent, but actually ended in submission, that Jacob found his identity. What is more submissive then recognizing you can't go on in life without a blessing from someone?
So, here we are, today. Our country feels like it is disenegrating. Our churches are largly empty of young adults. The basic building blocks of our institutions (all of them!) are crumbling. And God is still entirely concerned with your sanctification. Everything on earth, including nations, exist for this end.
And, you need to wrestle with God. You need to set aside your emotionless robotic lifestyle where you go to work, let your light shine, and go to church for two hours each week, and you need to fight. You need to argue with God that your country shouldn't be in shambles. You need to argue that you've done the best you can with your children and grandchildren. You need to argue, pound the ground, scream, fight your way towards understanding the purposes for which you have been created.
It is only in this wrestling with God that you will discover what actions will lead to your faith being deepened. It is only in this wrestling that you will discover your identity.
Your career can't give you this identity.
our pastor can't give you this identity.
A spiritual gifts test can't give you this identity.
Your efforts alone can't give you this identity.
Only wrestling with God will lead to you understanding this identiy.
Only wrestling with God understanding that you can't go on without his blessing.
Only wrestling with God will leave you with the limp that you need to change your actions.
How would your life look different today if you wrestled? How would you think differently if you argued with God? How would your life look differently if you began to break apart the things you are doing to see if they are defensible?
If you committed to this, and your family commited to this, then your neighbors committed to this, then your church committed to this, you would see you life change. You would see your church change. You would see your country change.
Because it is in wrestling with God that we find our identity. And, it is worth the work.