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Summary: Today we want to remember that GOD uses difficult people to build our character, to make us stronger. Such people reveal hidden faults and deepen our trust in God

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Charles R. Swindoll provides the following story which he calls “Tension in the Tank.”

"In the northeastern United States, codfish are not only delectable, they are a big commercial business. There's a market for eastern cod all over, especially in sections farthest removed from the northeast coastline. But the public demand posed a problem to the shippers. At first they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere, but the freeze took away much of the flavor. So they experimented with shipping them alive, in tanks of seawater, but that proved even worse. Not only was it more expensive, the cod still lost its flavor, and in addition, became soft and mushy. The texture was seriously affected."

"Finally, some creative soul solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in the tank of water along with their natural enemy---the catfish. From the time the cod left the East Coast until it arrived in its westernmost destination, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank! And you guessed it, when the cod arrived at the market, they were as fresh as when they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor nor was the texture affected. If anything, it was better than before." (Charles Swindoll, “Insight for Living” ( http://daily.insight.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=15227)

IS THERE A CATFISH in your TANK? Is there a person in your life today that makes life difficult? Someone that is always there to hinder your plans? Someone that seems to enjoy making you look bad?

We call this person an antagonist. Swindoll would call him or her a catfish.

Today we want to remember that GOD uses CATFISH. He uses them to build our character, to make us Stronger - to “preserve our “flavor and texture.” Catfish tend to reveal hidden faults and deepen our trust in God

We’re onto this subject today because we find Jacob encountering his greatest catfish, Uncle Laban.

JACOB’S CATFISH

We find the story in chapters 29-31 of Genesis. Today, let’s begin our focus with Genesis 31:38–42 . Here, Jacob replies to Laban and summarizes his feelings about this relationship that deteriorated during a twenty year period. "“I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. " "I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. " "This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. " "It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. " "If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.”"

You can hear the frustration and hurt in Jacob’s voice! For years he was powerless as Laban’s influence grew in his life. Now he is trying to escape from his control.

Here is a summary of Jacob’s History with Laban

29:15. It Started well! At first, Laban welcomes Jacob and makes great promises to him.\

29:21. The FIRST EVIDENCE that there was a problem surfaces when Jacob completes his seven year dowry for Rachel. Rather than Laban being prepared to have a great celebration, Jacob must ASK Laban to fulfill the promise for his bride. This shows that Laban is SELFISH.

The highlight of the conflict between Jacob and Laban is found in Genesis 29:26 when Laban deceives Jacob on the most important night of his life - his wedding night. .

In Genesis 30:27 we learn of MANIPULATION when Laban compels Jacob to stay to take care of his flocks.

In Genesis 30:29-30. We find CONFRONTATION asJacob gives first complaint

Laban’s character is further demonstrate in Genesis 30:34. Laban is a cheater, he removes speckled and spotted animals AFTER Jacob and Laban had struck a deal.

In Genesis 31:1 we find the two in open CONFLICT. Here Laban’s sons accuse Jacob of stealing from their father.

In Genesis 31:14-15 we find evidence of BITTERNESS. Even Leah and Rachel are hurt by Laban.

Finally, in Genesis 31:38-42 we come to the SEPARATION of these two men and their families. Because of conflict the relationship is broken never to be repaired.

There is agreat deal of information given here concerning relationships.

The BIBLE gives us a TRUE PICTURE of relationships. IT is MORE RELIABLE than psychology. By studying the dynamics of this story and how the Lord deals with Jacob we can learn much about antagonists in our lives today.

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