Summary: Spiritual Growth

“Wrestling For A Change”

Genesis 32:22-32

Change can be a painful process, particularly in the area of spiritual maturity. I look back 20 years or so ago to my high school and college days and I realize God was working with some pretty “raw” material. I think of some of the things I did and said and just shake my head. Although I have always had a heart for God, I have memories of some very stupid mistakes. I made my share of poor choices. I did some things that were definitely displeasing to the Lord. I could tell you some stories about some of the crazy things I did growing up and even on into my early years of college that would shock you. I could thoroughly blow my “clean cut” image.

I didn’t drink, do drugs or sleep around, but I found other ways to satisfy my desire for adventure. I loved to pull pranks. I loved to get people riled up. I loved a good chase. It was my best friend and me. We were sneaky. We were smooth. We never got caught. We were sworn to secrecy. We always worked alone. We weren’t about to put our fate in someone else’s hands. Now I am just itchin’ to give you some examples but my Grandma and my mom and dad are here today and there are impressionable young minds in the audience so I don’t want to be guilty of giving out any ideas…so let’s move on.

When I look back on my life I am thankful for the grace of God. Does anyone else feel the same way? I stand before you, preaching from behind this pulpit – which is something I never dreamed I’d be doing – because of God’s grace. God believed in this raw kid from Northwest Oklahoma (who didn’t even believe in himself much of the time) and He never gave up on me, even when I failed Him miserably. I love Him for that. He could see beyond what I was to what I could be. I am reminded of these words from Nehemiah 9:17 – “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” I say “Amen” to that! God’s love never let go of me…and I’m thankful that I held on to Him. And He changed me. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen overnight. And the process certainly isn’t complete…but I agree with the fella who said,

“I’m not what I ought to be, but Thank God I’m not what I used to be.”

God is committed to bringing about positive changes in our lives. Our weaknesses and failures never cause Him to lose sight of our potential. And He has worked with plenty of rough projects over the years. Jacob is a case in point. I have always looked at Jacob with mixed feelings. He had some definite character flaws. He was sneaky. Deceitful. Conniving. Crafty. Dishonest. Selfish. His name means “Heel Grabber.” How appropriate. He came out of the womb wanting that which did not belong to him, holding onto his brother Esau’s heel. Esau was rough and tough. An outdoorsman. A hunter. The “woodsy” type. He was a man’s man! His name meant “Red” and “Hairy.” Genesis 25:25 - “His whole body was like a hairy garment.” Sexy, Huh? The guy was a human “Orangutan.”

So you had “Big Red”, Esau the Ape Man and in contrast, Jacob was a spoiled smooth-skinned “mamma’s boy” who ran around hanging onto mom’s coat tails all the time. He was a “wimp.” I’ll bet he was a “tattle-tale” too! I can just hear him: “Mom, Esau hit me!” “Mom, Esau snuck some candy out of the pantry before dinner.” “Mom, Esau shot the neighbor’s cat with his bow and arrow.” “Mom, Esau called me a dirty name.” Both boys were victims of parental partiality. Genesis 25:28 – “Rebekah loved Jacob” but we know Isaac loved Esau and the tasty food he made from venison and wild game.

One day, Jacob deceived his blind father (with his mother’s help). They covered his smooth body with goatskins so he felt (and “smelt”) like his hairy brother and he stole Esau’s birthright and blessing. Made “Big Red” so mad that he vowed to kill Jacob as soon as his father died. Jacob had to run for his life. Although Jacob got the blessing he wanted, deceiving his father cost him dearly. Listen to some of the consequences of his deceit:

1) He never saw his mother again.

2) His brother wanted to kill him.

3) His family became torn by strife.

4) He became an exile.

5) He worked seven years for the right to marry the girl of his dreams…walked her down the aisle, raised the veil to kiss the bride, and…surprise! It was not his fiancée’s face he saw, but her sisters! The “deceiver” had been deceived. He went back to work – for seven more years until he finally “got the right one, baby, uh-huh!!” (You’ve got to decide whether you’re going to trust God and do things his way or take matter into your own hands. I’m telling you straight up you can save yourself a lot of heartache by trusting God.)

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