2 Timothy 2:1-7Amplified Bible
2 So you, my son, be strong [constantly strengthened] and empowered in the grace that is [to be found only] in Christ Jesus. 2 The things [the doctrine, the precepts, the admonitions, the sum of my ministry] which you have heard me teach [a]in the presence of many witnesses, entrust [as a treasure] to reliable and faithful men who will also be capable and qualified to teach others. 3 Take with me your share of hardship [passing through the difficulties which you are called to endure], like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service gets entangled in the [ordinary business] affairs of civilian life; [he avoids them] so that he may please the one who enlisted him to serve. 5 And if anyone competes as an athlete [in competitive games], he is not crowned [with the wreath of victory] unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hard-working farmer [who labors to produce crops] ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. 7 Think over the things I am saying [grasp their application], for the Lord will grant you insight and understanding in everything.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
The hardcore truth and reality is we wrestle everyday with ourselves and others with complex, divisive, highly charged emotional issues in the Christian faith.
Somewhere on television or social media or the internet, we are all presented with matters of the faith which challenge our adherence to the precepts of God.
We wrestle with ourselves over whether or not what we are presented with is in the “will of God” according to what we read, how we interpret the Word of God.
“What does the Word of God for the Children of God say about (fill in the blank)
There is no denomination which does not wrestle and struggle with something which is near and dear and much beloved and much cherished and protected.
Denominations raise and denominations fall.
Churches raise and thrive or Churches wither away and cease being churches, all on how/what a particular group of “faith-filled” faithful Christians believe.
Matters of doctrine ….
Matters of dogma ….
Matters of understanding and administering the Sacraments ….
Matters of Theology ….
Matters of Scriptural Interpretation: Orthodox, Traditional, Centrist, Liberal, Progressive, Reformed ….
Matters of Ordination ….
Matters of Acculturation …..
Matters of Immigration ….
Matters of Caring for the Widow and the Orphan ….
And the list goes on ….
If it Matters to God then it should Matter to Man All the Time … Yes? … No?
All People Matter All of the Time > just some of the Time? > not at Anytime?
God Matters All of the Time > just some of the Time > not at Anytime at all?
The “sum total” of each of our life experiences leads us to our understanding of “believing or not believing or flat denial” of God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
It comes down to our obedience to God and adherence faith being “black and white” either all of one set standard of beliefs or the other – no compromise.
We wrestle with ourselves and our brothers and sisters in our Savior Jesus and the end result is basically and unfortunately what the Apostle Paul described:
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 (Amplified)
10 But I urge you, believers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in full agreement in what you say, and that there be no divisions or factions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your way of thinking and in your judgment [about matters of the faith]. 11 For I have been informed about you, my brothers and sisters, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are quarrels and factions among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” or “I am [a disciple] of Apollos,” or “I am [a disciple] of Cephas (Peter),” or “I am [a disciple] of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided [into different parts]? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul? [Certainly not!]
We wrestle with ourselves, with our brothers and sisters in Christ to the point where our own pre-occupation and over zealousness for the coming wrestling match overshadows our pre-occupation and zealousness for the Lord our God.
Try and describe that indescribable and unnecessary infliction of suffering on those who are observing us – upon those who are on the very cusp of belief?
Try and describe that indescribable and unnecessary infliction of suffering on the accepted, perceived character, reputation of “the Christian” by the athiest.
By our zealousness for fighting each other and creating division – who is not coming to koinonia, relationship and connection with God, Jesus, the Spirit?
As the Apostle Paul tries to “hammer home” in 1 Corinthians 1:17 (Amplified)
17 For Christ did not send me [as an apostle] to baptize, but [commissioned and empowered me] to preach the good news [of salvation]—not with clever and eloquent speech [as an orator], so that the cross of Christ would not be [a]made ineffective [deprived of its saving power].
“SO THAT THE CROSS OF CHRIST WOULD NOT BE MADE INEFFECTIVE – DEPRIVED OF ITS SAVING POWER! by our harsh divisive squabbling …
Philippians 4:5-7 Amplified
5 Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. 7 And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
Pre-occupation, Zealousness for the fight which leads to insufferable division.
Pre-occupation, Zealousness for the fight which leads us to the Peace of Christ.
Wrestling with God ….
Wrestling with the Cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ….
Having koinonia, connection, a relationship with God changes everything.
Many images and terms are used to describe the change that happens when we enter an intimate, vibrant and indescribably meaningful relationship with God.
“Salvation,” “adoption,” “redemption,” being “born again” and many other terms describe what miracles happen when the fullest measure of God’s grace enters our lives and transforms us, literally re-makes us his beloved children.
Not only are we called new creatures who now relate to God differently, but we begin koinonia, connecting, relating to other people and nature differently too.
What does wrestling with God mean?
Is wrestling with God “allowed,” or is that off-limits?
Should we wrestle with God?
Depending on your understanding of who God is, you might initially think that the answer to this question is “No.”
God is a lofty, powerful being you shouldn’t trifle with.
So, the idea of wrestling with him seems flippant, arrogant, and even disrespectful. It seems too much like playing with or disobeying God.
However, one of the ways God describes himself is
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).
Another passage reminds us that
“The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.”” (Isaiah 57:15).
“Let Us Reason”
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord.
“[a]Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be like wool.
“If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the best of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
God’s Universal Reign
2 The word [from God] which Isaiah son of Amoz saw [in a vision] concerning [the nation of] Judah and [its capital city] Jerusalem.
Now it will come to pass that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be [firmly] established as the [a]highest of the mountains,
And will be exalted above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house (temple) of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go out from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations,
And will mediate [disputes] for many peoples;
And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up the sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.
God will judge between the nations ….
God will mediate disputes for many peoples ….
Then they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks …..
Nation will not lift up the sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.
Those Word of God for His Children are nearly three thousand years old.
Now, here we are in the Year of Our Lord and Savior – 2022 ….
Now, substitute the word ‘nation(s) with the word ‘denomination(s) …
And what, how, might that vision of the Kingdom of God manifest itself as?
God dwells with those who are humble and repentant, and if we are his children, that means us. In many other places, we are reminded that God is willing to meet us in our weakness, that he knows us through and through.
All this is in the Hebrew [Old] Testament!
The God of the Hebrew [Old] Testament is the same as the God and Father of Jesus in the New Testament. (Hebrews 13:8)
To help us understand God better, and what wrestling with God is all about,
we can take a long and well prayed and considered look at a few examples of people wrestling with God throughout the Bible, such as Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Jacob, Hannah, Paul, the unnamed Canaanite woman, the unnamed Samaritan woman, and Jesus with his Father in the garden of Gethsemane.
This wrestling took several forms.
Sometimes wrestling with God is about going back repeatedly in prayer over something that is confusing us that he has said or that is happening in our lives.
Sometimes, the wrestling looks a bit like negotiating with God, and at other times it looks like reminding God of his promises while asking him to act.
At other times wrestling with God is about struggling to come to terms with obedience, God’s will for our lives and seeking strength to go with God’s plan.
Abraham (Genesis 18:16-33)
When God was about to destroy the city of Sodom because its people were high-handed sexual sinners, Abraham “bargained” – pleaded with the Lord and entered what can best be described as negotiations for the lives of the others.
Abraham approached the Lord and said, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?… Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
God agreed to spare the city if fifty righteous people were found in it. Abraham then went on to lower that number, each time asking God not to be angry with him. The Lord wasn’t angry with him. “What if there are only forty-five?… what if there are only thirty?… what if there are only twenty?… let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
The Lord relented, saying that he would spare the city if only ten righteous people were found in it.
We know, as it turned out, Sodom didn’t have even ten righteous people in it, and so it was destroyed.
The key thing to note is that Abraham was bold with God, even going as far as to remind God of his righteous character, that surely he would do the right thing!
Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32)
Jacob, who was Abraham’s grandson, also wrestled with God.
This one was a little different because Jacob wrestled with God all night and God dislocated Jacob’s hip, which gave him a limp for the rest of his life.
This is one of those strange stories from the Bible that are a tad baffling.
Jacob wrestled with what he thought was a man but turned out to be God, and he received a blessing because he “would not let go until he had his blessing.”
This blessing was a confirmation of the steadfast promises and blessings God had given his grandfather before him. Why would God wrestle with any human being? Why would it even be anything like a wrestling contest lasting all night?
Jacob was a “deceitful” man who all his life had struggled with relating to family and to people – though God’s sure promises for his life were clear, he innately lied, conned, and manipulated situations and people to get his way.
His name Jacob means “deceiver,” and when he wrestled with God that night, he was facing his biggest challenge, and the situation was out of his hands –
he had just fled from his uncle who had for years repeatedly deceived him and was about to face his estranged brother Esau, who could very well take his life.
He was at his wit’s end, and powerless to control the situation.
He wrestled with God and was blessed, his name changed from “deceiver” to “Israel” which means “he struggles with God,” and from this encounter, he was changed – not only because of his limp but in how he related with people.
The Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) A woman who wasn’t part of Israel dared it all, came to Jesus asking him to help her demon-possessed daughter.
Jesus didn’t answer.
She could have felt great shame, hidden her face, gone away at once, but she dared to be persistent, even when Jesus’ disciples urged him to send her away.
When Jesus does answer her, he tells her that he was sent for the “lost sheep of Israel,” of whom she isn’t part.
Does she give up?
On the contrary, she dares to persist.
He then tells her “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
In saying this, Jesus isn’t calling her a dog, he’s pointing out that his ministry was primarily aimed at Israel.
But the woman dares to be persistent. She doesn’t take “no” for an answer.
She tells Jesus in no uncertain terms that even dogs get the crumbs that fall from their master’s table, meaning that even though she knows Jesus was sent to minister to the people of Israel, she too can still benefit from his ministry.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”
That woman didn’t take Jesus’ responses at face value.
She courageously, for the benefit of her daughter, fought hard with and against herself, yet she persisted despite the many obstacles, and this is like what Jesus said to his disciples when he told them to be persistent in prayer (Luke 18:1-8).
Paul (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)
Lastly, we look to God’s Apostle to the Gentiles, Apostle Paul, who was given a “thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to persistently torment” him.
We don’t know for sure what the real nature of this thorn was, but we do know he was given this thorn to keep him from becoming overly conceited about the amazing spiritual experiences he had received throughout his many journey’s.
He asked God three times to remove that thorn, but the Lord told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
This is one of those situations, just as when Jesus wrestled with the Father if there was any other way to accomplish his task without having to go to the cross (Luke 22:39-46), where the wrestling naturally just happens through our circumstances, but we gain wisdom to accept God’s will and His way as best.
Sometimes, people in the Bible wrestle with God and God grants that for which they are praying.
Other times, we can wrestle with God and be transformed by the experience so that we gain wisdom to accept the answer that God has already given.
The Word of God appears to encourage wrestling with God because God is not far off from us, and we are called to be active participants in our lives of faith.
From Genesis to Revelation, people throughout the Bible wrestled with God over childlessness, their fears, anxieties, with many other life an death issues.
We wrestle with God in an effort to gain clarity about his purposes for our lives, to make requests known to him, and sometimes even as part of the process of confessing, acknowledging, and obediently accepting what God plans for us.
Psalm 127 (Amplified)
Prosperity Comes from the Lord.
A Song of [a]Ascents. Of Solomon.
127 Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of anxious labors—
For He gives [blessings] to His beloved even in his sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage and gift from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed [happy and fortunate] is the man whose quiver is filled with them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies [in gatherings] at the [city] gate.
When and where two or three – they dare to gather, to speak (in the name of the Lord their God) with each man their enemies [in gatherings] at the [city] gate ….
Invited to wrestle God, knowing we can wrestle with God, being able to wrestle with God is part of what it truly means for us to be the children, friends of God.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
My Strong Father, You are the only author and sustainer of my soul. Lord, I thank You for the measure of strength that You give. You embolden me with courage and cause me to stand upright. I am so grateful for Your presence in my life. In all of life, may I turn to You for an increase in these qualities. Keep me from looking within myself or to sources other than You. I thank You in the name of the Son. Amen.