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The Wrestlers

• Greg Boyd

God wants His people to wrestle with Him on the things that happen in their life. He wants His people to ask “Who are you, God?” Following the story of Jacob, we are called as Christ followers to struggle, strive, and seek to know who God is. We must also not be afraid of struggling with deep questions.

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During Christmas time, many people can be seen struggling. Whether wrestling with God about faith issues or with a job change, Christmas brings out these struggles as people celebrate with family and friends. However, some people shy away from this wrestling with God because they believe it shows a lack of faith. This reminds us of the story of Jacob and how he wrestled with God.

In Genesis 32, we see the story of Jacob wrestling with God. This is an odd and beautiful story. It is clear from the passage that Jacob was wrestling God, yet, the text says that God couldn’t overpower Jacob. Jacob demands a blessing, and he is renamed by God to Israel which means one who strives with God or God strives. This leads us to the distinctive feature of God’s people—they wrestle with God and God wrestles with them. Some of this wrestling is due to a negative connotation of sin, but some of this wrestling has a positive connotation.

Some theology wants to not wrestle with God. If something is theologically tough to figure out, some might say it is easier to call it a mystery. A topic that seems to contradict itself will easily find itself in the mystery pile. Yet, the authors of the Bible don’t throw everything in the mystery pile. We see in the stories of Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Job, and others that people shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when it seems that God is acting out of character. Not only is it ok when we wrestle with God, but we’re supposed to wrestle with God.

One of the main pitches of some Christians today is that they have all the answers. They say that if one will only follow Jesus, then they will be free from struggles, worry, and pain. They think that wrestling with God, having questions or doubt, is a lack of faith. However, wrestling with God is a sign of faith.

Faith is a covenantal term that means trust and a pledge of trustworthiness. God is in relationship with His people. This relationship doesn’t avoid all conflict, but instead has the integrity and trust to confront conflict. When we study the Bible, we see that God doesn’t have this relationship with other nations. We don’t read about them struggling with God and confronting God’s character. Instead, they either don’t care about God or they simply accept whatever is said about God. God loves when His people wrestle with Him and goes so far as to commend it when He sees it.

In the book of Job, Job goes through some really rough stuff. He loses his land, his health, and his family. The book centers around the discussion that Job has with his friends as they attempt to give him answers to his pain and suffering. Job disagrees with their answers, and he wrestles with God as to why he is suffering. At the end of the book, God commends Job for this wrestling and struggle. God doesn’t agree with Job on some of his theology, and Job repents of this. Yet, God says that Job was the right one in all of the discussions, even if his friends had some of the answers right. Job spoke “straight” about the situation, and that is why God commended him.

This type of honest communication with God and honest theology about God is what He seeks from His followers. God doesn’t want fluff. He doesn’t want followers who don’t question what goes on around them. He wants honesty, and He wants us to express ourselves truthfully. We should embrace the conflict and keep the conversation open, with God and with others. This can bring a profound sense of peace in the midst of struggling, because we know that God struggles with us. This New Year, why not resolve to be honest with what you are thinking and feeling? Resolve to become a wrestler in the New Year and see what God shows you.

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Topics: Conflict, Faith, Prayer

Sermon Series: Faith and Doubt

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Focus Scripture:

  • Genesis 32:24-30

    So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
    But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
    The man asked him, “What is your name?”
    “Jacob,” he answered.
    Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
    Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
    But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
    So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

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9 thoughts on “The Wrestlers

  1. I was challenged this past Sunday with this message about seeking Him more with “everyday” questions and encouraging others to do the same. Thanks!!

  2. kevin sandidge says:

    What i term as “divine coincidences” has once again come my way. This timely message that Greg, through obedience to the spirit, preached “for such a time as this” and has absolutely coincided with an email essay portion that another one of my spiritual fathers sent me recently. First, i listened to the wrestler message and just now, many hours later, i read my daily email from “pastor bob”. please read the essay portion(the last portion) and see, along with me, the “divine coincidence” of which i mentioned. Thank you Jesus for confirmation of your continuing Word:

    A Missing Element, #13


    And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

    God gives authority to Satan, to Antichrist.

    And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. (Revelation 13:7)

    It is useless for the believer to rage at the sin in the world or the hindrances in his own life. God is in control of all matters. God never causes anyone to sin. It is the lawlessness that is born in us that is the occasion for our troubles.

    We are encouraged when we understand that the wrestling match will have a conclusion. God through Christ shall crush Satan under the feet of the saints as soon as their obedience has been fulfilled. Then the saints will possess the Kingdom of God. It is not that the saints merely will enter the Kingdom, it is that they will possess it, inherit it, own it.

    It pleases God to do all things through Christ. It pleases the Lamb to do all things through His saints, His Bride. All authority in Heaven and on the earth is to be given to the saints as soon as their judgment has been completed.

    The saints will judge the world. The saints will judge angels. The saints will sit on the highest throne with the Lord Jesus. The saints will be given the keys of the Kingdom, the authority to permit people to enter the Kingdom of God, and also to withhold the Kingdom and eternal life from people-a dreadful authority indeed!

    Before such terrible authority and power are given to the saints they first must be tested in every conceivable manner. This is why the Lord’s saints have suffered through the centuries.

    Satan’s days are numbered. The Lord’s conquerors will take the Kingdom and rule to the ages of ages.

    But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. (Daniel 7:26,27) (from A Missing Element)

  3. Stephanie says:

    OUTSTANDING! I’m sending this to many of my friends. This is exactly what I needed to hear coming into this new year!!!

  4. Anthony says:

    This was sent to me by my friend Stephanie.
    I’m not sure how she knew i needed to see this message, but i am ever grateful of the blessing that was delivered through her and or her thoughtfulness. I am a wrestler with God at times! I have had many questions that i have presented and often felt as if i my heart was NOT faithful because of it. I have also felt and believed that blessings will be held back because they were only for the truest of Christians with the purest of faith. Because i question does it mean i do not believe or have faith in my God? No. It means i want to understand Him. When I’m in doubt i seek to Him for the answers, even when having lack of faith, i seek my faith to grow through Him. From this message i can begin to accept this as being ok with the only one who matters….. My Lord! And the best part is, that i no longer have to feel as though i am unworthy of His blessings because of it, and possibly blocking them due to these unjust beliefs.
    Thank you for this Gift!

  5. Rosemary says:

    There are so many questions, and on most days I feel like my faith in hanning on by a string. I have so many more questions than i do answers, and trusting in God is not an easy task for me. Belief and Faith are a daily struggle. Thank you for this message as it encourages me to continue my rough journey through this life to find some sort of peace and understanding.

  6. Jessica says:

    What is a healthy way to wrestle with God? And, what is a healthy way to respond to someone when they have questions? My husband has serious doubts about the Bible and about Jesus. He has some really good questions and sometimes I just don’t know what to say. Could it be that men just wanted to start a revolution and embellished much of the gospels?

  7. Beka says:

    @ Jessica,
    I think you have some great questions, and want to encourage you. When your husband starts asking you things, and you don’t know what to say – that’s all right! Encourage him to continue seeking and asking those questions. It’s ok! I recently went through a very long and very dark period of doubting and questioning. My husband was always so patient with me, and none of my questions ever frightened him. That (I believe) is a reflection of God’s reaction when we question Him. He is honored when we seek and pursue a deeper understanding of Him. Don’t you love it when your kids ask you things about how the world works, and why? It can get annoying, but I think that’s how God created us – to seek and want to understand and know. I think that’s why God said to have a child-like faith – we should question, and hunger for more understanding, but always come back to an innocent recognition that God is so much greater – and that’s ok. 🙂 It’s really very beautiful – even when it is frightening because you may feel like you’re losing your faith – just hold on. God is holding you – even when you can’t feel it.
    One other thing – don’t trust your FEELINGS. They are not truth. God’s word is. Wrestle with your feelings, it’s okay to have them, God did make them, but don’t believe them when they go against the truth of God (ex: I can’t feel God, He must have left me. Scripture says: “I will never leave you nor forsake you”.) Hold on to truth.
    Faith does not exist without doubt. Faith is knowing that God can, and hoping that He will. Hold on to HOPE.

  8. Steph says:

    This was JUST what I needed.
    So happy you have archives available online!

  9. Joe Terpend says:

    I have been a Christian for over 35 years and this has to be one of the best messages I have ever heard. Thank you Greg.

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