That night Jacob got up… and crossed the ford of the Jabbok… 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.” So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” – Genesis 32:22, 24-28, 30, NIV
Jacob wrestled with a heavenly opponent all night long and was commended and rewarded as daylight broke over the Jabbok. His reward: the gift of a new identity. He was told, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel.” To the understanding heart, that statement is pregnant with significance. It demonstrates the readiness of God to grant new identity and new dimensions of responsibility to those who refuse to give up, because “Israel” means “he struggles with God.”
This is not to suggest an earned reward, as though God relents to those who wrestle Him to the ground and force gifts from His hand. But it does indicate a truth which balances the great principles of grace and giving from God’s hand. God is looking for those who will move into partnership with Him in the struggle for mankind. He is searching for those who will grow up, who will lay hold of prayer responsibility, who will accept fundamental disciplines of the Jesus-life, who will give unselfishly, and who will speak openly.
In short, God rejoices in people who “hang in there” knowing it will make a difference in their world. True, persistence and diligence have nothing to do with our salvation. “White-knuckled religion” is totally removed from the reality of the Good News in Christ. We are accepted and beloved in Him wholly apart from our own works. You don’t get more saved by trying harder, and no “We Tried Harder” badges will appear in heaven. The sheer magnanimity of God’s grace and giving toward us explodes any ideology that suggests any deeds of yours or mine will improve anything about our position or acceptance with the eternal Father.
BUT. Big word. BUT – the party’s not over with the celebration of our protected and secured standing before Him. His desire is not only that we learn to receive His love, it is also that we learn to release His love. That’s where discipline, faithfulness, service, witness, giving, intercession, and general “persistence in things spiritual” come in.
The pathway to heaven is paved with gold, purchased in full through the Cross, and freely traversed by all who will come to God through Jesus Christ. But the pathways to the world—paths He prods us toward as ministers of His life, His power, His love, and mercy—are rocky, thorn-strewn, and uphill all the way.
You eventually come to the place where you must make a decision: Will I simply take heaven as God’s gift and receive His love solely as an individual . . . or will I take and receive all He offers and then—and then—give myself back for His use and His purposes?
A “yes” to the first question will not make you less loved, nor will a “yes” to the second question improve your status before God.
But a “yes” on number two will bring a reward. It is the dimension of fellowship with Christ the Lord that is known only to those who learn the real meaning of “bearing His cross.”
If that latter path tugs at your heart today, let me ask you to do two things: (1) PLEDGE YOURSELF to new levels of commitment in fasting, prayer, and intercession; (2) MINISTER. Where you are.., now. Reach. Touch. Love. Take hold of God and refuse to let go.
Let’s fulfill the destiny He redeemed us to know.
Copyright 2014 by Jack W. Hayford, Jack Hayford Ministries