Our roads through the wilderness will end at the throne, all in God’s time. –Iverna Tompkins, speaker and author
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:24-28 (ESV)
Young children love Winnie-the-Pooh and his faithful group of friends. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed Eeyore—that old, grey donkey who manages to find a pessimistic slant to every imaginable situation. If anyone could make a sunny day gloomy, it would be Eeyore. But in spite of his negative outlook on life, Eeyore has never ceased to be Pooh’s faithful companion.
In his famous survey of the heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11), the writer of Hebrews provides powerful insights into the nature of a New Covenant relationship with God. Intentionally focusing on the strengths of these great men and women of God, he seems to ignore the major character flaws that so many of them displayed.
A Biblical Eeyore
I sometimes think that the book’s author had a difficult time putting a positive spin on the life of Jacob—an Old Testament Eeyore if ever there was one. Jacob, the deceiver, managed to highlight the negative in every situation, expressing fear, far more than faith, in his outlook on life.
In stark contrast to his grandfather, Abraham, Jacob’s accolade in Hebrews 11:21 amounted to but one verse—and even that spoke of his death. And yet, somehow, Jacob is still mentioned as a hero of the faith, considered by many to be one of the great patriarchs of Israel. In fact, the very name Israel stems from Jacob’s wrestling match with God.
Jacob, a Hero of the Faith?
Rather than taking offense at Jacob’s inclusion in such an elite spiritual group, I find great solace. How comforting it is to know that God could take such a flawed person and leave such an amazing legacy. Not one of us is beyond hope!
When God grows spiritual champions, He never utilizes a rubber stamp of conformity. Instead, He meets every person where he or she happens to be at a given moment, carefully crafting a personalized plan—usually including a wilderness experience or two—for growth.
In the end, what makes such a champion is not a high level of ability or personal charisma. No, qualities such as faithfulness, courage, tenacity, and persistence serve as the raw materials from which our heavenly Father can produce a lasting legacy.
I am now convinced that Jacob deserves to be among the heroes of our faith—not simply because of his physical lineage, but because he laid hold of God and refused to let go. No one knew of his unworthiness more than Jacob himself; that doubt-ridden man was acutely aware of how far he fell short of his grandfather Abraham’s standard of faith and courage. Yet, in his own way, Jacob proved to be courageous.
Choosing not to disqualify himself because of his unworthiness, Jacob laid hold of God’s blessings and promises with an ironlike grip. Ironically, this pessimistic Eeyore has left footsteps in which we would do well to travel.
Personally, I hope that when all is dark and God appears to be absent, I will persist in the same way that Jacob did. When those around me become hardened, or turn aside to follow their own ways, I want to courageously march on in the things of God. I deeply desire to remain faithful to the One who is worthy of such faithfulness. Perhaps, when my time on this earth comes to an end, my life’s epitaph will say only: “He faithfully persisted.” That would be enough.
As we come to the end of our wilderness season together, I want to encourage you to faithfully and courageously persist in your pursuit of God, tenaciously laying hold of His faithful promises regardless of your personal shortcomings, or the state of the world around you.
In due season, you will emerge a champion in your own right, for there is no such thing as a great man or woman of God—only a great God who reveals His glory through weak and flawed human vessels. If God can cause His greatness to shine through Jacob’s flawed life, certainly He can do the same through yours and mine!
This post is drawn from Chapter Fifty-Two of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers
Eeyore photo by jdhancock: http://photos.jdhancock.com/photo/2012-08-12-125825-extreme-eeyore.html Creative Commons (cc BY 2.0) – Photo was cropped.