I love the picture above. Having done a good bit of running myself, I am always amazed at people who keep at into their older years. My grandfather participated in the Senior Games into his 90s, winning speed walking events. That is the picture of determination.
In this series of posts we’ve been following the life of Jacob, a life marked by determination. We’re not finished with Jacob’s story just yet. Next week we’ll see him again, though we’ll be focusing on the life of one of his sons, Joseph. For now let’s think about some of the themes we saw in Jacob’s life to this point.
First, determination. Jacob showed his determination for the birthright, and then for the blessing, and then for wives, and for wealth. But all this was focused on his selfish desires. We saw Jacob’s life take twists and turns, and eventually his determination changed its focus toward God’s blessing. How did that happen? It was directly resulting from God stepping into his life, over and over. Therefore we could say that Jacob’s life is a story of God’s determination, God’s unrelenting passion for his promises. Yes, Jacob’s determination moves from selfishness to selflessness. Yes, Jacob moves from being a deceiver to a truth teller. He reconciles humbly with his brother, even at the great cost of herds of animals. But all of it is rooted in God’s determination for Jacob. God doesn’t give up on us!
Second, God uses faulty, broken, sinful people. We call this redemption. The genealogy of Jesus is littered with broken, sinful people. Jacob is one of them. When we first meet Jacob, he is not a virtuous hero. He is a sneaky, conniving, liar. He is an opportunist who is looking out only for himself. And yet God doesn’t give up on him. God is faithful to his promises, even when it seems Jacob is totally lost. In Jacob’s life, we see a specific example of one in whom God’s redemption brings a wonderful change from selfish, deceiving opportunist to a truthful, selfless worshiper of God. God wants no deception in our lives. We are to be people of truth, even when the truth will put us at a disadvantage. Are there ways you are being deceptive? On social media? At work? In school? Financially?
Thirdly, another lesson we learn from the story of God’s redemption of Jacob is that we can be so quick to write people off. Especially those that are not behaving well. Have you written people off in your life? Do you think God is done with them? I know it is so hard when they hurt you, and when they don’t change. It doesn’t mean you need to be best friends with them, even if you are in the same family, but don’t write them off. They could be so toxic that you need to separate yourself from them. But at the very least keep praying for them. They might be a Jacob in his selfish stage.
Finally, pray that God would bring them to the point where they would wrestle with God and not give up. That can apply to all of us. Do we wrestle with God? How does one wrestle with God? Prayer is key. I think of the parable in Luke 18 where Jesus taught his disciples to pray and not give. He said that wrestling in prayer is like a lady who goes to a judge to get some justice in a situation in her life, and the judge won’t hear her case. But the lady keeps coming back. Every day. Nonstop. Until finally the Judge says in frustration, “Lady, you are wearing me out! I’ll hear your case.” We need to pray like that. Pray and don’t give up. Wrestle with God. Be honest before him.
For one of my seminary classes this fall, I have to do an assessment on a ministry, so I asked Love INC of Lancaster if I could assess their ministry, and they agreed. One of their primary ministries is like a Christian Uber that connects church volunteers to people in need, driving them where they need to go, usually medical appointments. I met with their director Kim Wittel this past week, and she told me the story of one of their clients, a lady who had a very grumpy personality. This particular lady needed a ride to a medical appointment, so one of their partner churches had a volunteer who drove the lady to an appointment. The driver began taking this lady to more appointments, even though the client was rather grumpy to the driver. Little by little the driver learned that this lady had more needs, including food. So the driver and a friend would bring her food. The grumpy lady would respond that she didn’t like it and it tasted bad. But the driver persisted in love. As time went by the Lord broke through, and the grumpy lady admitted some horrible experiences she had in the past. Eventually she agreed to talk with the pastor of the church, and the lady gave her life to Christ. Sadly her medical condition worsened, but on her death bed she was not only baptized, but also volunteered to lead a prayer thanking God for all he had done in her life. God is persistent like that!