October 16, 2016
Text: Genesis 32:22-31
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
The Kingdom of God is in the Midst of You
As I read the 121’s Psalm, it reminds me of someone’s private journal or diary- of someone
wrestling with their thoughts and feelings. Wondering what to do or what to say, they go for a
walk in the hill country searching for answers- and looking up to the surrounding hills he cries
out from the depths of his heart: “Who can give me the wisdom and help I long for and need?”
Even before he had he spoken those words, he knew the answer: “my help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth- and if he can create the heavens and the earth- he is surely able to
When we wrestle with circumstances, when we wrestle with answers to our questions- may I
suggest that we often already know the way in which we should go? Perhaps it is not the
questions we are wrestling with, but God Himself? God is not our adversary- He is our very
present help in times of trouble. The kingdom of God is here- in the midst of us. Pray.
In this morning’s, Old Testament reading, we get a glimpse into the life of an ambitious young
man by the name of Jacob. His name means “scoundrel” and his story is one of deception and
stealing. But it is also the story of God’s redeeming grace- who though hates the sin, He loves the
sinner and will never let us go.
One day, his brother Esau came home ravenously hungry from hunting all day. He was so hungry
that he would give anything to satisfy his hunger. And Jacob took advantage of him and traded a
bowl of porridge for his birthright- and then later, Jacob deceived his father into thinking he was
Esau and received his father’s blessing in Esau’s place.
Esau’s mistake is a wake-up call for us today. As Christians we need to be vigilant in guarding
the truths of the bible-and not be tempted even for a moment to exchange it for the approval of
Now, years later, Jacob had received word that his brother Esau was on his way to meet him.
What could he want from me but revenge? Jacob must have thought. So he sent a messenger on
ahead with gifts- hoping that his estranged brother would turn around and go home. But the
messenger returned with news that Esau was on his way with 400 men.
Now Jacob was really nervous-and quickly made a plan. He divided all his possessions along
with the people with him and sent them in opposite directions. As night fall approached, Jacob
said goodbye to his family sent them and his remaining possessions across the river. As he
watched them disappear in the darkness, he was overcome with a deep sense of loneliness and fear of what was to come in the morning. As he wrestled with what he should do, the bible says a man began to wrestle with him until morning. As the first rays of sunlight broke through the darkness, the man told him to let him go- but Jacob refused without first being blessed.
Jacob wanted to know who the man was he had been wrestling with and asked him his name. But
Jacob knew in his heart that it was God who had wrestled with him. That night- Jacob had come
face to face with God and had not only persevered, but blessed through the struggle. When we come to God in prayer- what we are doing is coming face to face with the living God.
Meeting God face to face is a brutally honest encounter- and knowing we can hide nothing from God, we are free to tell him our questions and fears as well as our praises and thanksgivings.
“Search me and know me” the Psalmist wrote- “and know my heart- try me and know my thoughts- and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Whenever I feel deeply about something and don’t know what to do- I sometimes say that I am “wrestling with it.” And I’m wondering if it isn’t really God wrestling with me to teach me something about myself and about who God is so that I know what is the right thing to do. If I would be honest with myself, many times I already know what is the right thing to do and my wrestling is a way of looking for a way I can rationalize or spiritualize a way out without facing the core issue- and that is, can I trust God?
God could have put Jacob down in a moment- stopping it before it even started- but God knew that there is much to be learned through a good wrestle one on one. When we wrestle with God, we are not wrestling an adversary- but a coach. It would not only teach Jacob of God’s power, but of God’s patience and love as well- and he would come away blessed as a result. It also taught Jacob to never let go of God- even in the struggles of life. When we wrestle with God, we need to remember we are not wrestling with an adversary, but with a coach who cares about us.
That brings us to the gospel reading for this morning. In it, Jesus tells a parable of the need to always pray and to not lose heart. Jesus
If we are to understand the context of today’s gospel reading, it would be good if we first wentback a few verses to the middle of chapter 17 where Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when theycould expect the kingdom of God to come. Jesus told them that the kingdom of God is already inthe midst of them (meaning Himself). With all the turmoil and unrest in the world today, thatsame question is asked more and more today.“Like a flash of lightening that lights up the whole sky, so will be the glory and power of Godcome one day” Jesus said- “But before that happens, I must suffer many things and be rejectedby men.” But even before that happens- the kingdom of God is here with us now- not sometimein the future or someplace far off- but in the midst of us now.I wonder if the disciples- or us today- grasp the significance and truth of that statement. It isimportant for us to remember- especially in the heat of the battle- that the kingdom of God iswith us now. We are not alone- God is with us- and he will be our rock and our shield regardlessof what we might experience in life.
It is here that today’s lesson begins- with Jesus telling a parable about our need to pray always
and not lose heart. “In a certain city” Jesus began- “there was a judge who neither feared God or
respected people. And in the same village, there was a widow who kept coming to him and
asking him to give her justice against her opponent. She kept asking him until he got tired of her
asking until he granted her justice.”
Jesus then made the point that if a judge who cares nothing about God or people can grant
requests, how much more will God who cares and loves you will give to those who cry night and
day to him for justice.
So are we to pray once and then leave it there at Jesus feet never to mention it again? Or are we
to prevail with constant prayer? Certainly God does not need our reminding- it is we who need
the reminding of God’s faithfulness- and the more we come face to face with God in prayer the
more we are reminded of God’s love for us and that He knows best.
With that in mind, I believe the bible teaches us the need to leave our prayers at the foot of Jesus
but also to prevail with constant prayer- for they are really one and the same in the context of
mutual love for each other- knowing God to be a God who wants the best for us and invites us to
tell Him the desires of our hearts- while at the same time, surrendering it all to His sovereign
wisdom to answer our prayers in the way He chooses and when.
We come to a prayer meeting to meet people with the same concerns- the same love for others.
We come not only as friends- but brothers and sisters in the Lord. We come of our own free will-
not because we have to- but because we want to-We come to meet God face to face- sometimes
silently, sometimes crying out from the depths of our hearts-and there face to face with a holy
and merciful God, we lay hold of Him as He lays hold of us and we come away blessed because
of it. Blessed by the name of the Lord. Amen.