You’ve gotten pretty good at pretending. You can fake it everywhere you go. You may even have your family convinced you are this incredibly strong person who can take anything and do whatever it takes to make a way.
You paste a smile on your face and make out everything is alright, but it’s not. You have everyone believing that your life is great. But aren’t you tired of acting like it’s all okay? Tired of pretending you have it all together? Tired of trying to do all this on your own!
You don’t have to anymore!
God is patiently waiting for you to surrender everything to Him. He has orchestrated events and circumstances in your life to bring you to this very moment. You can’t know God can, until you realize you can’t.
Recall the story of Jacob, someone who was great at pretending too. Jacob was crafty, always scheming and plotting out everything to his own advantage. He did what he had to do to make a way for himself. Jacob looked out for number one!
Have you ever resorted to manipulating people and circumstances all for your own benefit?
The truth is we are all guilty of it to some extent!
Jacob played the game and was really good at it. Waiting for the right moment when Esau would be desperate, Jacob cunningly steals Esau’s birthright. Then Jacob tricks his feeble father, Isaac, into blessing him as the first born, instead of Esau.
But something happened in the life of Jacob. A transition takes place and Jacob will never be the same. Jacob goes from being the deceiver, always looking out for himself, to Israel, a prince of God, totally sold out and surrendered to God’s will.
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
This journey of transition in the life of Jacob begins in Beersheba which means well of the oath. It’s the place where Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, makes an oath and calls on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. Beersheba is where the Lord appears unto Isaac, Jacob’s father, and says “. . . fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake” (Genesis 26:24). Isaac builds an altar there in Beersheba and calls upon the name of the Lord.
Jacob finds himself in Beersheba because of his father and grandfather. However, Jacob has yet to have his own personal experience with God. His concept of God is based entirely on the experience of his family.
What about you? Have you experienced the Lord for yourself, or do you call yourself a Christian because of your upbringing? Do you attend church because you hunger for the things of God, or are you just trying to appease your loved ones?
You will never have your own personal experience with God if you stay in Beersheba. Even though you are comfortable and everything is familiar, you are in a dangerous position. If you are content to cling to the coattails of someone else . . . if you stay in Beersheba and never experience God for yourself . . . then the devil will surely destroy you. You must know God personally!
Jacob has stolen all of Esau’s blessings. If Jacob stays in Beersheba, Esau will surely kill him. Under the advice of his mother, Jacob leaves Beersheba.
In Genesis 28, Jacob comes to a place and makes a bed for the night.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
The first thing God tells Jacob is I am the God of your fathers. God didn’t say: Jacob, I am your God. Jacob had yet to experience God for himself. Jacob had to rely on his forefather’s experiences.
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.
17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
When Jacob woke up he was shaken to the core because he had been in the presence of Almighty God. What a dreadful place!
There are times we all need a little shaking. We need experiences that cause us to tremble in reverential fear of a Holy God. Experiences that drive us to seek and hunger for more of God. You can’t go any further with God until you are unsatisfied with where you are right now.
By providence, God sent Jacob out of Beersheba just so he could meet with him personally.
18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
Jacob was so impressed with the presence of God that he consecrates and names the place Bethel, or house of God.
20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
Now Jacob has more than just a knowledge of God, but a personal encounter with God. Jacob meets this God of his fathers and makes a vow to Him.
You must have your own Bethel experience . . . your own altar . . . your own relationship with God.
However, even the Bethel experience carries with it certain temptations and dangers.
Bethel was a wonderful place where Jacob saw and experienced something of the presence of God. But Bethel isn’t a place that you come in and out of. Bethel is an experience that must go with you. You must keep moving forward in your journey with God. No matter how spiritually profound it is, you can’t survive on a single experience.
After his Bethel encounter, Jacob goes on to build a life for himself . . . still operating in his flesh . . . still self-seeking . . . still doing his own thing. In the house of Laban, Jacob acquires two wives, two concubines, and eleven children, not to mention a wealth of servants and livestock.
Is there anything wrong with building a life for yourself . . . starting a business or career . . . raising a family . . . purchasing a home and property . . . making profitable investments? At this point you might be thinking Jacob is just living the dream.
Yes, Jacob overcame some challenges and prospered, but what he accomplished and acquired was all in vain. Jacob had a spiritual experience, met God, and made a vow, but still had not fully surrendered. Jacob was still working for Jacob!
God was bringing Jacob to something more than just a single spiritual experience at Bethel. You can’t be useful to God if you are dwelling on yesterday’s blessing. Bethel isn’t the final destination, but just part of the journey.
God spoke to Jacob in a dream:
13 I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.
Now God is not just the God of Jacob’s fathers, but the God of Bethel where Jacob made his vow.
Jacob obeys God. He heads back to Canaan, the land of his kindred, and comes to a river.
In Genesis 32, Jacob knows he must face his brother Esau.
22 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok.
23 And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had.
After sending messengers ahead with gifts to appease Esau, Jacob also sends his wives, his concubines, his children, and all his possessions ahead to cross over the river Jabbok.
24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
For once in his life, Jacob is at his wits end, the place where God has wanted him.
Jacob is tired of trying to outsmart Esau. Jacob is at a place where he has nothing left . . . a place where Jacob is willing to admit he needs help. You can’t know God is your supply until you have run out of your own resources.
26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
It’s hold on for dear life, or let Esau destroy you! Jacob is determined and holds on until God blesses him.
27 And [God] said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
God knew Jacob’s name, but Jacob needed reminding. Yes, you are Jacob the deceiver . . . the one who manipulates and gets things done his way. But that’s about to change!
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
Like Jacob, you and I must come to Jabbok, a place of change: not just a name change, but a change of identity.
The word Jabbok means emptying, since the river flowed down and emptied into the Jordan. You must empty yourself of all that you are so that God can fill you with all that He is. Don’t try to understand it! Just surrender all control!
Some things you can’t figure out yourself; you just have to trust God to intervene.
When doctors don’t have a cure . . . when counselors don’t have the answer . . . when all hope is exhausted . . . it is then you have no choice but to rely on God to work it all out.
29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
Peniel means the face of God. Jacob met God face to face! Can you even imagine?
31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.
32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank.
This was no dream! Jacob would bear the proof for the rest of his life. Living as a cripple was a constant reminder of Jacob’s weakness, and God’s power . . . a reminder of Jacob’s wretchedness, and God’s mercy. Although crippled, Jacob was finally surrendered.
Jacob, now Israel, was totally sold out to God’s will. After his Peniel experience, no longer relying on his self, Israel leaned on God alone. Israel was a new person, solely trusting the authority of God’s word, and depending on God’s promise and provision.
It didn’t mean Israel would no longer struggle with temptations or trials. Throughout the rest of his life, Israel would constantly battle with his old Jacob nature.
What about you? Have you been like a Jacob, not wanting to relinquish control?
The truth is we all have a Jacob inside of us. Our old nature is always looking for an edge . . . a way to do things in our own flesh.
However, after Jacob’s Peniel experience, Israel’s mind was made up to live for God no matter what. Jacob’s spirit was forever blessed. At the end of his life, still crippled, Jacob worshipped God and died in perfect peace leaning upon his staff (Hebrews 11:21).
Where are you on your journey with the Lord?
Wherever you are, God wants to bring you to this place of Peniel. If you want to reach this point of surrender where you no longer live for you, cry out to the Lord right now.
God, I can’t do this on my own! I need you to take control of my life! My hopes and dreams have been shattered. All my plans have failed, and I am out of options. I have nothing left but you!
Go ahead and declare your dependence on God and you will be well on your way to the next phase of your journey! The place where Jesus is your everything!
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Jesus was distressed? Really?
But that doesn’t make sense. Jesus could have called on a host of angels at any moment to minister to Him. All hell trembles at the whisper of His name. How could Jesus be distressed?
The following verses indicate Jesus was in anguish about something.
37And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
38Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
Jesus is so concerned about what’s going to take place. He pleads with His disciples to stay awake, watch and pray.
42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
Jesus is in such agony that He pleads with the Father . . . Is there some other way?
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.
You can hear the desperation in His plea . . . Father, save me from this hour!
Why would the soul of the guiltless, sinless Son of God be so troubled? Why was Jesus so distressed?
Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane about to be betrayed and given over to the Roman authorities. He would face public humiliation and ridicule to its fullest extent. Jesus would be brutally tortured and die a cruel death on a cross, condemned by the people he loved so much.
Was it man’s rejection that caused Jesus such anguish?
This was nothing new. From the very start, in the Garden of Eden, man had been rejecting God. It was no different when Jesus came to the earth. Jesus was born into a world of rejection. As a baby, Herod sought to kill him. Later on He would be rejected by society: especially the intellectuals, the leaders of the law, the religious leaders, and even His own family. Anyone who so much as even spoke the name of Jesus would be thrown out of the synagogue. Jesus told His disciples “. . . [the world] hated me without a cause” (John 15:25). Yet Jesus never expressed despair over man’s rejection. Why would He start now?
Was it a fear or dread of the suffering and death that He was about to experience?
Jesus healed and delivered many people from torment, sickness, and disease. Why would he be afraid of suffering? This same Jesus had raised people from the dead. He stood outside of the tomb of Lazarus and commanded death to let go. Even after 4 days in the grave, Lazarus came forth alive and well. How could Jesus, who had already defied death, be terrified of it? It doesn’t make sense to believe Jesus was concerned about physical suffering and death.
Was it an impending attack of satan that led Jesus to such agony?
Satan was an adversary, but not one Jesus hadn’t already encountered. Approximately, three years earlier, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Jesus faced His enemy without so much as a flinch. Later Jesus would cast out and command legions of demons to flee. Jesus merely whispered the Word and satan buckled. Jesus knows who the devil is and what he’s made of. Jesus was there and witnessed the day when satan was cast out of heaven. I don’t think Jesus was at all concerned about any attack the devil might launch against Him.
Jesus had demonstrated His authority . . . healing all manner of sickness and disease, conquering death, and even commanding the winds and waves. Every demon and the devil himself trembled at the mention of the name—Jesus!
So why was the Son of God so distressed?
I submit to you that the cause of such grief and anguish experienced by Jesus was much more severe than any of these mentioned . . . more severe than any human will ever face.
God’s word reveals the very source of what was breaking the heart of Jesus.
6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
10Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put [him] to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see [his] seed, he shall prolong [his] days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Isaiah 53:6, 10 (Emphasis Mine)
Jesus was in such turmoil because He was about to assume a new and terrible position!
For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (Emphasis Mine)
Jesus was about to become someone totally out of His character—a sinner! Jesus would take on the very thing He despised—sin! God placed my sins, your sins, and the sins of all humanity on the charge of Jesus Christ.
Jesus agonized because He knew He was about to stand before His Holy Father as a vile, sinful creature. Jesus, the One who longed to please His Father, would become the epitome of disobedience.
Jesus, the guiltless, sinless one, would become the epicenter for all of Heaven’s wrath and vengeance. He who knew no sin would bear all the punishment and blame for our sin! As if this wasn’t enough for Jesus to bear, Isaiah 53:10 tells us it pleased God, the Father, to bruise His Own Son. God the Father took pleasure in the Son’s suffering!
If God is love, how could He be pleased with Jesus’ suffering?
The law demanded a sacrifice for sin. God, in love and mercy, gave Jesus to be the spotless lamb sacrificed for our sin. John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and said “. . . Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
So what does all this have to do with me?
Jesus suffered and died for me so the least I can do is surrender and live for Him. I think all Christians will agree Jesus is our perfect example. We would do well to follow closely in His footsteps. Whatever makes Jesus happy should make us happy. If there is anything that grieves His heart, it should hurt us as well.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was in such agony because He knew the consequences of sin! By becoming sin for us, Jesus would be separated from the Father.
Does it sicken you when your sin and disobedience create a divide between you and God, the Father?
Maybe you’re thinking . . . I’m not living in sin. I don’t have any “bad” sinful habits.
Sin is sin! Whether it’s just a little bit or a whole lot . . . whether it’s acted out or just in your thoughts, sin is still sin. Any amount of sin and disobedience can keep us from the Lord.
We are all human! Each and every one of us have sinned, and no matter how close we get to Jesus, we will still have the potential to sin. God knew we would make mistakes and stumble. We aren’t perfect! Before Christ we had no hope, but now we can come to the Father through the blood of Jesus Christ.
But this liberty shouldn’t be taken for granted. When God convicts your heart of sin, it should be dealt with right away. Don’t play games or flirt with sin! Like Jesus, anything that comes between you and the heavenly Father should painfully grieve your spirit.
Oh God search my heart today! If there is anything in my life that displeases you . . . even in my thoughts and motives, if anything displeases you Lord, reveal it to me. Put it under the blood that Jesus shed on Calvary. I don’t want anything to ever come between me and my God. Like Jesus, I want nothing more than to please my Heavenly Father. Is that your desire today?
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