The Contender

the-contender

Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT) A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

“Every great champion was once a contender who refused to give up.” (Rocky Balboa) Even though the legendary wrestler is just a fictional character, these words ring true in life. To be a champion requires overcoming opposition. You cannot win if you do not participate. You cannot overcome if you do not contend. We must be strong in the Lord and His Mighty Power. After serving the Lord for more than a decade, it is still a struggle sometimes to stay the course and fight the good fight. To contend means to compete for the prize, to strive and draw tough. It is to stretch and be stretched. We wrestle in life with our flesh and an unseen adversary every single day. The good fight of faith is truly nothing more than a wrestling match. The enemy cannot harm God’s People. There is never a punch or death blow. It is all about submission. Wrestling is the assertion of power where the goal is submission. In a fight, there are punches thrown but in wrestling it is all about grappling. To grapple is to hold fast to something. It means to seize one another in a close encounter trying to overcome the other. It is to come to grips with. It means to secure. We are in the process of finding and securing our faith in the Lord. It is a daily process that is wrestled. We are contenders pursing a champion.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

For most of the night, I tossed and turned wrestling throughout the night. It is not so much important what the situation is but only to say that I am right there with you. Life as a Christian is not boring, that’s for sure. Every day there are choices. Life and death are achieved moment by moment, day by day, and season by season. One gives way to another and so on and so on. There are days that I cannot catch my breath. We are surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses to this life we live. We must strip off the weight that slows us down and the sin that trips us up without falling. We must run with endurance even when breathless and tired with a broken or hurting heart. Our only hope is to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ the Champion who initiated and perfected our faith on the Cross. He did it for the joy that awaited Him. He finds joy in us. We must consider the hostility that the Lord endured to understand that it is not uncommon to the faithful and should be expected along the way. We must not grow weary. We can never give up.

Genesis 32:22-32 (NLT) During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions. This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. (Even today the people of Israel don’t eat the tendon near the hip socket because of what happened that night when the man strained the tendon of Jacob’s hip.)

Jacob had taken family across the Jabbok River. He had also taken all of his possessions. Everything he owned and loved was on the other side. He had sent a gift to his brother, Esau, in the hope that his brother would forgive him and accept his family into his homeland. Remember Jacob had tricked his brother out of his birthright and stolen his father’s blessing. Jacob had wrestled his whole life to be first. Even in the womb before they were born – Jacob wrestled.

Jacob was alone when the Lord came to him that night and they wrestled. Grappling with God – Jacob would not let go until the Lord blessed Him. His whole life was spent fighting for satisfaction and fulfillment that could only come from His Creator. Up until that moment, this was the God of Abraham not Jacob. In verse 27, the “man” asked Jacob what his name was. Jacob replied. The Lord told him that would no longer be his name but now he would be called “Israel.” Why? Because you fought with God and men and have won. This is very important that we understand the struggle. To know what we are after. The struggle is real and so is the satisfaction to be found.

Jacob could have walked away just knowing who he was in God and God’s Plan but that was not enough for him. He asked, “Please tell me your name.” “Why do you want to know my name?” And then the Lord blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place “Peniel” which means “face of God.” It is not enough to know who we are in Christ. We must contend, grapple and wrestle with our self, mankind and even God until we know who He is. Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face…”

Have you seen God face to face? Do you know who you are in Christ? Do you know the Living God? It is not enough to know of Him but to contend until He is our Champion. If you feel alone, do not fret it is by design. If your resources are dwindling, it is not the case. The Lord is providing us with an opportunity during times of isolation and restriction to wrestle with, contend for and grapple which means to hold fast to something. What about faith? It is so small but must become the foundation of our life. How is this achieved other than removing all that could hinder us, distract us or dissuade us from grabbing hold of the Lord and hanging on until His Word comes to pass in our life. God has a new name for you today. One that cannot be attained by anyone but you. It is for you. Are you willing to hang on until He blesses you with it? We must contend to obtain the championship. Our Champion is Jesus.

One thing to note before moving on is that Jacob now Israel would never be the same. In the battle, his hip was touched and he walked with a limp. I wonder sometimes if this was a blessing to the man so that his pride would remain in check. No longer could he depend on his flesh but now relied solely on the Lord. Once we wrestle with the Lord and are blessed, it should be understood that we will never ever be the same from that day.

Matthew 16:13-19 (NLT) When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

I believe this passage describes the real struggle for Christians. It is believing. Throughout the New Testament it is noted that there were disciples who did not believe. Jesus asked the disciples, who do the people say that I am? Then He asked the disciples who do you say that I am. It was one man who stepped up and said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” It was to that one man that Jesus gave His Blessing. What about the other eleven? Peter submitted his life to Jesus Christ and Jesus gave him His Blessing and His Name along with all the power and authority it held.

When I woke up this morning, it felt as though I had been fighting all night. Not physically but emotionally and spiritually. Perhaps, I had. I believe in Jesus Christ. I trust His Word. I have experienced His Goodness and Glory in my life. Yet daily I must grapple and wrestle with His Presence in my life. What happened with Jacob and then Peter is submission. They each submitted their life to Christ and each was given a new name. Our new name comes with divine purpose and power shared only with those who seek to know God through His Son, Jesus Christ. To know God requires submission. We must submit and leave our pride behind. Jacob’s pride including his wives, children and resources were on the other side. God had blessed Jacob already but that was not enough. Jacob had to know Him more. Peter would still struggle. The rooster would still crow three times broadcasting Peter’s denial and defeat. However, his declaration on that day would create a bond with the Lord that did not allow Jesus to leave his disciple as he was but come to him on the beach after His Resurrection. (John 21) The man who walked briefly with Jesus on the water didn’t care about a miracle or sign but just wanted the Lord diving into the water and he swam to shore. Later as they were talking Jesus reminded Peter who he was. Peter believed. He changed history because of his belief in Jesus Christ. Will you? Will I?

Revelation 2:17 (NLT) “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.

God’s Plan and Purpose for our life is personal. It comes through a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. We must know Him. We must believe. We will wrestle to do so most of our natural life. It says in Hosea 12:3-6 that Jacob’s wrestling began in the womb. It will continue throughout our existence as life offers us an easier way. I would rather wrestle with God and receive His Blessing than spend the rest of my life as I am. I don’t want to just contend but live life as a champion. God offers this to us as His Children. We must accept our new name and strive to know Him in every possible way. If you feel lonely today, do not resist. Seek His Face. If you are struggling, it is really just grappling so hang on to His Promise it is coming to pass. We do not wrestle with people or problems, but each time it is the opportunity to know Him more overcoming unseen adversaries and staying strong in His Mighty Power. Struggling, wrestling, and grappling with our faith in God creates opportunities to be blessed and know Him more.

“No one understands except the one who receives it.” This is vital in our understanding of God and His Ways. His Pursuit of us is personal. He wants to get us alone. When I give in to God, my soul is satisfied which means that He must first remove all substitutions and counterfeits that I have chosen for comfort. Tossing and turning shakes up the stuff and causes us to inspect the contents of our life. If it is Jesus Christ we want and the One who we truly desire – then to meet Him face to face means we must be ready to contend – after all He is our Champion.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT) Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

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