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Have you ever heard of “middle child” syndrome? It’s the “won’t take NO for an answer”-kind of attitude that some middle children or second born kids exhibit, spurred on by always having to fight a little bit harder than their older siblings. It’s also a feeling I know personally. Why? Because I’m a second born child. I had an older brother. I always felt like I had to approach life with a little bit more cunning and fight than my brother had.
It turns out, I’m not alone! You might remember the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau, the sons of Isaac. Esau, the first son, was a born leader who had the clear favor of his father. Jacob, born second, was an underdog in every way but one: his cunning. And it was that cunning that came into play when, one day, he disguised himself as Esau, and stole his birthright – a one-time-only blessing given by their father Isaac.
Esau was furious, and vowed to punish Jacob. Years later, he made good on it – chasing Jacob until his back was up against a wall. Jacob stayed up all night, trying to think his way out of the situation, when something strange happened: an angel visited him. But instead of welcoming this stranger, Jacob fought him!
Scripture tells us that he wrestled with the angel all night long, refusing to yield until the angel gave him a blessing. Finally, as day was breaking, the angel reached out and dislocated Jacob’s hip. But even then, Jacob wouldn’t let go. He fought through the pain, and wouldn’t let the angel go until he blessed him. The angel relented, blessing Jacob and changing his name to Israel, which means, “he who struggles with God.”
What I love most about this story is how Jacob channeled his fighting spirit and turned it into something that allowed him to literally cling to our Lord. It’s a spirit that has inspired me countless times. Why? Because choosing the incarnational life offered by Christ is hard sometimes! Sometimes, our “grip” on Christ can slip. Paul described it like this: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15 NIV)
No one said our life as Christians would be easy. Jesus himself warned and prayed about the difficulties we would experience. But at the same time, we know (by Jacob’s example) that we can fight to receive God’s blessing. Energy and discipline and exertion is not required because God does not want to bless us, but because there are obstacles between us and God that prevent us from receiving what God has to give us. Jesus has actually made provision for us, offering us a share of his own sanctifying power and presence by his Word and Spirit. As we seek Christ with that fighting spirit, pushing aside every obstacle, we will find that he is faithful to reach us.
I pray that as you’re spending time with the Lord this week, that you would remember Jacob and cling to the Lord, seeking him with the kind of fervency and strength that refuses to let go. Remembering his example, we can count on our Lord to be faithful to meet us and transform us from Jacob into Israel, from the old into a new creation—finding renewed life in him.
I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of LIFE.