A. Sometimes great blessings come through great struggles.
1. When I was growing up, my mom's dad wanted nothing to do with the church.
a. He was respectful; I really think that he believed Scripture, but he just wouldn't
b. Then came that dreadful cancer diagnosis.
1) Papaw's overall health held on for a good while.
2) But, there came a point that his health began to fail him rapidly.
2. Then I got a call while I was walking home from the building-Papaw was obeying the
a. His attitude was vastly different before & after he obeyed the gospel-He wanted
to do right, he wanted to serve God in a new & different way.
b. Through the years, I've often thought how blessed Papaw was that he had received
1) He left us far too soon-he was only 69 when he left this world.
2) But, if he had left this world in some other way, he might never have obeyed
3) For Papaw, his cancer diagnosis was a transformative challenge.
B. Most all of us have faced transformative challenges.
1. Some ideas: Loss of job, loss of family members, some sin/struggle you've had to
2. We know God doesn't cause such difficulties.
a. He tempts no one to sin.
b. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be
tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man" (Js 1:13).
3. Yet, God uses difficulties in life to shape & to mold us.
a. "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them
who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28).
b. God uses our experiences as a way of shaping us into the people He needs us to be.
C. In this morning's text, God uses a struggle to shape Jacob into the patriarch He needed him
1. Jacob's not the best of men as we're introduced to him.
a. He tricks his brother into giving up his birthright (Gen 25:29-34).
b. Rebekah & Jacob trick Isaac into giving Jacob Esau's blessing (Gen 27:1-29).
c. In fact, the name "Jacob" means "heel."
1) In a literal sense, Jacob was named "heel," for he was holding Esau's heel
when they came from the womb.
2) In a figurative sense, we remember Jacob holding Esau's & usurping his older
brother all their lives.
2. But, Jacob's "Striving with God" is transformative & shapes Jacob's character.
a. He gets a new name-"Israel"-which points to his new identity. "Israel" means
"The one who strives with God."
b. When God instructs Jacob to build an altar & sacrifice, Jacob instructs his family to
put away their household gods (Gen 35:1-4).
c. Jacob dies with great faith. As he is blessing his sons, he inserts a prayer & says, "I
have waited for thy salvation, O LORD" (Gen 49:18).
D. As we get to our text, we learn an important lesson: "God will scar us in order to shape us."
1. God challenges Jacob in a big way in this text.
2. God will challenge us & will allow obstacles in our paths in order that we might be
shaped into different people.
A. vv 22-23:
1. Jacob & Esau are about to meet again after years of hostility.
2. Jacob sends his family on ahead of him.
a. That's a cowardly thing to do; Esau comes upon a delegation before he ever sees
b. Jacob is trying to warm his brother up before they meet (Gen 33:8).
B. v 24:
1. Jacob wrestled with a man all through the night.
2. Several interesting things:
a. God takes on the form of a man here.
1) The text says that Jacob wrestled with a man.
2) God would have needed to take human form in order to wrestle with Jacob.
b. God waits until Jacob is alone. Why?
1) If others were there, Jacob might have been able to call for help.
2) Striving with God is an intensely personal thing-Our relationship with God is
an intensely personal thing.
c. This wrestling match lasts until dawn-God isn't going to let Jacob off easy.
C. vv 25-26:
1. God sees that He isn't going to "win" this wrestling match, so He pulls Jacob's thigh
out of joint.
2. Amazing thing is that Jacob doesn't let go.
a. He had to have been in horrible pain.
b. Yet, he seems to have some knowledge that his wrestling partner isn't any man &
he, therefore, asks for a blessing.
D. vv 27-29:
1. God gives Jacob a new name, "Israel."
2. "Israel" denotes one who has striven with God and man & prevailed.
E. vv 30-32:
1. Jacob limped away from his encounter with God.
a. It's likely that Jacob had this limp the rest of his life.
1) There are some scholars who suggest that the sciatic nerve likely suffered
damage-that's unlikely to heal properly (especially with their limited medical
2) Jacob didn't have access to modern medical care to treat a dislocation.
b. For the rest of his life, every time he limped Jacob could remember how God came
to him, how God challenged him, & how God molded him.
2. With Jacob, God scared him in order to shape him.
A. "God will scar us in order to shape us."
B. We need to grasp this truth today, so that when we are being challenged by the struggles of
life we can face our challenges with hope, expectation & courage.
C. What specific truths do we need to grasp?
1. We need to remember that when the Lord disciplines us-to make us stronger-He
does so out of great love.
a. Heb 12:5-10.
b. God disciplines us because we are His children!
2. Struggles are an opportunity to rely on God.
a. 2 Cor 1:8-10.
b. Far too often we trust in ourselves.
1) We'll say, "I can handle it."
2) God wants us to know that we can't handle it on our own; We need Him to
handle our challenges for us!
3. Struggles are an opportunity for our character to grow.
a. Js 1:2-4.
b. Every challenge is an opportunity to grow to be more & more like Jesus.
4. Struggles are an opportunity to learn to comfort others.
a. 2 Cor 1:3-4.
b. Those who have struggled can better comfort those facing similar trials. Perhaps
your challenge is an opportunity to grow & to minister to others.
5. Struggles are an opportunity to learn to pray more fervently.
a. Js 5:16b-18.
b. God shall always answer in His time & according to His will, but struggles are an
opportunity to pour our hearts out to God like never before.
A. How would our lives be impacted from fully understanding that "God will scar us in order to shape us"?
1. People would be far less depressed-they'd see obstacles as stepping stones, not
2. When we struggle, we'd look at our lives to see what we could learn/what could be
B. Is God shaping you this morning? Do you need to come & begin being shaped by Him?