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Wrestling with God

By John Renken

Genesis 32:24-28

“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

The Bible is full of stories that have many practical applications for us as Christians and as martial artists. As we read the Scriptures, it should change us, change our families, and change our businesses. In Genesis, we find the story of Jacob in a submission-grappling match with God. This is one of first recorded martial arts contests in the history of the world. I don’t know about you, but the idea that the God of the Universe decided to engage Jacob in a fight (wrestling in this time period more closely resembles Mixed Martial Arts) is thought provoking.
Why martial arts? Why not speak to Jacob in the manner in which He spoke to Abraham? I think struggle and victory is epitomized in martial arts and there are several powerful lessons in this story for us.
First, this story tells us that God chose Jacob in spite of his brokenness. When you look at the life of Jacob, it is every bit as broken and messed up as our lives. He struggled for everything he had, but he isn’t a hero. As a matter of fact, his name means deceiver. He had multiple wives, several household idols, and he lied to get the blessing from his father and many other things—all of which made him a less than an honorable character. Yet God chose him.
In all of our brokenness, we are no better and no worse than Jacob; yet God has chosen us.
I used to always wonder why God decided to touch his hip socket. As martial artists we understand the importance of the hips— whether you are practicing a striking art or grappling art. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about punching, kicking, elbows, knees, throwing, or applying submission holds. The leverage and power comes from our center— our hips. If you take out a person’s hip you have completely disabled them. They can no longer effectively strike or grapple and will even have difficulties walking, as seen with Jacob.
When God physically wrestled with Jacob, he took out his center, which was his power and balance. When God wrestles with us He wants to do the same thing.
Our hip is our will.
As we wrestle with God, ultimately He wants to break our rebellious will and bring our will into alignment with His will and his plan for our lives. He wants to give us a new name!
This process of submitting our will to His plan for our lives is a daily struggle. Many of us can identify with Jacob. But can we wrestle with God like Jacob did? I think so.
Hosea 12:4 tells us that Jacob wept and sought God’s favor. We can do the same.
We haven’t always done the right things in our lives, marriages, or businesses, but don’t be discouraged. Wrestle with God as Jacob did. Engage Him and hold on to Him until He changes your name and blesses you!

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