Genesis 32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
Instead of trusting the LORD, Jacob lived in fear Laban, Esau, and even fear of God Himself. God had promised to protect Jacob as He worked out His sovereign plan in his life. But Jacob was afraid God might not come through for him—that God might not live up to his end of the deal. So, he put his trust in his own cleverness instead of in the LORD’s mighty hand. Because he couldn’t be sure if his plans would work, he lived in fear and worry.
But on that night, a night full of fear as he anticipated facing Esau in the morning, he wrestled with God. It was indeed God, a theophany (God appearing as a man – this was Jesus before He came in the New Testament time), as the text clearly tells us. Jacob named the place Peniel, because I saw “God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
Jacob came away from that night permanently lamed, which was a powerful reminder of his need to depend on God alone. That’s how God will do it in our lives, too. Be careful when you pray for your little faith to become great faith. You will wrestle with God through the challenges He gives you as a way to make that faith grow stronger.
Father, you have spared me ten thousand more losses than you have sent me. Let every moment be a thousand thanks in my life to you, O Lord. Thank you that the assurance my faith is not being spared life's brutalities but having your love through it all. Father, in this same prayer, help me to take seriously the whole Bible as your choice for the world, and be spared the folly of overstatements. Lord, you are enough. Your grace is enough. Nothing will ever change that fact. I love you today and forevermore—all by grace! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
John 17:5 "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."
It is okay to pray for yourself! I can't count how many people I have met in my short lifetime that are afraid to pray for their personal concerns. While they are faithful in praying for others, they rarely bring what is on their mind before God. I remind them that you don't have to feel guilty about telling God what is on your mind. You don't have to ask Him to take care of everybody in the world but you. He wants to hear from YOU.
And the first reaction back is often, "That sounds selfish! The Bible hates pride, you know!” Well, I often point these people to John 17. There we read Jesus' prayer shortly before He was arrested. We can listen in as the Son talks to the Father. We can pry as Jesus tells God that He has done the work He was sent to do, and as He asks God to glorify Him (17:5). Not much longer after this prayer, it was answered at Calvary.
A few moments later in His prayer, however, Jesus prayed for others. He specifically talked to God about His disciples (17:6-19), who were soon to be under tremendous pressure to spread the Gospel after He was gone. Then He prayed for all His followers (17:20-26), which would endure all types of persecution through history. But first He prayed for Himself.
What I am proposing is this: When you pray, do pray for others, but don't neglect yourself. The next time you have a devotional or quiet time before the Lord, start by telling Him about your hopes, your worries, your desires, and your needs. Ask Him to help you carry your burdens (1 Peter 5:7). You will not only be amazed in what ways He will answer your petitions when you do this, but you will see the same effect for those you pray for.
Father, I don’t want to be selfish or prideful in my walk with you. The moments I most bitterly regret in my life are the selfish ones. The wretched idol of Self utterly fails to keep its promises. Forgive me, Lord. I also don’t want to neglect to pray for other Christians, especially those in my family and local church. Yet, I am burdened with the thought that by praying for myself I may actually forget to pray for what is in front of me this day. Protect my mind with the truth that if the real function of our Christianity is to pad our selfish lifestyles, then it stinks to God, and it stinks to any honest person. I want an open heart before you, Lord, and to other fellow believers. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Psalm 56:11 "In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?"
A young woman was waiting for a bus in a high crime area one evening when a rookie policeman approached her. "Want me to wait with you?" he asked. "That's not necessary," she replied. "I'm not afraid." "Well, I am," he said. "Would you mind waiting with me?"
This story brings up an interesting point. Those in authority or leadership over us are often the ones we look to for stability and safety. We expect them to never show or express weakness, concern, or doubt. We even expect them to face no problems and to have a smile on their face at all times.
Unfortunately, this is not how the world operates. Paul understood this lesson firsthand. He was frank with the believers in Corinth, admitting his fear and weakness, even to the point of trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3). But he openly faced up to it, expressed his need for the Lord in his life, and then relied on Him faithfully. He said that his speech and messages were a "demonstration of the Spirit's [power]" (2:4). We may very safely assume that Paul spent much time praying and depending on God while he was in this wicked city.
When we admit that we are fearful it may appear to others that we are out of fellowship with God or that something is wrong in our lives. However, to acknowledge that we become anxious about life is being honest about our feelings. To overcome our fears, we must first acknowledge them. Then we must bring them to God and go forward in obedience. That's the only way to conquer fear.
Father, I have little idea of what's around the corner, but I have no need to fear because every aspect of the future is in your hands. I can rest without worry or fear on the promises of your Word because the one who made them is perfectly, unchangeably holy. Father, if Jesus is real and the gospel is true, and it is, then we have only one thing to fear: our own unconfessed sins. But we can be freed. We can soar. And for that I praise you! Lord, take my fears. I cast them upon you now fully as Peter told me to in his letter. In Jesus name I pray these things. Amen.
2 Samuel 10:12 "Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight."
One group didn’t take David's kindness so highly. While trying to re-pay an old gift to the son of the Ammonite king, David was accused of spying when his men went to deliver the honor (2 Samuel 10:2-4). This move quickly led to war. The Ammonite's hired mercenaries to help attack David's armies. However, the Lord proved faithful to Israel, for the nation easily won the battle.
The simple truth is that there are some people who are like the Ammonite king. No matter what encouraging words you may have or what good deed you perform on their behalf, they will see it simply as a fake Christian act. But this doesn't mean we can give up on them! Rather, through prayer and faithful obedience to the Lord's leading concerning that person, we must keep showing them kindness, even if we don't see any immediate results. This is the model of our Savior, and we can settle for nothing less.
Ask the Lord today for the strength to continue loving those who are unlovable in your life. And don't be surprised if your best intentions are taken the wrong way doing the Lord's work.
Father, even with the kindest and most gentle approach comes reproach when I serve you, even from people that claim that name of Jesus Christ. Remind me today that the smallest deed is better than the greatest intention never performed. Father, I am thankful, above all, that this is your deepest intention for me and all things: "to the praise of the glory of his grace". Father, I love you and want to serve you. Thank you for hearing my prayer today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Genesis 35:27 "Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed."
At long last, Jacob is reunited with his father, Isaac. We don’t know if there were previous visits. If there were, the Bible simply doesn’t say. It is likely that this was his first visit in almost 30 years. And, remember, he didn’t leave his father on good terms during his last visit. Jacob disguised himself as Esau to receive the blessing. Despite all the rocky history, there doesn’t appear to be any hatred or bitterness between the brothers. Remember, they had made up and settled their differences.
Do you know where you stand in relation to Jesus Christ? Do you trust in Him? Or, do you trust in something or someone else? There is no other way to heaven, except by believing in and trusting in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Every other hope is a false hope and every other way is a lie.
This may not make sense now, but if you look back as your grow older, you will be able to thank God for the trials in your life, just like Isaac and Jacob. These times will be some of the greatest times of growth in your life as a Christian, and, ultimately, you won’t have any regrets.
Father, the more I grow the more I realize that I often have more questions than answers. Yet, Lord, as I grow older in Christ, I become more and more aware that all I have is Christ. He is our merit and right standing. All else is vain! Apart from Him I can do nothing! As I grow older, the more this becomes a daily reality. Lord, help me to learn this truth early and live a life of prayer today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hebrews 12:3 "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Are you feeling like you are out of the race today? Have you knowingly committed a sin? Have you fallen to temptation? Then look at Jesus' suffering. Look to His resurrection. Ask Him to give you victory this day. Just imagine what He has to offer you, Christian, no matter how far down you at this moment!
Our Lord will never be overcome--He is the eternal overcomer, and no problem or sin in our lives is too big for Him to handle. The strength that brought Jesus from the grave should be our hope in our toughest times.
Father, I am near the end of my race, hasting home & there was never a schoolboy more desirous to have the play than I am to have leave of this world. But I am not yet home and I desire to live for you all the days of my life. Remind me that you see me and that your plans are for me. I pray thy will be done on earth and as it in heaven this day in my life, my local church, and the world. May all that comes to me, Father, in this race of life point back to the suffering for my salvation your Son went through. I praise you for His sacrifice! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
2 Timothy 1:8 "So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God."
While some Christians can skillfully defend their faith against such attacks, you might not be one of them. Does this mean that you believe on Jesus for salvation without reason and that your faith is just wishful thinking? No, quite the opposite! In fact, you believe because God showed you your need and His grace for it. That's reason enough! And the peace you have comes from the Holy Spirit, "who lives in us" as we live for Him (2 Timothy 1:14).
Study so that you can give reasons for believing in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). But don't worry if you don't have all the answers--no one does (except God!). The God who helped timid Timothy be a good soldier for Him (2 Timothy 1:7) can use you too. Thank and praise God today for enabling you to believe. Then tell others what He has done for you.
Sharing the truth of Scripture is the first step to seeing people come to Christ, and is essential to be a mature Christian. And if you are scared, notice the words of Paul: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).
Father, my faith seems rigid and stale today. Help me today to share the Gospel. Father, this is, truly, one of the most invigorating experiences I can have and the greatest blessing in this life. Help me not just to share about my struggles with others today but be all about you and your grace. Father, thank you that the best missionaries will have a love for the truth that's just as strong as their love for those they're sharing it with. Help that to be me, Father, for your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.