Posted by: lepages | August 2, 2010

Men of Faith

Well, through July we had a great series of teaching on Men of Faith at Rutland Road Church. The preach by our Nigerian friend Oto Udofot was particularly powerful and spoke to a good number of folk in a very real way. You can have a listen to the preaches on the church website here.

Out of the three characters we were exploring the theme from I had the one that was for me most surprising – Jacob. I’ve produced my notes from the preach below.

Men of Faith – Jacob
Genesis 25-35

Introduction
We continue our series Men of Faith

When you look at your life, do you think that you would describe yourself as a man or woman of faith? If we were to have a list of men and women of faith, would you expect to see your name on it?

What do you think should be the characteristics of a man or woman of faith?
(List on flip chart)

Okay, so, if I was to describe to you a man who was known as a scheming, deceptive, conniving character who did whatever was necessary to get what he wanted, even if it involved hurting the relationships of those closest to him in his family, even if it involved deceiving his family. If I was to describe to you a man who was himself deceived by others, who lived in fear of the results of what he had done, if I was to describe to you a man who was happy to sleep with a number of women and was happy to live with the consequences of that in terms of dodgy relationships, I wonder whether you would think of him as being a ‘Man of Faith’??!!

Today we come to a man of faith called Jacob

The questionable description of character I’ve just given, is my attempt to sum up Jacob’s character. And yet he features in the list of people of faith described in Hebrews 11.

Jacob was Abraham’s grandson – Abraham was a man of faith wasn’t he?

We heard from Ian last week how he was prepared to leave his family and homeland and go to a new place he didn’t know, because God told him to go. We heard how he had faith that God could work a miracle and give him a son, even when he was well past the normal age for enabling his wife to conceive, and he had faith for this even though he had doubts and laughed at the prospect! He was a man of faith who was prepared to sacrifice his own son for God, reasoning that God would bring him back to life, because he knew God had promised to build a family through him.

In the list of people of faith in Hebrews 11 the account of Abraham occupies over 25% of the verses. The account of Jacob in Hebrews 11 occupies one verse, and this is what it says:-

“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” Hebrews 11:21

What an epitaph for your life – when you’re dying, you bless some of your grandchildren… and you worship God.

Actually that’s not that bad. Its good to finish well. Better to finish well with God than to turn away from God at the end of life. I know that there are some of you sitting here who are finishing well, living life full steam ahead for God in your later years, perhaps in a way you never did when you were younger.

Make sure you continue to finish well!

So, how is it that this dodgy character can get to be a part of a list of people of faith?

Can I encourage you as Ian did last week to read a large section of scripture to help you see the full picture of this character’s life? Genesis 25-35 covers most of his life.

Can I encourage you to read it before you go to your cell group this week?

It will help you explore this teaching better, because I don’t want us just to look at his character as an objective thing, but what can I learn from his life that will help me in my relationship with God?

Keys to being a man or woman of faith
1.Meet with God
2.Be honest with God
3.Face the past

1.Meet with God

Turn with me if you would to Genesis 28:10-22

By this time Jacob had already proved his name true – Jacob means ‘he grasps the heel’, because when he was born he grasped the heel of his twin brother, this was a phrase which was used figuratively for a deceiver. Jacob had gone on to deceive his brother in to giving him his birthright, to deceive his father into blessing him rather than his brother Esau. What he did was equivalent to persuading a family member to change their will, to write you in to it and to write others out of it. Any of you who know families where this sort of thing has happened know the pain and angst it causes.

His brother Esau was so angry he was planning to kill Jacob – so Jacob at his mother’s suggestion, affirmed by his father unknowingly, was fleeing to the area his family had come from on the premise of finding a wife – much as many Asians do in returning to Pakistan/Bangladesh/India to find a wife/husband from their own family/cultural background. We pick up the account at Genesis 28:10

READ Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob met with God.

It began to change him. He hadn’t suddenly arrived at a point of perfection as a result of his meeting with God. But he began a process of change which was to result in him believing that God would fulfil what he had promised him and so at the end of his life he blessed his grandchildren in expectation of that, and he worshipped God.

Its interesting that inspite of this incredible meeting with God in this dream, which moved him to his core so that he was afraid and said ‘How awesome is this place.’ v17 he didn’t just surrender his life to God and say, ‘Here I am. I give myself to you to live in obedience to you.’ No, he made a contract with God. He said, ‘Well if God will look after me on my journey, if he’ll provide for my needs, and get me safely back to my father’s home, then I’ll serve him, and I’ll give him a tenth of everything that is given to me.’

I remember Julie Holmes sharing her testimony a few weeks ago when Paul was preaching and saying how she said to God ‘well, I’ll follow you if you can stop me smoking’ – which he did, and so she did. And for Jacob, God provided for him and so, inspite of his imperfections, he followed God.

To be a man or woman of faith, you don’t have to be perfectly sorted, you don’t have to have got all your theology right down to the last phrase of scripture, you just have to have committed your life to him. Jacob said to Yahweh – you will be my God – I won’t just acknowledge that you are the God who is out there, you will be my God – in other words, you will be the God whom I worship, you will be the God whom I live in obedience to (even if I still get things wrong at times) and I will honour you by giving back to you from all that you have given to me.

If you want to be a man or woman of faith, the first thing you need to do is to acknowledge Jesus as your God – you might have concerns you want to lay before him, but you have to come before him and say ‘you are my God’ with all the implications of that – the fact that it means you will worship him, you will seek to live in obedience to him, and you will seek to give back to his cause from all he has given to you.

Once you begin a journey with God in which you acknowledge him as being your God, there comes a time if you are going to grow as a man or woman of faith when you have to:-
2.Be honest with God

Turn over a few pages to Genesis 32:9ff

By this time God has fulfilled much of what Jacob had asked of him. He’d brought him safely on his journey, he’d got him fixed up with a beautiful wife and a few other women besides, a large family, and great wealth – even if Jacob had used his own cunning and deceptive skills at times to scheme things for himself. He’s now at the point where God has told him to return to his family, as he had asked of God – but even though he had seen God fulfil many of his promises in his life he still had fears, and he brought these to God in prayer, on this occasion, with incredible honesty.

READ Genesis 32:9-12

Jacob comes to God and says, ‘I know what you’ve said, I know what you’ve promised, I know how you’ve blessed me, but in truth I’m still scared. I need you to help me get through this.’

I wonder how many of us have been in that place?

You know God’s promises to you. You know how he has blessed you and proven himself faithful – and yet you face situations and you need him to prove himself faithful once again and to bring you through.

Anyone identify with that?

That’s where Jacob was at.

He prays for God’s help… and then he gets on and sorts it himself.
He seeks to protect himself and the closest members of his family and keeps them back, sending ahead of them two groups of servants with loads of gifts for his brother to try and curry his favour. You can read of that in verses 13-21.

Lets pick up the account at verse 22

READ Genesis 32:22-32

A strange account. Its not clear why Jacob had this physical battle with God. Scholars vary in their interpretation as to whether this was a theophany – a preincarnate visitation by Christ, or whether ‘the man’ was an angel of the Lord – but to Jacob he was quite clear that he had had a battle with God, he had seen God face to face and somehow been spared. What were they fighting over? Scripture doesn’t actually tell us, but it seems likely to me that they were battling over who was in control – was Jacob to remain in control, in charge of his life, sorting it as he saw best, even when he’d come and asked God for help, or was he going to yield his life to God and say ‘You’re in control, I submit to you.’ Eventually Jacob got to a point where he said he would not let go until he knew the blessing of God.

Jacob had to come to a place where he was honest with God, where the tables were turned. He was injured and would have a permanent reminder of his dependence on God. The Apostle Paul had a physical problem which he pleaded with the Lord to take away – to which the Lord replied ‘My grace is sufficient for you’. I am left, following my accident with a little niggle with my hip/pelvis/sciatic nerve – and I’m quite grateful for it – it acts as a reminder of God’s deliverance and the remarkable things he has done in my life and pulls me back to the place where I have to acknowledge again and again, that he is God and he can do what he likes as he likes when he likes. I guess for Jacob, he always had a reminder of that night when he had battled with God and had come to the place where instead of fighting God, he wouldn’t let him go until he knew God’s blessing.

Who’s in charge of your life?

You? Or God?

Do you say one thing with your lips, but then do something else with your actions as Jacob did?

Or do you submit your life to God and hold on to him for his blessing without feeling you have to fix everything yourself?

Maybe some of us need to come and be honest with God.
And maybe for some of us there will be a struggle in which we have to come to a point where we fully yield our lives to God and we won’t let go of him until we know that he has taken control and has blessed our lives.

Our time has almost gone.

Briefly, to be a man or woman of faith we need to be prepared to:-

3.Face the past

Jacob had to go back and face his brother, knowing that his behaviour had caused great hurt and great anger – and he feared going back.

Its sometimes hard to go back and face the consequences of our wrong behaviour in the past, but if we are to be men and women of faith we need like Jacob, to be prepared to do so, because it proves our trust in God, even if we have doubts and fears at an emotional or mental level. Jesus spoke about dealing with the past in all sorts of ways. The New Testament encourages us to repent, to change our way of thinking, to change our direction in life, so that we can be forgiven for the mess of the past. That’s the first place we need to face the past – we need to acknowledge, be honest about and confess our sin, our wrong doing to God, and then we can be forgiven.

We need to be prepared to face the past and past hurts and offer forgiveness – to offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us and ask forgiveness of those whom we have hurt
‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us’
How many times should I forgive my brother – 7 times. No says Jesus 70×7.

We need to be prepared to face the consequences of our actions.

In spite of his fears that’s what Jacob did. And a level of reconciliation came with his brother Esau. Even though Jacob was listed as a man of faith, he didn’t get it all right even then – read chapter 33 and see how he responded to the potential reconciliation….

Conclusion

You can be a man or woman of faith.

You don’t have to have everything sorted in life. You don’t have to be perfect.

But it begins with an encounter with God, in which you acknowledge him not just as God, but as your God and so submit yourself to him.
Growing as a man or woman of faith means growing in your relationship with God and that means being prepared to come honestly before God, it may mean a struggle for you as you have to yield fresh areas of your life to God so that you can know more of his blessing on your life.

Growing as a man or woman of faith means being prepared to trust God as you face the past, whether in acknowledging it to God and seeking his forgiveness, or in facing past hurts, in giving and receiving forgiveness from or to others and it means being prepared to trust God in facing the consequences of past behaviour.

If you know that God has been speaking to you in any of these areas today, then don’t leave here without sharing it with someone and having them pray with you and stand with you. Members of the prayer team are available after the service, identifiable by green badges.

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