Leading a prevailing life

Gen. 32:22-31
For Sunday, August 6, 2017
Year A, Proper 13

Do you ever wonder if you will prevail in life?  Jacob’s encounter with God at Peniel in Gen. 32 shows us how it’s done.


Jacob Wrestling with the Angel“, Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Musée du Message Biblique Marc-Chagall, Nice, France.

I had a rough week.  In June I took on the Executive Director role of the Chicago Chapter of Pinnacle Forum in addition to my existing role as Executive Director of the Wisconsin Chapter.  This really puts time at a premium.  Our CEO said to me, “You will be stretched.”  He was right.  A situation came up at the end of this week that while representing a minor request in and of itself felt like the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of my capacity.  Fortunately, I was able to work thru the situation with the person in question and then process further with a trusted mentor.  The anger inside me had much more to do with me than with this other party.  So what does this have to do with Jacob at Peniel?  It’s the story of moving from striving to prevailing.

Jacob wrestles with God and prevails.  There is deep symbolism here.  Jacob’s name literally means “grasping the heel” and refers to him grasping his brother Esau’s heel when the twins were born.  Jacob was a striver.  So am I and so are many of you.

Jacob wrestles with God all night.  Finally, God wins by giving Jacob a limp.  He says to Jacob, “Your name was ‘Jacob’ (striver) but it is now ‘Israel’.   ‘Israel’ means literally “struggled with God and overcame”.  What’s the point of all this?  Was God unable to defeat Jacob in this cage match without putting his hip out of joint?  No!  The point is that Jacob would prevail despite himself  because of God’s commitment to him.  None of us will prevail because of the force of our wills or the brilliance of our wits.  We will only prevail when we connect with God and his calling on our lives.

So what’s the next step?  The keys to a prevailing life are God’s Word and prayer.  First, do you have a regular Bible reading rhythm?  If so, please share about it briefly below for the benefit of the rest of us.  If not, why not join me in reading the Revised Common Lectionary weekly?  Feel free to post questions and comments on the passage you are reading below and I will respond.  Second, do you have a regular rhythm of prayer?  If so, again, please share what’s working for you.  If not, put a 10 minute a day appointment on your calendar, find a good place to journal, and start praying this way:

  • (P)raise
  • (R)epentance
  • (A)asking for others
  • (Y)ourself

The point is not for us to prevail with God.  The point is that God has offered to prevail through us.  All we need to do is put him first each day.


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