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Wrestling with God’s Will

Wrestling is an activity of grappling with an opponent; trying to throw or hold them down on the ground.  For any boy growing up with another sibling, wrestling is bound to occur.  Back in my childhood, parents and teachers would refer to this as rough housing.  Unleashing your energy and frustrations upon someone following an argument or disagreement until one or both parties give up.  The most famous wrestling account in the Bible is listed below.

So Jacob was left alone, and a Man [came and] wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the Man saw that He had not prevailed against Jacob, He touched his hip joint; and Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with Him, Genesis 32:24-25.

Prior to his encounter with an angel disguised as a man, Jacob developed a reputation as a deceiver.  Jacob bribed his older brother Esau out of his birthright, tricked his father into blessing him and fled from his family history.  In order to become the person God wanted Jacob to be, a wrestling match was preordained.  This night long struggle pushed Jacob to his physical limits, holding on despite having his hip dislocated.  In the eyes of God, Jacob passed this test, primed for bigger and better things in life.  At the conclusion of this event, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, setting the stage for the rest of the Old Testament.

Then He said, “Let Me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing on me.” 27 So He asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed,” Genesis 32:27-28.

When my life doesn’t take the path that I expect, I try to figure out what went wrong.  From time to time, the cause and effect is obvious, a lack of obedience to God, prayer and worship.  However, there are moments when promises from the Bible, Psalm 37:4, collide with road blocks as dreams and goals are denied or rejected.  This frustration has led me to wonder if becoming a screen writer is part of God’s will.  Am I not delighting myself in the Lord enough or does God want me to pursue another career in the future?  While I am not participating in a physical wrestling match, I find myself wrestling with God’s will.  According to the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2, the only way to know God’s will for sure is by offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.  If implemented successfully, clarity will come and my own wrestling match to ascertain God’s will can end.

by Jay Mankus

Are You Still Sleeping?

From time to time, my soul is filled with an overwhelming sense of conviction.  This guilt comes from spiritual naps, periods of my life where I fell asleep to what God wanted me to do, say or stand up for.  The Bible refers to this state as lukewarm.  Past generations used words such as wishy washy to explain how lame my faith can be at times.  To be bluntly honest,  I am fighting a losing battle, wrestling to stay above rising flood waters pulling me under.

And He came back and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Were you unable to keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep [actively] watching and praying so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” Mark 14:37-38.

No one is immune to sleeping as the human body is hard to control.  This requires an intent focus, like a disciplined athlete training for their next competition.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for someone to slip into merely going through the motions.  Whether you are talking about prayer, reading the Bible or worship, these practices can become a mundane event, void of spiritual fire or zeal.  I guess you can say this is where I am, still sleeping, unable to awaken from this spiritual funk.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, Romans 8:26.

According to the apostle Paul, those who find themselves in this spiritual state need to cry out to the Holy Spirit for help.  Instead of babbling the same old powerless prayer, ask God to intercede through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I’m tied of doing the same lame thing, hoping for a better outcome.  Therefore, join me in an awakening of the soul to once again put into practice the word of God.  If you’re still sleeping like me, its time to get up, Luke 21:36.

by Jay Mankus

Regress or Resolve

If you live long enough, everyone will experience periods of atavism, backsliding and reverting back to previous habits of your childhood.  The dictionary refers to this as regression, where individuals return to a less developed state.  These lapses can last a few days, linger or develop into addictive states.  Thus, the sooner one acts, the better you will be in the future.

For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death, Romans 7:11.

Unfortunately, depression is a powerful force.  This mood can oppress the soul, crippling any good intentions to escape.  Beside prayer and fasting, resolve is one of the last hopes for anyone stuck in a rut.  Imaging the person you use to be and seek to become is a step in the right direction, yet doubt, fear and uncertainty create a valley that seems too wide to jump over.

As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me, Romans 7:17.

Nonetheless, experiencing regression sucks, not a fun place to call home.  As I search for the person I use to be, I often wonder if I will ever see glimpses of the man I once was.  As I wait to see how this story unfolds, there is much work to do and restoration to accomplish.  Yet, for now I cling to resolve, resisting the urge to continue in complacency.  Perhaps, the apostle Paul endured a similar battle in Romans 7.  Thanks be to God for a Savior who conquered sin and death so that those wrestling with regression may one day taste victory.

by Jay Mankus

The Final Weigh In

During my sophomore year of college, my parents moved from Delaware to Cleveland, Ohio.  In my first summer, I met some friends working at a local country club, one whom I instantly clicked with.  When he wasn’t serving as my sand volleyball partner, Eddy wrestled for Cleveland State.  Always conscience of his weight, Eddy shared about the discipline and sacrifices necessary to make weight for his matches.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way, Daniel 1:8.

Today, my oldest son James deals with a similar issue on a weekly basis.  Before each Pole Vault competition, you have a weigh in before a judge.  Depending upon the scale, your pole is determined based upon your weight.  Thus, if you weigh just a pound over the legal limit, you are forced to use a heavy pole, not as flexible as the lighter ones.  A few weeks ago James had to lose five pounds in 24 hours just to compete.

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food, Daniel 1:15.

Following ten days of eating fruits and vegetables, there was a noticeable difference between Daniel and rest of those in the king’s service.  While there wasn’t a scale to step on, Daniel and his Jewish friends found favor with God.  Under different circumstances, I had one last weigh in upon completing my Daniel Fast.  To my surprise, I lost 16 pounds in 21 days.  Although part of me wants to continue to lose weight, that’s not my main priority.  One day everyone will have their final weigh in on judgement day.  When this day arrives, may the grace of God be merciful on this sinner.  Prepare now for your own final weigh in.

by Jay Mankus

 

By the Sweat of Your Brow

 

The poor have said, “the rich have won life’s lottery!”  Meanwhile, the middle class are waiting for their big break, a chance for the world to recognize their talents.  On the other hand, the wealthy are trying to keep up with the Joneses, working harder than ever to buy their next show piece.

Whether you are wrestling with poverty, keeping your head above debt or living on cloud 9, everyone makes their living by the sweat of their brow.  Since original sin entered mankind in Genesis 3:17-19, God made life as we know it hard.  Gone are the days of milk and honey, evaporating in a promised land turned to sand.  Like the humidity of a summer sun sapping all your strength, the worries of life can wilt any soul not prepared for unexpected trials.

As I was doing my final touches of yard work before the growing season ends, I was reminded of God’s words in Genesis 3:19.  Yes, even the invincible will experience kryptonite at some point.  This will paralyze your ability to save yourself, leading to the grave, to become like the dust that God formed Adam out of.  In view of this bleak destiny, its vital to make plans for the afterlife, John 14:3.  Therefore, while you have time to breathe, take note of God’s promise in 1 John 5:13-15.  Inquire before you expire.

by Jay Mankus

The First Game of Crying Uncle

The expression of crying uncle appears to have some ties to the Roman Empire.  During the first through third centuries, when a child was bullied by a stronger individual, they were coerced to use the Latin term Patrue.  Once spoken, meaning uncle, the dominant figure would release or set free the person they had cornered.

Today, when an older sibling catches up to a faster and younger sister or brother, either holding onto or sitting on them, a power trip rushes through their soul.  As a result, the elder statesman in the house usually seeks total submission before letting go or getting up.  Like a bribe, torture continues until a person finally gives in, “crying uncle,” at the top of their lungs.

While researching this topic, I stumbled across a biblical account that might of inspired the first game of crying uncle.  According to Genesis 32:24-26, Jacob participates in a wrestling match which lasts all night long, something the founders of W.W.E. would be proud of.  Holding on for dear life, Jacob refuses to let go until this stranger blesses him.  Unbeknownst to Jacob, his opponent is God himself, Genesis 32:27-30.  Although he does not force God to say uncle, Jacob follows a Jesus like approach to acquiring what he desires, Matthew 7:7-11.

The next time you feel caught, captured or cornered by the devil, try to emulate Jesus’ model for prayer.  Don’t forget to ask God specifically, crying uncle, confessing that you can’t make it in life on your own strength.  If nothing happens right away, keep on seeking God for advice, answers and direction.  Finally, like Jacob, hold on to God, by knocking on heaven’s door until you receive the blessings of God!

by Jay Mankus

Take My Hand

As a youngster, I recall wrestling with other kids from my neighborhood in Delaware.  These matches continued until someone said uncle, often resulting in complaining, cursing or cries for help afterward.  The losers remained on the ground for several minutes, needing a hand to get back on their feet.

Today, Christians across America are fighting a similar battle with sin.  Unfortunately, instead of finding a helping hand, their friend has joined them, caught in the grasp of  addictive habits.  These spiritual headlocks are leaving believers choking, wheezing and nearly unconscious.  Knocked to the mat, taken down and pinned by their sinful nature, Galatians 5:17, lost and weary souls are running out of time.

Jesus steps in as the chief official of this match in Matthew 11:28-30.  Calling time up, Jesus lends his hands to the fallen.  With a promise of rest, Jesus isn’t forcing anyone to get up.  Yet, this offer is an open invitation, “if you are willing, take my hand?”

To be continued…

by Jay Mankus

Wrestling with the Unknown

Ephesians 6:12 contains a Greek wrestling match known as a pale.  This is the only place in scripture where this word appears.  Like most wrestling matches, the goal is to throw your opponent.  Victory is determined when a wrestler is able to hold his opponent down with his hand upon their neck.  The winner is haled while the loser has both of his eyes gouged out.

The context of this passage is at the beginning of Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood.”  The actual verse means our pale is not against flesh and blood, meaning our wresting opponent is not human beings, those we interact with on a daily basis.  Rather, our opponent is 4 fold: 2 groups we can see and 2 groups we can sense.

Our spiritual wrestling match begins with rulers of the world Satan uses to accomplish his will.  The second opponent is with existing authorities which attempt to strip away the spiritual freedoms of Christians.  This second group of opponents involve spiritual discernment and prayer to counter attack these forces.  The first unseen opponent are powers of darkness in our world and the second are spiritual forces of evil, demons.

Every day, there is a new wrestling match.  Satan’s goal is to blind us from the real battle, to throw us off the spiritual scent.  This is often accomplished by causing us to get angry, become bitter or hold grudges against other human beings.  Be careful not to be deceived, test everything and hold fast to God’s Word.  When you are wrestling with the unknown, walk by faith, not by sight!

by Jay Mankus


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