,
 
The Internal Struggle
 
And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD
was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled
together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to
inquire of the LORD (Genesis 25:21-22).
 
As we meditate on the words of our text, I want to point out the first prayer
was that of Isaac. What was the source of that prayer? I want you understand
that the wife is a type of the church, and what was wrong was that she was
barren. This is what we all are by nature spiritually. In a spiritual sense we
are barren. Isaac entreated the Lord, and his wife Rebekah conceived.
 
A new conception took place, which leads to the new birth. In a typical sense,
in a type of the new birth that takes place in the soul, the barrenness was
removed, and life was conceived.
 
The children struggled in her. When the Holy Spirit breathes new life into our
souls, there becomes a struggle, and I will tell you why this is. That old
nature does not leave, and a new nature is born within. Now, we have exactly
what we read here: “and the children struggled together within her,” and we get
into that spiritual struggle, that spiritual warfare, and there is a blessed
thing about this spiritual struggle.
 
She went to the Lord, and now we want to see the beauty of what the Lord told
her. We read in verse 23: “And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy
womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one
people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the
younger.”
 
I want you to understand the blessedness of what we just read. The elder shall
serve the younger. That old man of sin, which is still in our hearts and still
struggles for the mastery, will serve the younger, which is the new man of the
heart. We never get rid of that old nature, that old man of sin, and it is a
constant warfare throughout our entire spiritual journey in this life, but the
elder will serve the younger. There are two classes of people in us.  Two
classes of people are conceived in us as we understand the new birth.
 
I want to take you with me to Galatians 5:17, where we read about this same
struggle: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the
flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the
things that ye would.”

 
Do you see the two natures, the two classes of people? You have a desire to be
perfect. We have a desire to serve the Lord with perfection, but we are not able
to. On the other hand, the evil that we want to do we are not able to do either.
Cannot in the original means “God forbid.” In other words, the Lord forbids us.
He comes with His restraining grace, and He forbids us from doing the things we
want to do.
 
These two natures are two people. These are two natures, two types of people who
now dwell within us. This is what we learn from the birth of Jacob and Esau: the
elder shall serve the younger.
 
Now, I want you to see how the spirit of that old nature is a spirit of
self-exaltation. This is a continual battle for the children of God.
 
Proverbs 8:13 says: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy,
and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.”
 
That is the fear of God. That is the new nature, but the old nature is the
nature of self-exaltation, and there is a constant, ongoing battle between that
Jacob and that Esau throughout our entire lives.
 
We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:4: “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all
that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the
temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”
 
That is what was born in Genesis 3, when old Satan told Eve: You shall be as
God. That is that old nature. That is what we are by nature. We want to know
what is good and evil. We want to decide what is right and what is wrong. We do
not want to come under authority. We do not want to submit to the Word of God.

 
Now I want you to see how this spirit of self-exaltation goes forth in Satan’s
gospel because it is a humanistic gospel. That old nature is a nature of
self-exaltation. We read in Malachi 1:1-3: “The burden of the word of the LORD
to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast
thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob.
And I hated Esau.”
 
They could not understand why the Lord loved them. They felt His chastening
hand. They felt that spiritual struggle in the soul, and they were unable to see
that the Lord loved them. The Lord gave an example of how He loved His people
 
We see here: how can the Lord love me? The Lord sees my wretchedness. He sees my
pride. He sees all of these things within me that I struggle against day after
day. Then I have to cry out and say, How can the Lord love me? The Lord says
though: I see two people in you. I do not only see that fallen nature and that
wretched attitude of yours, but I also see that longing desire of the new man. I
also see Jacob in there. I love Jacob, but I hate Esau. The Lord is saying that
He hates that old fallen nature, but He sees also that new man of the heart. He
sees that contrast, that warfare that He placed there.
 
The Lord can love Jacob because He can separate between Jacob and Esau. He can
separate between that old nature that is always trying to exalt self, and that
new man of the heart, which is after Christ, which is after godliness, that new
man of the heart, which is Christ formed in you.
 
FOR OUR FIRST POINT, let’s consider what God reveals that He hates in the
character and in the strain of Esau.

 
God says He hates Esau, in other words, I hate that which is of the old nature.
I hate that old man of sin.
 
FOR OUR SECOND POINT, let’s consider what God reveals that He loves in the
character and in the strain of Jacob, in other words, in that new man of the
heart.
 
Esau is a type of that old nature. He is a type of the harlot church. He is a
type of that which is laid waste spiritually, that which is spiritually barren.
Rebekah was barren, and that is what brought Isaac before the Lord to entreat
Him for the barrenness.

 
I want you to see this in Malachi 1:3: “And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains
and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.”



There is nothing of the old nature, about old Esau, that will ever gain the
Lord’s blessing. Everything about that old nature is going to be crucified. It
is going to be cut down because it has that self-exalting tendency. It is pride.
It is just the opposite of godly fear. That is why the Lord says He hates it,
and He has laid it waste and made it desolate.
 
Any time we are left over to our old nature, we find that our hearts are barren
because the Lord hates it. The Lord loves that which is of the new creation
within the soul.
 
We read in verse 4: “Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return
and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build,
but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and,
The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.”
 
How often in our own human strength, when the Lord starts bringing us down, and
He starts bringing us into the valley of humiliation, that that old nature has a
tendency to strive in our own strength. We are going to build in our own
strength, and we are going to do all these things in our own strength. That old
Esau is still in there, but when the Lord works grace in our hearts, we are
going to find that he is going to serve the younger. He is going to serve the
new man of the heart. In other words, he is not going to have the mastery.
 
The old expression goes: When the going gets a little tough, we just gear down.
We just go into a lower gear, put on more strength, and we keep going. The
reason the Lord puts that burden on us, though, is to get us to stop walking in
our own strength. He wants us to start walking in the strength of the Lord. He
wants that new man to be in the mastery. He wants the old man to serve the new.
The elder shall serve the younger.
 
Is this not true as we see in our own hearts, and as we see that spiritual
warfare going on?
 
As long as we are striving in our own strength, we can have a financial
difficulty, and we can have all these things come upon us, and our solution is
to work longer hours or work a little harder. For some reason, the harder I
work, the behinder I get because the Lord says you are going to build these
desolate places in your own strength, but He is going to tear them down. This is
because He wants us to build in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our building must not be
in our own strength. This is why we see the Lord tearing down while we are
building.
 
Hosea 5:14 tells it so beautifully. “For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and
as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will
take away, and none shall rescue him.” He does this because everything of the
flesh must be removed. That old Esau has to be crucified.
 
It is the border of wickedness. It is the border of working in our own human
strength, and the Lord will tear down.
 
God says the Esau nature shall forever experience His indignation. The Lord
hates Esau. He hates that humanism. The Lord has indignation against that old
nature, and it will never gain the mastery. When the Lord begins the word of
grace in the soul, it is a constant warfare, and old Esau is always striving for
the mastery. The Lord says though that He will break them down.
 
God will bring that old nature into desolation no matter what we build. No
matter how we try to build in our own strength it always comes to nothing. Now
we see that when we come to the right place as Jacob did—I will not let you go
unless you bless me—we are now no longer going forward in our own strength. Then
the Lord will bless us.
 
How do we identify this Esau in our own hearts? Esau was to inherit the
birthright. By nature, our old man is going to want to inherit the birthright.
Esau becomes a type throughout the entire Bible. Esau’s birthright made him an
heir to every blessing—temporal and spiritual—but he forfeited it. He threw it
away. He despised it.
 
Adam in the creation was to inherit all eternal blessings, but he despised them.
That old Adam, that first Adam, sold our souls. This has spiritual significance
with Esau, who sold his birthright for one serving of pottage.
 
The Esau within us builds but not upon God. Ever since the fall that old man of
sin wants to build on his own strength. I want you to see this in Hebrews
12:16-17: “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one
morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he
would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of
repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”
 
Esau sold his birthright, and this is what you and I have done in Adam. Does
this tell us that Esau was unable to repent? No, he wanted Isaac to repent of
the blessing he had pronounced on Jacob. He wanted Isaac to reverse the blessing
he had pronounced on Jacob. He wanted to ignore the fact that he had sold his
birthright.
 
In their old nature they seek repentance, and they have much remorse over the
consequences of sin, but never any remorse over sin. Esau was seeking repentance
on the part of Isaac, and that is our old nature. We want repentance on the part
of God. We want God to repent of the evil He said He would do to us for our sin,
but we do not have remorse over our sin.

 
Esau is a type of the person who comes under the call of the gospel, but he uses
the things of God to satisfy the lusts of his own flesh. That is what you and I
will do by nature. By nature we want to come where God says in Malachi 1:4:
“They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border
of wickedness,” that is of lawlessness.

 
We see in the gospel today: I want salvation. I want to accept Christ. I want to
be saved, but I do not want to repent. I do not want to show any remorse over my
past sin. That is old Esau, and that old Esau is within the heart of every one
of us. Esau’s broad-road approach to serve God with a selfish motive is for
temporal blessings. That is where we are naturally.
 
Christ’s church does not receive temporal blessings from the Lord when she is
walking in God’s favor, but this world is not her resting place. As we walk in
the favor of God, we will receive the blessings that are temporally needed to
supply us with the needs of this life, but the Lord is not going to give us to
build a big empire in this life. The Lord Jesus Christ has to be our
inheritance.

 
Esau will try to manipulate God for gain. Have you ever noticed that in your
heart? That wretched Esau who is in us would manipulate God for gain rather than
out of a motive of love.
 
We see in John 6:26-27: “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say
unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of
the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for
that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give
unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”
 
Do you understand what they were doing? They were seeking the Lord, but they
sought Him for profit, not out of a motive of love, not out of a motive of
wanting to have God’s fellowship.
 
Satan likes to play tricks in our hearts. That old man of sin, that old Esau, is
still in here struggling and fighting. The spirit lusts against the flesh and
the flesh against the spirit. The new man says, I want to seek the Lord, and the
old man will join right in and say, Fine, but the motive is to get something in
your hip pocket, rather than out of love. That old struggle goes on in the
heart. The Esau within us is not motivated by a desire to serve the Lord out of
love, but out of pride and lust.

 
The Lord speaks of Esau in Obadiah 1:3: “The pride of thine heart hath deceived
thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high;
that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?”
 
Christ is that rock and this is saying that the pride of your heart will deceive
you to believe that your are dwelling in the Lord Jesus Christ, in the crucified
Saviour, but it is out of pride, not a motive of  love. That self-exalting
always tries to gain the mastery within our hearts. The motive of the old Esau
is always there to try to get something for the flesh. This is the constant
struggle of spiritual warfare.

 
Verse 4 says: “Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy
nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.”
 
That old pride that was born in paradise is an ongoing struggle for a child of
God. The children of God always have to fight against that old Esau.
 
The Lord said to Moses in Exodus 33:21-22: “And the LORD said, Behold, there is
a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass,
while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will
cover thee with my hand while I pass by.”
 
The Lord told Moses He would put him in the cleft of the rock. I want you to see
the difference. Esau says, I will climb up and I will dwell in the cleft of the
rock, but with Moses, the Lord put him there. It is the work of the Lord. It is
what the Lord has done for us.
 
The Lord searches the hearts and tries the reins.
 
We read in Obadiah 1:6: “How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his
hidden things sought up!”
 
The Lord does not allow us to go on in the pride of our hearts. He searches it
out. How does He do this? While we are going on in pride, the Lord puts His
thumb on us. He puts a weight on us, and He brings us down. He brings us into
the valley of humiliation to where we have to start crying out to the Lord. He
has seen the pride of our hearts, and He brings us down in humility.
 
The true church has suffered much at the hand of Esau. If you and I understand
the spiritual warfare spoken of in Galatians 5:17, we you know what it is to
suffer much at the hand of Esau, because it is a constant warfare.
 
We read in Luke 23:4-5: “Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the
people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He
stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to
this place.”
 
The scribes and the Pharisees were strangers to the true work of grace. When the
Lord Jesus Christ was preaching the true work of grace, they became so furious,
stirred up out of jealousy, and they crucified Him.
 
God told Edom (that is, Esau) in Obadiah 1:10: “For thy violence against thy
brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.”

 
When the Lord gives us that victory over pride, that old nature of our heart, he
will be cut off. The elder will serve the younger. That old man of sin will
serve the new man.
 
As soon as you become the light of the world, walking in the ways of the cross,
you become a reproof to every Esau. Among God’s own people, Esau is still
fighting and has not yet been cut off. If you start showing by your walk of life
that you are now serving the Lord out of a motive of love, and that the old man
is serving the younger, you will find that even many of God’s dear children will
turn against you. In them Esau still has not been fully slain.
 
Does this mean that we now start writing bitter things against them and start
saying that they are not children of God? Oh, be careful. The Lord says: I have
loved Jacob. I have not beheld iniquity in Jacob. It was not because Jacob was
better. It was because Jacob had that new man of the heart, and the Lord had
worked grace in his soul.

 
We read in Luke 6:22: “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they
shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your
name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.”
 
When men do this to you, do you now have the right to start passing judgment and
say, Well, they put me out, so they are the guilty ones? No, the Lord often uses
His own dear people to give you the sorest trials.
 
The sorest trial that ever came upon the Lord Jesus Christ must have been when
He saw Peter, His own beloved apostle, cursing and swearing and denying that he
ever knew Him. Can you imagine how the powers of hell came against our Lord and
Saviour to tell Him: That is the one you are dying for, and he is cursing and
blaspheming your name? Why do you want to die for a man like that? Did Christ
condemn Peter? No, He turned and gave him a look of love. You and I have to be
so careful not to pass judgment against another man. I do not care if we think
he is a believer or not. The Lord knows, and we must commit it into the hands of
the One who judges righteously.
 
I want you to see how a walk of humility is a reproof of Esau’s pride. I have
had some of God’s very dear children reprove me by far the sharpest. Why? For
revealing their sins. How? By the fact that I would not join them. The minute I
told a woman over the phone that I would not talk business with her on Sunday,
she replied: Just a minute, do not forget that I am a Christian!
 
The most grievous reproof they get is by the fact that you are not willing to
join their sin. Sometimes it is Christians who are the most offended.
 
We see in John 6:26-27: “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say
unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of
the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for
that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give
unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”
 
What is our motive for serving the Lord? Is it because we stand to gain, not
necessarily temporal things, but are we serving the Lord to earn heaven? Is it
for our profit? Old Esau loves those because it is a selfish motive. If I am
serving the Lord to go to heaven, the Lord is not pleased with me. The Lord
wants me to serve Him because I love Him, and I desire to be with Him, and to
serve Him because it is His pleasure. He wants me to serve Him because that is
His holy will. This is why I serve the Lord. If all I am doing is serving the
Lord because it is profitable for me, it is not pleasing to the Lord.
 
FOR OUR SECOND POINT, let’s consider what God reveals that He loves in the
character and in the strain of Jacob, in other words, in that new man of the
heart.
 
As we examine our hearts, we have to look for what the Lord hates, but on the
other side of that same principle, He also teaches what the Lord loves within
our hearts. When He has worked the work of regeneration and has worked in us the
new man, then there are also things in us He loves.

 
The Lord caused Jacob to walk in the way of brokenness. A broken and a contrite
spirit the Lord will never despise. That is what He loves within us, when we see
the power of sin, and we see the power of Esau within us, and it gives us a
humble and a contrite heart before the Lord. It brings us into a brokenness, and
He likes to see this every step of our lives, that every decision we make, and
every step we take, is with a heart broken in His will.

 
I want you to see this in Genesis 32:31-32: “And as he passed over Penuel the
sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of
Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh,
unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that
shrank.” 

 
He halted upon his thigh because in his wrestling with the Lord, the Lord had
put His finger upon him, and he had found that his own strength had failed.
 
 
 
We are all by nature as Esau as a result of our fall in Adam. We are looking to
build.

 
Malachi 1:4 says: “Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return
and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build,
but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and,
The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.”
 
There is the mercy of God. As we in our old nature begin to build in our own
strength, the wonder of grace and the mercy of God is that He does break that
down. Jacob by nature was no better than Esau. We see this in Genesis 27:36:
“And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two
times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my
blessing.” The name Jacob means “deceiver” and “supplanter” and “trickster.”
 
After God touched the hallow of Jacob’s thigh, He asked Jacob in Genesis 32:27:
“And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.” When Jacob
replied, he was confessing before the Lord, My name is supplanter, deceiver,
trickster, liar. In other words, My name is sinner. He was not able to build on
anything in himself. He had to come as a sinner before God. He had to come and
confess that he was nothing but a sinner. That is the working of grace. He is
confessing that God could justly condemn him to hell. The Lord tears us down to
bring us to brokenness, a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

 
The word thigh is taken from the Hebrew word, Yarek (yaw-rake'), which means to
be soft—the thigh (from its fleshly softness). The thigh is the softest part of
the flesh.
 
Our text says God “touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that
shrank.”

 
Jacob was left alone with God after he had sent all he had over the brook. I
want you to understand the difference between Jacob and Esau. Now Jacob is not
building anything in his own strength as his strength was now gone.
 
We read in Genesis 32:22-24: “And he rose up that night, and took his two wives,
and his two womenservants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford
Jabbok.  And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he
had. And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the
breaking of the day.”
 
Jacob had to let loose of everything in this life. If we love father or mother,
or husband or wife, or children more than God, we are not worthy of Him. Jacob
demonstrates this. He had to put everything across on the other side of the
brook, so it was now just Jacob and God. 

 
God takes us alone and wrestles with us to reveal the distinction between the
Esau church of self-sufficiency, and the Jacobs who halt upon their thigh. That
Esau in us has to be slain. It has to be cut off. The Lord brings that
distinction now. We now halt on every step we take. When the Lord caused Jacob’s
sinew to shrink, he had to bring one foot up and stop, and then bring the other
foot forward. This is teaching us that in a spiritual sense we are not
sufficient of ourselves to be able to walk in our own strength. We take every
step and come to a stop, and have to again step forward with the other foot. We
must get the right foot forward, and that is the leading of the Lord.
 
When everything is sent over the brook Jabbok, Christ alone is all that matters
anymore. We must get to the point where we put aside everything—my wife and my
children and my cattle and my property—and now it gets to be a personal matter
between Christ and me. Now that old man of sin is crucified. Now it comes to the
point where Christ is all in all.
 
When Christ says in Luke 14:26: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father,
and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own
life also, he cannot be my disciple,” that word hate means love them less. We
must love Christ above our husbands and our wives. We must love Christ above all
other things in this life. We have to be able to lay it all aside.
 
Then we understand what Jacob said in Genesis 32:26: “And he said, Let me go,
for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless
me.”
 
Now the wrestling was between him and the Lord. This is not only Old Testament
religion, the same was true in the time of Jesus as we see in Matthew 15:24:
“But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of
Israel.” 

 
This woman of Canaan came to Him and wanted Him to heal her daughter, but He put
her away, giving her no hope, no encouragement.

 
Verse 25 says: “Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.” She
did not back off. It was a wrestling match between her and the Lord. It was a
matter of old Esau being cut off.

 
Continuing in verse 26 we read: “But he answered and said, It is not meet to
take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” 

 
After Jesus touched her thigh, after all of her strength had come to an end,
then we read in Matthew 15:27: “And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of
the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

 
She had to confess that she was as a dog. Jacob had to confess, I am Jacob. As
old Esau gets slain, and as Jacob begins to halt upon his thigh, as that new man
of the heart begins to function before the Lord, then we have to come before Him
as humble and contrite sinners. 

 
Jesus replied in verse 28: “Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman,
great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made
whole from that very hour.”
 
As Jacob wrestled, God touched the hollow of his thigh. We read in Genesis
32:25: “And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow
of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled
with him.”

 
God wrestles with His dear children to exhaust all of their own strength. He
wrestles with us in prayer because everything of Esau, everything of our old
flesh, has to be broken down. A wrestler’s strength is not in his arms, not in
his chest or shoulders, it is in his thighs. When the Lord shrank the sinew of
Jacob’s thigh it meant he was no longer wrestling in his own strength. Now he
comes to wrestle in faith, the faith of Jesus Christ.

 
No person can be a wrestler without strong thighs.  When “Jacob's thigh was out
of joint,” he was at the end of himself. He had no strength in the flesh. This
is the difference between Esau and Jacob. Esau was strong in himself, but
Jacob’s strength was broken.
 
This is where God’s love for Jacob was revealed. We read in Malachi 1:2-3: “I
have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not
Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and
laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.”

 
The love God had for Jacob was revealed at Penuel when He touched the hollow of
his thigh. It was revealed when He slew old Esau. If you and I know what it is
for the Lord to work His grace in our hearts, and to slay that old nature, and
to bring us to the point where we understand what it is to walk in the strength
of the Lord and not in our human strength, that is where we see His love.

 
God left Esau over to wrestle in his own strength. That is our old nature. We
read in verse 4: “Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return
and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build,
but I will throw down.”
 
The Lord says, Go ahead and build, but I will tear it down. When that new man of
the heart has gained the mastery, and when that old Esau has come to serve the
younger, then we will understand  the words of the psalmist in Psalm 127:1:
“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the
LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
 
Now we start living by trusting in the Lord.
 
When every true Jacob finds his thigh out of joint, he learns Jacob’s language
in Genesis 32:26: “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Now we come
before the Lord as needy creatures, and as needy, hungry souls, and we seek the
help of the Lord.  God tries our faith as He did Jacob and the woman of Canaan.

 
We read what Jacob said in Genesis 32:26: “And he said, Let me go, for the day
breaketh.” 

 
Jesus said to the Canaanite woman in Matthew15:24-26: “But he answered and said,
I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and
worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet
to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.”
 
The Lord makes as though He will remove Himself and leave us desolate to reveal
what is in our hearts. 

 
This woman would not let go until she was blessed as we read in verse 27: “And
she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their
masters’ table.”
 
He is going to bring us to where we confess with our mouths and from our hearts
that we have no strength without Him. The woman would not let go until she was
blessed. Jacob would not let go until he was blessed.
 
This lesson is not a one-time experience. Genesis 32:31 says: “And as he passed
over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.”
 
The lesson Jacob learned at Penuel he remembered every step he took for the rest
of his life. When you and I have been brought into the schools of Christ, and
when that old Esau has been slain, and as we start walking as before the Lord,
we are going to remember every step we take. That weakness in that thigh is
manifest every step we take. We are no longer able to build in our own strength.
We are unable to walk in our own strength. We cannot take one step without being
reminded how He touched the hollow of our thigh.
 
Jacob’s strength in himself was never regained.  He was broken, and halted upon
that thigh every step he took the rest of his life. That is the work of grace in
the heart. The elder shall never again gain the mastery.
 
Jacob’s religion was the Apostle Paul’s religion. Paul said in 2 Corinthians
12:9-10: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength
is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my
infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take
pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in
distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
 
That is the gospel. How did the Lord touch the hollow of the Apostle Paul’s
thigh? He gave him a thorn in the flesh and a messenger of Satan to buffet him,
lest he should become exalted, lest he should be raised up in pride, lest old
Esau should get the mastery. That is why he had to walk as Jacob walked, halting
upon his thigh.

 
Jacob could take pleasure in the fact that he was unable to walk in his own
strength. Jacob, when he learns to walk with that brokenness, learns to
understand that in his weakness is his strength. Now he sees that he is walking
in the strength of the Lord.
 
Romans 5:6 says: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died
for the ungodly.”
 
When you and I understand that we are without strength, we see our strength in
Christ.  Broken human strength is needed to become strong. Before you and I have
been broken, old Esau has the mastery, but as the Lord casts him down, Jacob
understands what it is to walk in the strength of the Lord.
 
Luke 1:49-51 says: “For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy
is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to
generation.  He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud
in the imagination of their hearts.”

 
See where the difference is. See what He does to that Esau. Those who fear Him
are those who hate evil, those who hate pride that keeps rising up in their own
hearts.
 
Therefore Paul admonishes to be strong in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. We
may be strong. We may be stronger than any man on the face of the earth, but not
in our own strength. We are going to be strong in the grace of the Lord Jesus
Christ.
 
We read in 2 Timothy 2:1: “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that
is in Christ Jesus.”
 
That is where our strength lies. That is where all strength lies in the work of
grace. When I am weak, then I am strong. I rejoice in infirmities because I
understand that is the way of grace. I understand that is the way of the work of
the cross, taking up our crosses daily and following our Saviour in the way of
the cross. It is the way of crucifying the old man of sin. 

 
 
 
      Are you aware…that when we were born, we were given life…and this life, according to the Bible, is like a race.  Listen to what the Apostle Paul had to say as he neared the end of his life.

 

 
     Paul compared life with that of a race.  Also, the writer of Hebrews said… 

 
  How is life like a race?

 

a.      Life like a race has a challenging course (life has its ups and downs). 

 

b.     Life like a race has a judge or judges.  Jesus is our judge.

 

c.      Life like a race has a finish line (In the end, we will spend eternity either in heaven or hell).

 

     You and I as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are created by God to win this Christian race…to be winners in the Lord…to one day stand in eternity robed in righteousness, wearing a crown of glory, and blessed with eternal honors and rewards.

 

TODAY, I AM GOING TO SHARE SOME PRINCIPLES ON HOW TO WIN THE CHRISTIAN RACE.

 

BEFORE I PROVIDE THESE PRINCIPLES, I NEED TO CLARIFY A FEW THINGS.

 

I.                    FROM THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE, WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A WINNER?

 

     From the world's perspective, winning is based upon…

 

a.      Intelligence - The smarter you are the more respect you receive.

 

b.     Wealth – The more money you have the happier you will be.

 
  From the world's perspective, winning is based upon intelligence, and wealth.

 
          FROM GOD'S PERSPECTIVE, WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A WINNER?

 

 
     From God's perspective, winning is not based upon speed (swift), strength (strong), intelligence (wise), and wealth.

 

      From God's perspective, winning is based upon our effort to please God.  We win when we do the best we can to please God. 

 

     You see…the world views people as successful if they are the best...number one…head of the class.  But God is more concerned with us doing our best to honor Him.

 

 
    If we want to win the Christian race…and become spiritual champions, then we must do our best for God.

 

ILLUSTRATION:

 

Britain's Derek Redmond had dreamed all his life of winning a gold medal in the 400-meter race, and his dream was in sight as he ran in the semifinals at Barcelona Olympics of 1992. 

 

He was running the race of his life and was nearing the finish line when all of a sudden he felt a sharp pain go up the back of his leg. He fell face first onto the track with a torn right hamstring.

 

As the doctors were approaching, Redmond fought to his feet and began hopping to the finish line.

 

When he reached the stretch, a large man in a T-shirt came out of the stands, brushed aside a security guard and ran to Redmond, embracing him. It was Jim Redmond, Derek's father. "You don't have to do this," he told his weeping son. "Yes, I do," said Derek. "Well, then," said Jim, "we're going to finish this together."

 

And they did. Fighting off security men, the son's head sometimes buried in his father's shoulder, they stayed in Derek's lane all the way to the end, as the crowd rose and clapped and wept.

 

Derek didn't walk away with the gold medal, but he was a winner because he did His best.

 

    My friends, from God's perspective, winning is not based upon being number one…We win when we do our best to please God.

       NOW, I AM GOING TO SHARE SOME PRINCIPLES ON HOW TO WIN THE CHRISTIAN RACE.

 

           FIRST, TO WIN THE CHRISTIAN RACE, WE MUST RUN WITH CONFIDENCE (SELF-WORTH). 

 
      We will never become a champion until we see ourselves as a champion.  As Christians, we are champions and winners in the Lord.  We are WORTH a lot to God.

 
   Listen…the Bible tells us how important we are.

 

 

    We are children of God.

 

We are related to the creator of the World.  We belong to a royal family.  

 
    Unfortunately, though, some people walk around looking and acting like failures.  They live defeated lives because they do not value themselves.  They believe they have to many flaws and imperfections for God to love them.

 

ILLUSTRATION:

Have you ever noticed the pockmarks, or dimples, covering the surface of a golf ball? They make the ball look imperfect. So, what's their purpose?

An aeronautical engineer who designs golf balls says that a perfectly smooth ball would travel only 130 yards off the tee. But the same ball with the right kind of dimples will fly twice that far. These apparent "flaws" minimize the ball's air resistance and allow it to travel much further.

Most of us can quickly name the physical characteristics we wish we had been born without. It's difficult to imagine that these "imperfections" are there for a purpose and are part of God's master design. Yet, when the psalmist wrote of God's creative marvel in the womb, he said to the Lord, "You formed my inward parts (Psalm 139:13) and "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed (vs. 14). Then he said, "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (v. 14).

If we could accept our "flaws" and "imperfections" as part of God's master plan for us, what a difference it would make in our outlook on life.

The "dimples" we dislike may enable us to bring the greatest glory to our wise and loving Creator, who knows how to get the best out of our lives.
   What I am trying to say is this…To win the Christian race, we must run with confidence (self worth)…we must value ourselves…understand that we are special to God…we are worth a lot to Him…because we are His children.

   Sure, we all have some "flaws" and "imperfections", however, we cannot let these things get us down, for we are valuable to God.   

 

   When we start valuing ourselves the way God values us… then we will be on fire for the Lord.  We will live passionate spiritual lives and will be on our way to winning the Christian race.

 

          SECOND, TO WIN THE CHRISTIAN RACE, WE MUST RUN WITH THE RIGHT MOTIVATION. 

 

  Why do we want to be a Christian?  Why should we live our lives for God and follow His will?

 

 
  These are all excellent reasons to want to live our lives for God.

 
      However, one of the greatest motivating factors for living our lives for the Lord is the GRACE OF GOD.

 

 

    The apostle Paul was motivated to live his life for God and work hard in serving Jesus Christ because of the GRACE OF GOD.  To Paul, the greatest thing in all the world was the grace of God, the fact that God loved him so much…that God forgave his terrible sins…that God allowed him to follow and serve His son…that God allowed him to proclaim the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

    All that Paul was and all that Paul did was by the grace, the undeserved favor of God.  As he himself declared: "by the grace of God I am what I am."

 

  A big motivating factor that should inspire us to live good Christian lives…to run the Christian race… is the grace of God.

 

    What is the grace of God?

 

   Simply…the Bible says that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 3:23).  When we sin, we deserve death (because sin is an offense against God and must be punished).  However, God had a plan to help us be forgiven of our sins.  God, mercifully sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to take away our sins.  Paul says, "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

 

    Because of our sins, we deserve spiritual death.  However, Jesus died in our place so that we may live forever.  Jesus gave His life to give us life.

 

ILLUSTRATION:

 

On August 16, 1987, Northwest Airlines flight 225 crashed just after taking off from the Detroit airport, killing 155 people.

 

One survived: a four-year-old from Tempe, Arizona, named Cecelia.

 

News accounts say when rescuers found Cecelia they did not believe she had been on the plane. Investigators first assumed Cecelia had been a passenger in one of the cars on the highway onto which the airliner crashed. But when the passenger register for the flight was checked, there was Cecelia's name.

 

Cecelia survived because, even as the plane was falling, Cecelia's mother, Paula Chican, unbuckled her own seat belt, got down on her knees in front of her daughter, wrapped her arms and body around Cecelia, and then would not let her go.

 

Nothing could separate that child from her parent's love—neither tragedy nor disaster, neither the fall nor the flames that followed, neither height nor depth, neither life nor death.

 

Such is the love of our Savior for us. He left heaven, lowered himself to us, and covered us with the sacrifice of His own body to save us.

 

   Why should we live our lives for God and follow His will?  We should live our lives for God because He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross to save us from our sins!  The grace…the undeserved love that He shows us should motivate us to run the Christian race with all of our hearts!

 

   THIRD, TO WIN THE CHRISTIAN RACE, WE MUST TURN SETBACKS INTO COMEBACKS. 

 

ILLUSTRATION:

 

In 1996, Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer.  Doctors gave him only a 50% chance of survival since the cancer had spread to his brain and lungs.

 

But after four rounds of chemotherapy and two operations, Armstrong turned his setback into a comeback.

 

Only three years after being diagnosed with life-threatening cancer, Lance Armstrong won one of sports' most grueling cycling events--the Tour de France.

 
  In our lives, we will experience setbacks…some setbacks may be emotional and some may be physical and some may be spiritual.  When they come, we shouldn't become angry and bitter, instead, we must turn our setbacks into comebacks.

 

The Christian life is by far the best life to live, however, it is not a problem-free life.  Troubles that arise.  However, we can triumph over our problems…we can turn setbacks into comebacks just like Lance Armstrong did.

 

  Why do we experience trials and tribulations?  We experience trials and tribulations in order to grow and mature in our faith.      

 

 

   Our suffering develops perseverance; and perseverance will build maturity and maturity will produce character.  So suffering is designed to make us better people.

 
     How should we handle difficult times?  How can we rebound from setbacks?

 

     Pray and believe that God is with us.

 

 

  Choose to be joyful.

 

 

 

  Never give up.

 

 

CONCLUSION:

 
        Brethren, to win the Christian race, we must run with confidence, run with the right motivation, and turn setbacks into comebacks.  If we do these three things, we are on our way to winning the Christian race.

 

     If you are not a Christian, you are not even in the race.  You have no hope to stand in the victory circle to receive your crown of life.  So I would like to encourage you to give your life to the Lord today, by believing in Jesus, turn away from your sins, confessing your faith in Jesus and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.