(This is the text of Apostle Walker’s SECOND sermon of Sunday, December 9, reprinted here for those who may have missed it.)

Genesis 32:24-32

We have been taught all of our lives to be strong, self-sufficient, and self-sustaining. This advice can take you as far as we are naturally strong. There is a limit to the natural strength that we can develop. We can only build so many muscles. The advice to be self-sufficient is good only for the body and soul.

Self-sufficiency does nothing to strengthen our spirit. The areas where we are naturally the strongest are the areas that we are spiritually the weakest. Paul the apostle once said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” God must be our source of strength regardless of natural ability. We tap into the super strength that is in Christ as we daily feed our human spirit with God’s means of grace – worship, meditating on the word, and prayer. Why do we neglect to pray or read his word? It is because we have not come to a place wherein we realize that our strength is insufficient, at least for that particular day or days. The number of days we miss in his presence is a gauge of the strength of our self-sufficiency.

Ephesians 6:12 encourages us to “be strong in the Lord and the power of His might”. We can immediately release his authority and power into our circumstances regardless of what they are. Whenever we are able to release the authority/power of the Holy Spirit into our lives, we become invincible. Our strength is limited, but God’s power is illimitable.

Psalm 1:3 states that we can be “like a tree, planted by the rivers of water”.  Psalm 1 is informing us about an underground watering system, a hidden source of nourishing strength that keeps the tree evergreen, even in the midst of the worst of circumstances. Every other tree around this tree may shrivel and dry up, but this evergreen will always flourishes in its God-ordained seasons. We can produce fruit in God’s appointed seasons regardless of our external circumstances when our source of strength is rooted in him and not contingent upon our external circumstances.

God has to bring all of us from self-sufficiency to God-sufficiency. He endorses his strength and never our puny capability. He does not delight in the strength of the horse and he does not take pleasure in the legs of a man (Psalm 147:10). Paul the apostle affirmed his insufficiency when he said, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of the patriarch Abraham, had to be brought to a place of God-sufficiency. The name Jacob means “heel grabber”. When he was born, his twin brother Esau exited the womb, first. Jacob was breached in the womb, and as his brother Esau was pulled first from the womb, Jacob held on to his heel. Imagine such a stunning image: As one child was being pulled from the womb, the second child was holding onto his ankle. His parents named him “heel grabber” after looking at this unusual situation. There is a more sinister meaning to the name, however. It also means deceiver, manipulator, conniver, and schemer. The name implies the ultimate in self-sufficiency. Jacob understood the subtle art of how to “get over” on people. You had better watch your wallet and your pocketbook around Jacob. Truth be told, I think we all have a little Jacob in us.

Jacob lived a life that was characterized by manipulation and scheming. He could sell an Eskimo snow in a blizzard. On one occasion when his famished brother Esau was returning from a fruitless hunting expedition, he deceive him into selling his birthright for a bowl of red beans. The birthright was the inheritance given to oldest child. The oldest sibling would receive double and sometimes two-thirds share his father’s wealth. This extra sustenance was necessary because this sibling would become head of the deceased father’s household. He would need the additional wealth to sustain the family. Esau “despised” – i.e., devalued – his birthright. When he was starving it was of little value. Jacob was able to trick Esau into releasing his future abundant blessing for a few lentils. Had Esau waited, he could have easily walked the last few feet and had much more than a bowl of beans. In releasing the birthright, Esau also released in his younger brother’s hand all of the spiritual promises of Abraham.

When Jacob and Esau’s dad, Isaac, was near death and ready to bless his sons with a final blessing, Jacob connived with his mother to steal the final blessing from the father. The birthright was the inheritance that was passed down from the father. The blessing was a pronouncement from a father that spoke to what a child would accomplish in life. A blessing speaks of a person’s destiny.

In actuality, God had already chosen Jacob to carry out the promises of Abraham. He did not have to steal anything. God has some strange choices, sometimes. If you don’t believe it, look in the mirror. When God looks at us, He does not look at just what we have done, but who he created us to be.

Jacob stole and fought for what was already his. The more self-sufficient that we are, the harder we will connive to get what is rightfully ours. God can promise us something and we can spend a lot of time manipulating people and jockeying for position. What we are scheming to receive is already ours. We have to trust him to be big enough to get it into our hands.

This final “get over” on his brother was too much for Esau to bear. When Esau found out Jacob had stolen the blessing of his father, it was the final straw. He was going to kill Jacob . . . cemetery dead!

Jacob panics and runs to his uncle’s house and stays there for 20 years. After this long period of time passes by, Jacob is tired of running and decides to return home and face the music that he left playing with Esau. He could not stay with Laban any longer and he could not run any further. He had to go back to the place where the promise was given to him. We can do lot of running, but somehow God’s promises are a beacon that brings us back home every time. Jacob’s destiny could not be fulfilled while he was running from his past. Destiny is something that no matter how far we run, it will always call us back home. Destiny is something that will always draw us back to where we ran from.

On his way back home, Jacob receives word that Esau is coming to meet him with band of 400 armed men. The last words he heard from his brother as he scrambled out the back door were, “Jacob, I am going to kill you!” When somebody says “I am going to kill you” and is coming your way with 400 armed men, it will not be a “boy, I am glad to see my family again” moment.

Jacob separates his family based on value to him. He is alone, in a very dark place, illuminated by a flickering campfire. He is filled with anxiety, fearing certain death, genocide of his family, and loss of all possessions to Esau. His self-sufficiency had brought him to a dark night of the soul with just him and God and no way out. Have you ever had a dark night of the soul? Your options are not just few; you have no options! The only option that you have left is to look up to live. Not look up and live, but look up to life.

Everybody has a dark night of the soul before they walk into destiny. This is not just a 12-hour period, but a season of darkness. A dark night always precedes destiny. Moses and Israel had a night of darkness at the Red Sea before the destruction of Pharaoh’s army. Elijah hid in a dark cave after fleeing the murderous wrath of Jezebel. Daniel was thrown in a dark lion’s den before his stance changed a nation’s view of Jehovah. Jesus had some very dark moments in Gethsemane before He went to the cross to redeem the world. Your darkest night always comes before your greatest moments of victory.

In Jacob’s anguish of the soul, an angel appears in the middle of his night. Jacob did not know who this man was, but he knew that God was present with him. The appearance of the angel was his only option for survival. Jacob surmised that if the angel blessed him, he could face the uncertainty of his dismal future. Jacob grabbed the angel with a death grip and wrestled with him all night. Jacob’s stance was, “I ain’t about to let you go until you bless me!”

Jacob had the death grip of a drowning man upon this angelic being. You have to be careful when you rescue a drowning person. When this angel showed up, this was his last and ONLY option. All he knew how to do was to grab hold. This drowning man grabbed hold of the only person that could help him.

Have you ever been in a great deal of trouble, and then somebody shows up to help and it turns out that is the only person who can assist? What do you do?  Have you ever been in trouble and the Lord shows up in the middle of your blackest night? When he does show up and we get a hold to him, no matter what anybody says, we won’t let go.

As day was breaking, the angel told Jacob to let him go. Jacob still had not received the blessing from the angel so he clung to him still. The angel asked him his name and he responded, “Jacob”. The angel said to him, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” The angel blessed him by giving him a name change.

Our parents can name us, people can label us, but God ultimately decides what we are to be called. When you do not like how your life is going, you need a new name. That one word will change our future. Jesus renamed Simon to Peter (meaning the rock). God will change your name when folks mislabel you.

All we need is just one word from the Lord to face an uncertain future. Jacob’s word was a name change. He received a change of name and immediately went from being a “heel grabber” to a “prince with God”. Just one word from God will change our destiny.

Jacob walked out in the early morning sunshine as the day was breaking, knowing that all was well. Our morning will appear when we trust God with our future. We may limp into the future as our day appears, but we walk with a new stride of confidence. The limp serves as a reminder that our sufficiency is in God. Thank God for the areas we have to limp in as they constantly remind us to rely on him for everything else. Jacob came to a place where he realized that everything he could do to fulfill God’s purposes by himself would not work. Jacob was limping, but he was inwardly rejoicing. When you know God is in control, you can walk into an uncertain future, realizing that this move is your place of destiny. It just does not matter anymore because God is in control.

– Apostle Phillip A. Walker