It was such a joy to attend Word Alive for the first time last April, not least because praising God alongside thousands of other Christians was a new and amazing experience for me.
Through the week, I felt spiritually nourished by the wonderful gospel-centred talks, as well as by the stories I heard from students across Great Britain. I was particularly struck by a talk from Dave Gobbet, who spoke on Genesis 32:22-32, and I hope to give you a flavour of that talk as I share some of my own reflections in this blog.
A misplaced identity
As Christians in the 21st century, we can easily take for granted that we can openly come to God through Jesus. Every day, we can meet God face to face as we praise Him for His majesty and bring before Him our prayers and petitions. This relationship requires a change of heart, for we as human beings are selfish by nature. We reject God and find ourselves placing our identity in the things of this world.
In Genesis 32, we meet Jacob as he flees the life he has known for two decades. Having left his uncle Laban’s camp, he is on the run, taking with him a portion of his uncle's earthly belongings. In the uncertainty, Jacob seeks to find a new identity for himself and begins to place his trust in the things of this world.
Jacob resolves to find his identity in himself and his livelihood – much like we so often do. After all, with two wives, eleven sons and countless livestock, Jacob isn’t doing too badly for himself, is he? It is easy to fall into a trap of thinking God isn’t relevant or the blessings in our lives are our own doing. Jacob was doing just this – looking for blessing in the wrong place. Yet, God chose to meet Jacob face to face.
As he wrestles with his own sinful desires, God must break Jacob from these chains to bring him to Himself. Dave explained, ‘God has to break you for you to get the blessing’ – and it’s just as true for us. How can we meet God if we believe Him to be our equal? Instead, we must surrender all that we are and fully place our trust in Him. We must relinquish our pride before we can place our full identity in Him, as he designed us for.
A new identity
Towards the end of the passage, God gives Jacob a new identity. ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,’ the Lord says, ‘because you have struggled with God and with humans, and have overcome’ (v28). Jacob gains a new identity as someone who is in a personal relationship with God. Not only that, but God left him astounded that he survived this face-to-face meeting.
Jacob reflected, ‘I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared’ (v30). What a picture this is, friends, of our own blessing in having a personal relationship with Jesus! What an honour that the King of Heaven wishes to directly commune with us. Even Jacob, a patriarch of Israel, was shocked that God had not only spared him, but also blessed him when he didn’t earn it.
Dave drew his talk to a close with a quote from CS Lewis:
‘If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.’
Well friends, I invite you to be shocked afresh. Be astounded in just the same way. We have a new identity in Christ that allows us to meet God through His Word and through prayer as often as we like. It isn’t easy to remain in awe of a gift that we have for eternity; but if we find our identity in Christ and place our full trust in Him, we can be truly satisfied. I hope you’ll agree that satisfaction in a sinful world is something to praise God for!
If you have enjoyed this flavour of the teaching at Word Alive, and would like to attend next year, Word Alive is back 2-7 April 2024. If you’re interested to organise your CU’s group, you can find the details here.
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