Paul said: "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6:12). And near the end of his ministry the apostle could boast, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:" (2 Timothy 4:7).
Paul never lost his fight - he was filled with it to his dying day. And many of our other spiritual fathers died fighting as well. The writer to the Hebrews said of the elders of the church, "[They] waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." (Hebrews 11:34). Men like Joshua and Caleb were mighty warriors to the very end!
What kind of fight have you been putting up in the past year? Have you been so overwhelmed at times you've lost your fight? Have you become a weak, passive soldier of the Cross - discouraged, wounded, perplexed?
I pray this message from the Holy Spirit will put the fight back in you - that once more you'll be fearless against the devil's weapons. It's time for you to get back up and fight the good fight!
Jacob is our example of how to get back our Fight - and how to prevail with God! When the prophet Hosea wanted to warn Israel about their cowardly spiritual condition, he reminded them of their father Jacob. The crux of his message was, "You've become weak, passive. And now the enemy is over-whelming you! You claim to be Jacob's seed - but I want to show you how far you've strayed from his example. I want to show you how Jacob prevailed - how he had power with God!"
He told the Israelites this about Jacob:
"He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us;" (Hosea 12:3-4).
In this very brief passage about Jacob, Hosea sums up three secrets to getting back our fight - and how to overcome and prevail with God! Let me list them for you:
Esau came forth from his mother's womb first - a baby covered with man's hair! (His name means "hairy man"). But his twin, Jacob, had grabbed his heel while still in the womb. What a shock the midwife must have had as she delivered Esau: As he came forth, a tiny hand had a grip on his heel!
The Israelites listening to Hosea recount this story must have looked at each other in bewilderment. "What does this have to do with us?" they probably asked. "What does it have to do with fighting the enemy?"
Hosea's message to them was very simple: "Here was a man greedy for God, hungry for everything God had for him!"
Jacob came out of the womb in a fighting mood, greedy for the blessings of God! There was something of a godly instinct in this child. It was as if he were saying, "Brother, if you don't want the fullness of God, I do. Get out of my way! I won't be left behind in God's blessings!"
The birthright and blessing Jacob desired throughout his life represent all the blessings that are in Christ Jesus! Yet it wasn't the double portion of his father's wealth that Jacob was after; it wasn't the promise of the land. He proved that wasn't so by laboring under Laban for fourteen years by the sweat of his brow.
No, Jacob wanted something more. He wanted the blessing of God so he could be in the lineage of the Messiah! And he wanted the priestly blessing. This meant not only being priest of the clan - it also meant being able to bless others!
We see this priestly ministry throughout Genesis 27, and as Isaac laid hands on Jacob and blessed him: "...that my soul may bless thee" (verses 4, 19, 27). It meant the high honor of having God's hand on him - and the power to bless others!
Beloved this is what is being required of believers in these last days! God is wanting to raise up a people who aren't concerned only about making their own living, owning a house or driving a nice car. He is seeking those who are greedy for the blessings of God - not to consume it on themselves, but to be used of Him to help others!
Jacob's brother Esau represents everything that God hates in mankind. He lived only for himself for immediate pleasure and self-satisfaction. He never considered God's eternal purposes. And God said of him: "... yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau..." (Malachi 1:2-3).
But Jacob lived for God's purposes! And his hand on Esau's heel was a powerful statement! It said: "I will not be held by sin's grip - I am more than a conqueror! I will lay hold of all that is of Satan and resist, fight, and be victorious! I want God's hand on me - I want His blessing at any cost. I was born to be a channel of His blessing!"
Hosea used this to chide Israel: "You claim to be children of Jacob, but you know nothing of his consuming hunger for the things of God! You're carnal, lazy - you're careless about seeking His fullness. Your hands reach out for selfish things. You are nothing like your father Jacob!"
Jacob spent years fighting to get and keep the blessing of God! And that same desire ought to put a fight in all of God's people. If you don't hunger for Jesus - if you only want to make it to heaven and not be bothered by the needs of others - then you have nothing to fight for! You are a powder-puff Christian, an easy mark for the devil!
This is why so many followers of Jesus are in bondage to lusts and habits of all kinds. They have no fight - they refuse to grab the heel of their sin and cast it down through the power of God! Instead they claim, "I can't help my sin." But that is not so! There is great victory for all who will fight their besetting sin!
A young man who was flirting with homosexuality recently told me, "I really don't fight it. In fact, I kind of like it." He can never be delivered until he sees it as evil - as sin - and he stands up and fights!
Beloved, you've got to get a grip on the heel of your sin! You've got to grab hold and say, "God, I want your blessing. I want victory over everything in my life that is unlike You!"
Jacob had labored under Laban for fourteen years. And Laban changed his wages ten times. But Jacob was very prosperous because God's hand was on him. Now Laban's sons wanted to kill him because, they said, "He's stealing us blind!" And Jacob became concerned for his family's safety.
Scripture says God came to Jacob in the middle of the night: "And the Lord said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee" (Genesis 31:3).
Jacob immediately obeyed. He gathered his family and flocks and set out on a journey home. Please understand this: He went in God's time, in God's way, with God's calling and mandate - and with His promise ringing in his ears: "I will go with you!" God made him go!
Yet in spite of all this - in spite of being in God's perfect will, having a clear word from Him and obeying Him completely - Jacob suddenly entered into some of the hardest times a man of God ever experienced! He was hungry for God - worshipping the Lord, spending time at the altar, walking in complete obedience. But suddenly everything was spinning out of control!
First he received word Esau was coming - racing toward him with 400 rough riders, appearing set for revenge! "Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed" (Genesis 32:7). So Jacob divided his entourage into groups and droves of cattle. He sent the first group forth to meet Esau, instructing them, "Tell Esau all these camels and donkeys and sheep are his - a gift from his brother, Jacob!"
Jacob then told the other groups to flee if the first group met with the sword. Finally, he sent his two wives, two women servants and eleven sons over the brook Jabbok - and he was left all alone.
We need only to look into our own hearts to know what must have gone through Jacob's mind in that lonely hour. I see him pacing back and forth, his arms flailing in frustration. He was weeping, crying, wailing before God:
"O God - it must have been the enemy who gave me the word to do this! How could You put Your obedient servant through such a trial? First You gave me a clear word telling me to go. And I obeyed You - I did exactly what You told me. But now I've ended up facing an army of powerful enemies!
"My whole family is in the crisis of their lives! And I'm about to lose everything - my very life is on the line! What kind of guidance is this, God? You called me out here, and now You've abandoned me!"
Beloved, this was not the worst part. At the very depth of his despair and deepest confusion, when Jacob needed the comforting Word of God - God came toward him as if an enemy, to fight him! "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day" (Genesis 32:24).
Try to imagine the scene. Jacob sees the form of a man coming at him, with fists raised and a challenge: "Come on, Jacob - fight!"
If ever a man seemed to have a reason to give up, it was Jacob! He was as low and confused at this point as he could ever get. And instead of getting an encouraging word from God, he was called out to fight!
Jacob could have said, "That's it - no more! I can't take it! I've tried, I've obeyed. But everything is spinning out of control! All my circumstances tell me I'm not in God's will. I'm at my wits' end...
"God, You told me You'd go with me. But instead You've come at me only to pin me to the ground. I'm about to die, and You say, 'Fight!' No man can take this! You can do what You want. You won't get any fight out of me!"
Beloved - I have been there! I remember once standing by a window overlooking this city. On one side a death angel whispered, "Your daughter is next!" And on the other side Satan whispered, "I'll wreck your home and cause you to reproach His name!"
Everything seemed to be unraveling. My own body was heavy with pain, fear, trembling - accusing demons on all sides!
Yes, I know what it's like to scream at God, "What's going on? I'm not living in sin - I've obeyed You! I came to New York in faithfulness to You. I haven't done anything to deserve any of this. But it looks like You've allowed the devil to get to me! Is this what happens when I obey You, God? If I've done wrong, show me. But don't let this go on any longer!"
To make matters worse, the Lord didn't come to me with outstretched arms of comfort. I heard no soft whisper of reassurance. Instead, He came at me with fists clenched, commanding me, "Stand up, David - fight!"
Jacob wasn't in any trouble with Esau. If he were, God would have delivered him. God had already promised Jacob at Bethel He would go with him to the very end. He'd even shown him a vision of a host of angels all around him, No, Jacob was in no danger from Esau - he was in danger from his own weakness to face the rest of his life!
So God came as Jacob's fight trainer - as a sparring partner to make him into a strong warrior who could prevail over any enemy!
Suppose a boxing trainer took his fighter to an isolated training camp. Then he spent the whole training season psyching up his man for the big fight. He tells him:
"I'll be with you at ringside. I'll never leave you or forsake you. Here is a list of great boxers of the past - study their every move. You don't have to suffer through hard workouts. I told you you're a winner - and my word is all you need! When you step into the ring with Monster Man, I'll give you some diagrams on how to defeat him!"
What kind of a trainer is this? Utterly foolish? Absolutely! I ask you - what would a good trainer do? He would find the best boxer he could, put him in the ring with his man and let them have it out!
Beloved, how many Christians call themselves warriors who have never been tested or trained? We hear so much about the many prayer warriors in this nation. But the sad truth is, the vast majority of them have never been in battle! They've not been trained - they're not ready to fight!
Recently I asked the Lord why so many true believers are going through such heavy, hard times. Why such deep suffering? I asked. Why are so many being tested to their limits?
It is because the majority of Christians have quit the battle! They refuse to fight the devil or do battle against his kingdom. And when God does find a believer with a hunger and a desire for His blessing, He puts him into the ring!
You see, God knows Satan is going to be loosed on the earth for his last hour of warfare. And the Lord is going to need well-trained warriors who will prevail over all the powers of hell. Right now He is doing a quick work in His remnant - it's called crisis training!
These suffering, deeply tested saints are becoming the captains of His last-day army. God is putting Holy Ghost fight in them - and He's bringing forth warriors who are tested and tried, because they've wrestled with God. The more they suffer, the more intense their trial - the greater the work He has for them to do!
This kind of training calls for physical discipline as well as spiritual. Jacob threw his whole body into the battle, all his human ability. A fighting spirit had risen up in him - and, Scripture says, "by his strength he had power with God"(Hosea 12:3).
This verse has great meaning for all who want to prevail in prayer. It says Jacob prevailed and won the battle "by his strength"! And dear saint, if you're going to prevail in these last days, you're going to have to put all your body and physical strength into it!
Many Christians expect God to somehow save their family, reconcile relationships, do miracles - all at no cost to them. They just want to rest - to sit in their rocking chair and "believe God for it all." But this matter of prevailing in prayer - "breaking through" to God, getting answers and seeing results - is going to cost your flesh something!
Consider what it cost Jesus: "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears..." (Hebrews 5:7). Even though Jesus knew He was God in the flesh, He wept and cried out before the Father!
Jacob also "wept, and made supplication unto him" (Hosea 12:4). And when Jacob did this, he was ninety-seven years old! He wasn't just getting by," drifting along in some passive apathy. No! God's Spirit came upon him, and he dug in to lay hold of what God promised! He fought, wept, begged before God!
This is one of the greatest lessons we can ever learn. Our battle is never with people - not our co-workers, not our neighbor, not our unsaved loved ones - but with God!
If you settle things with God, everything else has to fall in line. You see, when you're right before God - sprinkled with Christ's blood, having no sin in your life, prevailing in prayer all the demons in hell can't make a dent in what God wants to do! He wants you to have that kind of strength - holy strength and that means putting your flesh into it!
Hosea said, "The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah [His people]..." (Hosea 12:2). What is this controversy God has with His church? It is their spiritual laziness! We want miracles, blessings, deliverances - but at no cost, no effort!
Who among God's people today prays all night - wrestling, fighting, weeping, crying out to God? Who disciplines their flesh to seek God, bringing their body under subjection to spend hours in prayer until breaking through? Who wants holiness, purity and Christ-likeness so much they're willing to shut themselves in with God until they prevail? Who is so consumed with pleasing God that they're desperate to be delivered from all habits, all lusts - and they cry out, fight and wrestle with God until He breaks all chains?
Hosea said to Israel, "All you want is prosperity and security! You're not willing to take a stand. You don't want to live for Jehovah's pleasure, but for your own!"
Jacob prevailed "by his strength" -and so must you and I! We have His strength - but we just don't use it! "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness" (Colossians 1:11). "That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16).
The church of Jesus Christ is never going to see what God has for His body - until He sees us seeking Him in earnest! "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).
God wants you to lay hold of Him - because He loves you! He is saying, "Here it is. If you want it, come and get it!" He wants to make a soldier out of you - to make you strong for His army!
This verse does not say God spoke to Jacob at Bethel. It says, rather, "He spake with us." Hosea was talking about Israel - and about us, His church, today! He is saying God wants to speak to us at Bethel!
God met Jacob at Bethel on two occasions:
The first time, Jacob was running from Esau, having stolen the birthright. He stopped at one point and piled up stones for a pillow. And as he slept, he dreamed of a ladder reaching into heaven, with angels ascending and descending. That was the first time God said to him: "And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest..." (Genesis 28:15). In other words: "I'm with you from this day on, wherever you go!"
Jacob awoke and said: "...Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not... How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."..."And he called the name of that place Bethel..." (verses 16-17, 19). Bethel means "house of God" - a place to meet God!
The second time God met Jacob at Bethel was after two of his sons committed a heinous act, Simeon and Levi were angry that Shechem the Hivite had raped their sister Dinah. So they took revenge and slew the entire town!
Jacob said to them, "...Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house."(Genesis 34:30).
Jacob was in a terrible crisis once again - he didn't know what to do. Then, the Bible says: "...God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there..." (Genesis 35:1). Then Jacob said, "... let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went." (verse 3).
That's what Bethel is - a place to go in our time of distress! And the lesson for Israel and for us today is this: Whenever Jacob was in trouble or danger - when things looked foreboding and hopeless - he knew where to go and what to do!
God was saying to Jacob, "You know where I'll speak to you, where you'll hear My voice. Go back to Bethel! Go to the altar where I met you. Get down on your face before Me. And cleanse your house of all idolatry!"
Jacob called his sons to bring forth all their idols, and he buried them under an oak tree. Then he led his family to Bethel, and there he erected an altar before God. Again God told Jacob, "I am with you." Then, Scripture says, "...the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob" (verse 5). The surrounding cities were afraid of Jacob - this little Jewish clan - because God put a dread in them!
Beloved the Lord is still God of Bethel! And He is saying to us, "Go to Bethel - that's where I'm going to meet you! Every time you're in trouble or distress, run to the altar! Cry out - get alone with Me!" He is waiting for us to meet Him in the secret closet of prayer!
But few Christians run to Bethel when they're in trouble or over-whelmed. Prayer isn't the first thing they do - it's the last! Instead, they try to "ride it out." They run to friends and counselors - they drag about in despair. Some even go across the country to hear so-called prophets give them a "personal word."
But Jacob knew where to go to get a clear word from God Himself! He went to Bethel - to the altar! He shut himself in with God in a secret place!
I believe God talks to us - I believe He gives us words. But it happens on our knees! That's where God says He will meet us!
I believe God gave me this word to you for this very day:
God is calling you today to get your eyes off all circumstances. Don't judge anything by your present condition. Don't try to figure it all out. Don't let fear cast you down. God will meet you in prayer!
He will soon bring forth His word to you - he will not keep you in the dark. He didn't lie - He knows you're being obedient to Him.
Just accept that you're being trained. Throw off your passive, defeated countenance. Cast aside all feelings of defeat - and stand up and fight! He has given you the strength. You just haven't used it!
You re not going to hear God's voice until you're shut in with Him alone at your Bethel - down on your face before Him, weeping, crying out, "Lord, I'm not letting go until I hear Your voice!"
Right now God is saying, "Come on, fight!" - because He loves you! He wants you to claim all His blessings. Rise up in faith and lay hold of His promise. Stand up and fight! You have His Strength - use it!