"And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince has thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." Genesis 32:28 (KJV)
Zachary loves super heroes. He loves buying the little action figures, and I enjoy hearing his imaginary battles with them. He has quite the imagination! Sometimes, the battles sound pretty intense, and I am always wondering who will win. The super hero or the villain? Usually, it sounds like the good guy wins, and the bad guy is destroyed. He seems happy with the outcome....after all, he can control it, so the end result can be whatever he wants it to be.
All of these imaginary super heroes have their own special areas of strength and power, and there is a story behind how each of them acquired it. Some of them have been given new names after they became who they are now. It is something Zachary is very interested in, so I listen to his stories and watch as his face lights up with the joy of telling me things I do not know. It is important to him, so I make it a priority to listen.
As he talks, my mind drifts off...to real-life super heroes I know and have known. The ones I consider to be spiritual giants, who have encouraged and strengthened me in my walk with Christ. The ones I admire and look up to as living much closer to God than I do. Sometimes, we look at our spiritual super heroes, and all we see is their individual strengths. We see their courage and valiance in fighting and winning battles against the enemy. We see where they are today, but do we ever stop to wonder how they got there? What did it cost them? What did they go through to attain such strength and power with God?
Today's passage of Scripture speaks of Jacob, and the verse above follows an intense battle he waged with an angel. He wrestled all night, and he made up his mind that he would not let the angel go, until he received the blessing and "power" he was seeking. Just before daybreak, the angel gave him what he wanted, and he told him that "as a prince hast thou POWER WITH GOD and with men, and HAST PREVAILED." What glory must have fallen on Jacob when he heard those words! His life was forever changed after that, and the angel even gave him a new name, the name of Israel, to mark the difference! It wasn't just any name - there was a distinct difference in the meaning. Jacob means "supplanter" or "deceiver". Remember how he deceived his father, Isaac? His new name, Israel, means "a prince of God". Jacob was changed! Old things had passed away; behold all things had become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)
Every battle we wage against the archenemy of our souls, (this "villain" with whom we are constantly at war), is working for good in our lives. We will never become stronger in God or reach higher levels of spirituality by sitting on the sidelines wishing we could be like "so and so", because they are so filled with God's power. We can look up to them and want what they have, but we are going to have to fight our own, individual battles in prayer and against satan to achieve it.
So, who are your super heroes? There are many spiritual giants, both in the Bible and in my personal life, who have had a profound impact on me. Some of them have already won their ultimate battle and attained eternal victory, but many of them are still a very integral part of my life. I look back on the ones I have studied and known through childhood and up until today, and I thank God for allowing them to be a part of my journey. They have influenced me to go deeper in God, to be more like Christ....just by their presence in my life. I love to read and hear their stories. Sometimes, I just want to pull them aside and ask them how they got to where they are, and allow them to show me their battle scars.
Recently, I had the great opportunity of sitting and visiting with an older saint who has an in-depth understanding of God's Word. It seemed that every question I asked was answered, emphatically and quickly. I wonder how long it took him to get to where he is and what it cost him?
I ask myself and you, my friend, do we aspire to be spiritual super heroes? One of those giants in the faith? Are we willing to lose a night's sleep to "wrestle" with God in prayer to get what we crave and are seeking from Him? How bad do we want it? It will cost us something. The school of hard knocks is not an easy instructor. But, as I ponder some of my spiritual super heroes, and I realize how much I admire them and the power they have attained with God in their personal lives, I come to the conclusion that it is worth it.