newYou can now listen to Fox News articles.
Editor’s note: The following column is based on the author’s new book “God will never abandon you“The story of Jacob teaches us about grace, mercy, and God’s unfailing love” (Thomas Nelson, September 12).
I have struggled with God myself. It seems like we can all describe the sacred wrestling match.
One of the most dramatic events occurred about 20 years ago. I was about 50 years old. To the casual observer, I was on top of the world. Our brand new church sanctuary was bursting at the seams. We added new members every week. The congregation had very little debt and there was never any doubt that the pastor was doing a great job.
In fact, our church is on the list of top San Antonio attractions. The travel agency brought tourists to our service by bus. The magazine Christianity Today sent a reporter to write a profile on me. The writer called me “America’s pastor.” Reader’s Digest named me “America’s Greatest Preacher.”
What you need to know about God’s miraculous “anyone” policy
It was firing on all cylinders. I wrote the sermon into a book. My publisher turned the book into an arena event. I wrote children’s stories and recorded children’s videos. It was wild!
What no one knew was that I was a mess.
Our staff was also struggling. Each division was competing against each other. Non-sticky emails were flying around like letters. Ministers were fighting over the budget. Several valuable employees quietly retired due to stress. And since I was the lead pastor, it was left to me to sort things out.
But who has time for internal squabbles? I had a lesson to prepare for. The problem with Sunday is that it happens every week. Additionally, I led the midweek prayer service and taught the weekly early morning men’s gathering. Deadlines are looming from all sides. I needed time to think, pray, and study.
Additionally (or perhaps as a result) I was unhealthy. My heart had a Morse code-like rhythm, irregular and inconsistent. My cardiologist diagnosed me with atrial fibrillation, prescribed medication, and told me to slow down. But how can you?
The staff needed me.
The pulpit needed me.
Publishers were counting on me.
The whole world was watching me.
So I did the natural thing. I started drinking.
It’s not public. I was the guy you see at convenience stores who buys a large can of beer, hides it in a bag, presses it against his thigh so no one can see, and rushes out the door. The store I chose was on the other side of town, out of the way. I sat in my car, pulled the can out of the bag, and gulped down the liquid until it eased the day’s demands.
What you need to know about God’s miraculous “anyone” policy
That’s how “American pastors” dealt with a world gone mad.
There comes a turning point in your life, a tipping point where you realize the world is about to change. An event that marks the time stamp of your life. A crossroads where you are forced to make a decision. Please go in this direction? Or that? everyone has them. you do. i will do it. Jacob did. Jacob was given the name Jabbok. That’s where Jacob wrestled with an angel and walked away with his back crippled.
As it turned out, my Jabbok was a parking lot. The wrestling match lasted the better part of an hour on a spring afternoon. I told God I had everything under control. Staff issues were manageable. Deadlines were manageable. The stress was manageable. Drinking was manageable. But then the moment of truth came. God did not touch my waist, but He spoke to my heart. Really, Max? If everything is in place and there is a key to this problem, why are you hiding in a parking lot drinking beer hidden in a brown paper bag?
Jabok. The moment when God forces you to confront yourself and what you see that you don’t like.
Jabok. Even if you try your best, you will not get what you need if you only find your strength.
Jabok. Kneel down with one touch on the waist.
Jabok. Jab. back.
But God is gracious in this moment, and especially in that moment. Look what happened next to Jacob.
“What is your name?” the man asked. He answered, “Jacob.” (Genesis 32:27 New Translation)
Your Bible page has very little space between questions and answers. But in real time I feel a pause, a long and painful pause. What is your name? There was only one answer, so Jacob choked to get it out. my . . . name . . . teeth . . .Jacob. This was a confession. Jacob acknowledged to God that he was indeed a human being. jacob: Heel, Swindler, Hustler, Clever Operator, Swindler. “That’s me. I’m Jacob.”
For more FOX News opinions, click here
“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man said to him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought against God and against the people and have won” (verse 28).
Each time a new name is given.and in all the time given this name – Israel It means “God fights” or “God strives.” This name praises and celebrates the power and loyalty of God.
Jacob, who was old, fought for himself. Old Jacob relied on his wits, tricks, and the speed of his feet. Jacob himself took care of himself. The new Jacob had a new source of power: God. From this day on, each introduction will be a reminder of God’s presence. “Hello, my name is God Warrior.” Every time I call for dinner, I am greeted with the welcoming instruction, “God fights, it’s time to eat.” His email address was email@example.com. His business card reminded everyone who read it of the true power of Israel: “God fights.” His old name reflected his old self. His new name reflects his new strength. “God fights.”
What a blessing!
God extended it to me. In abundance. I confessed my hypocrisy to the elders, and they did what any good pastor would do. They surrounded me with prayers and made plans to help me cope with the demands. I acknowledged my struggle to the congregation, and doing so sparked more than a dozen conversations with members struggling with the same temptations.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
I no longer see tour buses in my parking lot, but I think that’s okay. I enjoy beer from time to time, but not for stress management, but for the flavor. And when someone mentions the nickname “American Pastor,” a certain image comes to mind. An image of a tired and lonely preacher in a convenience store parking lot.
God met me there that day. He also gave me a new name. Not Israel. That has already been taken. But he was “forgiven.” And I’m happy to wear it.
Click here to read more about MAX LUCADO