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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Adrian Rogers » Adrian Rogers - Learning to Lean

Adrian Rogers - Learning to Lean

Adrian Rogers - Learning to Lean

Find the Book of Hebrews. Find chapter 11. Let your eye go down to verse 21. Hebrews chapter 11 and verse 21. The title of the message, "Learning to Lean". I heard that one time Mohammad Ali was on an airplane, and the stewardess came through and said, "Sir, buckle your seatbelt. We're getting ready to take off". He said, "Superman don't need no seatbelt". She said, "Yes, and Superman don't need no airplane either". Many of us think that self-sufficiency is a virtue. The truth of the matter is that self-sufficiency is not a virtue; spiritually, it is a vice. Look at our Scripture here, Hebrews chapter 11 and verse 21, "By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph, and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff". Worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

Now last time together we talked about Jacob, and we talked about how he was a man who was a conniver. He was a man who was always trying to rig things, to work things to make things work together. Our modern-day equivalency of Jacob by his natural nature, would have been con artist. But God is working on Jacob to make him what He wants him to be. And God is working on me that way. And God is working on you. God is working on us and will not be finished with us until our total, complete dependency is not on self, but on Him. And many of us are like that old cowboy who said, "I ain't what I used to be and I ain't what I ought to be, but I thank God for what I'm going to be". And we're going to be something in the Lord Jesus Christ, for Philippians chapter 1 verse 6 says, "Being confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ".

Now Jacob had deceived his father and gotten the birthright that God already wanted to give him, but he couldn't trust God for what God had promised. And he had tricked his brother, Esau, into giving him the birthright when it was already Jacob's and he didn't need to trick Esau. But he got Esau to trade what Esau thought was the birthright for a bowl of pottage, stew, or chili, or whatever you want to call it. You remember all of that story. If you don't, I want you to go back and review it. But now, Jacob has had to flee because Esau has blood in his eye. Esau, Jacob's twin brother, who's actually born first, wants to kill Jacob, and Jacob, as they would say today, is on the lamb. He is running. He is fleeing from his brother, Esau.

Now he's been out there in the wilderness. He's had a rock for a pillow and he's seen a ladder ascending and descending from Heaven. He's had an experience with God and God has spoken to him. A lot of wonderful things have happened to him. But still, for 20 years, he has been in the school of hard knocks. And now he's got to get right with Esau because he cannot really be right with God until he's right with Esau, his brother, the brother that he has connived against, the brother than he has tricked, the brother that he has cheated. He knows he's got to get right with Esau. And, furthermore, he hears that Esau is coming to meet him. And so that's the situation that we have it right now. And God is going to use all of this situation to cause Jacob to grow and to cease to depend upon himself. Now you say, "Pastor, what does that have to do with me"?

Friend, it has so much to do with you it is incredible, so I beg you not to tune me out. I want you to listen as to how you can learn to cease from your self-sufficiency and depend upon God, for the three things that happened to Jacob so long ago are going to have their correspondence in your life today and in my life. And this very message that I prepared has challenged my own heart. The first thing I want you to learn as we look at this passage of Scripture; by the way, I want you to go back and get the Old Testament story. Turn to Genesis chapter 32. Just go all the way back now from Hebrews to Genesis chapter 32. And we're going to find the story there fleshed out. You know, it's an interesting thing. Why would God say that, "Jacob worshipped leaning upon his staff"? Why did He put that phrase in there; "He's leaning upon his staff"?

Now the Holy Spirit has a great economy of words. He's not wasting any words. Well, we're going to learn three principles, and I hope that you're ready for them. The principle number one is this: God will protect you, but He will not pamper you. Now Genesis 32, beginning in verses 1 and 2, "And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, 'This is God's host,'" that is, God's army, "'and he called the name of that place Mahanaim,'" which means two hosts, two hosts. Jacob is fleeing, and suddenly he sees some angels. He realizes that for these 20 years out there in the wilderness and various places, he has had an angel escort. The angels of God had been encamping round about him to protect him.

Now remember, he's not totally right with God, but the angels are watching him, the angels are protecting him. Now, he was immature, he was out of fellowship with God, and yet God was protecting him. And I want to say to every mother's child in this building this morning, thank God for the angels that encamp around about you that protect you when you don't deserve it. I know that I know that God's angel escort has protected me through life. Had I time this morning, I could tell you time after time when I believe that God literally, by His angels, has protected and delivered me. The Bible teaches these angels are ministering spirits. And so, here is a man really out of fellowship with God, and yet God is protecting him and God is guarding him and, finally, God lets him see these angels. He says, "Look at there. Why, there are two hosts. There are the host of people that are with me and then there's the heavenly host encamping all about me".

We all have angels watching over us. But yet, listen to me, even though God was protecting him, God did not pamper him. God let him go through great need and want and difficulty. Now what has happened is this; Esau is coming. Esau is coming with blood in his eye. Esau is coming with an army of 400 strong men. Could God have kept Esau from coming against Jacob? Listen to me, God engineered it. God is bringing trouble to this man. Put in your margin Genesis 31 verse 24. Now Jacob had a father-in-law whose name was Laban. And Laban wanted to know, "How do I deal with Jacob"? And in this verse, "And God came to Laban, the Syrian, in a dream by night, and said unto him, 'Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.'" Don't hurt him and don't help him.. Just let him go. You see, here's the point: God will let you have your way until you come to the end of yourself. Here is a man out of fellowship with God, here is a man in danger, and God is protecting him with angels, but God is not pampering him. God is not removing him from difficulty.

Now Jacob is learning that Esau is coming. Esau is coming with 400 armed men. And Jacob is out there in the wilderness, and now listen, Jacob's mind begins to work. Jacob begins to plan. He begins to scheme. You can see his self-sufficiency. Now in Genesis chapter 32 beginning in verse 3 through verse 5, "And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau, his brother, into the land of Seir, the country of Edom. And he commanded them, saying, 'Thus shall ye speak unto my lord, Esau.'" Can you imagine him calling Esau his lord? "'My lord, Esau, "Thy servant Jacob saith thus, 'I have sojourned with Laban, and have stayed there until now. And I have oxen, and asses, and flocks, and menservants, and womenservants. And I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.'"'"

Can you hear his flattering tongue? Can you imagine him calling this brother, that he had scorned and cheated and connived against, "My lord, would you please show me some grace"? No wonder he says that. He's coming with 400 armed men. And then, I want you to notice what else he does. Watch his mind now as it begins to work. Watch his self-sufficiency. Look if you will in Genesis 32 verses 6 through 8, "And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, 'We came to thy brother, Esau, and he cometh to meet thee, and 400 men with him.' Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands. And said, 'If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.'"

Can you see this? He's trying to cut his losses right now. He's dividing things up. He says, "If Esau gets this group, then this group will be spared. If Esau gets this group, then this group will be spared". Now he's working. First of all, flattery; now, strategy; now, after all of this, he begins to pray. Notice what he does first. He rigs things. He arranges things. And after he does that he begins to pray. Look now in chapter 32 verses 9 to 12, "And Jacob said, 'O God, of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, 'Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee;' I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant; for with my staff I have passed over Jordan; and now I am become two bands,'" that is, part of my company is on one side and part's on the other, "'deliver me, I pray Thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. And Thou saidst, "I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude."'"

Now he's quoting the promises of God. God said He was going to bless him and protect him. But now he's saying, "O God, take care of me. I'm in trouble". It's not wrong for Jacob to pray. He should have prayed. But prayer was not his first thought. Prayer was his last resort. I heard of a woman who had a husband who was kind of a ne'er-do-well, and somebody said, "Where did you meet him"? She said, "I met him in a travel agency. He was the last resort". Now, prayer was this man's last resort. First of all, he begins to flatter Esau. Secondly, he begins to divide his flocks and herds and his people. And now he turns to the Lord. And then he goes back to public relations. Look if you will now in Genesis 32 verse 13 and read through 16, "And he lodged that same night; and took of that which came to his hand a present for Esau, his brother; 200 she-goats, and 20 he-goats, 200 ewes, and 20 rams, 30 milch camels with their colts, 40 kine," that's cows, "and 10 bulls, 20 she-asses, and 10 foals. And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said to his servants, 'Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt,'" or between, "'drove and drove.'"

Now what he does, in shorthand, he takes 580 valuable animals and he divided them up into lots of five, and he says, now watch this, "Go out there, and when Esau comes with these 400 men," now remember, he's got some over here, he's got some over here, he's been using flattery. He's been saying, "My lord, Esau, show me grace, ta, da, ta, da," and now he starts sending these gifts. Here's a bundle of five. And then said, "Put a space. As he comes further, give him another bundle of five gifts. As he comes further, send him some more. As he comes further, give him some more". Do you see the mind of this guy? I mean, he's smart. He knows how to rig things. He knows how to make things happen. What he's trying to do now is to appease his brother because he is in hot water. Now what he is saying is this, "Lord, I trust you, but"! Have you ever done that? "Lord, I trust you, but, Lord, I don't trust You completely. And now, Lord, You help me out. But, Father, You know, I've got to rig this thing".

So Genesis 32 verse 20, "And ye say moreover, 'Behold, thy servant, Jacob, is behind us.' For he said, 'I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventures he will accept me.'" Appeasement. Strategy. Flattery. Appeasement. All of these things his mind is working. Now God lets him stew in his own juice. The angels are there. Did you get the first point? God wants you to grow. God wants to deliver you from self-sufficiency. So here it is. God will protect you, but He will not pamper you. He will not. Now God loves too much to let you go. Thank God, He protects me. But He will not pamper you. Now here's the second thing I want you to learn if you're going to lean on the Lord: God will hurt you, but He will not harm you. You say, "God will hurt me"? You'd better believe He will hurt you. God will hurt you, but He will not harm you.

Now in this passage of Scripture he's done all of this stuff. Everybody's here and there. And, finally, ole Jake is alone. And look if you will in verse 24. We're in Genesis chapter 32, "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day". Now God engineered that Jacob was left alone. The flesh doesn't want to be left alone. We have a generation of people who cannot stand solitude, to be alone with God. That's the reason that people when they walk into a hotel room or a home; they just turn on the television automatically. They're listening to the radio. They always want to be with friends. We don't want to be alone with God because we cannot look God in the face and we cannot look ourselves in the face. All of us need solitude, to be left alone, to reflect, to really think. I have an idea that if little David had a battery-powered transistor radio, we wouldn't have had the 23rd Psalm. We need to be alone.

Now when he's alone he has a confrontation with God Himself. Look again in Genesis 32 verse 24, "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day". Now he's done all of his figuring. Now he's by himself. He's alone in the dark and someone pounces him. Somebody jumps on him, and he finds himself in a wrestling match. A man out there jumps him. Who was this? It was the pre-incarnate Christ. Jesus Christ came to wrestle with Jacob. This was before Jesus was born of a virgin, what we call a theophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord. And, so many of us think that Jacob was wrestling with the angel, but that's not the point. The angel started the fight. The angel is wrestling with Jacob. You see, God is trying to do something with Jacob. God wants to deliver Jacob from his self-sufficiency, and so the Lord gets him in a wrestling match and they wrestle. All night long they're wrestling. Wrestling back and forth, back and forth, a mortal man with Almighty God in a wrestling match! And now when the day is about to break, the angel now does something that's very significant.

Genesis chapter 32 beginning in verse 25 to verse 26, "And when He," the angel, "saw that He prevailed not against him, He touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, and He wrestled with him. And he said, 'Let Me go; for the day breaketh.'" The angel that is saying to Jacob, "Let Me go". "It's morning time". "'Let Me go; for the day breaketh.' And he said, 'I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.'" They're wrestling, Jacob and the angel, Jacob and the angel, back and forth, one throwing one, one throwing the other, one getting up, down, back and forth. Folks, don't you think that the angel could have thrown Jacob any time He wanted to? I like what Ron Dunn says about this. He said, "That fight was fixed".

I mean, here's, here's a mere mortal man wrestling. Had it just been an ordinary angel it would be no wrestling match, but he's wrestling with the pre-incarnate Christ. All night long he's wrestling. And, finally, it's as if the Lord says, "I hate to do this to you, Jake," but He reaches under the hollow of his thigh and shrivels it up, and Jacob can't wrestle anymore. Have you ever watched wrestlers? My eldest son was a wrestler. I have two grandsons who are wrestlers. Have you ever watched wrestlers wrestle? Do you know what muscle is most important to a wrestler? His thighs. His legs. That's where his strength is. If you take away his leg, he can't begin to wrestle. And so, the angel of the Lord reaches under here and cripples it, and now how's he going to wrestle anymore? And the angel says, "Let Me go"! Jacob says, "I'm not letting You go, not until You bless me"! "I'll not let You go"!

Now if this was the Lord, why did the Lord say, "Let Me go"? Because the Lord didn't want him to let go. You say, "That doesn't make sense". Oh, yes, it does. You study the Bible and you'll find out that many times God will act as if He wants to get away from us when He wants us to pursue Him with all of our heart. Do you remember in the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 24 verses 13 through 25, on the Road to Emmaus when two disciples were going there after the resurrection, and Jesus appeared in His resurrection body? And He's walking with them, and their hearts are burning within them. And, the Bible says that Jesus made as if He would go further, and they said, "Oh, no, no, don't. Spend the night with us here," and He did. Do you remember Matthew 15 verses 21 to 28, the Syrophoenician woman who had a demon-possessed daughter? And she came to Jesus and she said, "Jesus, if You can do something, heal my daughter". Oh, Jesus said to this Gentile, Syrophoenician, "I'm not going to take the children's' bread and give it to dogs".

Can you imagine Jesus saying something like that? "I'm not going to take the children's bread and give it to dogs". She said, "Lord, even the dogs get the crumbs that fall from under the table". He says, "Woman, great is your faith," and He did exactly what she asked Him to do. But He acted like He wanted to get away from her, that He's not going to do this thing for her. If you read in the Bible, you'll find out that all through the Bible God sometimes acts like He wants you to let Him alone. But He wants you to pursue Him with all of your heart. And so, the angel says, "Let Me go; the day is breaking". Jacob says, now listen, folks, he's come to the end of himself. I mean, he's even lost his secret weapon. What was his secret weapon? Well, "If my flattery doesn't help old Esau, and if I divided my people up and if he kills all my people on either side, and I've sent him these gifts and they don't soften him up, and if he finally comes, at least I can run. I can pick them up and put them down. I can't even run now. I don't have any hope except You, O God, and I will not let You go"!

God has brought this man to the place where he realizes that his only hope is God, not his scheming, but his surrendering; not his bargaining, but his begging. God hurt him, but God, God didn't harm him. Do you like that idea? Maybe you don't like that idea. You say, "I don't like the idea of God hurting me". God loves you too much to leave you self-sufficient. God will protect you, but He will not pamper you! God will hurt you, but He will not harm you! My dad hurt me. Your dad ever hurt you? My dad knew how to apply the board of education to the seat of knowledge, but he didn't harm me. I had a doctor one time, that man took a knife and cut me. Can you imagine that? I mean, he sliced me. He hurt me, but he didn't harm me. He helped me because I had a rock collection down there called a gall stone. Now, listen. What I'm trying to say is this: that God will protect you. He never takes His eye off of you, but He will not pamper you. He's not going to coddle you. And God will hurt you, "Whom the Lord loves, He chastens".

Read Hebrews 12 verses 6 through 11. But God will not harm you. You can trust Him, friend. "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; but afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that exercise thereby". Now here's the third and final thing I want you to see: God will break you, but He desires to bless you. What was this wrestling match all about? Well, look now in Genesis 32 verse 27, "And He said unto him," that is, the angel says to Jacob, "'What is thy name?' And he said, 'Jacob.'" Now the word Jacob itself means supplanter, conniver, the very name means, in modern English, con artist. Sometimes I preach this and I've heard people say, "O, Pastor, you ought not to say that. Our son's name is Jacob". We have a lot of boys in this church whose name is Jacob. The name Jacob has been transformed. If your name is Jacob now, it's an honorable name, because we're going to see what God has done.

Genesis 32 verses 27 through 31, "And He said unto him, 'What is thy name?' And he said, 'Jacob.' And He said, 'Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.'" The word, Israel, means prince. And so He says, "You used to be named con artist, but now your name is prince because you have power with God and with men because you prevailed". "And Jacob asked Him, 'Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name.' And He said, 'Wherefore is it that thou doest ask after My name?' And He blessed him there". That is, "You ought to know who I am". "And He blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel; for I have seen God face to face,'" now you know who it was that was wrestling with Jacob, "'for I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.' And as he passed over Peniel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh".

Now he's had this encounter with God. Now it's the sunrise. But now he still has this limp. He's halting upon his thigh. What is it? God has broken him because He wants to bless him. Now no longer is he Jacob. Now he is Israel. Now he is a prince. Now the Lord asked him, "What is your name"? Do you think God didn't know what his name was? No. God wanted him to admit it. "What is your name"? "Con artist, conniver, schemer". "Well, Jacob, I'm glad to hear you admit it". Did you know that God is going to ask you the same thing today? God is going to say to you. At least He's going to engineer you one of these days, if you're not there yet, to a place where He's going to say, "What is your name"? And you're going to have to say, "My name is lazy," or, "My name is lustful," or, "My name is doubter," or, "My name is liar," or, "My name is selfishness," whatever it is.

You see, get the whole point now. Here's the point; Jacob is crippled that he might be crowned. He is broken that he might be blessed. And so now he goes from a name of shame to the Hall of Fame. The rest of his life he has to walk with a staff. The rest of his life he is leaning upon a staff. And when he comes to die, go back to our Scripture now over there in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 21, "And he worshipped, leaning upon his staff". Learning to lean, learning to lean, learning to trust in Jesus! You see, he was broken that he might be blessed. God desires to break you that He might bless you. Did you know that God likes broken things? Men throw broken things away, but God never really ever uses anything until He first breaks it. David said in the Psalms, in Psalm 51 verse 17, "A broken and a contrite spirit Thou wilt not despise, O God".

Most of us are not being used of God because we've never been broken. One of these days, if God breaks you and you'll become broken bread and poured out wine, God can use you. God took a little lad's lunch and broke it and fed the multitudes. Matthew 14 verse 13 through 21. Mary took an alabaster box of ointment and she broke it and lavished her love upon the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 4:3, "Break up your fallow ground and sow not among the thorns". You'll never have the crop you ought to until you put the plow in, until the old clods are broken. Even the Lord Jesus Christ, in Luke 22 verse 19, took that matzo there, that last supper, and did this, and said, "This is My body which is broken for you". Men throw broken things away. God never, ever uses anything or anybody until they're first broken.

Now you say, "Pastor Rogers, I don't want to be broken". Well, there's a sense in which you don't have to be if you'll break yourself. The Bible says in First Corinthians 11:31, "If we will judge ourselves, we would not be judged". That is, if we will come to our Lord in absolute humility and brokenness, and cease our self-sufficiency, and cease our conniving and our planning, and stop trying and start trusting, and stand on the Word of God, then God can move in and God can use us in a way that He never could before. Now go back to our text. Leave the Old Testament and come back again to the New Testament. Hebrews 11 and verse 21. Now see if it doesn't make a lot more sense to you, "By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph, and worshipped, leaning upon his staff".

Now all of his life; Jacob now is an old man and he's dying, but he is leaning upon his staff. All of his life he's limping. All of his life he has to have that staff. Even when he's dying he's worshipping God, leaning upon his staff. He was stronger crippled and leaning upon a staff than he ever would have been standing upon his own two feet. Now may I give you a few little things to apply to your heart right now in conclusion? The first thing I want to tell you is that failure doesn't need to be final. Here was a man who was a failure, but God took this man Jacob and God used him. And if you've been a Jacob running from God, conniving, self-sufficient, there is hope for you. Number two: if you're wise, you'll save yourself a wrestling match and make a full surrender now. If you'll judge yourself, you won't have to be judged. Number three: if there's suffering in your life, let it teach you to lean on the Lord Jesus Christ. Number four: remember this, when it is all done and it is all settled, it's your worship by faith that really matters.

How does God sum up this man's life? I mean, there's so many episodes in this man's life, but God just puts it in a pithy little sentence in Hebrews 11:21, "When he died, he worshipped leaning upon his staff". Now Jacob was 147 years old when he died. He was weak and he was weary. But he spent his last moments worshipping the Lord. What a way to go! An old hermit, wanting to get right with God, thought maybe he could get right with God if he would be a hermit, go off and live in a cave. And so somebody came to see the old hermit and said to him, "Are you still wrestling with the devil"? He said, "Not any longer". He said, "Now I'm wrestling with God". The man said, "You are? You don't hope to win, do you"? He said, "No, I hope to lose, I hope to lose".

That's what I hope for all of us that we will bow before Him and say, "I will not let You go unless You bless me". Listen to me. For some of you, I've been preaching long enough to know this, this message went right past you. You have no interest, none whatsoever, because you've been taught all of your life to be sufficient, self-sufficient. God loves you too much to let you stay that way, I mean, if you really know God. Now if you don't know God, this won't apply to you. But Jacob loved God and he had to be delivered from his self-sufficiency. Learning to lean, learning to lean, learning to lean on Jesus. And old Jacob died, "Leaning upon his staff," leaning on the Lord.

Bow your heads in prayer. Lord, I pray that You would give us all faith. Not to depend upon ourselves in our conniving, in our scheming but to depend upon You. Now while heads are bowed and eyes are closed. Friend if you are not absolutely certain that you're saved, let's get it settled. Let me tell you that you are a sinner by birth, by nature, by choice. Your sin deserves judgment and will receive judgment and eternal Hell if you do not get saved. There's only one way to be saved and that is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who paid your sin debt with His blood on the cross. Shed His blood as an atonement for your sin. That does not become real to you until you repent of sin and turn to Him in faith. And you can do that right now and I want to guide you in this prayer. Would you pray this prayer?

Dear God, right this moment I open my heart, I receive You as my Lord and Savior. Save me Lord Jesus. I don't ask for a feeling. I don't look for a sign. I stand on Your Word, I trust You to save me. And Lord Jesus, I will glorify You by making it public. I will not be ashamed of You. Give me the strength now to make it public. In Your name I pray. Amen.

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