Tony Evans - Encountering God's Process
I want to talk to you today about the process of brokenness, to encounter God's process of him stripping you of self-sufficiency so that you can experience a new level of his reality in your life and mine. Brokenness is when God intervenes in your life through a negative set of circumstances to attack a flaw in your personality. There is a flaw in your humanity that desperately needs to be addressed. And he recognizes that at the core of it is independence and self-sufficiency and to strip you and me of it. He begins a process of breaking us. You have three parts to you, a body, a soul, and a spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:23, you are made up of spirit, soul, and body. Your body allows you to function in the physical world through your five senses. Through the five senses, you are able to relate to the world around you. Your soul enables you to relate to yourself. Your soul is your personhood. The reason why you know you're you and that you're here is because you possess a soul, which is the life principle that allows the body to operate. So, your body allows you to function in the world. Your soul allows you to function with you. Your spirit allows you to function with God.
So, your spirit is God, your soul is you, and your body is the world around you. Everyone who is born into the world is born into the world with a scarred soul. Sin has scarred our soul. We're born in sin, shaped in iniquity. We are born flawed. Now, that shows itself at different levels for different strokes for different folks, but there is a scarring of the soul. Some of that was transferred from your mother and your father, and that's why we find ourselves doing a lot of things our parents did, because we pick up some of the scarring from them. You didn't just pick up their looks, you picked up their scars. And then the scarring is increased by things that happen to us, by circumstances that overwhelm us, by wrong done to us, by wrong done by us.
All of this adds to the scarring of the soul. This scarring of the soul breeds independence from God. When a person accepts Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit invades their human spirit, giving them the ability to now receive spiritual data. When the Holy Spirit enters the human spirit, the human spirit, which is now infused by the Holy Spirit, invades the soul to transform it and get rid of the scars. He wants to strip away the scars of the soul, which causes us to do all the wrong things we do with our bodies. So, we do wrong with our bodies 'cause we got scars on our soul that the spirit wants to heal so that we function in a way that brings God glory and brings us good. And so he must break us. But he's breaking us to remake us.
In Genesis chapter 22, we have a breaking occurring in the life of the patriarch Jacob. Jacob has a name, and his name means trickster. His name means heal grabber. His name means supplanter. His name means deceiver. Jacob's name fits his character. In the Bible, names matter. We name people 'cause we like the name. In the Bible, names were given to explain the character. Jacob was a born deceiver. From the time he left his mother's womb, he grabbed his brother, his twin brother Esau's heel. Heel grabber. He tricked his brother out of his birthright. He comes to a crisis in chapter 32.
The crisis is that it looks like his brother has gotten tired of him, and he's going to kill him. In chapter 32, verse 6, it says, "The messengers returned to Jacob saying, 'We came to you from your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and 400 men are with him.' Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed, and he divided the people," it says into two camps to try to make sure they didn't kill everybody. It says in verse 9 the next thing he did was say, "Oh, God".
Isn't that what you do when you get scared enough? "Oh, God, Lord have mercy. O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, 'Return to your company and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,' I am unworthy of all the stuff you've done for me," verse 10. And then he makes his request in verse 11, "Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children".
What happens? Verse 34, "Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak". Jacob is alone. He's alone 'cause nobody he knows and nothing he knows can help him. He's by himself. You ever been in a situation where you are all alone? Oh, you may have had folk around you, but you might as well been by yourself, 'cause nothing around you could make a difference. He's alone. He's by himself. He's been stripped. Now, watch this. He's got a problem, his brother's after him. He prays to God. After he prays to God, things get worse. After he's talked to God, somebody shows up at night and wrestles him until daybreak. Verse 25, "And when he," the stranger, "saw that he," Jacob, "had not prevailed against him".
When this stranger saw that Jacob wasn't quitting, that Jacob wasn't throwing in the towel, that Jacob wasn't giving up, that Jacob wasn't just running away, when he saw he didn't prevail against him, he touched the socket of his thigh. And the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated when he wrestled with him. So, the man had to disconnect something and make it worse. See, when God is trying to break you, he'll make it bad. But if you're not responding, he'll make it worse. He's trying to move your core, the thing that you are counting on to be able to deliver you. Verse 26, then he says, the stranger says, "I didn't hurt you now. Let me go".
Okay, that means that Jacob was holding on even with a dislocated hip. You didn't miss that, did you? He's hurting and holding. It's easy when God is trying to break you to let go of God. It's easy when God is trying to strip you to say, "I don't want it anymore". But Jacob said, "You hurt me, but I'm still gonna hold you". He says, "I am not going to let you go". He says, "I am not going to let you go," verse 26, "until". Somebody say, "Until you bless me". Wait a minute now, all we know, the stranger doesn't have a name. This guy has come at night when I'm already scared. This man is wrestling with me.
Now, this man has dislocated me, and I've gone from trying to win a fight to trying to get a blessing. How do I move from fighting for my life to saying, "Bless me"? Well, the only way you ask somebody to bless you is if you know they have the ability to do that. When the stranger dislocates his hip, 'cause it doesn't happen till then, when his strength is gone, it dawns on Jacob this is not a human match. It's a man, but it's not human. There's more to this battle than just the fight I'm in. I'm in the fight of my life, but there's more to this battle than the fight that I am in. Something spiritual is occurring here. That's why he asked for a blessing, that's spiritual.
So, he recognizes, and he doesn't recognize it until the dislocation happens that this is... So, here's what I don't want you to do. I don't want you to mistake the hand of God for the hand of man. See, 'cause he's wrestling a man, but he's really dealing with God. If all you see is what you see, you do not see all there is to be seen. God may use something physical to take you to a place that's spiritual. He may use something that you can see, touch, taste, smell, and hear when he's only invaded that to take you to a place that gets him to have your undivided attention. And if you try to push him off up here, he going to touch something down there. And he will fight until you're hurt bad enough. I'm not going to let you go until you bless me.
You know, many times in the Scripture, Jesus would pretend like he was going to keep going. the disciples were on the water, they were struggling. Jesus was walking on the water. And when he got to the boat, it says, "And he kept walking like he would pass them by". In Luke 24, it says when the disciples on Emmaus road walked home and they finally got to their house, Jesus kept going until they invited him back. What Jesus is asking is, how bad do you want it? Do you really want me? Verse 27, "So he said to him," the man says to Jacob, "What is your name"?
Okay, now follow this. "I'm not going to let you go till you bless me". "Oh, you want a blessing? What's your name"? Remember, naming in the Bible refers to your nature, your character, not just your nomenclature. We do that with nicknames, like we call somebody slim, that means they're skinny. So, the nickname is reflecting something about them. You call somebody red 'cause they got red hair. You know, the nickname is describe, so, we do with nicknames what they did with names. We make it descriptive.
What's your name? Translation, describe yourself to me. Are you willing to admit your name? Are you willing to acknowledge you are a deceiver? 'Cause that's your name. Are you willing to acknowledge that you are a trickster? Are you willing to acknowledge you are a flawed person who has lived their lives using evil to get by? 'Cause it's all wrapped up in your name. But what God wants to know is, are you willing to fess up to who you really are when you're alone with him, when you're wrestling with him?
Now, your name may not be Jacob. Maybe your name is liar. Maybe your name isn't Jacob, but your name is cheater. Maybe your name isn't Jacob, but maybe your name is luster. Maybe your name isn't Jacob, but your name is stealer. Maybe your name isn't Jacob, but maybe your name is racist. What is your name? What is that character in your life that is against the will and character of God that keeps him from blessing you? And he will wrestle with you until you say your name, even if he has to dislocate your hip to get there. What is your name? He says, "My name is Jacob. I'm the deceiver". Verse 28, he says, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob". I'm gonna change your name, meaning I'm gonna change your character. "But your name will now be Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed".
Ooh. God says, "I've got a new reality for you, Jacob. And that new reality is you're going to experience what it looks like when I run the show in your life". God prevails. You're going to experience what it looks like when I show up to turn something around, 'cause it's God prevail. You won't have to live your life with trickery anymore. You won't have to be a deceiver anymore. You won't have to try to fix it yourself anymore 'cause I'm gonna change your name. See, some of us have a name called education, 'cause we think because we got a BA and an MBA and a PhD that my education has made me self-sufficient.
Well, I'm gonna tell you now God's going to change your name. Some of us have a name called money, because we define our sufficiency by our bank account and by our credit cards. But I want to tell you now if you want to experience God, he going to try to change your name. Some of us have a name called relationships, 'cause we got all the hookups we need to get to where we want to go, do what we want to do, but be what we want to be. But if you want to experience God, he's going to change your name by letting the relationships fall through and not being able to pull off what you thought they would be able to pull off.
In order to experience God, he will strip you of your name in order for you to know that God prevails. That the spiritual trumps the physical, and that you and I are not sufficient within ourselves. Verse 29, "Then Jacob asked him and said, 'Please tell me your name.'" You asked me my name, tell me your name. Listen to the man's response. "But he said, 'Why is it that you ask me my name?'" See, a lot of us get like Marvin Gaye, what's going on? God said, "You ought to know by now. Everything you done tried, I done blocked. Every contact you made I done stopped. Every time you think you don't have any more debts, I let something else break down. You ought to know my name by now. It ought to be clear who you're dealing with".
And so it dawned on him. "So Jacob named the place," verse 30, "Peniel, for he said, 'I have seen God.'" He knew his name now. "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved". 'Cause he could have killed me. See, if you only knew what God could do that he didn't do, doesn't do. Some of us should be dead right now, but because of the goodness, grace, and favor of God, he brought you out, brought you through when you were thinking you are gonna lose your mind. He said, "I've seen God face to face, and I'm alive to talk about it". So, if you're still here, he ain't finished. Oh, but here's where it gets good, here's where it gets good. Let's bring it to a close, here's where it gets good.
Now, verse 31, "The sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Peniel, and he was limping on his thigh". Hebrews 11, verse 21 says that when he blessed his grandchildren, in order to bring them blessing, he had to lean on his staff. So, years later, he's still limping. Years later, he's still limping. So, if Jacob came on the stage today and you say, "Why are you limping"?
Jacob would have to say, "I'm limping 'cause I've been blessed. I'm limping 'cause I've been blessed. 'Cause a few years ago, I was independent, I was self-sufficient. I made it happen all by myself. God broke me down. He separated my socket. And every time I get up and try to go somewhere, I'm reminded about my weakness. I'm reminded about my dependency. I'm reminded that I can't make it without him. Every step I take, every move I make, God is reminding me, 'You better not get the big head, boy, 'cause you do have another hip. I can dislocate another one if I have to, so you better remember you are totally dependent on me'".
And he says, "And I've been blessed". But what was the blessing? When he said, "I want to be blessed," he wasn't talking about something general. He was talking about verse 13, where he says, "You promised that you would make of me a great name and you would give me a great land". You see, your blessing is something God has already planned to do in the past that he's not free to do yet 'cause you are not broke down far enough for him to be free to do it. So, the blessing is not something new, it's something old that becomes new to you when you are made ready to receive it.
So, some of us in here need to start limping and say, "God, I'm gonna break my own socket so you don't have to break my socket, so that I can be totally dependent on you". No, in closing, if you remember years ago when you were growing up, they used to have them piggy banks. They used to have them piggy banks with the little slit at the top. And you would put your coins in the piggy bank to save your money. When it was time to get your money, you shook the piggy bank. You took the pig, you turned it upside down, and you shook it. Now, the reason you shook it was because there was something valuable on the inside that you wanted to come to the outside.
And so you shook it. The harder it was to come out, the harder you shook it because you wanted the money, but it was stuck on the inside. And you needed it on the outside, so you shook it. After a while you got tired of shaking it because it wasn't coming out like you want it to. So you went and got a hammer, and you took the hammer and you broke the piggy bank 'cause you got tired that it wasn't responding to the shaking. God will start by shaking you 'cause there's something valuable in you. But if you don't respond to the shaking, he goes to get a hammer 'cause he got to break you in order to get all the good stuff in you to come out for your good and his glory. So, somebody ought to praise him that he's a God who breaks us in order to make us.
Recently in Kenya, I had a divine encounter. It was a missions trip. And while I was invited to benefit others, they benefitted me by letting me see in a foreign land how real God could be. And so I got impacted because I met God at a new level. And that's what God wants from each of us. He wants for each of us to have a divine encounter with him that takes us above the normal and the ordinary and runs us smack dab into the extraordinary.
The Bible is full of divine encounters. Moses encountered God at the burning bush. Abraham encountered God when he was told to do the unthinkable, to sacrifice his own son. Elijah encountered God when God provided through a widow an unexpected source. Jacob encountered God when he had to wrestle and get his name changed and his character fixed. So, look for God to give you the opportunity to encounter him. It will not come through the normal. It will come through the extraordinary. It will come through the unexpected. But it's always designed to give you a bigger, more personal experience with him. Divine encounters, look for yours, because it will forever change your life.