The AMI QT Devotionals from December 25-31 are written by Phillip Chen, college pastor at Church of Southland. Philip, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently studying at Talbot School of Theology. He is married to Esther.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“No More Barriers”
Genesis 32:13-21 (ESV)
So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 These he handed over to his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove.” 17 He instructed the first, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.’” 19 He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him, 20 and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.” 21 So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.
Over the course of two decades, Jacob accumulated much wealth, power, and status: innumerable livestock, a large family and many servants. When he was fleeing from Esau’s presence, he left only with the clothes on his back; but now, in his return to meeting Esau, he is a wealthy man. In case Esau came as an enemy, Jacob’s plan is to split up the camp into different groups, so that if one group was attacked, the others have a chance to get away. He sends these groups out to meet his brother in different waves. And then finally, he is left all by himself in the camp. Tactically, this seems like a great idea—a very strategic and well thought move. However, I wonder if God intentionally planted this idea in Jacob’s mind so that he would be all alone that night, because we read in the subsequent verses of Jacob’s wrestling match with God.
God could have wrestled with Jacob at any given point and time, but perhaps it was in this moment—when everything has been sent away—that God chooses to show up to Jacob in a powerful way. Maybe before this, Jacob had become dependent upon the things that he has acquired over the years for his confidence and security. Who knows? He might have even missed this opportunity if the things that he had used as a defense mechanism had not been taken away.
We all have our own defense mechanisms, which we use as walls to protect ourselves. We all have layers that need to be peeled off. It is only human nature for us to discern whether we can trust others before letting them into the deeper layers of our lives. We all have built-in barriers which we set up to protect us from harm. While not necessarily a bad thing, we don’t realize that we do this with God as well. We have all these things in place that actually end up becoming obstacles for intimacy with God.
What do you use as a barrier in your life? Is it your education? Is it your career? Is it your relationship with your family, friends, or spouse? What are things that you need to set aside so that God can encounter you in a powerful way? If you are going through a season of stripping away – where it seems like everything you had put your confidence in is being taken away, pay close attention. Many times, God allows or even orchestrates this as preparation for a powerful encounter with Him.
Prayer: Father God, I desire to place my confidence and security in you. I confess there are so many other things that I have looked to for confidence and stability, but I remember that you strip those things away because you love me and care for me. Help me to look to you in those moments. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 12
Lunch Break Study
Read Hebrews 12:7-11 (ESV): It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Question to Consider
- Why do we have to endure discipline?
- What is the best attitude towards God’s discipline?
- What are some ways that God is disciplining us for our good?
- God disciplines us because we are His sons and daughters. Every parent that loves their children must discipline their children so that they may grow up in a healthy manner. In hindsight, we look at the discipline of our parents as one that might not have been fun, but was necessary to mold us into who we are today. In the same way, we look at the discipline of our Heavenly Father as one that might not always be enjoyable in the moment, but is necessary to produce the fruit of righteousness within us.
- The best attitude towards God’s discipline is one that is founded in trust. Because we trust God is looking out for our good, it shouldn’t matter too much if he takes things away from us or gives us certain burdens to carry. Though we may have questions and become frustrated, if our baseline attitude is trust, we are able to respond to our Heavenly Father with respect and faith.
- Personal Response
When you think of the Israelites, who had to wander in the wilderness for forty years for their lack of faith, what feelings does that bring up? God is greatly interested in maturing our faith in Him, and He will do whatever it takes to reach out to us. For the Israelites as a nation, it took forty years. For us, I hope it doesn’t take nearly as long. As we end the day, let’s yield ourselves to God and let go of any barriers that prevents us from placing our trust in Him.