Wrestling with God

© 2002 Mike Furches

No part of this presentation may be used or  copied without specific written permission from Mike Furches or Furches Family Ministries.  Anyone who chooses to use this material without permission is subject to severe criminal activities punishable by law.  For permission to use this presentation in itís entirety or part contact Mike Furches or Furches Family Ministries.


I have presented this presentation numerous times at various events ranging from tournaments, wrestling clubs, and even churches.  It is important to use wrestlers for illustrations when doing the presentation to help give a visual illustration.  After presenting this particular presentation at the 2003 Kansas State Kids Open Tournament and the 2003 USA Wrestling National Folkstyle Tournament I had numerous individuals request that I it on my web site.  With those requests, we now have the article.  I hope it blesses you and that you think about the parallels of faith in this great sport.



Wrestling with God

Wrestling is a great sport!  That is one of the reasons we are here today.  We love this sport, which has been recognized as one of the oldest, if not the oldest sport known on our planet.  It is by far the oldest of the Olympic Sports and the history of this sport goes back thousands of years. 


If we watch an 8-year-old 55-pound wrestler go up against a 16-year-old 275-pound wrestler, how many of us think that the younger wrestler will have a chance?  I doubt that many of us would think that the younger and smaller wrestler would have much of a chance but there is usually someone who thinks they would.  I do not know why they think that but they do.  I do believe that with Godís help it is possible that we all have a chance to conquer the things in life that we have difficulty with, even the things that might seem insurmountable.


Did you know that wrestling is Godís favorite sport?  It is, it is mentioned in the Bible in no less than three different places.  Do you know the first place in the Bible, or for that matter the first recorded mention of the wrestling in history?  Most people say Jacob but they are incorrect when they do.  The first mention of wrestling in the Bible occurs in Genesis Chapter 30 verse 8. 


So Rachel said, ďWith mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, (and) I have indeed prevailed.Ē (New American Standard Bible)


The first place in the Bible or for that matter-recorded history, wrestling involves a woman.  In some ways, this can teach us lessons in and of itself.


I recently had the privilege of meeting Coach Ed Edison.  Coach Ed is known in Kansas for his involvement with wrestling, and especially with helping getting womenís wrestling on the map.  You can learn more about Coach Ed by visiting the web site http://www.eteamz.com/ksgirlswrestling/ or the web site http://members.cox.net/whywrestling/.  The truth is that some young men will learn today, just as many did yesterday that many young women have excelled at this great sport.  They have learned great technique and are at the point that with hard work, many of them will, and have prevailed just as Rachel did over her sister, over many young men. 


We are at a time when we need to learn to give the young women of our world, those who participate in wrestling and those who donít the respect they deserve.  God created women and saw them as beautiful and good.  He gave them abilities to do wonderful things, not just cooking and staying at home with the kids, which he did call many to do, but he also called them to be good wrestlers just as he called and gave Rachel the ability to be an excellent wrestler.  Women in our group today go for your dreams; do not let chauvinistic attitudes keep you from being everything that God intended for you to be.


There is another incident in the Bible where wrestling is mentioned.  Do any of you know of the next place or the next person where we hear about wrestling?  That is right; most of you know the story of Jacob.  It is a wonderful story of not only wrestling, but of a man wrestling with an angel of God and in many ways with God himself.  The story takes place later on in Genesis; Genesis Chapter 32 verses 24-32.


Afterwards, Jacob went back and spent the rest of the night alone.  A man came and wrestled with Jacob until just before daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not win, he struck Jacob on the hip and threw it out of joint.  They kept on wrestling until the man said, ďLet go of me! Itís almost daylight.Ē 


ďYou canít go until you bless me,Ē Jacob replied. 


The man asked, ďWhat is your name?Ē


ďJacobĒ he answered.


The man said, ďYour name will no longer be Jacob.  You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won.  Thatís why your name will be Israel.Ē


Jacob said, ďI have seen God face to face, and I am still alive.Ē


So he named the place Peniel.  He was limping because he had been struck on the hip, and the muscles on his hip joint had been injured.  Thatís why even today people in Israel donít eat the hip muscle of any animal. (Contemporary English Version)


I believe that Jacob had a great sprawl or pancake when it came to wrestling.  He could shoot, had a massive cross-face and an incredible wizzer.  After all, he wrestled with the angel all night long and the angel eventually tells him that he had won.  While Jacob was stubborn, he was after all at this point wrestling all night against an angel, he was still determined and willing to go the full distance to accomplish his dreams.  He didnít give up, he faced adversity.


We also learn lessons about God though in the story of Jacob.  The angel had to have had an incredible hip heist, he knew Greco Roman technique because he was able to throw Jacob.  He could break his opponent down and make him pay the price for his stubbornness.  We know this because we see that Jacob was thrown and landed on his hip.  He walked around with a limp for the rest of his life.  You know I think that if you broke it down they probably both had cauliflower ear too after all was said and done, after all you donít see any mention of head gear.


Have you ever seen an old wrestler walk around?  I have seen great older wrestlerís like Danny Hodge or even one we all know, Skip Herrington, who helps coach our wrestling club.  Shucks, you donít even have to be that old, some of you have coaches that walk around with limps.  I challenge you, that from here on out, every time you see a wrestler walking around with a limp that it be a reminder of the time that Jacob wrestled with the angel of God.  It can be a lesson to the things that I will be attempting to point out today.


We can see from these two stories where wrestling is mentioned in the Bible.  Many donít know but Rachel and Jacob also had the first wrestling family in the Bible. They ended up getting married to each other.  Now can you imagine the wrestling family that came about from those two?


There is a third place that wrestling is mentioned in the Bible.  I believe that God knows that we are still wrestling today.  Not just in the sport but life in general.  God knows that the sport is a sport that can teach lessons in life that is why he uses it in the way he does.  God knows that we wrestled with life yesterday, will so today, and will certainly do so tomorrow.  Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 12 and 13 helps illustrate this point.


We are not wrestling against humans.  We are wrestling against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.  So put on all the armor that God gives.  Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself.  And when the battle is over, you will be standing firm.


I believe that God knows that many of us today are facing problems and obstacles.  Not just on the mat but more importantly, in life.  We know what many of those obstacles and difficulties are.  They include things like; Drugs, Bullies, Issues at School, Alcohol, Peer Pressure, War and many more.  The truth is that we donít live in a perfect world.  We live in a fallen and imperfect world that often takes along with it innocent victims.  While some may consider it unjust for God to allow these types of things to happen, I see it as a ultimate loving God that would love us enough that he would ultimately allow us to do even stupid things, even things that unfortunately might cause harm to some one else. The love of God allows us to make the choices we make, even bad ones.


God also allows us to learn lessons from life and the things we become involved in.  That is in part what this last passage of scripture is about.  God loves wrestling and is in part telling us that we can learn lessons from wrestling, lessons in real wayís and with real meaning that wrestlers can probably relate to better than anyone else.  If I ask the question, ďWhat lessons have you learned in life from wrestling?Ē from older wrestlers, I will get responses like this:

  • I have learned from all of the hard work, how to stick it out when times get tough.
  • Iíve learned the importance of fighting hard when I am at a disadvantage. 
  • Iíve learned to never give up.
  • Iíve learned how to have respect for people in authority. 
  • I love my mom and dad, brotherís sister and family.
  •  Iíve learned to appreciate my coaches because of the work they put in to make me better.
  • Iíve also learned to respect people in authority and leadership by having to follow the example of obeying the refereeís even during the times that I might not disagree with them.
  • I have learned that someone has the bottom line responsibility of making decisions and establishing rules.  You have to work hard to get to the place where you can be that person.
  • I have learned discipline and a hard work ethic.  Iíve had to watch my diet and in order to be any good I have had to put in long hours at practice and from following instructions.
  • Iíve learned that the people I am around make me who I am.  I can see how much better I do for example when my work out partner challenges me to be a better wrestler.  I can also see from this that the people I am around in life will make me either a better person or one who gets into trouble.
  • I have learned to understand that I am human and have limitations but in those limitations, there also exists my strengths.  I can only do so much.  Some are more experienced, older and bigger wrestlers they sometimes have a distinct advantage.  God made some people large and others small, some quick and some slow.  He made us all different.  It is important for me to recognize my limitations and the strengths that I possess and take advantage of those things not only on the mat but also in life.


I believe that in part, God is telling us here that part of putting on the full armor of God is making sure that we have a relationship with God, and specifically his Son, Jesus Christ.  We are told in fact in the Bible that the only way to have a relationship with God is through his Son, Jesus Christ.   


One of the evidences of the need for this is the unfortunate truth that even wrestlers go through life learning the lessons learned from wrestling but still have difficulties in other areas of their lives.  We see many who turn to alcohol and drugs, many who have broken marriages and homes, even those who end up taking their own lives because life has become too complicated to carry on.  Why would they do this if wrestling teaches so many lessons?  I believe simply put, they do this because they do not have the one thing that matters most, the one thing that will allow them to overcome their obstacles, the obstacle of a larger than life foe, a foe that seemingly seems impossible to defeat, they lack a relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is a shame that many learn all of the lessons from wrestling and yet, do not possess the one thing that will allow them to get over the hump and be successful not just in life but for all eternity.


The following segment was a part of the presentation at the 2003 Kansas State Championships and the 2003 USA Wrestling National Folkstyle Championships.  It should be noted that since those presentations that Patrick Miller has returned home safely from the war in Iraq.


As I conclude today, I want to remind you of the importance to keep in mind those wrestlers who have served their country and are paying a terrific price for the freedom that you and I possess.  We need to remember them in our prayers and our thoughts.  One of those young men, is Cpl. Travis Eichelberger who is 20 years old and recovering from injuries incurred in Iraq.  Another young man, Patrick Miller from Valley Center, is one of the hostages being held by Iraqi forces.  Both of these young men are men that wrestled in High School in Kansas and are learning the importance of their faith in conjunction with the lessons in life learned from wrestling.  Please say your prayers for them, that God would provide healing, yet also provide comfort and safety.


Remember that God knows how to wrestle and can hurt you if you want to continue to wrestle with him and the direction or desire he has for your life.  What he really wants most though is to bless you because he loves you.  He loved you so much that he sent his only Son to die for you.  Thankfully, his Son rose from the dead and through his Holy Spirit now gives us the opportunity to have new life.  God can also teach you lessons from this great sport if you are willing to listen or to learn.  Are you willing to listen to God and do what he wants?  Or are you willing to go to battle without that last thing you need to make you a true conqueror, not just on the mat but in life as well? If you are then let me know by speaking to me today so I can share how you can come to know Christ or email me at mike@furches.org  I can think of nothing more satisfying than having the chance to do that with you.


Let us pray:  ďDear God, today I ask that you give wisdom to the coaches and parents and help the table workers stay focused on the work ahead of them.  I ask that you help the officials and referees enforce the rules fairly, and may the wrestlers wrestle to the best of their ability, not just on the mat today but also in life.  I also ask that as they wrestle that you would protect each of them from injury.  Thank you for allowing each of us here to take part in this wonderful sport that you love so much.  Dear God, I also ask that you be with our troops today that are helping to liberate the people of Iraq.  I ask that they work for justice and show mercy.  I also ask you to be with their families at home who are also making sacrifices.  I ask you to do these things and I ask your blessings on the rest of this event, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The first mention of wrestling in recorded history is the mention of Rachel in Genesis wrestling with her sister.  Here is a rendering of Rachel and her future husband Jacob who was technically the first wrestling family in history. Can you imagine how good their children were?




The second mention in history is that of Jacob.  Here is an illustration of him wrestling against the angel of God.



Amateur Wrestling has given a tremendous amount of respect to Jacob.  Upon entering the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater Oklahoma you see the following: