Grace Christian Church - LeRoy MN Grace Christian Church
115 E. Frederick, LeRoy MN 55951  (507) 219-1774
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The Glory of the Ordinary

The Fox Who Outfoxed the Fox

The foxes who kept trying to outfox each other: Laban & Jacob

Texts: Genesis 29:16-25(chapters 24 & 27-31), Philippians 1:12-14. 4:10-13

A Princeton U. study found: "people with higher incomes do NOT necessarily
have any more happiness in their lives than those with lower incomes. The ONLY situation is when more money (things) enable a person to cross over the line of poverty but NOT after that basic level is achieved. NOBODY can ever GET all they WANT.

Today's topic is about two men who were focused on the wrong thing...
"getting ahead by whatever means they could think of."
I think of them as two foxes trying to outfox each other... Laban & Jacob

Synopsis of Laban & Jacob - a long and contentious relationship:

  • Laban greets Eliazer & agrees to give his sister, Rebekah, in marriage to their relative Isaac. - Genesis 24
  • 40+ years later -- Jacob flees from Esau to Haran to live with his uncle, Laban - Genesis 29
  • First contract between Laban and Jacob for Laban's daughter
    Leah substituted for Rachel. Week later, then Rachel. - Genesis 29:15-20, 27-30
  • Laban unjust to Jacob, his Son-in-Law - Genesis 29:21-23; 31:7, 39-42
  • Jacob's "trick practice" with the flocks and herds of Laban - Genesis 30:32-43
  • Jacob dissatisfied with Laban's treatment and returns to the land of Canaan - Genesis 31
    Isaac and Laban chide each other (26-42)
    Jacob & Laban make a covenant to separate (45)
    At Galeed they erect a memorial of Jacob's and Laban's covenant (47-48)
    Jacob confirms the covenant between him and Laban (53)

THEME: The "ordinary" life of both Laban and Jacob and their ongoing rivalry show us that people with the wrong focus for their lives are neither happy nor blessed, even if they acquire lots of stuff.

BUT... change can come for anyone, as it did for Jacob (dream on trip to Laban)
and returning home, wrestling with angel.

And some of their actions can have very useful outcomes. (Laban's deceit produced half the sons of Jacob (Israel) - heads of the 12 tribes of Israel

"Contentment follows attainment ONLY in the dictionary."
--Tom Ellsworth, Chrn Std 31Jan2010

Some... love money and use people.
Others... love people and use money.

Getting over "things" needs to be the focus of our lives.

We have now meet Laban (in the Bible) twice in this series.

First was when Eliazer (Abraham's chief of staff) arrives at Padan Aram after the touching incident where his (kid) sister Rebekah offers water to both the servant and the whole camel caravan, Laban has a key role in looking out for her interests, and he sends his sister off with his good wishes on her divine calling to be the wife of Isaac.

Second was at least 40 years later when the middle aged son of Rebekah, Jacob, arrives seeking a safe haven from his brother, Esau's, murderous intent. At this point Laban must be at least 60 because his nephew is already 40. This connection continued for 14 years as part of the 2-stage "deal" that Laban extracted from the love smitten Jacob who fell "head over heels" for one of his daughters, Rachel. All that time Laban had the benefit of the talented Jacob's services and it prospered Laban greatly. However, there was always intrigue and contention between the two.

Laban and Jacob were well matched to be rivals of each other, attempting to outwit and out maneuver each other... At the end of their years of bickering neither was content. But they made peace with each other to live their own lives.

Chasing money DOES NOT and CANNOT bring meaning to life.
Only by "living for meaningful purposes" can we realize contentment.

Contentment is the result when we GIVE, not when we GET.  One of the most specific place in the Bible that makes that evident is Paul writing to his friends in the distant military outpost of the Roman empire, in Philippi.

In Philippians 1:12-14 Paul accepts his personal imprisonment in Rome as part of a larger plan of God to advance the gospel which resulted in key people in Caesar's palace becoming Christians.  That realization only served to embolden him to speak even more vigorously.

And at the end of his letter, Philippians 4:10-13, Paul tells his faithful supporters that he rejoiced greatly in the Lord when at long last their help had found its way to him.  Yet, much as he needed their benefaction, he had learned to be content regardless of his personal circumstances.  "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

The key to life is Paul's understanding as shown by his sense that both he and his fellow Christians in Philippi are joined in a common purpose...  to share the same sort of life Jesus had. And what sort of life was that Paul and the Philippians and Jesus shared?  Suffering and struggle.

In the West where Christianity over the centuries has modified the culture,
we are less likely to SUFFER than elsewhere.

BUT... STRUGGLE is just as much here and now as it has ever been.  Make no mistake about that.  EVERY American student in any public institution E-12 & higher ed WILL be confronted (bombarded, actually) with teachers who will attempt in subtle or openly confrontational ways to destroy their faith.  Countless other events and forces subtle or overt will give us a struggle to continue living by faith. 

If the only way you can be happy is to be free from struggle, your brain needs more exercise in moving your target from happiness to contentment. 

Contentment v. Happiness:  that is the big secret to living by faith. (Of course, reading the Bible lets us in on the difference.)

Learning to live joyfully (well) with whatever you have because it doesn't matter if you have many or few things in your life IS WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.  It is what you DO with the things you have that make you joyful.

Difference between goal and wish:
A WISH is what you want to see happen.
A GOAL is what you are willing to do toward making something happen.

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah