I Am Jacob
By Cecil Murphey
-- My theology teaches me that God loves me -- me and everyone else.
I didn't doubt the biblical teaching. Emotionally, however, I didn't feel
loved. God "so loved the world" (John 3:16) and sent Jesus to die
for sinners, and that included me. Even so, sometimes I felt as if I had been
saved as part of a package deal. God had gotten stuck with me because of a
sweeping compassion for everyone.
My problem wasn't my theology or my intellectual grasp; my emotions simply
One day in my devotional reading I came across Romans 9:13, where Paul quotes
God as saying, "Jacob I loved" (NIV).
The impact of those words stayed with me, and I pondered them frequently
over the next few days. What did Jacob ever do to deserve love? He was one
of the biggest scoundrels and least deserving, and yet God loved him. He did
nothing to earn that love and should have received severe punishment.
As I pondered the life of Jacob, I faced one sad reality: I couldn't earn
God's love. The best I could do was to accept that God loves me. I didn't
know how to do that, but I kept thinking of the deeply loved but utterly undeserving
Jacob. To my amazement, one morning I heard myself crying in deep anguish,
"I am Jacob."
The more I thought of those words and focused on what I was saying, I knew
that was exactly how I needed to pray.
"I am Jacob, whom you love." I spoke those words aloud.
I prayed exactly those words every day for months. One day instead of saying,
"I am Jacob, whom you love," I heard myself say, "I am Jacob.
I really am."
I had focused on being Jacob for so long that I had become like Jacob. That
is, I knew I was loved. The powerful assurance was there in a way I had never
experienced before. In that sense, I was indeed Jacob.
I also thought of two of Paul's admonitions: "
in Christ Jesus
I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me"
(1 Corinthians 4:15-16, NIV, author's italics).
The apostle also writes, "Follow my example, as I follow the example
of Christ" (11:1 NIV). If we were to say this, it would sound like boasting.
Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to know that if they followed his example
and his lifestyle they would see godliness that pointed toward the perfect
godliness of Jesus Christ.
What would it be like to imitate the example of Paul? Or the examples of
other outstanding believers in the Bible? What if I saw qualities in them
that I yearned for in my own life? How could I embody those same qualities?
I knew I was moving in the right direction. I began a series of further prayer
exercises. For periods at a time -- often just a few days, but usually lasting
several weeks -- I chose one individual in the Bible whom I admired. I created
a mental image of that person.
I tried not to ignore any of the person's shortcomings, because those made
the character more human. I focused on a single, major quality I respected
about that individual.
Each day, as I prayed, I imagined myself taking on the quality I had selected.
This may speak of my weakness, but I just couldn't -- then or now -- focus
on Jesus as the role model for the qualities I wanted. I needed flesh-and-blood,
sinful-but-saved creatures who embodied the attributes I sought to develop.
In a novel, In His Steps, written more than a hundred years ago,
a dozen people covenanted to ask, "What would Jesus do?" before
they made any decision. That wouldn't work for me because I have no idea what
Jesus would do. Jesus is perfect and without sin. I have an amazing ability
for self-deception and too often my heart is so filled with my desires that
I'm not open enough to hear the voice of the Savior.
I did discover, however, that I could relate to other flawed human beings.
The Bible is filled with them -- and many of them stand as our guides to spiritual
For example, I suspect Paul was a hot-tempered zealot whose words sometimes
cut his enemies to shreds. I have some of that quality in me, so I understand
his struggles. In spite of that, he also embodied a boldness for God that
I yearn for.
Some may have trouble with my approach. They can't easily say, "I am
Jacob." I could have said, "I want to be loved like an undeserving
Jacob," which is what my words meant. But to explain to God (who needs
no explanations) made my prayer cumbersome. The simple concept worked for
me. "I am Jacob," sounded direct; it enabled me to focus.
Each day, as I prayed, I envisioned what it would be like to be fully embraced
by God's loving arms. The more unworthy I felt, the more I could appreciate
In my case, this went on for months before the realization struck me that
I had become like Jacob -- I felt deeply loved despite my shortcomings. Those
simple words had changed my life.
Here is how I pray every day now. As I become aware of a need to change,
I search for the desired quality in a biblical character, then pray in my
shorthand form. Sometimes when I'm reading the Bible, I'm struck by the quality
of a person and I think, 'Yes, that's how I want to be.'
I invite you to experiment in prayer with me. As you focus on a quality
you want to cultivate -- love, kindness, boldness, or contemplation -- focus
on one of the giants of the Bible, and make it a matter of daily prayer to
be like that person.
More recently, I have held up Nathaniel, "an Israelite in whom there
is no deceit," (John 1:47 TNIV). That's who I want to be: open, vulnerable,
and without deception.
-Adapted from Committed But Flawed by Cecil Murphey, AMG Publishers,
Order your copy
of Cecil Murphey's, Committed But Flawed on CBN.com
Murphey has authored and co-authored more than 90 books in such wide-ranging
fields as health and fitness, motivation, travel, business, and inspiration.
Some of those books have included ghostwritten autobiographies for singer
B.J. Thomas, Franklin Graham, pianist Dino Karsanakas, Chick-fil-A founder
S. Truett Cathy, ultra-marathon runner Stan Cottrell, and Dr. Ben Carson of
Johns Hopkins Hospital. You can learn more about him at www.cecilmurphey.com.
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