Scripture of the Month-I Thessalonians 5:18-Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10- Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.
It is interesting that this Prayer of Jabez takes place in the context of one of those long (boring) genealogies in the Bible. It is tucked inside the listing of the names of the people who were descendants of the Tribe of Judah. It is almost as if the writer interrupted his methodical reporting to make sure that this exceptional prayer was preserved for generations to come.
What do we know about Jabez? He was an honorable person. He stood out. His integrity was without question. There must have been something extremely special about him. He was well-respected by others. We also know he was a man of prayer. When you put those two clues together, that he was well-respected or honorable and that he was a man of prayer, and when you add them to the fact that this text tells us God answered his prayer, you have to conclude Jabez was a man of God, a man in relationship with God. God doesn’t answer prayers that don’t please Him. He doesn’t answer prayers that aren’t in accordance with His will. Jabez’s prayer life was a reflection of his faith in who God was and in what God could do.
Before we dive in, let me tell you what the Prayer of Jabez is NOT. It is NOT a formula by which we have our desires met. Some have taken this prayer and used it to promote a prosperity kind of message and made it about the acquisition of wealth and that is a distortion of the whole of Scripture. Can God bless us? Does God bless us? Absolutely? It is in His character and nature to bless us. God is a blesser. He is the Giver of “good and perfect gifts,” James 1:17. If you are a believer, you cannot look at a newborn baby and not be overwhelmed by the lavish love of God that would create something so delicate, so special, and so overwhelmingly good and not know that, that child is a blessing straight from heaven. You cannot look at the gorgeous fall landscape that glows, glisten and at times looks as vibrant as a roaring fire and not know that God desires to bless us.
Just a week and a half ago as we were walking along the beach in Daytona, I talked with Thom about the fact that the earth is 2/3 water. (One of the few fun facts I remember from fifth grade) And I said to Thom, “I know everything that has been created is for God’s pleasure (Revelation 4:11), but knowing how much pleasure the sound of the ocean brings to us and how much pleasure the sight of the rolling waves brings and how the way the horizon and the water meet when you study them is so lovely, and how the feeling of sand between your toes sort of grounds you to relaxation and all things good, I think God purposely made the earth 2/3 water so that there would be easy access to those moments for us. He made them for OUR pleasure as well as His own. So, God has blessed us, and He does bless us.
However, the Prayer of Jabez isn’t a method by which we get our way with God, but rather it is an approach by which He can have His way with us.
God wants to bless us in His way and in His time. As I read this prayer, I see Jabez prayed for God’s blessing.
- Pray for God’s Blessings
We too can and should pray for God to bless us. But, often, when we pray for God to bless us, we think about the things this world has to offer. We pray for material blessings which are here today and gone tomorrow. We pray for earthly promotions and advancements. We pray for open doors of opportunity. We see someone we want to date or marry and we start praying that God will zap them with love for us. We pray for “A’s” on tests whether we have studied for them or not. We even pray that God will remove the fat, sugar, and cholesterol out of stuff that we are putting in our mouths. ?
I’m not saying it is wrong to pray for any of those things (well maybe the removal of fat, cholesterol and sugar from our food) but what if the door we want to open isn’t an opportunity that God wants for us? What if the advancement we are seeking would take us further away from God’s plans for us? What if the person we think we have to date and marry would lead to a life of heartache rather than the heaven we have imagined?
There are God’s blessings and there are worldly pursuits. There are God’s blessings and there are the world’s blessings. Which blessings do we want?
God does have blessings for us. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 1:3. He is always present with us, and He is attentive to our needs and our pain. He has compassion on us. He does heal. He does intervene. He does change hearts and lives. God’s blessings don’t always translate into worldly riches or fame. In fact, in many cases, He knows what a snare, what a trap, what a burden those things can become to many in this life. Having a wildly prosperous business has cost many people their families. I am not saying God doesn’t ever bless believers with wealth, He does sometimes. I am just saying that we cannot always equate God’s blessings with material possessions. For some people, wealth can become a gateway to heartache and destruction (I Timothy 6:9). Just understand with me this morning, that having our prayers answered according to our own desires, would not always be a blessing.
I think we would all say that the Apostle Paul was blessed of God. He was dramatically converted from being a killer of Christians to becoming a powerful preacher of the Gospel, an establisher of churches, and the writer of much of the New Testament. You would have to be blessed of God to do all of those things. He also did all of those things in the midst of intense persecution, suffering, imprisonment, shipwrecks. So many would have given up and concluded that it was too hard to follow God, but we see an increasing passion in Paul’s life. He couldn’t shrink back. He couldn’t let go of God because God truly had a hold on him and was blessing him with strength, power, the ability to discern spiritual things and a special ability to write and speak. And if that wasn’t enough, Paul also received a supernatural blessing from God to endure in spite of some kind of physical ailment or challenge. In II Corinthians 12, Paul testifies that he had a “thorn in the flesh.” That phrase, “thorn in the flesh” was just a way of expressing that something was paining him, causing him problems. Scholars agree it was a physical condition that he had to deal with.
Paul prayed for God to remove it from him repeatedly. We might say it would have been a blessing for Paul for God to heal him. However, instead of having the blessing of healing, God gave Paul a different kind of blessing. God gave him the ability to endure in spite of his ailment. God gave Paul sufficient grace that would strengthen him in his weakness. Look at the verse: 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
While Paul would have loved to have been healed, it was a blessing to him to experience God’s supernatural power. God’s blessing isn’t always our idea of blessing, but when we know we have received God’s blessing, we know we are truly blessed.
So Jabez prayed, “Oh that YOU would bless me, God.” Do we want God’s blessings over our own desires? Can we pray, “Bless me according to Your perfect wisdom, God. Bless me according to Your perfect power, God. Bless me according to Your sufficient grace, God. Bless me with spiritual blessings and with earthly blessings as You see fit and as it will glorify You?”
When you receive God’s kind of blessing, you can stand up under any test, triumph in any trial, and advance in any adversity.
Remember the story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32? Jacob was in a rough spot. He was going to be facing a brother he had deceived and stolen from. He sent his family, livestock and possessions ahead of him, and when he was by himself, all alone, God came to him. It is interesting how God deals with each of us individually. To Abraham the pilgrim, God came as a traveler in Genesis 18. To Joshua the General, God came to him as a soldier in Josh 5. Jacob had spent most of his adult life struggling or wrestling with people, so God came to him as a wrestler. Jacob wrestled with God.
Genesis 32:24-28 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “WHAT IS YOUR NAME?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
Jacob discovered through that wrestling match that he had basically spent his life seeking the blessings of the world. He had spent his life using people for his selfish gain. He had spent his life resisting God’s will. He finally learned in that wrestling match that the only way to be truly blessed is to surrender completely to God. As A.W. Tozer said, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.” Tozer
In that wrestling match, God helped Jacob meet himself. He asked him, “What is your name?” The last time Jacob had been asked that question, he had told a lie. He told his father who was on his death bed, whose eyesight had basically failed, that he was Esau, his brother, so that he could steal Esau’s birthright.
The blessing here for Jacob wasn’t a physical blessing. It was a spiritual and emotional one. God gave Jacob the opportunity to decide if he was going to continue to live up to the name Jacob, which meant deceiver, or if he was going to let God change him and rename him and reclaim him for His purposes! He allowed God to rename him. His name became . . . Israel. Wow! Jacob lost that wrestling match with God as God overpowered him and even knocked his hip out of socket. Although he lost the battle, he won the victory because now God had full control over him.
By seeking God’s blessing and finally being weakened and forced to yield, he had become a “God-empowered prince.” Israel means “Prince of God.” Like Paul, who had his own battle to fight, Jacob became strong only when he became weak (2 Cor. 12:1-10). He never lived life the same way after receiving the blessing God desired to give him. He never walked the same way physically. He never treated people the same way relationally. He possessed spiritual insight and influence like he could never have imagined. His sons and grandsons, his descendants, became the 12 tribes of Israel. You see, the blessing of God changes us so that we can change the world.
Jabez didn’t want to be blessed by the world. He wanted to be blessed by God. The world’s blessings are shallow and temporary, but the blessing of God is life-changing and eternal.
Secondly, from the Prayer of Jabez, I would encourage us to:
- Pray for Increased Influence
Jabez prayed for God to increase his territory, his borders. Now, Jabez wasn’t simply praying for more real-estate. Land was money for sure in those days, but land was also influence. More land was an opportunity to make a mark for God’s name.
Is it ok to ask God to increase your finances? If you are also using your finances His way and are seeking to glorify God with your finances and to bless others with your resources, it doesn’t seem out of the question to me that you would ask God to bless you financially. He cares about every part of our lives, right? Is it ok for you to ask God to bless your business? If you are doing business God’s way and are living upright and as a blessing to those you employ or those you serve, I don’t think it is crazy or wrong to ask God to bless your business.
But more importantly, any increase in your life should be viewed as increased influence to glorify God and spread His name and influence in the lives of those you can impact. I sort of used to monitor my FB posts when it came to spiritual posts. I tried to refrain from too many of those. I didn’t want people to see me as only a spiritual person or as just a churchy person or a religious person or like I couldn’t enjoy any other part of my life except my spiritual life or like I had to post about spiritual things because that is my “job” my “business,” if you will.
I have to tell you, I am over all of that. I am a Christian first and foremost. I can’t apologize for that or try to make that reality palatable for the world or people who don’t know me. The fact that I have a lot of Facebook friends and that I have an opportunity through our online streaming to impact people for the Kingdom of God is not something I am going to shy away from. God has increased my territory. The opportunity I have been given to publish a book that talks about Impact and Kingdom Principles, is another way God has increased my territory.
I am not going to be “mamby pampby” or “politically correct” or try to just let people “see my life” and hope it speaks loudly enough. I am going to look for ways to expand my influence so that I can lift up the name of Jesus. The crises of our day have hit an all-time high. There is no time to waste. Lives are being destroyed, families are being crushed, dreams are being stolen, and Satan is luring people into addictive traps and fantasies and abusive situations. You better believe I am praying for an increase in my territory and for an increase in this church’s territory. We need to increase so that we can push back the powers of darkness and reclaim what Hell has stolen.
The enlarging of our territory isn’t about us. It is about the enlarging of the Kingdom territory that we must first and foremost consider. Believe it or not, I have sort of become a homebody. I am not drawn to travel at all like I once was. I like to be here. I like to be home. I don’t like to miss a Sunday or a Wednesday here. I don’t need something else to prepare for, but as God has been increasing opportunities for me during these past couple of years, I see that as an expansion of His territory and am trying to be obedient to go as He opens the door. That is what this Prayer of Jabez is about. Sometimes the expansion of our territory will stretch us. Sometimes it will take us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it will cost us something, but it is always worth it if it advances His Kingdom!
Jabez went on to pray, “Let your hand be with me.” When Jabez prayed that, he was really praying for:
- Pray for Divine Guidance and Protection
To pray for God’s hand to be with you is to pray for God to direct your path and for God to keep you safe. Listen, where God guides, He also provides and protects. God’s hands are outstretched to us in times of need. He promises to uphold us with His righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10-So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Jeremiah 32:17 says that nothing is too difficult for God when He stretches out His hands. Many places in Scripture talk about being delivered by the hand of the Lord. Jabez knew that if his territory was going to be increased, if he would be going new places, and gaining more responsibilities, he would need God to lead him to those places and would need God to protect Him in those places.
I know God really increased my borders, not only spiritually, but physically and emotionally, when He sent me to live in the Middle East. I was 22 when God took me for two years to the island of Cyprus as a missionary for the Church of God. Missions wasn’t on my radar. The Middle East certainly wasn’t on my radar. God took me away from my friends and family to a far-away land, a kind of turbulent region. I’m like, “God, couldn’t you increase my territory in Myrtle Beach or at least Ohio where I know people?” The Gulf War had just recently ended in the Middle East about a year before. It wasn’t necessarily the safest place for a young, single female. But, where God guides, He provides. My parents actually told me I would be safer in the will of God in the Middle East than I would be if I disobeyed God and stayed in their home. They were right. Look again at the screen. Psalm 41 tells us not to be afraid when the hand of God is with us.
Pray for Divine guidance and protection. Pray for all kinds of protection. Physical, spiritual, emotional—that is your right as a Child of God, and then let all fears dissipate as you rest in the hands of our capable, Almighty God.
Now, if you aren’t willing to let God guide you with His hand, you ought not to expect He will protect you with His hand. Just sayin’. Not that He won’t rescue us from our stupidity. He has done it for me more than once. But we ought to pray, God Guide me before we pray, God protect me.
Finally, Jabez prayed to be an overcomer. We can do the same.
- Pray for an Ability to Overcome
So, Jabez’s beginning was apparently rocky. Something about how he came into the world, probably at childbirth, was very tough. In fact, Jabez’s name means “pain,” “sorrow,” “burden,” or “miserable.” Imagine those names stenciled on the wall in his nursery? Imagine those names under his picture in the school yearbook. Imagine being at a restaurant that asks for your name in order to call you when your order is ready and hearing, “Pain, your order is ready!” “Order for Miserable?” I mean, really? How would you like to deal with that stigma in school?
In the last part of his prayer, he prayed, “Keep me from harm that I might not cause pain.” Now, “harm” here is more appropriately translated, “evil.” Jabez prayed, “Keep me from evil that I might not cause pain.” He had been a source of physical pain for his mother, so much so that she called him “pain!” What mother gives that to her child for a name? Talk about starting with a deficit in your relationship with your mom! He didn’t want to be a pain. He wanted to be a blessing to God and others.
His life was overshadowed by a label, but he prayed to overcome that stigma. Jabez didn’t let other people define him. He didn’t let his name define him. In spite of what had been said of him and was supposed to have stuck to him through his name, Jabez rose in prominence and honor above his brothers. He turned to God in prayer to help him overcome what was known about him and what was said about him.
We need a few more believers with an overcoming spirit. We need a few more Christians who know how to call to the God of heaven to rise above the limits and labels this world wants to put on them. We need a few more Children of God who won’t quit, who won’t grow bitter when life is hard, but who know how to rise in the midst of adverse circumstances. We need to pray for an overcoming spirit!
In what ways do you need to experience God’s blessing? Pray for God’s blessings, His desires, His will, to be accomplished in your life. Is there more you could be doing to honor and glorify God’s name in the earth? Ask God to expand your territory? Pray for guidance and protection as you seek to serve God. And ask God to give you the spirit, the mindset, and the strength of an overcomer so you won’t be defined by the world’s labels or sidelined by the enemy’s attacks. It’s time to get personal with our prayer life.