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I Chronicles 4:9-10 “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.” Silent Prayer Bless Me What was Jabez saying in his prayer when he said to God, “”Bless me?”  In the New Testament, “bless” comes from the Greek word “eulegeo” from which we get our word “eulogy” means “to speak well of or to praise.”   The concept among the Old Testament Jews was that God possessed and dispensed all blessing. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses – were all blessed by God.  And in the Old Testament, the idea of “blessing” was also closely related to the topic of inheritance as in passing blessing from father to son.  It had to do with security and prosperity for someone’s future.   Let’s see how these concepts might relate to Jabez and how he might have filtered these definitions about the word “bless” through his Hebrew mind. While we don’t know much about Jabez, we can see from some details in verse nine that perhaps some nuances or details about his birth impacted his mother’s thoughts about him.  His mother named him Jabez which means, “He causes pain.”  There had to be some unusual circumstances around his birth.  This verse suggests that there was not only physical pain involved in giving him birth, but that out of some difficulty or emotional wound to his mother, Jabez was born.   I can’t imagine flipping through a Hebrew book of baby names ahead of time and thinking, “Let’s call him Jabez, because he causes pain.  Yes, that has a nice ring to it.  As a matter of fact, why don’t we call him “sore” or “infection” for a nickname?”  Right?  No one would do that.  Something dramatic had to be going on in his mom’s life at the time in order for her to give him such a name.   When we consider the NT understanding of the word “bless” which has the idea of eulogy connected to it, we can understand why Jabez would ask God to bless him.  He had this reputation of being a burden or of having brought pain to his mom and maybe to all in the family.  He had a “dark cloud” hanging over his head from something surrounding his birth and he was asking God to take that stigma away.  He wanted good things to be said of him.  He was asking God to remake his image by having good thoughts toward him and good words to say about him.  He wanted God to make him into the kind of person that people could speak fondly of and positive about.  “Bless me, God.  Help me become a person others speak well of.  Get me out of this pit that my name has placed me in.  I want to be what you say I am and not what anyone else has labeled me!”  Jabez, a Hebrew, would also have known of the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and how God blessed them for generations.  How there was a future for those families because God was in a covenant relationship with them.  He would have recalled the story of Jacob wrestling with God.  Jacob refused to let go until God promised to bless him.  Look at Genesis 32:24 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.”  You can see the intimacy here between Jacob and God.  It was just the two of them.  You can see the passion and intensity between the two of them as Jacob was bound and determined that he was going to have an encounter with God that would result in him being blessed, in him being changed.   How many wrestlers would continue in the match when their hip has been knocked out of socket?  Jacob did.  He needed something from God at the core of his being and he wasn’t quitting until he got it.  He couldn’t continue the mission of obedience that Abraham and Isaac, his forefathers had, as a deceiver.  He had to be made new.  That encounter left him weakened for the rest of his life as he walked with a limp from his hip being out of socket.  What a way to get blessed!  A blessing came through a physical weakening.  God is pretty creative when it comes to handing out blessing!  Only God can beat us up and bless us at the same time!  J  And Jacob went on in the next chapter of Genesis to get something right for the first time in his life.  He reconciled with his brother, someone he had hurt and deceived.  That’s what happens when God blesses us.  We can get right with God and with the people around us.  Jabez probably had a heartfelt connection with Jacob who had received a name that in Hebrew also had a dark cloud associated with it.  Jacob’s name meant “deceiver.”  He had been living up to his name. He had been cunning and conniving to get what he wanted, even going to the point of deceiving his brother and father to steal a birthright and blessing from his brother.  It was like he couldn’t be any different than his name suggested.  But because of the blessing of God, his name didn’t define him forever.  He was changed through the blessing of God and was given a new name and a brand new start.  His name became Israel.  I sense in Jabez’s heart he wanted the same kind of experience.  I can hear the passion in his prayer.  “Oh that You would bless me INDEED!”  I can almost hear him saying, “Bless me like you did, Jacob. I want a future.  I want a new direction for my life.  I want the dark cloud removed from my reputation.  I want to be totally dependent on You.”  We can see right through Jabez’s prayer into his heart.  He recognized God as His Source.  It’s obvious from the fact that Jabez prayed to God and it’s obvious based on what he prayed for.  We’re told in verse nine that Jabez was more honorable than all of his brothers.  He chose a different path than whatever path they had chosen.  He could have said, “I’m a big pain.  I’ve been a pain since birth.  I’m just going to live out my name and wreak havoc on everyone around me.  I’m a big pain, so that must be all I’ll ever be.”  But he didn’t.  He chose to ask for God to bless him and change his course. It was his faith in God and belief that God could remove that stigma from his life that took him from pain to blessing.  So when you pray, ask for God’s blessing if your heart’s desire is to be made into the person He wants you to be.  Ask God to bless you so that you can walk into the future and inheritance He has planned for you.  Enlarge My Territory Jabez asked God to enlarge his territory.  In essence, he prayed that God would expand his borders.  Having more land could be interpreted to mean more wealth or prestige, but when you think through it, more land would more practically mean more influence, a greater impact, more work and more responsibility.  I don’t think Jabez was praying for prosperity or possession, but for production.  He wasn’t just asking for more to possess, but for an opportunity to possess more in order to produce more.  More territory would mean more work for him.  More territory would mean more responsibility for him.  More territory would mean more to manage and more to figure out.  It wasn’t like he was praying, “Give me more, Lord, so I can take it easy and live happily ever after.”  But he was praying, “Bring it on, Lord, so that I can stretch and grow.  I want to work more and produce more.  I want to expand my farming operation.”   Teachers, when was the last time your students asked you for more homework so that they could be more productive academically?  Parents, when was the last time your children asked you for more chores so that they could learn more at a young age about how to manage a household?   In essence, Jabez was saying, “Give me room to grow, Lord.”  It could have been tempting to just be satisfied where he was.  I mean, more territory means more work, right?  I think Jabez was praying for challenge.  Jabez knew there was something more to experience and an expansion in territory would take him there.  His heart wasn’t satisfied with status quo.  He wanted more.  The Christian life is about growth and expansion and new territory.  It’s about constantly upping our game, learning new things, and taking on new challenges.  The problem with status quo Christianity is that it eventually becomes lifeless and ineffective.  We are supposed to be increasing all of the time.  Look at II Peter 1:5ff: II Peter 1: 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We’re supposed to be constantly adding to our faith and the only way to do that is to ask God to send us into new territory.  We’re to be like plants that are growing deeper and deeper.  The deeper the plants the deeper the roots.  The deeper the roots the more we are like Jesus.  Those of you who work with plants know what happens when a plant grows and its roots expand.  You have to put it in a bigger pot.  You have to place it in larger territory.  It needs more room to grow.  Hear me this morning.  Each of you has a larger purpose in God’s Kingdom than what is currently right in front of you.  Ask God to send you into new territory.  Don’t be satisfied with status quo.  Don’t get complacent and become ineffective.  Ask God to move the boundaries and borders of your current spiritual condition and ministry. As a church, we need to pray that God will enlarge our borders.  We need to keep our eye on the future and the call of God to reach this community.  We can’t be satisfied with 300 plus.  Yes, we’ve grown.  Yes, we’ve stretched.  Yes, we’ve added staff and space and programs and met new people through outreach, but we need to constantly be praying “Give us more, Lord!  Give us more.”  The development of the 74 acres down the road is a key way God will enlarge our territory.  Expanded ministry means more work, yes!  But it also means greater effectiveness and more souls for the Kingdom of God.  We can’t be satisfied with what has happened and where things are now.  There is more work to do, more to experience in this faith adventure and more people to be won to Christ!. I believe the heart of Jabez in this prayer for our understanding is “Lord, give me more ways to serve you!” Your Hand With Me Jabez prayed for God’s hand to be with him.  Nothing will burn someone out faster or cause problems quicker than moving into new territory in their own strength and without God’s protective hand.  If you are going to step out and stand out for God, God had better be right there, leading the way, walking behind you and carrying you most of the time.   Any time you step out for God, you can be assured that Satan will advance towards you.  You will need God’s protective hand in new territory.  When you step into expanded territory at God’s leading, you’ll realize quickly you’re in over your head.  Satan may try to convince you that you aren’t strong enough or smart enough to be effective in the new place where God is leading.  It’s really easy to start feeling alone in the new effort and instead of walking into the expansive place God has led us to, we retreat.  Don’t retreat!  Cling to the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 139:10, “Your right hand will guide me and hold me fast!”  Don’t shrink back.  God’s got this and He’s got you in the palm of His hand. The word hand is used over 500 times in the Bible. Many times it refers to God and some aspect of His character. So, when Jabez asked for God’s hand to be upon him, Jabez was also asking for God’s — Power-Exodus 15:6: “Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power.” Presence-Psalm 18:35: “…Your right hand sustains me…” Protection-Psalm 139:10: “Your right hand will hold me fast.” Provision-Psalm 145:16: “You open your hand and satisfy…” Righteousness-Isaiah 41:10: “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. Jabez needed to know that whatever enemy he would come up against, the powerful hand of God would deal with.  He needed to know that when he was feeling overwhelmed or like he was in over his head, the right hand of God would sustain him.  He would know he could keep on going.  Jabez needed the assurance that whatever would be needed in this new territory, whether health and strength, water and fertilizer, wisdom and strategy . . . whatever it was, that it would be supplied to him by God’s hand!  It’s not that God can’t be all of those things for us, but it’s that we don’t always acknowledge that He is all those things or ask Him to be those things in our lives.  Are we regularly praying that God’s power, presence, protection, provision and righteousness will be made manifest in our lives?  If not, we’re essentially out there on our own.  God will take us as far as we will trust Him.  He will expand us into places where we will rely on Him.  We will only go as far as our reliance on God.  He wants to take you into places in a supernatural realm where you are doing things you can’t possibly do, but as His hand is extended to you, you will do miraculous and mind blowing things.   For many Christians, however, they have simply become used to living in their own power.  They’ll only start a ministry if they know that because of their own talents and resources it won’t fail.  They’ll only get marginally close to people so that they can manage the amount of risk or hurt that might come their way.  They’ll only put a small amount in the offering plate AFTER all of the bills are paid.  God can have what is left.   We’ll never live in the realm of miracles, in the realm of the supernatural as long as we are relying on the natural to sustain and supply us.  But if our heart is to live in the fullness and power of the Spirit of God, we’ll pray, “Lord, enlarge our territories so that we can rely on YOUR HAND to pull it off.”  The heart of Jabez wasn’t “Make me rich and famous,” but “Let me live the life I can live if you are at the center of it all!”  Jabez sought God’s hand in his life because he knew how desperately he needed it. He knew his limitations. Jabez knew his strength alone was insufficient for the journey. So he pled with God for His presence to be experienced in his life, for God’s divine strength, guidance and protection.  God is blessing this church.  He has expanded our territory.  He has pushed out our borders into this community, but if we are going to go all the way with Him, He is going to have to remain at the helm.  He’ll have to be at the Center.  He’ll have to be the Provider for all of it.  His hand will have to lead, guide and provide.  The principle is simply this:  The more you do for God, the more you have to rely on Him.  The more you walk into new territory, the more you have to trust Him.  The bigger the mission, the more reliant you have to be on God.  Without God, we can do nothing (John 15:5). But with Him, all things are possible (Mark 10:27).  Keep Me From Evil Jabez’s heart was pure.  He wanted it to stay that way.  He wanted God’s help to live a life that was free from evil, free from sin.  We just prayed “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil” this morning.  It should be our heart’s desire to flee temptation and to avoid sin at all costs.  I Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Avoid every kind of evil.”  When we pray “Keep me from evil,” we need to remember that we play a part.  Walking into the lion’s den on purpose and then praying, “Lord, keep the lions from biting me” is a ridiculous prayer.  Eating a whole triple cheese, sausage and pepperoni pizza and asking God to remove the calories is preposterous! J  We have some responsibility where staying away from trouble and sin is concerned.   II Timothy 2:22 says we are to flee evil.  It says, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”  When they pursue us, we are to take off running.  When they come our way, we are to get out of their way.  Flee.  Turn away.  Turn your back on sin.  When you do, physically speaking, you are turning your heart away from that sinful, evil thing and are separating yourself from evil once again to God.  Every time you say, “No” to sin, you are choosing God again!  Isn’t that beautiful?  How many times are we pursued by temptation every day?  Every time we turn our back on it is an act of worship, an act of devotion, an expression of love whereby through our actions we say to God again and again, “I choose You.”  Not only do we need to flee when we are pursued by evil, but we also don’t need to put ourselves in situations where we know temptation will be calling.  Alcoholics stay out of bars.  Porn addicts stay off the computer or keep it in the family room where everyone can see it.  The part God plays is in providing a way of escape for us when temptation comes.  He has said in His Word that He will always make a way out.  I Cor. 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Walk through the way of escape the Lord provides.  Help Me Not Cause Pain We are supposed to be the people of good works that as people see us they will glorify our Father in Heaven.  (Matthew 5:16)   When we are instructing or disciplining our children, it’s not necessary to be a bully.  Yelling and screaming are simply unnecessary.  We can do more harm than good in our discipline when we play the “I’m bigger than you, card.” When we are trying to correct someone who is in sin, there is no need to try to shame or embarrass them. If we are going to restore those who have sinned, we are supposed to do it gently.  (Gal. 6:1) In talking to non-Christians about Jesus, we are supposed to be kind and loving.  We are told in Ephesians 4:15 to “Speak the truth in love,” and not with judgment and condemnation.  Name calling, labeling, poking fun at people or shunning them is unacceptable behavior for a Christian.  Let me say, just as an aside, the Internet is included in this discussion.  Going to “Topix” or “Facebook” and posting an ugly comment about someone is unacceptable behavior for a Christian.   We aren’t to live for ourselves but for Christ and others.  The way we conduct ourselves ought to be conduct worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 1:27)  If we live that way, we won’t be insensitive to the needs of others, condescending towards them or in judgment of them. When you boil it down, at the heart of the prayer of Jabez was Jabez’s heart.  He wanted to know the fullness of being in a relationship with God. Jabez also wanted to personally progress and develop in this relationship, and so he asked for God’s assistance. Not only did Jabez know that he needed help going forward, but he also knew he needed God’s help to prevent him from going backwards in this relationship. What Jabez wanted for himself was precisely what God wanted for Jabez. When we can say that, then we can say that we have prayed like Jabez, and just like Jabez, God will grant us what we request.
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