“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother named him Jabez saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 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.” 1Chronicles 4:9,10 NKJV)
Jabez, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah, was born in Egypt prior to the Exodus. His ancestors moved there to escape a famine but had to contend with the pressures of life in a foreign land with increasingly hostile locals. In that environment, Jabez learned about the shortcomings of his relationships and the limitations of his own efforts to bring change in his life. He also discovered that prayer changes things. Lets look at why he prayed.
ALL OUR RELATIONSHIPS FALL SHORT
At that time, names held great significance so many have speculated as to why the mother of Jabez would have given him a name that means ‘ the cause of sorrow or pain”. Maybe he was disabled, a difficult birth, or even illegitimate? But, whatever the reason, Jabez was branded a problem in his social support network. He discovered the hard way that you have to take the good with the bad in all relationships. While his name created obstacles in his life, his heritage (Israelite) introduced him to the Lord of the Universe. Jabez discovered that his past could be a springboard for faith rather than an excuse for giving up. The intensity of his prayer (grieved) suggests this crisis was the culmination of years of struggle.
OUR BEST EFFORTS FALL SHORT TOO.
Jabez responded to his circumstances by building up a reputation for being honorable. This strongly suggests an inner drive to exceed the low expectations of others. Again, his name could have become a catalyst for resentment and bitterness, but Jabez drew on his heritage to be more than his name would suggest. But being honorable forced him to face the fact that his best efforts often fell far short. With humility, he acknowledged that only the Lord could bring the change he needed.
Lets consider why God decide to grant his request.
BLESS ME, INDEED
Have you ever been given a blank cheque to fill in for whatever you need? Well, that’s what Jabez did. When he asked God to bless him, he didn’t tell Him how he expected the prayer to be answered. Are you willing to ask the Lord to bless you His way? The God of the Bible loves to answer such prayers.
ENLARGE MY TERRITORY
Life is not just about what happens to you and me, it’s also about the choices we make in response. The people and experiences that have molded us have also given us a unique perspective on life. Even the ones we’d rather forget are important and so are our responses. We can allow the pain of the past to hold us back or embrace the future with faith and hope. We can spend a lifetime trying to unravel the messes in our lives or ask the Lord to take us beyond our self-imposed limitations to discover the unique place and purpose God has for us. Jabez refused to waste his life in resentment and regret. He preferred to ask the Lord to take him beyond his comfort zones. Is your past holding you back? Are you holding on to hurts, allowing them to run your life? Have you tried to break free but made little progress? Ask the Lord to break down the barriers (within and without) and lead you forward into new territories.
YOUR HAND WOULD BE WITH ME
In the poem “Footprints in the sand” the writer discovered that when he thought the Lord had abandoned him, the Lord was actually carrying him. Knowing God is there enables us to trust Him, even when there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet. Jabez was considered successful by others (an honorable man), but he knew he was stuck and needed the Lord in his life. Jabez was willing to follow God’s lead wherever that took him. What about you?
KEEP ME FROM EVIL, SO THAT I MAY NOT CAUSE PAIN
Jabez asked the Lord to break the stalemate, and give him a new beginning and a new direction. He could see the hurt he’d caused himself and others and wanted it to change. His prayer came with the tears of desperation and grief because he knew that being sorry doesn’t undo the wrongs, remove the regrets or stop us from repeating the same mistakes. Jabez realized that the Lord was the only one BIG enough to turn His whole life around and give him an authentic new beginning. In Romans 8:26-30, Paul speaks about a promise God gives to those who love Him, respond to His call, and seek purpose for their lives in Him. He not only promises forgiveness when we let go of our sins, He also promises to bring good out of them. Will you give the Lord your past so He can give you a new beginning?
SO GOD GRANTED HIM WHAT HE REQUESTED
Prayer is not an excuse for inaction, or a denial of our capacity to make a difference. Rather, it is an opportunity to discover what God can do when we pray. The details of how God blessed Jabez are not important because God treats everyone of us as unique individuals. The Lord says in Psalm 32:9, “I will instruct YOU and teach YOU in the way which YOU should go. I will counsel YOU with my eye upon YOU…….” Will you pray the prayer of Jabez and discover how God wants to bless YOU?
God loves to grant such prayers.