Be careful what you ask for…

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Scripture: 1 Chronicles 4:9 Jabez was honored more than his brothers; and his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” And God granted what he asked.

Observation: The Hebrew name “Jabez” is similar to the Hebrew word for “pain”, so one might expect Jabez to have a cursed life – yet it turns out quite the opposite. Instead of experiencing more pain than most, Jabez is honored more than most.

Application: Some years ago there was a popular Christian book published called “the Prayer of Jabez”. The author gave this description of the book:

“The life of Jabez, one of the Bible’s most overlooked heroes of the faith, bursts from unbroken pages of genealogies in an audacious, four-part prayer that brings him an extraordinary measure of divine favor, anointing, and protection. Readers who commit to offering the same prayer on a regular basis will find themselves extravagantly blessed by God, and agents of His miraculous power, in everyday life.”

Many pastors took exception to the book because it’s grounded in what might be called “prosperity gospel”. Prosperity gospel essentially teaches that followers of Jesus can expect to be blessed by God, which is fine, but then suggest a primary expression of that blessing is material/financial. That’s where such preachers lose me. While it’s true that the Lord blesses his children, scripture is clear that God’s blessing doesn’t necessarily look like blessing in the traditional sense. This is particularly true in the New Testament in which those most blessed by God often endure terrible hardship and poverty for Jesus’ sake. They most certainly did NOT enjoy material wealth, privilege, status, and power.

That being said, these martyrs did experience the favor of God. They did miraculous works in Jesus’ name. They proclaimed the gospel with power and saw thousands come to Christ. And many of them were martyred.

In the end I believe the Prayer of Jabez is a wonderful prayer. God’s people are encouraged to seek the favor and blessing of our heavenly Father. We want to see God’s kingdom come through is in ways large and small. Just be careful what you ask for.

Prayer: Heavenly Father today we pray for your blessing, your favor, and the faith to stay the course when your blessing and favor involve hardship. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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