PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
1 Chronicles 4:9-10
Nothing more is known of Jabez other than the commemoration our text gives him. He shows up, prays a prayer, disappears, and is never heard from again. But the impact his prayer makes is eternally memorialized in Scripture. Here is a virtual unknown, certainly not equivalent to Moses or Daniel, who prayed a twenty-nine word prayer that so moved God, it is preserved as a model prayer. Since that’s the case, we need to investigate the dynamics of this prayer that show us how to pray big. And there are three things Jabez understood about praying that we need to understand.
(Transition) First, I want you to notice the careful way Jabez projected his prayer.
I. The Prayer’s Projection
Verse nine says, “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel.” Now if you’re a student of the OT you understand this title, “God of Israel,” is frequently used. But despite the frequency of its use, it is not coincidental that Jabez employed this phrase:
A. The title, “God of Israel” is significant because it testifies to the supremacy of God. It declares that Israel’s God was the one, true, almighty God.
In Jabez’s day paganism was rampant. The Egyptians, Philistines, and Canaanites, were all polytheistic. As worshipers of many deities, they believed each god governed a specific part of the universe: There was a god of rain, a god of fire, a god of the seas, a god of procreation, and so on. And depending on the need, an Egyptian, Philistine, or Canaanite would seek a particular god to answer a particular need. But when Jabez prayed to the “God of Israel,” he recognized the One that ruled every dimension of the universe!
Folks, it makes a difference who you address in prayer—Allah, Buddha, or whomever. It matters because the Bible teaches there is but one Sovereign Lord. God said in Isaiah 44:6: “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” And then verse eight says, “Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.”
(Illustration) Some years back, Ophrah Winfrey interviewed three of the nation’s top “1-900” phone psychics. As she interviewed them, one psychic defended her witchcraft by suggesting such practices were no different than those of OT prophets. This psychic actually insisted that if their prognosticating was wrong, so was the foretelling of Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other Bible prophets.
These daytime Talk Shows perfectly fulfill the Apostle Paul’s words when he describes them as “ever speaking but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Saints of God, let me punctuate one immutable truth: there is but one God and there is but one proper way to approach God! His name is Jehovah and we seek Him through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ! When we seek to know God’s will, it is never acceptable to consult psychics, or palm readers. It’s never correct to use crystal balls, tarot cards, incantations, or Ouija boards. God is never pleased when you seek guidance from a horoscope. The Bible strictly prohibits Christians from consulting such mediums! And people that seek God through psychic guidance open a door for demonic activity to enter their life. It’s an invitation for the devil to come in and take control.
Satan and demons aren’t to be toyed with! Trouble can emerge even by cracking the door to Satan’s devices. It doesn’t matter how innocent the gesture may be. Jesus said in John 10:10, “the devil comes only to kill, steal, and destroy.” That’s statement alone is enough reason to “give no place to the devil.” God has ordained one, and only one, mediator to represent Him to mankind—Jesus Christ! That is why Jesus said: “I am the way the truth and the life.”
So Jabez, living in Old Testament days, understood that “the God of Israel,” the Supreme God, was capable of answering big prayers.
(Transition) But this title also carries another implication.
B. When Jabez called the Lord, “the God of Israel” he recognized the covenant-relationship he had with God.
Did you know that every Born Again believer, is in covenant with God? That means you are securely bound to God and He is securely bound to you. The Lord has pledged to love, provide, assist, help, and “never leave nor forsake you.” When you understand this covenant of care, it will help you release faith for praying big.
(Illustration) Here’s how God has covenanted with us. If a husband dies and the wife remarries the new husband would immediately inherit step-children. He wouldn’t have the prerogative of choosing whether he wanted the children, they would automatically become his step-children. That doesn’t describe God’s fatherly relationship with His children. The Covenant of Adoption describes that relationship. Adoption is when children are chosen, not inherited, into the family. It’s when parents make someone part of their family with access to all their possessions. That describes what our Heavenly Father has pledged toward us.
Jabez understood his covenant relationship with God and that’s why he could pray a big prayer. He knew “the earth was the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” So God could give him anything.
(Transition) Jabez’s prayer was properly projected but secondly, it was immortalized in Scripture because of its passion. Verse ten says, “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me, and enlarge my territory.””
II. The Prayer’s Passion
When you read this prayer you can nearly feel the fervency and passion that pounds from Jabez’s heart. This wasn’t a timid or reticent prayer. It was bold and hot-hearted. And this is just how God wants us to pray.
(Quote) As I have mentioned on several occasions, one of my favorite quotes concerning prayer comes from John Bunyan. Bunyan said: “It is better for your prayer to be without words than your words to be without heart.” Why do you think God wants fire and passion in our praying? It’s because Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Joel tell us that God is a “consuming fire.” God wants you and me to assume His nature.
I know there are times when God calls us to be still and listen to His voice.
At other times He wants us to quietly meditate on His Word.
There are times He wants us to worship Him with gentle reverence.
But then there are times God wants us to leap into the fire of His presence and pray with furious passion.
(Illustration) When I was a young man, I was praying one morning and the Lord spoke one word to me: “Insipid.” I thought, wow, I need to grab a dictionary and see how God is affirming me. But when I looked up the word I was shocked! The word insipid means: “lacking in qualities that interest, stimulate, or challenge; dull or flat.” God was urging me to pray bigger prayers. He wanted me to challenge Him with great requests! He wanted me filled with fire when I approached Him.
God is under no compulsion to respond to us when we pray with a complacency. He’s not moved to act when we pray out of a mundane obligation. And He is certainly won’t force-feed us His promises if we are without hunger for them. God offers us promises, but like Abraham, we have to march toward them with aggressive, heart-filled faith. This is what distinguished Jabez from his brothers. He made a passionate pursuit of what God offered. Others in Israel had become complacent about conquering Canaan; but not Jabez. He wanted every square inch of real estate that God offered.
(Transition) We’ve considered the prayer’s projection, and the prayer’s passion, now thirdly note the prayer’s perception.
III. The Prayer’s Perception
A casual observance of this prayer makes it appear selfish. Listen once again: “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.”
Doesn’t that sound selfish? But when you take time to examine it in light of God’s promises to Israel, it’s far from selfish. This 29-word prayer is extracted directly from what God promised to give Abraham and his descendants. One Bible scholar noted that this prayer was probably uttered around the time of Israel’s conquest of Canaan. And after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness it was time to possess the Promised Land. So when Joshua commanded the people to claim their land, Jabez stepped forward and made his request.
When you think about it, as big as this prayer was, all Jabez did was ask God for what He had promised. It wasn’t covetous, greedy, or selfish; Jabez simply wanted what God said belonged to him. And this is how we should pray. Some people want to pray big prayers but they want to pray them on their own terms. The Apostle said in James 4:2: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” If you want to release big faith for big prayers you have to pray in accordance with God’s will. 1 John 5:14 says: “this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (15) And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
(Quote) Years ago, I discovered a statement from the revivalist Dwight L., Moody. I love this. He said: “Let a man feed for a month on the promises of God, and he will not talk about how poor he is. You hear people say, Oh, my leanness! How lean I am! It is not their leanness, it is their laziness. If you would only read from Genesis to Revelation and see all the promises made . . . to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to the Jews and to the Gentiles, and to all His people everywhere—if you would spend a month feeding on the precious promises of God—you would not be going about complaining how poor you are. You would lift up your head and proclaim the riches of His grace, because you couldn’t help doing it!” (All the promises of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer.)
What has God promised you from His Word? Claim it! Declare with Jabez, “Oh, that you will bless me indeed.”
- If the Bible says,
“by His stripes you are healed”
- let’s make the effort to claim it.
If the Bible says, “God gives us the desires of our heart” let’s ask God to give us the desires of our heart.
If the Bible says, Christ offers us “life and joy and peace” then let’s claim “life and joy and peace.”
If the Bible says God gives rest to the weary, peace to the troubled, strength to the faint, wisdom to the needy, then let’s be bold enough to pray with Jabez, “Oh, that you would bless me indeed”!
The promises of God are not ‘yes and no; might or maybe so.’ 1 Corinthians 1:20 says, “all the promises of God are yes and amen through our Lord Jesus Christ.” They are affirmative!
(Example) I believe it’s time for Believers to experience an attack of spiritual claustrophobia. Let me explain spiritual claustrophobia: It’s an intense frustration Christians experience when their spiritual boundaries press in on them. They feel restricted from additional blessings and can’t live within their circumscribed parameters. The only cure for spiritual claustrophobia is by claiming God’s promises and making them part of your life.
(Transition) Notice another dynamic aspect of Jabez’s prayer.
When Jabez prayed, “Oh, that you would enlarge my territory,” he understood that because his present estate was blessed, he could expect additional blessing.
Can you imagine how foolish this request for God to enlarge Jabez’s territory would have been, had God not already placed His sanctifying approval on the territory Jabez already possessed? Jabez could have never released any faith for increase had his present estate not rested under God’s blessing. The reason God can’t add His blessing to some folks is because their present estate isn’t blessed. They don’t live in conformity to God’s Word, and so with a guilty conscience and convicted heart they are unable to muster any faith for greater things.
(Example) Do you think God would have enlarged Jabez’s territory had he been growing marijuana? No! Do you think God would answer the prayer to enlarge someone’s business if they marketed pornographic movies? No! God is under no obligation to prosper evil enterprising. But a righteous man, complying with God’s righteous Word, has a right to seeks God’s blessing! God blesses the upright. This is what the Bible says in 1 John 3:21. “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; (22) and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.”
Are you under conviction about something? Is God asking you to change something about your life? When God is displeased with you and convicts you, it’s for a reason. The Bible says, “God is good” and from the beginning of time He ordained blessing for His creation. And when we live in a way that displeases God, it robs Him of the opportunity to bless us. God wants you to conform to His ways so He can bless you.
(Transition) Let me note a third aspect of Jabez’s insightful prayer. The writer says that Jabez prayed for God’s “hand to be with him.” What did that mean?
When Jabez asked for God’s “hand [to] be with him” it was a statement of humility that recognized blessing came from God alone.
Sometimes people assume their wisdom, skill, or personality is chiefly responsible for opening doors and making them successful. But we as Christians know better. God’s grace and mercy are the chief reasons we are blessed. James 1:17 says: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
Notice how Moses taught us this principle in Deuteronomy 8:10-18. “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. 11 “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; 12 otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 15 “He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. 16 “In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. 17 “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ 18 “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
Every enrichment of life stems directly from God’s hand of grace; and we need to recognize that. Jabez recognized it, and it’s why God paid such careful attention to his faith-filled prayer.
(Transition) The final point I want to make about this discerning prayer of Jabez is:
His prayer was special because he desired continued victory over his enemies.
Listen to the last part of his prayer: “Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” Jabez wanted to safeguard himself from his enemies defeating him. And this is how we should pray. Jesus told His apostles to say: “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”