Saturday, July 9, 2016

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 – A Changed Life

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 – A Changed Life

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”

Jabez called upon 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 harm so that it might not bring me pain!”

And God granted what he asked.

Ever had one of those moments when you WISH you could change yourself??  Sure you have.  Most of the time we feel pretty good about ourselves - but then we have a moment of frustration and we think – “WHY do I keep doing this?!?!  I wish I could change this about myself?!?!”  

Can a person REALLY change???

Wander into any bookstore and you will see whole sections devoted to “making a better YOU!”  “7 keys to the good-life!”  “How to overhaul yourself!”

There’s a reason there are so many self-help books out there - - We all have a longing to do life ⇒ better.

If that’s YOU – there is no greater place to start than the Bible – and probably no more relevant example to learn from than our text.
When we read through the Bible, we're tempted to skip whole sections because there seems to be so little practical information there for us.  Take the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles as an example.  All you find are lists of names with very few details to offer any glimpse into the lives behind those names.  Genealogies may seem like a waste of time to the casual reader.  

But occasionally we’ll run across a hidden gem like the story of Jabez… a life summed up in two short verses.

The chronicler paused to tell us that he was "more honorable than his brothers" (v.9). “Honorable” means “weighty… significant… respected.”  

Why did Jabez carry greater influence than his brothers??  It probably has something do with the short prayer he uttered.

The Jews put a lot of thought into the names they gave their children.  
  • Often the name would communicate the hopes and dreams of the child’s parents... like the name “Jesus” which means “Jehovah is salvation.”  
  • Other times, the nature of the times greatly influenced their choice in a name - like the name given to Eli’s grandson after the Ark of the Covenant was stolen by the Philistines … “Ichabod” which means “the glory of God is departed.”
  • Sometimes the name was prophetic… revealing something about the  person's character, like “Isaac,” that means “laughter” or Jacob which means “trickster.”  

Names had meaning.  Solomon wrote: A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”

But Jabez wasn’t so fortunate as to receive  a name of nobility.  No, HIS name means "he caused me pain." Unless you are in the mob or something, I doubt you would want a name like that.  

Why would she call him that?  Maybe it was because of the intense suffering she experienced in childbirth.  Maybe his birth was untimely – the result of some shameful experience or during difficult times like famine or war.  

Whatever the reason, every time his name was called he was reminded of the pain he had brought his mother.

Instead of allowing that to define him, Jabez turned to the Lord. He asked God to bless his life, to change his destiny.  He was not a man who surrendered to his circumstances… No, he aimed for something higher ⇒ to be “honorable.”

I love this story, because in many ways, it is my own.  Maybe YOU too identify with Jabez.  Your story, like his, has been one of pain and you have often wondered if there isn’t something you can do to overcome it.  No matter what your story has been, you CAN rise above those things and enjoy the “blessed life.”  But for THAT to happen, you’ve gotta reach some of the same conclusions we see in Jabez.

1.  First, Jabez experienced the blessed life, because he realized that his only hope for change was God.  

  • He could have blamed others for his situation.  
  • He could have become bitter about his childhood experiences and spent all of his time sullen over them – as though the world OWED him something.  
  • He could have even relied upon his own resourcefulness to “pull himself up by his own bootstraps”
  • or turned to the world and the pleasures offered by the world to find some sort of comfort.  
But INSTEAD - instead of resorting to sin or falling back on excuses, he gave himself to God totally and asked the Lord to change his life.

The “blessed life” can become yours as well; but understand, there are some things in our lives that hinder that step of trusting God.  
  • For some, bitterness prevents them from giving their all to the Lord.  They have soured on life.  
  • Maybe they blame God for the things that have happened to them.  
  • Maybe someone they trusted abused that trust early in life.  
  • Maybe they feel as though life has been unfair to them.  
Regardless the reason, bitterness holds them back from fully yielding to the Lord.
  • Others are so caught up in the things of this world and have developed such a love for those things, that they are afraid of what they would have to sacrifice in order to have a REAL relationship with God.
  • Some Christians aren’t enjoying the “blessed life” because they think they can have it on their own terms… that they can go halfway and still receive the BENEFITS of TOTAL surrender… not realizing that they are sabotaging their own success.
But Jabez became an “honorable man” because, instead of falling back on old, worn-out excuses, he flung himself in desparation at the feet of God.

If you will ever rise above your circumstances, You are going to have to do that too.

  • You are never going to become the MAN, the HUSBAND, the FATHER, the SUCCESS in life

  • the WIFE, MOTHER, ENTREPRENEUR God designed you to be

WITHOUT HIM.  If you want less than God’s best, like so many others – do it YOUR waybut don't blame anyone else when things don't go according to ‘plan.’

Jabez threw himself down at the Lord’s feet, hungering for God’s best, and asked God for 4 specific things:
He asked God to Make Him a Blessed Man – “Bless me indeed!”  This man called a “pain” since he was born, wanted God to make him a blessing.  

In the Hebrew, the word “Bless” is in the plural form… and together with the word “indeed,” suggests that Jabez wasn’t just asking for A blessing, but A LIFE of blessings… to BE a blessing.

He recognized the generous nature of God and how God longs to shower His people with blessings in a superlative way, not a stingy way.  Jabez seized hold of this dimension of God’s character and longed for the very best of God.
He also asked God to Make Him a Bigger Man, when he prayed, “enlarge my border.”  He wasn’t satisfied with a narrow, little life.  He aspired to greatness for the glory of God.  

He knew that greatness has its price; that there was only one way he could expand – he had to face the enemy in battle.  He knew that conflicts and struggles would most certainly come his way – but instead of shrinking from these challenges, he asked God to make him a bigger man – not a coward but a fearless believer.
He also wanted God to Make Him a Bolder Man, when he prayed, “that Your hand might be with me.”  The “hand” of God is a reference to God’s power.  

  • It’s what set the prophets of old apart as they stood before God’s people and pronounced truth for life

  • It’s what made the Kings of old successful in battle – and

  • it’s what makes those in love feel close as they hold each other's hands.  

So what Jabez sought was that not only he might have God’s hand of power and blessing, but that he might also walk in fellowship with God with nothing in between.

  • The confidence he would need in times of adversity

  • the comfort he would crave during seasons of loss

he would HAVE if God’s hand was upon him.

He also wanted God to Make Him a Better Man, when he said, “that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!”  

Jabez knew he was living in a very wicked world.  He saw sin all around him.  He had seen what it had done to those he loved.  He knew that if he yielded to its power it would fill him with sorrow and regret.  He also knew that he couldn’t walk in fellowship with God while giving in to the desires of the flesh.  So he prayed that God would deliver him from those things that would bring compromise; those things that would prevent him from experiencing God’s best for his life.

Failure, you see, is often the result of those little compromises, that, in and of themselves, are not SHOCKING - but they slowly drive a wedge between us and God.

Interestingly, the word he uses for “harm,” carries the idea of moral depravity – the things we naturally crave that are outside of God’s will for us. Basically, he prayed “Lord, make me a better man than that… help me to rise above fleeting desire!”  

THIS was his prayer.  Is it YOURS?  

If you are going to experience the abundant blessings of God, you are going to have to understand that you can’t do it without Him.  There is no room for self-sufficiency in God’s economy.  You are going to have to hunger for God and the things of God above all else.  You are going to have to surrender to Him as Lord of everything you are, seeking His strength, wisdom, and holiness.  Your appetite for the things of God must stiffin your resolve not to compromise.  As Jesus said,

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for THEY (they alone) shall be filled.

We don't know much about Jabez, except that his mother gave him a name that means "pain."  But we DO KNOW that he grew up being “more honorable than his brothers."

What made Jabez "more honorable"? On the basis of his prayer, we can assume that he took his relationship with God seriously. There was nothing magic in the words. Rather, Jabez was more honorable, because he honored the Lord.

Sadly, and I am just being honest here, most who call themselves “Christians” don’t hunger for the very best of God.  Our attitude is basically, “What is the very least - the minimum I have to do to get to heaven?”  We aren’t concerned with honoring Him in the daily decisions – the small stuff of our lives.  We want to offer a token tip of the hat to God on Sunday, and when we are through, we put God back on the shelf so we can do what WE want to do the rest of the week.  

And we wonder why God’s hand is not upon us; why we aren’t living the blessed life. – The problem ain’t with God, my friend.
Like Jabez, we are going to have to understand that we will never rise above past failures, we will never enjoy lives of blessing, without surrendering everything we are to God.  Regardless your past, regardless the times you have tried and failed – you can’t do this thing without God. The world’s way doesn’t work – in the end it will only bring you disappointment, grief, and yes - pain.  But walking with God will make you Better, Bolder, Bigger, and Blessed!
2.  And second, Jabez experienced “the blessed life” not only because he realized that his only hope for change was God,
he also refused to make excuses for himself.  Jabez broke free from his past because he refused to play the victim or make himself feel better about his own failures by measuring himself by the failures of others.  

As long as you keep falling back on excuses, as long as you compare and comfort yourself with the failures of others, you will not rise above your mistakes and missed opportunities; you will not know the satisfaction that a real walk with God brings.  True healing and blessing, comes to those who do what Paul said:

One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

God answered the prayer of Jabez in a spectacular way.  We must remember that the book of Chronicles was written by Ezra the scribe, and Ezra refers to Jabez one other time in his writings.  It seems that Jabez went on to have a mighty impact on God’s people, for the real movers and shakers in Israel after Babylonian captivity, were NOT the priests or those of royal blood – but the descendants of Jabez, who went on to build a city named for him… a city where the scribes, the opinion-makers and thinkers of the country, called home.

So the day came when Jabez was able to thank God for his problem and for solving it for him in such a grand and gracious way.

Problems come to all of us.  It may be the problem of a broken home, a physical disability, a sinful reputation, or an inferiority complex.  It may come in the form of poverty, weakness, abandonment, or a character flaw.  But instead of falling back on those worn-out excuses for why people shouldn’t expect more of us, we need to take our problems to God. He may take that problem away OR He may give us the grace to deal with it; but in any case, He can make something “honorable” of your life.  And the day will come when you too will be able to look back and thank God for this “pain” and for blessing you in spite of it.

No more wallowing in self-pity – GOD will help you rise above it! Quit telling yourself you can't be expected to do better.

Maybe this morning, you need to do what Jabez did.  Maybe you need to take a moment to throw yourself at the mercy of God and ask Him to help you overcome your obstacles… to make you “more honorable than your brothers.”  Will you do that right now?