For over 30 years, I’ve been writing this weekly message. My audience – from the beginning – was Christian leaders; most with careers in the marketplace, but over time, that’s broadened to include leaders from across the spectrum of careers in our culture: marketplace, ministry, military… the works.
Known first as the Fax of Encouragement (fax machines predated email), we re-branded when distribution moved on-line; recast as the Point of View, that’s been the banner over this piece for 20+ years. We were blogging before blogs were a “thing.”
Our niche: inform the challenges of today with the insights found in biblical yesterdays. Paul said that God planned it that way: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 12:4-6).
Twenty years ago, my friend Bruce Wilkinson did that in an easy-to-read book that became the fastest selling book to that point in history. Within a year, two million copies of The Prayer of Jabez were in the hands of people who became aware of a till-then obscure man, hiding in a long-winded genealogy in the opening chapters of 1 Chronicles. Robust sales continue today, two decades later.
The details of descendants within the family of Jacob – and the tribes who were fathered by his 12 sons – provide a mind-numbing assembly of names who multiplied across generations as the nation known as God’s Chosen People, evidenced by God’s faithfulness to the promises He had made to Abram when he and Sara were old and barren. Why did Jabez’ entry stand out? Why was his story remarkable enough to warrant a book – and an explosion of fame – thousands of years later?
Here’s the whole enchilada, in two verses: “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’ Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘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.’ And God granted his request.” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).
Bruce made Jabez’ experience with God come to life; in 92 pages – in a book that’s about the size of a CD case – he makes you wonder why you don’t take God up on His invitation to “pray without ceasing.” The upside of Heaven’s promise of provision – when attached with His will being done – is a breakthrough that puts faith into powerful alignment with life this side of Eternity.
In the next few weeks, I’m going to devote the Point of View to Jabez. If you want to revisit Bruce’s book – from your own library, or from an online order – go for it. I’ll benefit from Bruce’s writing, but I’ll serve-it-up for us – today – ala 2020 with a side of Great Depression 2.0. Why give this ancient minor leaguer from Israel’s Ancestry.com report another at-bat?
Let me give you a teaser: Jabez had no citation in his high-school yearbook in the “Most Likely to…” pages. His name – given to him by his mother – doomed him from childhood. “I gave birth to him in pain” was the reason for her choice of his name. Jabez means – to inject our cultural lingo – “Pain in the Butt” (sanitized for Christian decorum).
In the Jewish cultural context, names projected the parents’ anticipation of their kids’ future. When your name on the roster in school – and on every nametag in a business meeting – declares the dour horizon presumed by your family of origin, you begin life with an almost irreconcilable deficit.
Unless… you appeal to a Higher Power. Jabez did, and his story can stimulate endurance and encouragement in historic ways. Stay tuned…