If you don’t start well, it won’t end well

For a few Mondays in a row, we’re taking a few minutes to ratchet-back a few millennia to be reminded of the story of a man whose life is recounted in just 63 words (in the New International Version) in the book of 1 Chronicles: 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).

We’ve already seen that his human legacy sucked (def: very bad, disagreeable, or disgusting). Jabez – his “given name” – meant “borne in pain,” and forecast a dismal future. His family’s caution: this kid has been nothing but a source of agony from the beginning…

Jabez refused to allow that estimation to become his epitaph. His prayer – the centerpiece of the biography that God wrote about his life – became his reality, as God delivered what he requested. You’ve been in “small groups” where “small prayers” are the recurrent appeal: fix this, change them, heal that; the gravity of the requests raised to Heaven is usually pretty minimal. Jabez took his best shot and captured a short-list of details in a petition that was heard – and, granted – by Jehovah.

“Oh, that you would bless me!”

Jabez was not an early proponent of what has come to be known as the “Prosperity Gospel,” a modern perversion that claims a direct link between the believer’s faith and the guarantee of health and wealth. John Piper says there are six “tells” that typically attend that heresy: 1) No biblical understanding of suffering; 2) No recognition of the biblical call to self-denial; 3) No serious exposition of Scripture; 4) No means to deal with the obvious tensions in Scripture; 5) Church leaders with exorbitant lifestyles; 6) The prominence of self and a marginalization of the greatness of God.

The Blessing is a foundational biblical principle that is sourced in God; the pipeline for God’s blessing runs principally through families – from fathers to progeny – and unleashes the overarching power of Heaven into the affairs of this life.

Here’s the Big Idea, in a nutshell: each of us was made as a unique, one-of-a-kind demonstration of the creative genius of God. He’s infinite, and His lack of limitation means that He could imprint every human being – who are the ultimate in-His-image culmination of Creation Week – with a distinctive coding for life that pre-ordains an incredible role to play in His plan for history: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14). “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10).

Bottom line: God’s intent was for parents to decode and declare God’s intended future for their children. Their lives are hard-wired for historic contribution, not for dismal despair and disenchantment. A proclamation of parental confidence and support was to be part of every generation’s legacy; that baton was dropped by Jabez’ parents.

Jabez asked God to step in; The Blessing doesn’t sprinkle miracle-dust on self-serving, man-crafted temporal agendas. God’s Blessing enables His plan to unfold with His power attached.

That’s the start of the story: figure out what you’re made for – your Calling – and then ask God to become your Patron/Partner. That was Jabez’ starting-point; everything emanated from there…

Have you come to your starting-point?

Bob Shank

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