We’ll spend two more Mondays talking about Jabez; as promised, we were going to use some of our stay-at-home time to gain some insights from the life of a man whom God chose to elevate above the mean-average impact level of his own generation, and the generations before and after him.
Two verses tell his story, with precision: “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).
Look back at my three past posts if you want to catch up; today, we’ll zero in on: “…enlarge my territory!”
Fifty years ago, Laurence Peter wrote The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong. His observation of human promotion was dismal: in his model, the last step up the corporate ladder took people from their best spot to a place where their contribution would diminish.
Don’t confuse God with the fallible actions of human organizations. If one wants to advance to higher levels of opportunity in God’s Kingdom – to be nominated by the King! – they must prove to be promotable through dedication to their current tasks. In setting out the qualifications for church leadership, the standard was clear: “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
“Enlarge my borders!” Jabez appeal was for God to entrust to him even more responsibility than he already had. Was that an appeal for Jabez’ benefit, to feed his personal ambitions and to lead to his own elevation and accomplishment alone? Or, was something else in play here?
There’s a lab-test that should be addressed to any prayer, to ensure that it will capture the attention of God as He considers the appeals that are forwarded to Him. One key element of the filter: does it exhibit any motivations for self-interest?
Make sure you hear me out, my friend: the vast majority of our prayers have self-interest – either in trace amounts, or as full-strength potency – embedded in the requests. God knows that; it’s assumed. But there’s another self-interest to be considered: it’s God’s self-interest, about which He is very clear: “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory,” (Isaiah 43:6-7). “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13). Everything God does is done – ultimately -to bring Him the applause of His Creation.
Jabez longed to expand the territory of responsibility for himself, with the underlying intention to gain a larger audience who would see, in him, things that would raise the ratings of Heaven. He made a believable case to God: move me into a more prominent position, and I’ll make sure that You get the glory. No bluster; God heard his prayer and believed his motivations. And… He delivered.
Your prayers are laced with self-interest; so are mine. The constant qualifying question: do our self-interests align with His? Will granting our request mean the advancement of God’s reputation in the world watching our lives play-out on the stage of history?
Are your borders shrinking? Or, are you pushing the boundaries and asking for more?