Let’s be honest, we all want stuff from God.
We want stuff we can use to pay ours bills at the end of each month. We want new [or fairly used] stuff we can drive. We want designer stuff we can wear to special occasions. We want “stuff” who will someday propose [or say “yes” when we ask them out]. We want stuff that’s a little bigger than our neighbor's stuff [but with less property tax], and we want a little more of that first stuff in our bank accounts so our kids can someday have a little extra to buy more stuff.
Just one problem though. Many of us are not sure if God gives away “those kinds” of stuff.
I too used to feel really weird about asking God to bless me with nice stuff. It felt so selfish.
Until I met Jabez.
Jabez lived during the Old Testament times (hence I never actually met him. I just read about his life) and he dared to ask God for nice(r) stuff. From him, I learned that’s it’s actually okay to ask God for “those kinds” of stuff. I also picked up this profound lesson as I journeyed with him; God is often more eager to give His children the desires [stuff] of their heart than they are willing to ask.
It all comes down to how we ask for stuff and the intent of our hearts.
Allow me to show you how Jabez went about asking God for nice stuff. His story is in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, “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”
First, let me explain his name [because it’s one of a kind]. In the Hebrew dialect, his name means “pain”, or “sorrow”, or “sorrow-maker .” So of course, you’re now wondering, “Why in the world would his mom give him such an awful name?”
One possible answer is that his birth must have been extraordinarily painful for her. But even then, for most mothers, the pain of childbirth is soon forgotten once she holds her new child in her arms. Apparently, this wasn’t the case for Jabez. His mother’s struggle during his delivery was so great that she decided to memorialize it by naming him after her bitter experience!
Not cool, mom. NOT COOL!
The other possibility is that his mom was going through a difficult season in life and all of it was just too. ……you know what? It doesn’t matter. The name is awful regardless of its backstory! This boy never even had a chance! Can you imagine being named after the conditions surrounding your delivery? If that were the case, many of us would be walking around today with names like, “I-need-my-epidural-now!”, “C-Section”, and “This-is-all-your-fault!”
We don’t have details from his teenage years, but with a name like that, we can imagine that childhood was a difficult time for young Jabez. Every time friends or neighbors called his name, it would have been a shameful reminder of how he came into the world. It’s possible that this is what verse 9 is hinting at when it says, “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.” Perhaps those he grew up with made life a living hell for him by continually taunting him? Or perhaps people around him considered any association with him bad luck? Maybe Jabez never stooped to their level and simply just let their painful words roll off his shoulder? Whatever the case may be, things did not start well in life for Jabez.
For some of you, this may be your story. You’ve lived a life that would make a great tear-jerker movie. Perhaps you were dealt a “bad hand” from the start and the odds have been stacked against you ever since? Maybe you’re so discouraged that you don’t even care to ask God for any more stuff? [Because He ain’t been giving it anyway?]
Friend, come with me and learn from our man, Jabez.
We’re not certain what triggered it, but at some point in his adult life, Jabez concluded that the God of Israel [the same Father of our Lord Jesus Christ] was so much greater than the conditions he was living in. After all, didn’t the scriptures say that, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8)? Didn’t God Himself say in Haggai 2:8, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” and in Deuteronomy 8:18 that, “…the LORD your God,….gives you the ability to produce wealth”? Doesn't 1 Chronicles 29:12 assert that, “Wealth and honor come from [God] alone, for [He] rules over everything. Power and might are in [His] hand, and at [His] discretion people are made great and given strength.”? If these were all true [and they are], then Jabez must have asked Himself, “Why am I living like a slave? Why in the world am I choosing to remain in this condition when MY GOD OWNS IT ALL?”
I’m convinced it was these series of thoughts and Biblical inspiration that led Jabez to cry out to God in the manner stated in verse 10, “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.” I don’t know if you caught it, but there are three separate things [stuff] Jabez asks God for. Let’s look at each one and from there, draw up a plan for how to ask God for stuff when you’re not sure about what kinds of stuff He gives away.
The context would suggest that this wasn’t simply a prayer for a free handout. In light of the agrarian culture Jabez would have lived in, I propose that Jabez was actually asking God to “bless and enlarge” whatever little farming business he already had going for him.
Assuming I’m right, the indication then is that Jabez had a small farm and perhaps a smaller flock of sheep? Perhaps his crops weren’t producing as much food as he’d hoped or his animals weren’t reproducing? If indeed his name carried a stigma, then it’s also possible that along with a struggling business, his clientele would have been really small because no one wanted to do business with a “Jabez”.
When you consider the life he’s lived, Jabez had every reason to call it quits. But Jabez knew SOMEONE greater than his condition. He knew the soil and rain belonged to God. He knew that every animal of the forest was God’s and that He was the owner of the “cattle on a thousand hills.” Jabez was reassured in his spirit that inspite of the hard life he’d lived, God’s plans for him were good and involved giving him a life and a future. Therefore, rather than accepting his awful fate, he dared to believe God for greatness and prayed that God would exponentially multiply and enlarge his little ole farm, [his territory] so that he would see somewhere around 1000% return on his investment [so to speak].
Let’s talk real quick about what this means for how you’re to ask God for great “stuff.”
What “work” has God presently entrusted to you? [Whether it’s your personal business or someone else’s]. Wherever you are and whatever your job is, here’s a great “Jabez-prayer” to bring before God, “O Lord God, as I diligently put my hands to work in the employment you’ve placed me in, bless me and enlarge my territory. Greatly increase my influence and multiply exponentially the impact of my efforts so that I thrive financially in all I do.”
This prayer assumes that you’re already actively engaged in something that you’re ask asking God to “expand and multiply.” If you’re not working, feel free to start by asking God, “Lord, you are the owner of all human resources department in a thousand companies. I am applying this week to ___________ and _______________ and ________________. Bless my resume and grant me favor so I may hear back from them about an open opportunity.
This, my friends, is how you ask God for awesome stuff!
Along with his request that God would “bless and enlarge his territory”, please also note that Jabez sought the presence of God, “…. Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”
In asking that God’s hand would be with him, here’s what I believe Jabez was really praying, “Lord, I want you to bless me and enlarge what I have. But when you do, I need you to also stay with me so that I may live my life honorably and manage what you give me in a way that honors you and brings glory to your name.”
See what he did there? Jabez was indeed an honorable man, HE DIDN’T JUST WANT GOOD THINGS FROM GOD, HE WANTED GOD HIMSELF.
This I believe is where many of us fall short in our prayers. We often want to experience God’s blessing, we want Him to pour out His favor on our lives, but we don’t really want much of Him, [at least not in a way that causes us to have to make changes in our lives.]
This was my story. For the longest time, I compartmentalized God in my life. At first I gave Him my whole life when I put my faith in Jesus Christ, but as I walked with Him, I realized that having Him with me at work [prior to being in ministry] was making me a little bit of an outcast. So I minimized His influence there. Then when I started dating [prior to meeting my wife], but I realized that He was encroaching on my personal “cuddle time” with her, so I minimized His influence there also. I found the same true for the movies I watched, the music I listened to, and the parties I went to. I minimized just about every area of my life God could affect until the only part left to give Him was Sunday mornings between 9:00A.M and 12:00noon. Lifting my hands in worship, I was all like, “Lord, this is YOUR time to transform me! Change me Lord. Change me!”
That is NOT how to ask God for stuff.
I’ll say this as plainly as the Lord laid it on my heart, “JESUS WANTS IT ALL!” Until you and I recognize that we can’t simply use God as a means to our own end, we will continue to experience significantly less than His best for our lives. If you want MORE of God’s stuff, then you need to seek God for more of GOD! You do yourself a great disservice if you separate the gift from the giver. Seek the giver, seek to know Him and walk with Him, and as you do – the gifts come out of the relationship.
In the midst of his pain, Jabez locked onto this truth, which is why he not only asked God to bless and enlarge his territory, he not only asked for God’s hand to be with him, but also asked for God to intervene should he [Jabez] ever cross the line.
“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.” Some translations read verse 10 as, “…and keep me from evil that I may not cause pain.”
This prayer reveals a lot about the kind of man Jabez was. In asking that he would be free from pain and not cause pain for others, he’s actually praying that God would distance his future from the negative experience he’s had to endure his whole life. Jabez recognized that it’s possible to experience all the wealth and blessings in the world, yet still be haunted by insecurities and painful memories from earlier experiences in life. The reality is that people who have been hurt earlier in life tend to spend a good portion of their lives hurting other people. Hurt people, HURT people!
Don’t believe me? Put yourself in his shoes for a moment. Let’s assume you grew up in a rough household where you constantly experienced pain from those who should have loved you; perhaps you spent your whole life under daily heavy criticism from mom, dad, sibling, friends, neighbors, and strangers. Let’s assume further that later on in life, you worked your way through the pain to a position of extraordinary wealth and influence; what would your natural human tendency be towards those who did you wrong earlier in life be? If you and I were to be completely honest, we would have to admit that on some level, we’d want revenge. Right?
I suspect that Jabez was worried that he might slip into that vengeance mindset once God granted him the expansion of territory and blessing he was seeking. Therefore he wanted to make sure that God protected his heart from any evil thoughts or deeds it might conjure up, hence his prayer.
Looking at your own life, how are you doing with your untreated heart-wounds? Would great wealth make you a better person, or if you’re honest, would it make your life worse off? If my question sounds ridiculous, you should track down an episode of TLC’s, “Lottery Changed my Life.” More money and more stuff only magnifies what you already are. Financial expert, Dave Ramsey expresses this point more clearly , “If you get rich and you’re a jerk, you’ve just become a colossal jerk! If you get rich and you have big heart, you’re called a giver and people will attach a fancy name to you, a philanthropist. The moral of the story is, if you get rich, you become more of what you already are!”
So, as you pray that God would bless the work of your hands and multiply and enlarge your territory, what character issues has God already been stirring to the surface that you need to begin addressing?
Remember, wealth and blessings in your life only magnify what you already are!!
The conclusion of Jabez’s story is like music to our ears, “..and God granted his request.”
How cool is that? We’re not told how God responded or how quickly He did, but 1 Chronicles 2:55 might give us some insight. It’s the only other time in the scriptures Jabez’s name shows up and it’s in reference to the name of a city. It says, “…the families of the scribes who dwelt at Jabez were…” and it goes on to list different clans residing in the place.
Here’s what we can surmise from that text. God answered Jabez and blessed him so much that his name became renowned; so much so that a city was named after him. Furthermore, Jewish tradition says Jabez later became an eminent doctor of the law whose reputation drew a mind-boggling amount of scribes to his city. That’s probably why 1 Chronicles 2:55 says the families of scribes dwelt in the city of Jabez!
Think about the irony of this story. The name that brought him shame his whole life later became so exalted by God that brilliant scholars packed their families and moved to live in a city named, Jabez.
Now that’s a happy ending.
So listen, when it comes to asking God for great stuff, please understand that there is nothing magical about Jabez’s prayer. He was an ordinary man who prayerfully chose to believe in an extraordinary God, which resulted in great blessings in his life.
You are just as ordinary a man or woman who I pray will find hope in Christ as your Lord and savior. For it is through faith in Christ alone that we can approach God's throne of grace with confidence to ask for the stuff we desire.
So as you step away from your computer, I pray that God the Father grants you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may grasp how wide and deep the love of Christ is for you; and in that knowledge, you may find the confidence to seek not only the stuff God gives, but also the confidence to seek His loving presence in your life!
So, GO. Ask for stuff.