Summary: Let us dare to conquer challenges.

One of the things I have to come to terms with when I turned 40 last month was midlife crisis. On this month’s issue, Reader’s Digest came up with a timely article on midlife. It says in its “Lust, Libido and Midlife Crisis” article that “Studies of mental health over people’s lifetime have found that mental distress peaks in middle age for men… Men experience a sudden shock of fear, which is around, ‘Oh God, I’m halfway through my life and I haven’t done all the things I wanted to do… They think, ‘Life has passed me by. Will I have time now? It’s now or never. There is a lot of fear.’”[1]

In short, as we grow old and hopefully grow up, we will feel this intensifying search for significance. I said “intensifying” because we start feeling it when we become teenagers. Back then, we experienced what we called “identity crisis”. So, to our young people, please don’t sneer at what we mature people feel. It is because you might have already felt the onset of the search for significance. For example, have you ever felt confused with your direction in life? That’s one of the signs of the identity crisis.

Then we faced it again when we were just starting out in our careers. That’s what we call “quarter-life crisis.” Let me ask our young professionals here. Have you ever asked yourself whether you want to do what you are doing right now for the rest of your life? Have you ever felt insecure about your short-term and long-term plans for your future? That’s one of the signs of the quarter-life crisis.

And now we hear about “midlife crisis.” Others have labeled it “halftime.” According to Halftime organization, “More than 12,000 people turn 50 each day in America, and a Harvard-Met Life study shows that more than half of these individuals want more meaning and significance in the second half. But this is still a very new phenomenon.”[2]

So, whatever your age or stage in life, all of us go through this intensifying search for significance. People have called it “crisis.” I wrote in one of my “Straight From the Pastor” articles before that, “Usually when we hear the word ‘crisis’ we think of a time of intense dread or danger. But the Greek word for ‘crisis’ denotes ‘decision.’ … Thus a crisis is also the turning point when a critical decision must be made for an important change to occur. So, when there’s a crisis, either we face it or we flee it. We flee it and we miss out. We face it and we make the most of the opportunity. It’s up to us to decide.”[3]

Our life is actually the sum total of our decisions, good and bad. The key to this search for significance is to make more and more good decisions. And the best decisions we make must be according to what God wants for our lives. That’s why in our series I dare you to pray a daring a prayer. Let’s read 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.”[4] Last time I dared you to channel God’s blessings. Jabez first prayed, “Oh, that you would bless me”. Then, he prayed, “enlarge my territory”. Thus, this morning, I now dare you to CONQUER challenges. Let us pray first…

What did Jabez mean when he asked God to enlarge his territory? If we look at the context of the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles chapter 4, Jabez belonged to “the generations after the initial entry into the land under Joshua… Jabez is asking for God’s help to take the territory that had been allotted to him.”[5] The nation Israel has already entered the Promised Land and now God held them “responsible to drive out the inhabitants from the land.”[6] If we will read the book of Judges we will see that many failed in this mission. But Jabez succeeded. Why? He stepped out in obedient faith. “The work of the kingdom is to bring about what God has already promised to do. It involves human effort, each one carrying out the task appointed to him. Jabez had been allotted a large territory, and Jabez prays for God’s help to accomplish that task.”[7] And 1 Chronicles 4:10 tells us, “God granted his request.” He prayed and he became the answer to his prayer. He dared to conquer his challenges against all odds.

Now to understand its connection to our time, let us first look at its connection to the original readers of 1 Chronicles. Remember that Ezra wrote 1 Chronicles to “remind the Jews [who just returned to their homeland from exile] of their spiritual heritage and identity during the difficult times they were facing.”[8] Jabez claimed the blessings that God promised in His covenant with Abraham: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”[9] This covenant with Abraham was the basis for the covenant with David, which is emphasized here in 1 Chronicles 17:9. “And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed.” Ezra was encouraging the first readers of 1 Chronicles that just as God granted the prayer of Jabez and blessed him with an enlarged territory so also the Lord will bless Judah with a home of their own. So, like Jabez, they ought to claim their territory, their rightful possession as God promised. “God did not give Jabez victory over his enemies while Jabez stood on the sidelines and watched. Jabez took part in the battle.”[10] They have their own battles to win. They ought to step out in obedient faith. They have to take part in the battle. They prayed that God would bring them back to their homeland. So, the Lord challenged them to become the answer to their prayers. God dared them to conquer their challenges.

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