Summary: The Prayer of Jabez can radically change your life today.
Living Large for God
Rev. Brian Bill
A 200-year-old church was getting ready for its anniversary celebration when calamity struck: the bell ringer was called out of town. The pastor immediately advertised and looked for someone else to ring the bells.
He finally found someone, and when the replacement arrived, the pastor took him to the steps leading to the bell tower, some 150 feet above them. Round and round they went, huffing and puffing all the way. Just as they reached the landing, the bell ringer tripped and fell face-first into the biggest bell of all. Bo-o-o-o-ong!
Dazed by the blow, the bell ringer stumbled backward onto the landing. The railing broke loose and he fell to the ground. Miraculously, he was not hurt, just stunned. The pastor decided to rush him to the hospital anyway.
When the doctor saw the man, he turned to the pastor and asked, “Do you know this man’s name?”
“No,” the pastor replied, “but his face sure rings a bell.”
This morning we’re beginning a series called, “A New You for a New Year” based on a man who had a name that is easy to forget. His name is Jabez. And he’s known for a very short prayer that he prayed. We’re going to discover that there’s something in his prayer that rings a bell with us.
How many of you have already broken your New Year’s Resolutions? How many of you didn’t make any? That’s probably why you haven’t broken yours yet! I hope some of you took advantage of Pastor Geoff’s excellent application from last week by working on some SMART goals for the New Year. We’ll see that Jabez is a great example of someone who defied convention. It’s my hope and prayer that you won’t just stumble into this year but that you’ll “live large for God.”
A Face Stands Out
Please turn in your Bible to 1 Chronicles. In the first nine chapters there is a list of 500 names! These names make up the official family tree of the Hebrew tribes, beginning with Adam and continuing up to Israel’s return from captivity. These long lists are enough to put anyone to sleep! Most of the names are just listed without any editorial comment but there are a few that stand out in the first couple chapters:
1:19: “…One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided…”
2:3: “Er…was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.”
2:7: “Achar, who brought trouble on Israel….”
And so, we have one guy who is given a name that means “division.” Another man was wiped out because of his wickedness and a third guy was known as one who brought trouble to Israel.
Now, let’s turn to chapter 4. Just when you may feel like pulling the plug on having your Quiet Time in Chronicles, a face stands out above the crowd. I picture a camera scanning the crowd, moving rapidly from one face to another, until it suddenly zooms in and focuses on one individual, Jabez. This is God’s way of calling attention to him. Something about him caused the Chronicler to shoot some extra footage. Though we have a brief account of who he was he’s remembered not for what he did, but for what he prayed.
Forty-four names into the chapter, a man named Jabez prays a four-fold paradigm-breaking prayer in verses 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.”
As you look at this passage, it’s clear that there is something wrong in the life of Jabez; some shadows have fallen across his path:
The Shadows in His Life
1. His character is strong. The first clue comes from the opening phrase, “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.” This says something more about his brothers than it does about Jabez. When we read that he was more honorable than they were, it indicates that they were somehow dishonorable. In contrast to his family’s bad reputation, Jabez is regarded as a remarkable exception.
2. He was a pain to his mom. The second thing we learn about him is that his mother named him Jabez, which means, “Pain,” or “Sorrow.” A literal rendering could read, “He causes (or will cause) pain.” That’s a strange name to give to a newborn. What was she thinking? Didn’t she have one of those “baby name” books? In verse 9 we get some insight: “I gave birth to him in pain.”