The Touch of Greatness

1 Chronicles 4:10b

January 14, 2001 | Brian Bill

I like listening to messages on people’s answering machines.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Hi.  Now you say something.
  • Hello.  I’m David’s answering machine.  What are you?
  • Greetings, you have reached the Sixth Sense Detective Agency.  We know who you are and what you want, so at the sound of the tone, please hang up.
  • I can’t come to the phone now because I have amnesia and I feel stupid talking to people I don’t remember.  I’d appreciate it if you could help me out by leaving my name and telling me something about myself.  Thanks.
  • Hi.  I’m probably home; I’m just avoiding someone I don’t like.  Leave me a message, and if I don’t call back, it’s you.

As we learned last week, Jabez was so eager to have his call answered that he “cried out” to the God of Israel. He wanted God’s full attention.  Thankfully, he didn’t receive a recording when he sent his four-part prayer to heaven.

This morning we’re going to look at the final three requests of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.  Let’s read this passage together: “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 we learned last week, Jabez had a number of shadows in his life:

  • His character was strong but his brothers were bums.
  • He was a pain to his mom.
  • His future was bleak.
  • His father had bailed on the family.
  • He was poor.

But, he didn’t want to stay where he was.  He asked God to break the cycle of dysfunction and despair that hung over his family like a dark cloud.  Instead of settling for mediocrity and the status quo, He asked God to unleash cloudbursts of blessings in his life.  And, the showers of divine favor came pouring down like a torrential rainfall!  The same thing will happen in our lives when we ask God to bless us.

As a church, we’ve declared January to be “Jabez month.”  We’d like everyone to pray this prayer at least daily for the next 17 days.  The acrostic B.E.S.T. will help us remember it:

  • Bless me “Oh, that you would bless me!”
  • Expand my ministry “Enlarge my territory.”
  • Stay with me “Let your hand be with me.”
  • Take evil away “Keep me from harm…”

Expand My Ministry

Jabez had his character changed when God blessed him.  Now, in this second request, his destiny is re-routed by asking God to remove the restrictions that were hemming him in.  We see this in verse 10: “…enlarge my territory!”  In the world of Jabez, land was marked by unmovable boundaries that had been divided among the tribes and families.  Every family had its own inheritance, which was passed on from generation to generation.  As we pointed out last week, Jabez was saying that he wanted more.  And, he didn’t just want more property…he wanted to make a mark for the Lord.

The word, “enlarge” means to “increase or expand.”  It can also mean, “multiplying.”  The word translated, “territory,” literally means a “cord.”  It carries with it the idea of a border that has a rope around it to let everyone know its dimensions and limitations.

In Genesis 9:27, Noah asked God to extend the territory of Japheth.”  Exodus 34:24 reveals that God was interested in giving an expanded vision to His people when he said, “I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory…”  Isaiah 54:2 uses the image of a tent to help us see the importance of increasing our impact: Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.”

Jabez was asking God to expand the boundaries that had been imposed on him by his name.  He wanted the rope repositioned and his boundaries blasted out!  He wanted his impact intensified and his ministry multiplied.  He didn’t want to be known as “pain” or “sorrow.”  He wasn’t going to hold back any longer but was determined to move out for God.  He wanted to make a difference.  He wanted to be an impact player.  He wanted to be entrusted with more.

Translated into our world, it means that we ask God to break us out of whatever may be limiting us.  If you’re in the grip of a bad habit, or feel tethered to the tentacles of your past, ask God to expand your ministry impact.  Don’t settle for just plodding through life.  

God is looking for men and women and teenagers who will discover what He is doing and then join His team as full-time players who serve His purposes.  He wants us to place top priority on identifying and involving ourselves in redemptive relationships and kingdom building.  You don’t have to have money, influence, intelligence, or family connections.  Jabez had none of these.  What is required is that you make yourself available, that you refuse to just go through the motions, and that you ask God to expand your ministry.

Most of us settle for way too little in our service.  God wants to blast out our boundaries!  Can you imagine what would happen in this church if we were turned loose to serve like we’ve never served before?  Think of what would happen in this community if we would live redemptively as we ask God to give us open doors with our neighbors, co-workers and family members.  As Ezekiel 22:30 states, God is still looking for someone to “stand in the gap.”

A life that is showered with blessings is meant to be lived out in service to others

One of the most dreadful things anyone can say at my funeral is this, “Pastor Brian meant well.  He had a good heart.”  I want my hands and my feet to be in the same place as my heart.  A life that is showered with blessings is meant to be lived out in service to others.  To hoard our blessings or to spend our time living for own pleasures runs counter to being a committed Christ-follower.

If we don’t live outside our comfort zone and look for ways to expand our ministry, God may in fact, reduce our territory.   Ezekiel 16:27 is haunting and perhaps more descriptive of the church in America than we care to admit.  Because God’s people were locked into lust and following their selfish desires, God made a decision: “So I stretched out my hand against you and reduced your territory…”  They were focused on satisfying their own pleasures, not seeking God’s purposes.  Let’s determine to not have this happen to us.

I don’t know what it is that God wants you to do specifically, but I do know He wants each of us to pray this revolutionary request: “God, thank you for blessing me.  I now pray that you would expand and extend my narrow focus and use me to impact others for your glory.  Let me do more for you!”

Wilkinson adds some great insight when he writes, “Just as it is highly unusual to hear anyone pray, ‘God, please bless me!’ so it is rare to hear anyone plead, ‘God, please give me more ministry!’  Most of us think our lives are too full already…When you start asking in earnest—begging—for more influence and responsibility with which to honor Him, God will bring opportunities and people into your path.” (“Prayer of Jabez,” Pages 36, 41).

Let’s be honest.  Most of us shrink from living at this level of blessing and influence.  Instead of asking God for more, we often ask God to downsize our ministry.  While I know that there are times we need to take a break, most of us could do far more than we’re doing right now.  

As a way to stretch my boundaries, I’m asking God to help me meet one new person every day this year – and then to remember their name.  I’m a fairly structured and disciplined guy.  I have “to do” lists and try to keep to my schedule.  I’m learning that Jesus didn’t order His life according to His Daytimer but around the Father’s will and people’s needs.  As I meet more people, I’m confident that God will give me even greater ministry opportunities.

Friend, tell God you want Him to “bring it on” in your life.  Find the place marked “X” for you and be willing to follow Him even when the “X” moves.  Think outside the box.  Ditch the distractions.  Push the envelope.  If you’re torn between option “A” and “B,” maybe God wants you to go with “C.”  Maybe it’s a mission’s trip this summer.  Maybe it’s involvement in a new ministry.  Or, it might be leading a small group.

I’m excited about what God is going to do for our church as we pray this prayer corporately.  I anticipate God putting together the pieces for our second worship service this spring.  This will enlarge our ministry and provide additional serving opportunities, as we’ll need a lot of people committed to do whatever it takes to make it happen.  The Family Life Center is another way that God is bursting our boundaries.

Stay With Me

If you want to pray like Jabez, then ask God to bless you.  After you do that, then plead with Him to expand your ministry.  The third request is to ask Him to stay with you.  We see this in the middle of verse 10: “Let your hand be with me…”

The progression here makes a lot of sense.  When we ask God to send spiritual favor, He will shower us with His blessings.  These blessings are then transformed into ministry opportunities as we transfer our blessings to others.  When God expands our ministry, we’ll be overwhelmed by the possibilities and may begin to feel burned out.

It’s at this point that we need to beef up our reliance upon God.  Wilkinson puts it this way: “If seeking God’s blessings is our ultimate act of worship, and asking Him to do more for Him is our utmost ambition, then asking for God’s hand upon us is our strategic choice to sustain and continue the great things that God has begun in our lives.” (Page 49).

This week I did a study of what “God’s hand” represents in the Bible.  When we ask God’s hand to be us, we’re really asking for at least four things:

  • Power Exodus 15:6: “Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power.”
  • Presence Psalm 18:35: “…your right hand sustains me…”
  • Protection Psalm 139:10: “your right hand will hold me fast.”
  • Provision Psalm 145:16: “You open your hand and satisfy…”

God is powerful.  His presence is always with us.  He protects us.  And, He provides for us with an open hand.  Over Christmas I went to an NBA game with my dad and brothers-in-law.  While we were driving down the road in my brother-in-law’s car, he hit a button and suddenly a voice came on.  A man introduced himself as an “On-Star” representative and told us exactly where we were on I-94.  He was even able to tell us what bridge we had just crossed!  He then asked us if we needed any help. 

Friends, God has His hands full of good things to give us.  His power, presence, protection, and provision are available – if we will only ask for them.  Jabez is praying, “Lord, be with me.  Go into the future with me.  Remind me that you’re there.  Give me your power.  Protect me and provide for my needs.”  What a comfort to know we are not out on our own trying to make a difference in the world, but we have been chosen, appointed, and sent by the King of Kings to be His ambassadors.  

If we want God’s blessings and we want our ministry expanded, then we must ask for His hand to be with us.  As someone has said, “Much prayer, much power.  Little prayer, little power.”  Some of us get in trouble because we try to do everything in our own strength.  Sooner or later we come to the place where we realize that we can’t do it on our own.  God never intended for us to do it that way.  

His hand is open and is ready to take ours and lift us up when we’re down, and give us strength when we’re weak

He blesses and expands so that we will rely upon His gracious hand.  His hand is open and is ready to take ours and lift us up when we’re down, and give us strength when we’re weak.  Remember what Paul learned in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Some of us so seldom ask for God’s hand to be with us that we don’t even know what we’re missing.  We’ve grown used to living in our own power.  And, when we get overwhelmed, we bail instead of believing.  It’s much easier to think we’ve attempted to do too much than it is to reach out and grab God’s open hand.  We don’t experience God’s power, feel His presence, enjoy His protection, or see His provision.  Why?  Because we’re not asking for His hand to be with us.

Wilkinson urges us to ask for God’s mighty presence like Jabez did.  When we do we’ll see tremendous results that can only be explained as coming from the hand of God.  “You and I are always just one plea away from inexplicable, Spirit-enabled exploits.  By His touch you can experience supernatural enthusiasm, boldness, and power.  It’s up to you.  Ask every day for the Father’s touch.” (Page 61)

Take Evil Away

Jabez’s final request is for God to take evil away as he prays, “…and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”  As we pointed out last week, this is really a play on words.  “Harm,” or “pain,” is a translation of the name “Jabez,” so what he is praying is, “Lord, whatever it is that is in me that is evil, I pray that you will keep it from ‘Jabez-ing’ me—from hurting me.”   When he prays that he would be free “from pain,” he is acknowledging that sin always brings grief.  We cannot sin and win.

Jabez had a healthy awareness of the evil lurking in his own heart and of the external temptations that were ready to pounce on him as soon as he let his guard down.  Genesis 4:7 paints a vivid picture of what each of us face on a daily basis: “…But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

One way we can master sin is by asking God to take evil away.  This is exactly what Jesus taught His followers to do in Matthew 6:13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  When God answered the first three requests of Jabez, the evil one got angry.  When we’re blessed so that we expand our ministry and trust the open hand of God, we begin to invade Satan’s turf.  Since Satan does not want us serving, he begins to send temptations our way.

I’m sure some of you have heard about the new Fox TV show called, “Temptation Island.”  Continuing in the genre of “reality television,” (whatever that is), four couples will arrive on an island and will be separated from one another for two weeks.  During these 14 days, the individuals are to have no contact with one another but will be tempted and seduced by scantily clad singles who are just looking to break these relationships up – all for the sake of ratings.

 I can’t imagine why these couples would agree to test the strength of their relationships by throwing themselves on an island filled with temptation.  This is dangerous and wrong.  I hope none of you watch this show and that many of us protest it for promoting promiscuity.  I know I’ll not be tuning in.

While we might get upset at a show like this, my guess is that some of you are putting yourselves in situations that tempt and tantalize you.  Instead of running from sin as 1 Corinthians 6:18 urges us to do when we are told to “flee from sexual immorality,” if the truth were known, many of us go to Temptation Island all the time.

I want to pause here to address an issue that is widespread in our culture, and even in our church today.  If you have Internet access, be careful.  Ask God to keep you from harm.  Because of the anonymity of the web, it’s way too easy to focus on sites that are not healthy for your spiritual life.  If you don’t have a web blocker, you need to get one.  I’m using one that is so good that when I tried to access one of my own sermons from our web page, I got blocked!  I still don’t know what’s in that sermon that could have caused this but I better be more careful in my preaching!  

If you’re struggling with sin and are tantalized by temptation on a regular basis, join the club.  But, you don’t have to settle for sin dominating your life.  Claim 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  God is more interested in keeping us from temptation than we are.  Ask Him to show you the way out when you’re in a slippery situation.  Ask Him to keep you from sinning.  Plead with Him to take evil away.

On the old TV show “Hee Haw,” Doc Campbell is examining a patient who hurt his arm.  The man said, “Doc, I broke my arm in two places.”  To which the doctor replies, “Well then, stay out of them places!”  He’s on to something there.  We can’t keep putting ourselves in the face of temptation and not be affected.  We need to stay out of “them places” that lead us to sin.

Wilkinson writes, “In my experience, most Christians seem solely to pray for strength to endure temptations…Most of us face too many temptations—and therefore sin too often—because we don’t ask God to lead us away…We make a huge leap forward…when we begin to focus less on beating temptation and more on avoiding it.” (Pages 67-68)

If you feel like you’ve messed up this morning, you’re not alone.  And, it’s never too late.  Satan wants you to believe two lies:

  • Just once won’t hurt.
  • Now that you’ve ruined your life, you are beyond God’s use, and might as well enjoy sinning.

These are lies from the pit.  Don’t give in to temptation when you’re faced with it.  Look for the way out.  Its there if you look hard enough.  Better yet, join Jabez and pray that God would keep the temptation away from you in the first place.  Partner with him in this by not putting yourself in situations that are detrimental to your discipleship.

And God Granted His Request

Jabez didn’t have to leave a message for God on some sort of cosmic answering machine.  God not only gave Jabez His full attention, He was pleased to answer his prayer.  That’s the only way to explain how a boy who named “Pain” was transformed into a man of honor.  

Look at the last part of verse 10: “And God granted his request.”  That’s all that is recorded.  Jabez prayed and God answered.  I don’t think he prayed this prayer just once, or for that matter, just once a day.  This prayer was his life.  He sent these requests to the God of heaven throughout the day and probably uttered them thousands of times over the course of many years.  Are you willing to do the same thing?

There’s another verse about Jabez in the Bible that shows us the power of prayer.  It’s the only other time he is mentioned in Scripture.  Check out 1 Chronicles 2:55: “and the clans of scribes who lived at Jabez…”  “Jabez” eventually became the name of a place where scribes came to study.  This tells us something significant about him.  Not only was he a man of prayer, but he was also a man of the Word who passed on a lasting legacy to countless clans of scribes who gathered to study.  

There’s still a school called Jabez.  Are you ready to enroll?  If you are serious about asking God to bless you, to expand your ministry, to stay with you, and to take evil away, your life will never be the same!

Action Steps

I want to close by giving you the 6 action steps at the end of Wilkinson’s book (Page 86-87):

  • Pray the Jabez prayer every morning for the month of January.
  • Write out the prayer and tape it to your mirror.
  • Reread this little book once each week during the next month.
  • Tell one other person of your commitment to this new prayer habit.
  • Keep a record of changes in your life, especially the divine appointments.
  • Pray this prayer for your family, your friends, and for this church.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?