Last week we looked at the first part of this prayer in which Jabez asked the Lord to bless him, and what it means to be blessed. Although it may seem a little selfish at first glance, there is nothing wrong with asking the Lord to bless us – if our motive is right. Our reason for blessing must always be that others might be blessed through us… That we might be channels of God’s blessing; using our gifts, our talents, our material and financial blessings for God’s glory, serving Him and one another. Scripture tells us that God will not bless a selfish desire, and it says that God answered this prayer, so Jabez had the right motive.
Charles Francis Adams, 19th century political figure and diplomat, kept a diary. One day he entered: “Went fishing with my son today—didn’t catch a thing; a day wasted.” His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, as well. On that same day, Brook Adams made this entry: “Went fishing with my father–the most wonderful day of my life!”
The father thought he was wasting his time while fishing with his son, but his son saw it as an investment of time. He didn’t care if they caught fish, he just enjoyed spending time with his father. It all depends on our perspective of life…even everyday things like fishing. The only way to tell the difference between wasting and investing is to know one’s purpose and to live accordingly. How this is so true in the church… Knowing our ultimate purpose changes everything.
There’s an incredible, new focus and perspective for our lives that can only come when we are caught up in God’s greater goals for humanity….When we are able to look beyond ourselves and what the church can do for me!…and take a risk and leave our comfort zone… and ask, “What can I do to partner with God to enlarge the ministry of this church!”? Jabez didn’t want to stay in the comfort zone…”Enlarge my territory” says Jabez…The word ‘enlarge’ means simply to make larger, to extend in limits or dimensions, to extend to even more purposes.
The word ‘territory’ here is used to refer to boundaries and borders… or limits. His desire was to reach out beyond himself…to expand his sphere of influence…it was for God to expand, perhaps, the limits of his mind and reasoning and logic, to see a greater picture of the world.
Listen to what Dr. Wilkinson says about this part of the prayer of Jabez: “From both the context and the results of the prayer of Jabez, we can see that there was more to his request than a simple desire for more real estate. He wanted more influence, more responsibility, and more opportunity to make a mark for the God of Israel.”
I think we could all agree that our current culture is preoccupied with self…It’s all about us… We want more, bigger, faster, better, and cheaper…preferably …FREE! After all, we don’t really want to work or sacrifice to get what we desire…We just want God or the government to do it and then we will be happy.
One thing I know from experience, is that reacting to something is too late in most cases. And, that is also the case for churches. What I see here is Jabez taking an aggressive approach to what needs to be done.
I have never been a person that likes the stress of “reacting” to situations… I’m not very good at that… Maybe that’s why I like the Boy Scout motto – “Be prepared.” That’s why I am constantly “evaluating” the church. I do this all the time. I did it at my first church because we could not wait until we had three or four babies in the church before having a nice, clean, attractive nursery. Or to put together a nursery schedule. We can’t put off painting the sanctuary and re-carpeting to make it attractive…until we have enough people to pay for it. We can’t put off the things on our “five-year vision until five years from now! You see, churches don’t need to do these kinds of things if they don’t plan to impact people outside of those who are already here! We need to pray, “Lord, enlarge our territory!” We need to do things and have things in place before they become an issue. This is the kind of attitude Jabez has. As individuals we need to think beyond the boundaries we have been living in. If we think that all we can do for God is limited by what we can see, hear, smell, taste or touch, then we will be forever limited in our impact. (repeat that)
One of the reasons it is hard, many times, to get excited about new opportunities is because we have erroneous thinking. We have the formula wrong. There are two formulas that Dr. Wilkinson offers in his book on the Prayer of Jabez; Here’s the first one:
(A.) My abilities + my experience + my training and education + my personality and appearance + my past + the expectations of others = what I can do. Got that? Now, I want you to take your pen or pencil, and draw a circle around that formula. Done? Now put a big slash in that circle. That’s the wrong formula. Unfortunately, that’s the one we are most familiar with, so that’s the one we use. But let’s look at the second formula:
(B.) My willingness and weakness + God’s will and supernatural power = What God can do through me! That’s what Jabez is asking; “Help me to see, understand, and realize formula #2 – Enlarge my territory! When we start asking earnestly for more influence and responsibility with which to honor Him, God will bring opportunities and people into our path that we did not even know were there…and honor our prayer.
What if you spent your day continually asking God – make me aware – open my eyes to the appointments you have divinely set for me today. Show me when and where you need me to be your ambassador, your star, your light. Make me aware that there are no coincidences in life.
The story is told that a famous evangelist was preparing for a meeting in a large city, He wrote a letter to the mayor in which he asked for the name of individuals the mayor knew who had a spiritual problem or needed help and prayer. He was surprised when he received from the mayor a city phone book…. Enlarge our thinking!
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” You may look at your neighbor or your co-worker and think “They will never make it…They will never change.” The devil may have a stronghold on them or their family… And, think about this, you may be the David that God uses to kill the giant!
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” We don’t need any more information; we don’t need any more education; we don’t need any more abilities or training; all we need is an encounter with Jesus and a conviction that He will work in and through and under and around, whatever it takes…if only we are willing vessels.
Maybe we need to take this prayer and pray it. Pray it every day. Not as a mindless mantra, but rather as a reminder that God wants to act on our behalf and on behalf of His church….to enlarge the influence of the ministry of reconciliation and salvation. My guess is that if we make a habit of that kind of prayer, we will see God do things we never thought possible before.
Let’s make it our prayer for every church;… Father,
We pray that you would increase our territory! Give us a vision and the will and the capacity to grow in faith, in numbers, and in mission in this community and in fact, everywhere you lead us. Shape the ministries of this church to be prepared and flexible to the needs. May we be generous with our time, our resources our gifts and abilities, and give us a generous portion of your Spirit. Help us to be welcoming to all people and to minister to all in Jesus’ name. And, may we be courageous to grow and to go, as you lead. Make us aware of the people you have divinely appointed for us to meet. Father, make us ambitious, assertive, and fearless in the spiritual realm –as we make ourselves available in the physical realm on your behalf to see souls changed. And please God, Bless us and enlarge our territory… Amen