There has been lots of false teachers that have talked about the pursuit of prosperity in a Christian’s life that it has become a bad word. Name it and claim it, blab it and grab it, you deserve it because you’re the apple of God’s eye!
Some churches have gone all the way to the left with prosperity and some have gone way right.
Left ideas: God has given you all the cattle on a thousand hills, all of his people in the Bible that believed it, received it. Prosperity is God’s plan for your life. Jeremiah 29:11
Right ideas: God has called us to suffer and live humble lives, prosperity is pride driven and the Bible doesn’t teach it… “you will not find it in the Bible! Philippians 4:12
Let me introduce to you a man named, Jabez. There are two Bible verses that are well hidden in the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles. These first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles provide a birth record and genealogy for the people of Israel. Some might see it as boring, but to the people, it was a legal representation of who was who and who owned what.
Then, in chapter 4, comes these two verses:
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother named him Jabez saying, “Because I bore him with pain.” Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested. — 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NASB)
The uniqueness of this man’s life forced its way out of a human resources document and that uniqueness God wanted everyone who read it, to pay close attention.
His mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him with pain.” There is nothing unique about a painful birth, most women (unless drugged) will experience the excruciating pain of childbirth. Since they had no drugs for birthing back then (I think), then her painful experience wasn’t a unique thing. What is unique is what Jabez means in the Hebrew language.
Jabez means Sorrowful
Imagine having a name that always reminded you of how your mother felt when you were born. Name calling is for bullies, we know that our words will either build up or tear down a person. But Jabez had a sad name that reflected a sad life that his mother had. There was something about the life that she was living that made her look at her blood covered child and say, “Sorrowful.”
That still is not the unique part.
Jabez was unique because, no matter how many times people called his name, he knew that God had the power to change his circumstances.
“Oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my border …” he prayed. Jabez believed that through God, he could receive a true blessing and that the blessing would cause him to prosper.
Yes, I used the word prosper. Jabez saw it as enlarging his border. In his time, that meant property and property was the key ingredient to prosperity. They didn’t have investment portfolios or stocks they could trade to make money. For Jabez to make money, he need property and enough of it to work hard at planting or creating something of worth.
Jabez didn’t view prosperity like a winning lotto ticket, for him, prosperity meant hard work.
“…and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!”
Jabez knew that in order for him to prosper, God need to directly influence his work. It wasn’t enough that God would be up, high, in the heavens keeping His eye on Jabez. No, Jabez needed God’s hand to be involved. In the Bible, God’s “hand” was symbolic of God’s influence in a person’s life. If His hand was upon you, then it meant that He had direct influence on the outcomes in your life. You couldn’t fail, if His hand was with you.
Jabez was asking for a lot. And he didn’t stop there.
“…and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” There always seems to be a connection between God’s prosperity and the appearance of harm. Jeremiah echoes this in Jeremiah 29: 11; For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jabez knew that prosperity can bring immense suffering and I think that’s where a person can misunderstand what it means to ask for prosperity. More money, more problems.
Jabez had a clear understanding of problems because wrapped in his name was how people felt in the midst of their problems — sorrowful.
Jabez prayed for some pretty clear things:
Bless me — God is the source of approval
Enlarge me — God is the source of prosperity
Be with me — God’s influence is valuable
Protect me — God’s protection is enough
Blessing, Prosperity, Influence, Protection
These are all great things when God is at the forefront of your life. If God isn’t, then we have a man-made prosperity that sometimes works, and somethings doesn’t.
God wants us to pray like Jabez, He wants us to receive His blessings, He wants us to experience His prosperity, He longs to be with us and be the sole influence in our lives and desires to keep us safe no matter what pain we go through.
The key factor to a true prosperity is that we are letting God define what prosperity looks like in the different seasons of our life.
That we can say like Paul: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12NIV
Paul’s secret? That he could “do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Through Christ we can live a prosperous life. Externally, we will have times of abundance and times of lack, but internally our souls are always prospering.
Have you been struggling with asking God to prosper you? You can overcome that struggle by putting God in control of your life. Let His strength live in you by reading and remembering His Word. It’s okay to ask God for what you need, He’s a good Father and wants you to live a life that is pleasing to Him.
The Apostle John’s 3rd letter starts out with his encouragement to have physical prosperity, just as much as they had spiritual prosperity.
Here is my prayer for you, straight from 3 John 1:2,
Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
Photo by Alex Woods on Unsplash