Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 

The Prayer of Jabez

One of the most popular books on the Christian best seller list is “The Prayer of Jabez.”  I haven’t read the book, but I have heard an interview with the author.  There are many who believe that this book brings a new revelation, and they put a lot of faith in it; but we will not refer to that book in our Bible study. 

This morning, let’s look at who this man Jabez was and then let’s focus on only one line of his prayer, “Oh that thou wouldst bless me indeed.”

We know very little about Jabez, except that he was more honorable than his brothers, and that his mother named him Jabez because she was in great sorrow at his birth.  However, sorrow gives birth to joy, just as the most furious storm will give way to sunshine.  Many times, we find that we must shed tears before we can feel joy.  Those things that we do for Christ may cost us tears, because they take us through difficulties and disappointments.  However, you can expect a blessing from serving God if you are able to carry on through difficulties. 

As for Jabez, he was well intentioned, wealthy, and famous; he was a man of prayer. The best honor that any man can have is to have a relationship with God, and Jabez did, and he has his prayer recorded in the word of God, because it is significant and instructive for us to know what he prayed.  We will only take one clause of that prayer, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!”  But these words are for us today; they are words to begin the Christian life with, and to end it with, a prayer which would be suitable during times of sorrow and joy.   

"Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!"  It is the word “indeed” which seems to be so significant. 

There are many kinds of blessings.  Some are blessings in name only; they feel good for the moment, but end in disappointment because they don’t live up to our expectations.  Others are temporary blessings that are gone as soon as they are spoken.  But those whom God blesses are truly blessed, because it is the grace of God that prompts it, it is God’s choice to give it; and because of the one who gives it, it is generous and lasting.

Let’s compare God’s blessings to human blessings.  It is pleasing to be blessed by our parents and friends, who back up their words with prayers.  Many poor men and women had nothing more to give as an inheritance to their children except their blessing, but the blessing of a Christian Father is a rich treasure to a son or daughter.  We want their blessing and it consoles us when they pass-on.  And if they are the ones who lead us to Christ and taught us the things of God, the blessing is even sweeter.  But in the end, the blessing of family and friends falls short even if they come from the heart for they are just words; but, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!” for you, God, can bless with authority.  Your blessing is effective.  You created the world with only a word.  David prayed, “With thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed forever.

It is ironic that men will bless you when you are doing well for yourself.  They will praise the man who is successful in business, and he may even feel that he deserves it.  They may praise you for being patriotic, generous, and self-sacrificing.  But listen.  What does the approval of men amount to?  In a trial, what does the opinion of the bailiff or the spectators have to do with anything.  The man on trial feels that the only thing that matters is the verdict of the jury and the sentence of the judge.  So it won’t make much difference how much others praise or criticize us.  But, “Oh that thou wouldst bless me;” and that I could hear you say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  If God will just commend the feeble service that I have done, that will bless me indeed.

Now let’s compare the blessings which Jabez craved with those blessings that are temporary and worldly. 

The first that comes to mind is wealth.  This desire is so prevalent that you could almost say that it is a natural instinct.  How many of us have wished for it?  But there are so many examples that show that happiness is not found in the abundance of things you possess, that I don’t need to quote them to you.  It has been rightly said that when we see how much a man has we envy him, but when we see how little he enjoys them we should pity him.  This is never truer than when sickness, depression and death are present.  Riches are of little comfort at those times.  If God has blessed us with wealth, we should pray, “My God, do not allow me to make a god of gold and silver, the house and investments, possessions and property.  Instead, bless me with the grace to be generous to others from what you have given me.”  But if you don’t have wealth, pray, “God, even though you have chosen not to give me wealth, enrich me with your love, give others what you wish, for all I desire is for your will to be done, and then I will be blessed indeed, and I will be content.”

The second temporary blessing, which some eagerly pursue is fame.  It seems natural for us to want to make a name for ourselves.  But fame, just like wealth, doesn’t insure happiness.  It is true that some pleasure does come from gaining notoriety.  But some of the most famous men have been the most wretched of the human race.  If you have honor and fame, accept it; but pray this prayer, “My God, bless me indeed, because what does it matter if my name is on a million lips, if it was not written in the Lambs Book of Life?  Give me your blessing, and then any honor that comes to me will be blessed indeed.”  If you have lived in obscurity and never been honored by your fellow men, be content.  The lack of fame is not so terrible.  What difference does it make when you are dead if people are talking about you?  Get God’s blessing, because it is a blessing indeed.

There is a third blessing which wise men ask for, and it may be better than wealth and fame-the blessing of health.  You are truly blessed if you have a healthy body.  It is wonderful if you don’t have any aches or pains, if you wake refreshed in the morning, and if you sleep soundly at night.  But don’t brag about your strength, because it could fail you at any moment.  A strong man can be reduced to a skeleton in just a few short weeks.  If you are in good health, pray, “My God, bless me indeed.  Give me a healthy soul.  Heal me of my spiritual diseases.  Make me healthy in a heavenly since, so that I may be allowed to stand among the congregation of your saints.  Bless my bodily health, so that I may use it in your service and to your glory.”  I know that most of you do not possess good health.  You have trying days and nights, and your bones ache when the weather changes.  But I pray that God will bless you indeed.  But you may find as I have that you are closer to your Heavenly Father when you are hurting.  It shouldn’t be so, but it is.  As I look back, I can testify that I grew more in grace when I was sick.  It shouldn’t be so.  But whatever you have to suffer, of weakness, of disability, of pain and sorrow, I pray that God’s presence with you will make it a light affliction and that it will work to bring you eternal glory and that you will be blessed indeed.

 

There is only one more blessing that I want to mention-the blessing of home. 

What a blessing it is to have those relationships that are found gathered around the word “home”-wife, children, father, brother, sister!  I can’t think of any songs which bring more emotion than those dedicated to “mother.”  I hope that all of you have these ties to support you.  But let’s ask, that above these will come the blessing indeed. 

“Thank you God for my earthly father; but be thou my Father and I will be blessed indeed.  I thank you dear Father for my mother’s love, but if you will comfort my soul as one whom a mother comforts, then I will be blessed indeed.  I am thankful for the home that you have given me, but it is my desire to dwell in the house of the Lord forever; and I will be blessed indeed.” 

Very sadly, some of you are separated from spouse and family by the grave and there still remains many wounds caused by their absence.  Well, “May the Lord bless you indeed!”  Widow, your maker is your husband. 

To the fatherless, he said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”  You can find all your relationships made up in Him, and then you will be blessed indeed. 

So far, we have talked about human blessings and temporary blessings and I hope you have had plenty of these to fill your heart with happiness, but I hope that they have not filled your hearts with worldliness or distracted you from the things of God. 

Now, the third type is imaginary blessings Let me illustrate these with the Pharisee.  He stood in the Lord’s house and he thought he had the Lord’s blessing, and it made him very bold, and he spoke this prayer, “God, I thank thee, that I am not like other men are,” and so on.  He believed he had the blessing and that he deserved it.  He fasted twice a week and paid tithes on everything that he had.  He believed he had done everything necessary to please God.  But, he was not blessed indeed.  He was just a wind-bag; nothing else.  The blessing that he thought had fallen on him had not come at all.  The poor publican that he thought was cursed had gone to his house justified, rather than him.  The blessing had not fallen on the man who thought it had.  Let’s all guard against a similar fantasy, and pray, “Great God, save us from thinking that we ourselves are righteous.  Bless us indeed.  Let us have the true righteousness.  Let us have the true worthiness that you can accept, that which comes from faith in Jesus Christ.”

Very sadly, these imaginary blessings extend to those who think they are saved.  They base their salvation on an emotional experience, on church membership, on water baptism or on the prayers of others.  There is a great difference between the presumption of salvation and the full assurance of salvation.  If you trust in your heart in Jesus, then you are saved; but if you merely say, “I trust in Jesus,” it doesn’t save you.  If your heart is renewed, and you hate the things which you once loved, and love the things that you once hated; if you have really repented; if you have been born again, then you can rejoice, because you are a child of God.  But if there is no change in your life, no inward godliness, no love for God, no prayer, no work of the Holy Spirit, then your saying, “I am saved,” is only an assertion.  Our prayer should be, “Father, bless me indeed, with real faith, with real salvation, with a real trust in Jesus.  God, protect me from imaginary blessings.” 

For those who are saved, there must be a caution-pray that you will learn to distinguish between those things which you think are spiritual blessings and those which are blessings indeed.  Let me show you what I mean.  It may not be a blessing to get an answer to one of your prayers that you prayed from your own mind.  It is always best to qualify your prayers with, “Not as I will, but as you will.”  You could be asking for something that may be dangerous for you.  Here is a story that I read, that may make this point. 

There was a good woman whose son was about to die.  She begged a minister to pray for him.  He prayed sincerely, but added, “If it be thy will, save this child.”  The woman said, “You must pray again, and don’t put in any ifs or buts.”  “Woman”, the minister said, “You may regret the day that you set your will against God’s will.”  Twenty years latter this woman had to watch her son put to death as a criminal.  Although, she got to see her son grow up to be a man, it would have been much better for her if the child had died, and if she had left it to God’s will.  Remember, joy and happiness are not always signs of His blessings.  Perhaps, it would be a greater blessing for me to have a broken spirit before God. 

All these various experiences that we have, that take us from the mountain top and a joyful spirit to the valley of despair, may be blessings indeed to us.  For if we were always rejoicing, we would see no need for God.  We should not envy those who always appear calm, even in a storm, because there is a calmness which arises from callousness.  Those who say they have no doubts may be that way because they are not searching.  They don’t have anxieties because there are no desires to stir them up.  They don’t have any pains, because there is no life in them. 

Let’s pray that God will lead us, so we don’t envy anyone who has His gifts or His graces, much less those who have better outward circumstances; but if it is His will, that He bless us indeed. 

Christ is to be our all-in-all.  Let’s leave the manner of our blessing to Him.  We must leave it to God to give us what we shall have, not the imaginary blessings, the superficial and apparent blessings, but the blessing indeed!

And as far as our work and service is concerned, I think our prayer should always be, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed.”  We should “plod on” as we work to build His church, even if we never win a soul.  No matter what we build for God, if it is gold, silver or precious stones; it will last.  Those works which are built in a hurry with little effort are like a wooden house filled with hay and stubble; it only takes a little spark and they are gone.  What God establishes will stand, but what men build without His establishment will certainly amount to nothing.  “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!” 

Sunday school teacher, this should be your prayer. 

Tract distributor, preacher, whatever you may be, whatever your service is, even if only to pray, asks the Lord to bless you, and to bless your work. 

The last thing to mention, before we end, is that the blessings of God’s grace are blessings indeed, and it is right for us to seek after them.  We are told, “By these marks shall ye know them.”  Blessings indeed are these: blessings that come from the pierced hands; blessings that come from Calvary’s bloody cross; pardon from sins; acceptance by God; Christ in us and us in Christ-these are blessings indeed.  Any blessing that comes from the Spirit’s work in us is a blessing indeed. 

If Christ convinces you of your sin, it’s a blessing.  Anything that He does, accept it; do not doubt it, and pray that he will continue to bless you.  Whatever leads you to God is a blessing. 

Now, let’s end with three words. 

“Search.”  See whether the blessings are blessings indeed, and don’t be satisfied unless you know they are blessings from God. 

“Weigh.”  That is the next word.  Whatever you receive, weigh it and determine if it is a blessing indeed, causing you to abound in love and in every good work and word. 

And lastly, “Pray.”  Pray that whatever God gives you, whatever He withholds; that you may be blessed indeed.  “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed.”

Amen!  Let’s close in prayer.

 

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