Thursday, April 16, 2009

What A Man (or Woman) Wants from God

I had occasion recently to look at three separate portions of Scripture which I will call A (I Chronicles 4:10), B (2 Chronicles 7:13-18) and C (Matthew 7:7). They are reproduced for you below. Together they say a lot about us. In A, a man called Jabez calls on God to bless him and increase his material goods. He wants God's hand to be with him in whatever he pursues, so he will succeed. He also wants God's hand present for his safety and protection. In short, he wants to live without pain. And interestingly enough, God granted Jabez what he requested.

All we know about Jabez came from the previous verse (I Chronicles 4:9) which simply tells us "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers". Strong's Bible Dictionary, however, uses all the following interpretations of the word used here for honorable -- to be heavy, be weighty, be grievous, be hard, be rich, be honourable, be glorious, be burdensome, be honored. Not sure just which one applied to Jabez and why God granted his request so readily. What exactly may Jabez have been like to be so blessed? More importantly, what does it take to be successful in very difficult times that some of us are currently in? Some may be facing incredible personal challenges and difficulties. Others of us may be suffering collectively as a result of the economy. What does it take to succeed like Jabez in such times?

I believe that scripture portion B may give us a good idea as we listen to God speaking to Solomon, the son of David. God is basically telling Solomon what the secret of success, especially in adversity, is. But first let's talk about the adversity God refers to and compare that to what we may be going through. Here are God's examples:

1. drought (not having enough rain to grow crops to feed yourself and your family), or in today's lifestyle -- visiting the groceries stores to find nothing on the shelves -- that's adversity.
2. allowing locusts to eat up the land, so even if you had rain, nothing would grow, or in today's lifestyle -- allowing the immorality of man to destroy all that is good around us and within our families -- that's adversity.
3. pestilence (a fatal epidemic disease like the bubonic plague of old) to cripple or kill off your family, or in today's lifestyle -- Aids or Cancer or Mental Illness -- that's adversity.

God's formula for success will stand up to those levels of adversity and beyond. While some may be approaching that degree of adversity in their lives, the majority of us who believe we are suffering in North America today, are not playing anywhere near the same ballpark.

Now, here's the formula (even under extreme adversity -- which by the way, God Himself allows in order to deal with both the just and the unjust as they live their lives or for whatever personal reason He may choose -- for He IS God) -- here's the formula that will work for "His People" (condition number #1). We're talking about His people; those who know Him personally and have a personal relationship with Him. Yesterday, I was listening to a gospel song I had not heard before. It was about someone trying to enter heaven and finding out his name was not in the Book of Life. He argued he had been to Church, but admitted he had never knelt to pray. He had done some good things that he listed and felt his name should be there, but it wasn't. He had failed to accept Christ as personal Lord and Savior. In short, God was not able to include him in His "My People" that He refers to in passage B.

First comes the belonging to Him, then comes the obedience in four specific ways, for God says, if My People:
i. humble themselves (no more "I can do it myself; I know how to run a business; I know how to make money; I know how to succeed; I know how to get fit and healthy; etc."),
ii. pray (as a way of life, not as an obligation; continuously; believing He can; accepting if He doesn't wish to; but always giving Him the praise and glory regardless of His answer),
iii. seek My face (deeply searching to know Him and His will for us), and
iv. (the clincher) turn from their wicked ways (no exceptions; obedience to God has no loopholes).

First we qualify, then we follow the rules. Then He comes through. He's going to hear you; He's going to forgive you your sin; He's going to heal your own personal land. And we better be doing some of that praying right in our churches. I know a lot of discussion goes on about who and what the church is these days. And I agree it is not a physical building. But it is a physical body of believers. So some of that praying (or a lot of it) better be done in the communion of that body of believers because God specifically says in 2 Chronicles 7:16 that is He particularly tuned in to prayer that occurs in His House; because that's the place He has chosen and consecrated to be used to glorify His name forever. And besides, that's where His eyes and His heart are and will be. You can't avoid the Church -- both the universal Body of Christ and the local body of believers. Don't stay home on Sundays unless you're dying of illness. There's no excuse no matter what your mind comes up with.

Then God speaks to Solomon about Solomon. "Okay, I'll hear my people if they humble themselves, pray, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways. But you Solomon (and that goes for each of us), you "walk before Me; you do according to all that I commanded you; and you keep my Laws, and I will establish your throne, Solomon!" Or, "I WILL increase your territory, Jabez. I WILL bless you Ken, Mary, Sally, Fred. That's a promise."

And that promise was carried right through to the New Testament when we check passage C. If we ask, it will be given to us; if we seek, we will find; and if we knock, it will be opened to us. But you see, it's all part and parcel of passage B. Passage A is what we want. Passage B is what God expects and promises. Passage C reconfirms the arrangement for the 21st century.

Passage A
1Ch 4:10 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.

Passage B
2Ch 7:13 "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people,
2Ch 7:14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2Ch 7:15 "Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer {offered} in this place.
2Ch 7:16 "For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.
2Ch 7:17 "As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, even to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances,
2Ch 7:18 then I will establish your royal throne as I covenanted with your father David, saying, 'You shall not lack a man {to be} ruler in Israel.'

Passage C
Mat 7:7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

Discover for yourself, if you already do not know, that God is in the business of saving the lost and blessing the found.

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