This past week, the nation celebrated Martin Luther King Jr and the work toward civil rights.
In his most famous speech, spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he declared: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
But, in the broken, fallible human experience, it is far easier to judge a person and "label" them on the basis of the pigment in their skin, or the possessions they own, or the clothes they wear, or the house they live in.
And, too often, it is these "labels" that seem to determine a persons future.
If a person labeled you "a loser" it may not be long before you believe you are a loser and begin to act accordingly.
Sadly, people are labeled all the time.
Such is the person we are going to look at this morning.
He was labeled.
His mom gave him the name "pain."
How would you like to have that name hang on you?
But, there was something different about this man!
He was not going to allow a label to dictate his future.
He was going to do something about it!
This two-verse account of a person praying a prayer seems a bit unusually placed.
The first part of 1 Chronicles is a list of names--many names.
1 Chronicles has recorded descendants from Adam to Jacob's sons.
The tribe of Judah is emphasized because they were the line of David (the second king of Israel).
The spiritual condition of Israel was not so much different as it is today.
Sometimes the people were passionate about God and serving Him with all their might.
At other times Israel drifted away from God, ignored God, and worshipped anything but God.
It is in this state of constant change and challenge that we are introduced to a man by the name of Jabez.
Thesis and Transition
Today you may feel labeled--thinking that your lot in life is defeat and pain--but God has afforded you a way that invites change and victory.
These two verses in 1 Chronicles is filled with a powerful theological punch--that can lift you out of your circumstances and place in you in the center of God's will for your life.
And, it begins and ends and caries you through with this critical biblical principle:
Character Counts in Prayer
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers... (1 Chron.
Jabez was a man of integrity--of good reputation--respected.
In fact, his character was head and shoulders above the norm.
We are reminded in Scripture how important integrity is to answered prayer:
This is no mystery: Our character impacts Our prayers.
Selfishness, pride, arrogance--all adversely affects our prayer life.
On the other hand, godly character will lead you to pray prayers that please God.
Jabez was a man of godly character--and that would carry him over a very sizeable obstacle in his life.
The label people give you is NOT your destiny--It's what God gives you that counts!
Illustration: When our first child was born, we gave her the name "Amariah Hope-Ann."
My wife and I wanted to give our daughter a name that would encourage and demonstrate our prayer for her life.
Amariah Hope-Ann means: "God has promised hope and grace."
For Jabez--it was different.
"...his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”
In the cultural setting of our story, people gave names to their children as a way of expressing their hopes and beliefs in what their child is or should be.
A name contained purpose, promise, and possibilities.
But, for whatever reason, the mother of Jabez gave him a name that represented pain, grief, and sorrow.
Maybe she had a very difficult pregnancy.
Maybe Jabez was born in a family that experienced tragedy or great hardship.
Or, maybe he was born in a time where the nation was facing famine, or surrounded by enemies, or a time of significant spiritual struggle or stagnation.
But, there was something in Jabez that would not settle for pain.
He chose not to allow the label he was given to determine his destiny.
Too many people feel trapped by their circumstance in life--being brought up in a dysfunctional family--making bad decisions as a teenager or young adult--experiencing the hardship or humiliation of being fired from a job or a broken marriage.
You feel your label is permanent.
So we convince ourselves that our lot in life is hopeless--that there is nothing we can do.
But, there is something you can do.
There is something that Jabez did--and it changed everything!
Seek God with all your heart
Jabez called upon the God is Israel.
He chose not to find the answers in his own abilities or intellect--but in God alone.
Jabez believed God would provide the answer he needed to live the overcoming life.
This is a biblical principle that is essential to experiencing true victory in your life.
Listen to what God said to Israel during a low point in their history--when they were exiled away from their land:
Faith, trust, belief--all essential to experience the blessings of God.
Without faith, you resist what God wants to do in your life.
Your prayers can be nothing more than wishful thinking, devoid of any confidence that God is greater than your need.
The integrity, faith, and actions of Jabez gave him the courage and insight to boldly petition God.
What did Jabez ask God? (Display next slide without me referring to it)
The Prayer of Jabez
I need Your blessing.
4:10a "Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my boarder."
Some people are put off by the boldness of this request--that it seems quite selfish to ask for God's blessing.
He asked God to bless him--to enlarge his boarders.
For the Israelite, land had a very important roll in ones life: land equated to livelihood, to dignity, to influence, to a worthwhile purpose.
Without it, he would continue to live under the shame of his label.
He was desperate and this was a desperate prayer--Jabez needed purpose.
He needed God's help to jettison the humiliation--to jettison the pain.
He needed a miracle.
He needed God's favor.
He needed God to enlarge his purpose and potential.
Maybe you can identify with Jabez.
You try to do all the right things--but it seems you get the raw end of the deal.
In the New Testament, Jesus makes clear not to settle--to remain empty and discouraged.
He invites to to ask--to pray and bring your requests to God--to not hold back.
But, Jabez did not stop there--he then made is most important request:
I need Your presence.
4:10b "...and that your hand might be with me..."
The "hand of the Lord" is a biblical term for God's power and presence in the lives of His people.
Jabez needed more than mere "stuff"--he needed the power and presence in his life to be an overcomer.
Just like Jabez, we need God's power and presence.
And, Jesus made clear what needs to happen:
The Holy Spirit's infilling is God's hand.
And when God's power and presence is in our lives, it begins to impact everyone around us.
In the book of Acts, the phenomenal success of the early church was attributed to one thing: