Bob Tamasy: What If God’s Greatest Blessings Can’t Be Touched Or Held?

  • Monday, June 24, 2024
  • Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

“It’s a blessing.” “I’ve been blessed.” “Count your blessings.” How often have you heard people say things like that? I think we’d all agree blessings are good, but have you ever wondered what people really mean when they talk about being blessed?

American culture tends to equate blessings with material advantages – a really nice home; a successful, rewarding career; high-achieving, energetic children; a long, relatively pain-free life. After stirring victories, we often hear athletes talk about how they’ve been blessed.

But should being blessed always be understood in terms of tangible “stuff” and achievements?

Years ago, Dr. Bruce Wilkinson authored a popular little book called The Prayer of Jabez. It was based on an obscure fellow named Jabez, mentioned only one time in the Bible. In the passage, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, we’re told:

“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.”

That’s it. Two verses about Jabez, nestled almost like an afterthought in the midst of a long genealogical parade of Judah’s descendants. The first time we hear about Jabez – and the last. Curious, isn’t it?

Actually, it’s easy to speed-read past Jabez, except the passage does give us a bit of insight about him: He was more honorable than his brothers, although it doesn’t explain in what ways. We’re told his mother bore him in pain and chose his name accordingly. Perhaps most important, he offered a simple prayer that God would “bless me indeed and enlarge my territory” (or “expand my borders,” as another translation states it). One other thing – God granted him what he requested.

It's interesting that the Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to Jabez. If we trust the Scriptures, we know God did bless him and enlarge his territory. But we don’t know in what ways, how the Lord did it, or what kinds of things Jabez did. What we do know is that he boldly asked God’s blessing – and received it. End of story.

What are we to take away from this mini-Bible lesson? After Wilkinson’s book came out, and especially after it had achieved best-seller status, critics accused him of promoting so-called “prosperity theology,” the “health and wealth gospel” perspective on God’s blessings. Given the materialistic context in which we’ve lived for many decades, that might not be surprising.

However, that was never my impression – nor is it today. I first heard Wilkinson’s message about Jabez at a conference several years before it appeared in print. My sense then, as well as after I read the book, was the blessings Jabez sought were more in line with Jesus’ later command to “go and bear fruit – fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

The message on Jabez inspired me, as it did many thousands of others who heard or read it, to pray the same prayer, asking God to bless me indeed and enlarge my territory. Some may have interpreted those blessings in terms of “stuff,” but I never did. I didn’t pray for a luxury car or a mansion on a hill (although in the eyes of probably 90 percent of the world’s population, my home might still perceived as such).

What I did pray for was that the Lord would give me the privilege of being a fruitful laborer in His kingdom, through my journalistic training and passion for writing, as well as participating in His Great Commission to “go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19).

God’s response can only be described in the words of Ephesians 3:20: “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Knowing how I could have benefited earlier in my life if an older, more mature believer had come along to disciple/mentor me, I prayed that the Lord would lead me to one man in whom I could invest and grow spiritually together. Within three months, He had sent two men my way. And I’ve had the joy of meeting with dozens of other men in the years since.

In a number of different ways, God also has given me the opportunity to present biblical truths in writing to people all around the world. When I prayed for Him to “enlarge my territory,” it never occurred to me to make such an ambitious request.

Is it wrong to pray for material blessings? I don’t think so – as long as we ask with the right motives. I’ve known many people whom God has indeed blessed financially, but they’ve been beyond generous in supporting ministries and charitable causes they believe in, providing resources for those works to grow and influence countless lives for eternity.

Again and again in the Scriptures we read how God delights in blessing His children. In Psalm 84:11-12 we read, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk with uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You.” I understand this to mean that if it’s good for us and we need it, we can trust God to provide it.

Much more could be said. Volumes have been written about this, along with thousands of sermons preached. Jabez might have been barely known, even in the Bible. But he had the courage to pray, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’” Maybe, if our desire is to honor and glorify the Lord, it’s okay for us to pray that too.

* * *

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is btamasy@comcast.net.

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