November 26, 2015

A Deeper Thanks!

Written By Cary Schmidt

Jabez was a pretty awesome guy!

He was born with name that means “sorrow” and sounds like the Hebrew expression of “ouch.” He could have accepted the fate that his name and family predicted. He could have let whatever sorrowful circumstances resulted in that name also determine his fate. From his disadvantaged birth, most would have guessed he was on a fast track to a life of hurt.

Yet, Jabez defied the odds. He took a different path. He made different choices, and God described him as “more honourable” than his peers. He chose God. He chose a life of honor toward God. He chose a life of worship, obedience, and devotion.

From the context of his yielded, honorable heart, he prayed a big prayer, with faith in a big God—and he received a big answer. He wasn’t trying to manipulate God. He wasn’t leveraging God for personal pleasure or self-interest. He wasn’t merely exploiting God to do his personal bidding.

Jabez was cooperating with God in His greater will and eternal purpose. He wanted his life to be what God eternally purposed it to be. He wanted to be in on what God truly desired to do with his life.

Any time we pray for God’s blessing in life, we are asking for something “off the scale” of our human understanding! Any answer from such an infinite being would be infinitely bigger than our small thinking.

There’s more to Jabez’s prayer than we can visit in this post, but several truths particularly apply to Thanksgiving! Here’s the prayer…

“And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.” (1 Chronicles 4:10) 

When Jabez said, “bless me indeed” he was asking for “blessed blessings”—like asking for “gold gold!” He was asking for the real thing—by God’s definition. He wanted God’s true blessings, not merely the temporal satisfaction of some earthly pleasure or possession. Jabez wanted real, Divine, eternal blessings. “God, give me blessings by your definition, not my own.”

When I was a kid, my brothers and I were watching after-school TV one day when we happened across an infomercial offering a beautiful collection of “Genuine Faux Diamonds” for only $19.95.

We were astounded! Genuine faux diamonds for under $20—who could dream of such a great deal. We were eager to have our dad place an order for us, until he looked at us with a wry smile and said, “Do you guys even know what the word ‘faux’ means?”

We stared back blankly—our naiveté glowing from our gullible faces. At this point he explained that “faux” simply means “fake.” We were literally trying to purchase “genuine fake diamonds.” Our next question was “Who would be stupid enough to buy genuine fake diamonds?” To which he replied, “Apparently you guys!

Often in our prayers, without realizing it, we are praying temporally—for our will, our wants, our immediate fulfillment. In actuality we are praying for “genuine faux blessings!

If God gave us everything we thing we want, we would suddenly find out we don’t really want it! He always gives us what we would ask for if we knew what He knows and see what He sees. He always answers prayer from His perspective, and in our eternal best interest.

He gives “blessed blessings!” And that’s what Jabez desired.

Several words later, Jabez says, “and that thine hand might be with me.” The picture here is that of God’s extended hand being opened to Jabez. He was asking God to open his hand toward Him. Why? Because He wanted God to be with him, and he wanted to be with God. This is not merely a prayer for things from the hand. It’s a prayer for the presence of the God attached to the hand!

An open hand can mean two things. It can mean, “give me what is in your hand.” Or it can mean “give me your hand.” The two are very different.

As the father of a teenage girl, I know what she means when she comes to me with that sweet look, telling me that she’s about to go shopping. She is hoping my hand will be opened to her, but it’s not about the hand. It’s about what’s in the hand—preferably a wallet with some cold, hard cash!

You see, often (and not that this is always bad) Haylee is hoping my open hand toward her will have something in it to give to her. That makes the relationship one-directional—me giving, her receiving. It makes the relationship one-dimensional—exploitative in some sense—simply a means to the end of “getting what I want.”

Yet, not long ago, I learned something else about Haylee’s heart in this father-daughter relationship. God allowed Dana and I to take her away for a few days of rest and time together. We surprised her with a few days at Disney World.

During the week we made a million theme-park memories, but one recurring memory stands out above all the others. Haylee hardly knew that I noticed, but I will never forget!

As we stepped off the tram at our first theme park—Animal Kingdom—Haylee almost subconsciously and quite unobtrusively reached out and held my hand. I was already holding my wife’s hand, and was delighted and surprised that Haylee reached for the other one.

“How nice,” I thought, “but as a fifteen-year-old girl, this probably won’t last long in public.”

To my delight, all day every day that week, Haylee continually reached for my hand. We walked most of the week, hand in hand.

Haylee didn’t just want my opened hand. She didn’t just want cash from the hand. She wanted the hand, and hence the heart attached to it! She wanted my hand opened to her so she could hold on to it, cling to it, and cherish the relationship connected to it! She wanted to be with me and enjoyed that I was with her!

I believe that’s how Jabez felt! Jabez wasn’t simply thankful for God’s wallet, he was thankful for the God attached to the wallet! He wanted the heart not just the stuff. He wanted to walk with God through life, not just to “get stuff from God.”

Haylee made the relationship two-way. She didn’t only receive from the hand, she gave herself—she placed her hand into my hand. She blessed me, as I live to bless her!

This Thanksgiving, may I encourage you—make your relationship with Jesus two-way!

Bless Him by holding His hand, even as He blesses you by extending His.

Surely be thankful for the stuff He has given you. But more deeply—be thankful for His hand—His presence— and for the loving, gracious, generous heart that is attached to that hand!

Be thankful for the relationship, not just the blessings that flow from the relationship.

Bless God for who He is, not merely what He has given you. Everything He has given you (as abundantly as it is) is all given that we might see and know and love His heart!

Move from receiving from His hand to holding His hand. Enjoy Him. Love Him. For forward with Him, and relish the promise that He is with you!

His handed is extended, not merely so you can receive from it, but that may hold it—cling to Him and truly discover that He is everything you could ever want!

Happy Thanksgiving! May God bless you with His evident presence today!

Thanks for letting me borrow a few moments of your time today!