Where do you search for renewal – from your strength or your weakness? In his book, Made for His Pleasure, Alistair Begg wrote about the overwhelming effect resulting from the death of his mother. He was only 20 years of age! Regarding the incident, he opines that “more spiritual progress is made through failure and tears than success and laughter” (p. 106).
Can you agree that our search is to be dependent upon God in everything? Jesus instructed us to not worry about our life, about what we will eat, drink, or even about how we will be clothed. We are to trust that the Father will take care of us (Matthew 6.25ff). Years ago my Father and I attended a conference and heard Alistair Begg speaking about our relationship with God. His words have often encouraged me: “If dependence is the objective, then weakness is an advantage.”
It is hard to believe that Bruce Wilkinson’s best-selling book – The Prayer of Jabez – was first released way back in April 2000. In the book, Wilkinson encouraged Christians to invoke the simple prayer of Jabez. “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from the evil one.” And God granted his request. (1 Chronicles 4.9-10, NIV)
In fact, he issues a challenge:
- I challenge you to make the Jabez prayer for blessing part of the daily fabric of your life. To do that, I encourage you to follow unwaveringly the plan outlined here for the next thirty days. By the end of that time, you’ll be noticing significant changes in your life, and the prayer will be on its way to becoming a treasured, lifelong habit.
Where do we turn?
My experience over the past decade, however, is that most people are not really ready for greater territory. Most do not want greater responsibility. People are struggling with what they believe to be “a vast army.” It expresses itself in multiple ways: trials, temptations, worries, sickness, dysfunctional marriages, etc., etc., etc. Read the story of Jehoshaphat found in 2 Chronicles 17 – 20. When his father Ada dies, Jehoshaphat begins his reign “devoted to the ways of the Lord” and we are told “the Lord was with Jehoshaphat.” But things changed. He allied himself with a king who did not follow the ways of David, nor seek guidance from God (YHWH).
Chapter 20 begins with a transitional phrase – “After this…” After the defeat of Ahab (and his death), Jehoshaphat was able to escape and return to Jerusalem. He listened to the admonishment of Hanani and repented. He once again began to seek God personally and for his kingdom. But trouble was still to come in the form of a “vast army.” Three groups came to do battle with Judah… “the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites.” We are told that Jehoshaphat was afraid. So what was his decision as the King? He “set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.”
The posture of dependence on God comes out in the conclusion of his prayer: “…we have no power to face this vast army that is coming attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20.12, NIV). This is the prayer that I pray on a regular basis. When trouble comes, whether small or “a vast army,” I acknowledge that I am powerless and not all that wise, but my eyes will remain on God!