When you ask God for an apple, don’t be so disappointed or surprised when He gives you a seed! But why would God give a seed instead of the fruit? Because the blessings of God are usually delivered in seed-form. Why? Because the fruit is the end-result. The fruit is mature and cannot grow or expand anymore. It is the nature of any fully ripe fruit to be perishable and if not soon consumed, will soon began to decay!
On the other hand, a seed has unlimited potential and an almost unlimited self-life! You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the apples in a seed! A fully ripe apple will only last for a limited amount of time before it starts to decay. But an apple seed has a much longer life span and unlimited potential.
If God only gave us what we ask for, our lives would be so limited. But, in God’s infinite wisdom, God knows we really don’t know what to ask for, so He does exceedingly, abundantly above all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). However, we often fail to recognize, appreciate, or appropriate the exceeding, abundant, above supply of God because it is usually delivered in the form of a seed. So, the next blessing you receive and you think it is not enough, it’s probably not a fruit for you to eat, but rather a seed for you to plant!
When I woke up this morning and checked my Messenger app, I read this message entitled: “30 Second Prayer.”
It said: “Lord, thank you for this Great Day! I love you and I need you to come into my heart to bless Me, my Family, my Home, my Work, my Friends and my special Loved Ones, Amen.” The message went on to say: “Please send this prayer to a minimum of 20 People. Something good will happen to you tomorrow at 10:30 am. Someone will call you be phone or will talk to you about something you were waiting to have. This is not a joke. Do not break this Prayer. Miracles do happen.”
Well, when I read this, I was immediately struck by the selfishness of the prayer! But then, we do live in a selfish and self-centered culture! We are so selfish and self-centered that we think Christianity and faith is all about what God can do for us! Now, I am going to say this now, so you can decide whether or not you want to continue reading the rest of this post: Much of what we read and see on Facebook and other social media platforms is not representative of real Christianity or real biblical faith! Much of what we see and read falls into the category of what can be called; Facebook theology or media theology.
Like the folk theology of yester-years, Facebook or media theology is theology that is constructed, not from a correct study and exegesis of the biblical text, but rather from a cursory reading of the Bible, that produces swallow and often non-sensical theological thoughts and concepts. Because we are living in the “Google Age,” most people don’t take the time to do in-depth Bible study for themselves, they just look up what someone else has said on the Internet. They think that just because it’s on the Internet; it must be true!
But let’s dissect and analyze this prayer to illustrate my point. “Lord, thank you for this Great Day!” So far, so good! We should all be thankful for any and every day we’re on top of the dirt and the dirt is not on top of us! And, every day is indeed a great day! But the prayer goes on: “I love you and I need you to come into my heart to bless Me . . . . .” Here’s where the real issues are: The prayer acknowledges a love for the Lord, but immediately moves to what ‘I need’ the Lord to do for me! No acknowledgement of the Lord’s majesty or sovereignty, it immediately goes to what ‘I need’ the Lord to do for me! But then, it is ‘a 30-second prayer!’ But the prayer asks the Lord to come into my heart to bless me, my family, my home, etc. Well, many people might be shocked to know that the primary purpose of the Lord coming into our lives is NOT TO BLESS US! Salvation or the Lord coming into our life IS THE BLESSING! Our primary quest should not be for what God can do for us; our primary quest should be for God Himself! In the Bible, we are not instructed to seek His blessings; we are instructed to seek Him! The reason for that is because when you have Him; you already have all the blessings you will ever need! The Apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” (ESV) Note the tense; he didn’t say ‘will bless,’ he said ‘has blessed.’ If you are in Christ, you don’t need to be blessed, because you’ve already been blessed! Now, I hear you! You’re saying, “That’s sounds good, but Paul was talking about ‘spiritual blessings in the heavenly places’ but I need material blessings in the earthly realm!” Well, you have to understand that everything material is produced from or has it’s genesis in the spiritual! It is the spiritual that produces the physical. If it is not produced by the spiritual in the spiritual realm, it will not be manifested in the material or physical realm! The Apostle Peter wrote to his readers in 2 Peter 1:2-3: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (ESV) Again, note the tense: “His divine power ‘has granted’ to us ‘all things’ that pertain to life and godliness. . . .” My point is this, if we are in Christ: Every blessing we need; we already have! We don’t need to pray for God to bless us because God already has blessed us with every blessing God has to give! God cannot give us what God has already given to us! No! We don’t need to be praying for God to give us more blessings; we need to be praying for the wisdom and understanding to manifest the blessings we already have!
Now what really got me was the message said: “Please send this prayer to a minimum of 20 people. Something good will happen to you tomorrow at 10:30 am.. . .” I understand the Old Testament Prophet told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River seven times, but I think much of what is happening today is not Divine instructions but rather superstitious bent toward on luck or chance! In this case, the prayer is not enough, I must send it to 20 people in order for something good to happen at 10:30 am! Well, when you think about it; if you wake up in the morning, something good has already happened, long before 10:30 am, unless you are a late sleeper!
But do we actually think we can be blessed and be right with God by simply saying a prayer and sending it to 20 people on Facebook Messenger? Seriously? I’ve even received chain messages that imply if I break the chain and don’t pass it on; I won’t be blessed and I don’t love the Lord! Seriously? I tell the members of the church I serve: “Your best witness for Jesus at your work-place is not sending out Facebook chain prayers or messages when you should be working! Your best witness for Jesus on your job is to do your job with a spirit of excellence!
Facebook and other social media platforms can be excellent tools for spreading the Gospel, but we should make sure we are indeed spreading Gospel and not religious folk-superstition! The Apostle John said in his context: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 ESV) If he were writing today in our contemporary culture and context, he would write: “My friends, do no believe, pass on, or repost every Facebook or Messenger posts you receive. Read and study your Bible to make sure the message is biblically sound and theologically correct first! For there are many who are posting today who have not read or studied the Bible and are not of God!”
Having a spirit of unforgiveness is detrimental to our spiritual, mental, and physical health. When we don’t forgive and insist on holding grudges, we don’t hurt the person we don’t forgive or the one we’re holding a grudge against; we’re hurting our own selves.
Unforgiveness is detrimental to us spiritually because Jesus said, if we don’t forgive others; the Father will not forgive us! Think about it! There is no wrong anyone can do to us that is greater than the wrong we have already done to God! But those who are in right relationship with God have been forgiven of their sins and are forgiven by God on a daily basis! Therefore, when we refuse to forgive others, we are, in a sense, making ourselves to be greater than God!
Being unforgiving hinders our faith and prevents God from hearing our prayers! In Mark 11:22-26, Jesus makes the connection between moving mountains, receiving the things we desire when we pray and forgiveness.
Being unforgiving is detrimental to us mentally because strife, resentment, and other negative emotions that come with being unforgiving actually weaken and disempower us! They make us restless and angry, thereby inhibiting our ability to think positively and productively. When we refuse to forgive, we re-live the hurt over and over again in our minds; not allowing ourselves to emotionally heal.
Being unforgiving is detrimental to us physically because the doctors have discovered that our physical well-being is directly connected to our spiritual and mental health! When we are unforgiving for long periods of time, the resentment can manifest physically in the form of chronic high blood pressure, heart problems, cancers, and other health issues.
The bottom line is this; refusing to forgive is spiritual, emotional, and physical suicide! We don’t hurt the person we don’t forgive; but we are killing ourselves.
When someone has done us wrong, we’ve got to learn to forgive easily and quickly. Doing so doesn’t mean the person has taken advantage of us or walked over us; it means we are spiritually and emotionally mature and not spiritually and emotionally stupid! We would do well with a slight adaptation of the words of the late “Rev” Teddy Pendergrass: “We just need to let it go; it’s just another love T. K. O!”
In 1 John 5:14-15, we read: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (KJV) This passage contains one of the great “secrets” to answered prayer. But the sad reality today is that there are many so-called Christians who lack confidence in prayer. And one of the reasons they lack confidence in prayer is because they lack confidence in God!
But why is this the case? Why would people lack confidence in God? Well, you can’t have confidence in someone you don’t trust! And you can’t trust or have faith in someone you don’t know! And you can’t know someone without having a relationship with them! And you can’t have a relationship with them if you have no communication or interaction with them! Simply put, many people lack confidence in prayer because they lack confidence in God! And they lack confidence in God because, contrary to the doctrinal creeds they espouse; they have no real personal relationship with God.
But God is “knowable” and God desires to have a personal relationship with all of us! We can “know” God through His word because that is the how God reveals Himself to us. Just as we can know any person through their word; we can know God through His word! Now the text we cited states that if we ask anything according to God’s will, God hears us! How can we know what we ask is according to His will? By reading His word! His word reveals His will!
Now, the prime prerequisite to confidence in prayer is that we have a proper relationship with God! Contrary to popular belief, God doesn’t hear every prayer a sinner prays! The only prayer God hears from a sinner is the prayer of repentance! Until we repent of our sins and turn to God for forgiveness and salvation, we have no basis for a relationship with God! In fact, even after we are in right relationship with God, God still doesn’t hear our prayers if we are out of sorts with Him because of unconfessed sins, or out of sorts with one another because of strife or un-forgiveness! So you see, prayer is not just the matter of a “magical chant!” There are certain preconditions that must be met and maintained! But once the prerequisites are met and maintain, we can have confidence that God will hear and answer our prayers!
One last word about having confidence in God in regard to prayer: Prayer should never be a last resort; it should always be a first response! Prayer is communion and communication with God! Prayer is not simply a means of giving God a “shopping list” of the things you want! How would you feel if you had a friend and the only time you heard from them was when they needed you or wanted you to do something for them? No! Prayer is not an emergency measure, to be used only in case of emergencies; it is the normal everyday means of maintaining a healthy relationship with God. Real prayer is not just us talking to God, but also allowing God to speak to us! When a real prayer-relationship with God is the normal everyday routine, we can have the confidence the biblical writer wrote about! We can have confidence that whatever we ask according to His will, He hears and will grant us the petitions we ask of Him!
It seems as if the church-world today is obsessed with the idea of being blessed by God, so much so that many are praying to God for God to bless them! To legitimize their prayer to be blessed, they often cite the prayer of Jabaz. So, I thought it would be a good idea to take a fresh look at the prayer of Jabaz in its biblical context. The prayer is found in 2 Chronicles 4:10, where we find Jabaz praying to the God of Israel. The King James Versions reads: “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 KJV)
Now at first glance, this seems to be a simple prayer request for God to bless Jabaz, to enlarge his territory, to be with him, and to keep him from evil so that it (evil?) would not grieve him. But let’s take a closer look and see if it’s really just that simple. First of all, in order to get the proper context, we need to back up to verse 9, which reads: “And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.” (1 Chronicles 4:9 KJV) Since verse 10 is joined to verse 9 by the conjunction; “and” we know that these two verses are conjoined in thought. So together they read: “And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. 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.”
A key to our understanding of the text is an understanding of the meaning of Jabez’s name. The name; “Jabez” meant; “sorrow, to grieve.” According to the text, his mother gave him that name because she bore him in sorrow. Apparently, Jabaz’s birth came after a hard and grievous labor or birthing process! Hence, his name was indicative of the hard labor his mother went through when he was born. But look at the text again! Right before we read about how his mother bore him in sorrow, we read: “And Jabez was more honorable than his brethren.” Now what in the world does the fact that Jabez was more honorable than his brethren have to do with his birth being hard and grievous labor? There seems to be no correlation! Taken side by side, the two statements seem to have nothing to do with one another! What does the fact that Jabez was more honorable than his brethren have to do with his mother having pain at his birth? At first glance; nothing! Unless. . . . we’ve missed something in how we have traditionally translated the text! Let me show you what I’m talking about! In verse 9, the English word “honourable” in the Hebrew text is the word; “kabod.” It has a variety of literal meanings, such as; “to be heavy, be weighty, be grievous, be hard, be rich, be honourable, be glorious, be burdensome, be honoured.” Now, we have traditionally translated the term in the text to denote “honor.” But what if the author really meant to denote weight or heaviness? What if the meaning the author really wanted to convey was the idea that Jabaz weighted more and was therefore “more heavier” than his brothers, thereby causing his mother more pain and grief in his birth than his brothers had caused her in their births? And as a consequence, she gave him the name; “Jabez (Sorrowful)” to signify the distress, pain, and grief she had in birthing him? If we accept that translation, the two verses together make perfect sense!
But, wait a minute! If we do accept that translation, then that throws a “monkey-wrench” into the theological implications many have taken from the prayer of Jabez! If we accept that translation, then we must conclude that the prayer Jabaz prayed was really a simple request that God would not allow him to live up to (or down to) his name! Maybe, instead of asking God for the abundance that most modern-day readers think he was asking for, maybe Jabez was just simply asking God to bless him to the point that he would not fulfill the destiny that his name implied!
I raise this point because I think it is dangerous to try to set or establish a theological principle on just one or a few verses in the Bible! Aside from this text and the occurrence of Jacob holding on to a wrestler in Genesis 32:26, the Bible gives no other indication that we should be praying for a blessing or blessings from God! In fact, the Bible is filled with the idea that God blesses us, not because we ask God to bless us, but rather because it’s just God’s nature to bless. In the creation account in Genesis 1, there is a constant refrain: “And God blessed them.” They did not pray for God to bless them, God blessed them because it was and is just God’s nature to bless God’s creation!
Not only is it just God’s nature to bless, the Bible also indicates that God blesses or makes people blessed not as an answer to prayer, but rather in response to obedience! In Genesis 12:1-3, we read: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3 KJV) God promised Abram that he would be blessed as a result of his obedience to the commands of God! We might also note that God didn’t bless Abram just to bless Abram! God blessed Abram so that Abram would also be a blessing! The same principle is found in Deuteronomy 28:1-2: “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.” (KJV) Note in this text, Moses told the Children of Israel that if they would just be careful to be completely obedient to the word of the Lord, the blessings of the Lord would “come upon them and overtake them!” We’ve got it twisted! It is not God’s will for us to be seeking blessings; it is God’s will for blessings to be seeking us! David said in Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Ps. 23:6 KJV) What most English readers don’t realize is that the Hebrew word in that verse that is translated as “follow” is actually a Hebrew word that means; “to pursue, or to run after.” So the picture David was portraying was not that of goodness and mercy (blessings) passively following David like a little puppy-dog following his master, but rather it was that of goodness and mercy (blessings) actively and aggressively pursuing after or hunting David like a wild animal hunting its prey! The same idea is expressed by Jesus in Matthew 6:31-33 where Jesus said: “Therefore take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (KJV) In the KJV translation, to “take thought” is to be anxious or overly concerned about. Jesus said that if we would just make the Kingdom of God the top priority in our lives, the blessings we need in life would come as a matter of course!
There is a pre-occupation today by many Christians with what the Bible says shouldn’t be a concern at all! We’re stressing for blessings when the Bible says we shouldn’t be stressed at all! If we would really seek God with the same intensity that many are seeking to be blessed by God, then we would indeed be blessed! Perhaps we would do well to remember that nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to “seek His hand” but we are instructed to “seek His face!” Yes! If we would honestly seek Him, then we would automatically receive all the blessings He has for us!