HUMBLE YOURSELVES UNDER GOD’S MIGHTY HAND, THAT HE MAY LIFT YOU UP IN DUE TIME. CAST ALL YOUR ANXIETY ON HIM BECAUSE HE CARES FOR YOU. (1 Peter 5: 6 – 7)
Welcome to our Web-Worship! May God bless you all!
JABEZ WAS MORE HONOURABLE THAN HIS BROTHERS. HIS MOTHER HAD NAMED HIM JABEZ, SAYING: -“ I GAVE BIRTH TO HIM IN PAIN”. JABEZ CRIED OUT TO THE GOD OF ISRAEL, – “OH, THAT YOU WOULD BLESS ME AND ENLARGE MY TERRITORY! LET YOUR HAND BE WITH ME AND KEEP ME FROM HARM SO THAT I WILL BE FREE FROM PAIN”. AND GOD GRANTED HIS REQUEST. (1 Chronicles 4: 9 – 10)
… THERE WAS GIVEN ME A THORN IN MY FLESH, A MESSENGER OF SATAN, TO TORMENT ME. THREE TIMES I PLEADED WITH THE LORDTO TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME. BUT HE SAID TO ME, “MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU, FOR MY POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS.”… (2 Corinthians 12: 7 – 9)
For whatever reason, the mother of Jabez – in this briefest of Bible biographies – gave him a name that represented pain, grief and sorrow. He grew up with a name any boy would hate. Just imagine some mocking questions like, “- what was your mother thinking…?”. In a passage that is thoroughly personal, Paul chose the metaphor of a thorn to speak of a life difficulty he experienced. He does not say what it was. It is enough to realize that it was an undesirable human condition, causing him pain. Jabez chose not to allow the label he was given to determine his destiny. Meanwhile Paul, speaking of himself, recounts it as a unique experience of divine revelation that gives him deep credibility in preaching God’s Word.
Too many people seem trapped by their circumstances in life, as we all are unavoidably locked into this World Pandemic. It is so humiliating to listen to the hurting news and get the feeling, that there is nothing we can do, apart from following some changeable rules. It becomes so easy – especially if you are older – to convince ourselves that our lot in life is more and more hopeless. But there something we can do. There is something that Jabez and Paul did – and it changes everything!
Jeremiah prophesied: – I know the plans I have for you, – declares the Lord, – plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you – declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 29: 11-14)
His prayer moved Jabez beyond the limits. He cried out to God, to no one else, and firmly believing that the Lord could meet his needs. Oh, that you would bless me, – Jabez says. He is crying out for the wonderful, unlimited goodness that only God has the power to know about or give to us. Jabez left it entirely up to God to decide what the blessing would be. Enlarge my territory, – he asks God, so he could make a greater impact for Him; more influence, more responsibility, more opportunity to make a mark for God. He knows that God is working through normal people who believe in a super-natural God who will do His work through them. God’s hand speaks of power and a touch of greatness. You do not become great; His greatness is being revealed through you. Without doubt success brings greater opportunity for failure; therefore, Jabez wants to be protected by God from harm and to be free from pain, – the label he was given at his birth. God answers prayer, even radical praying, so God granted his request.
Like Paul, we can expect to experience thorns in life and as he did, we need to adopt God’s perspective on thorns when they become part of our experience. When God gives us great privileges, He may give us thorns – Paul confesses – to keep us humble (vv. 2-7). Three times Paul had asked God to remove the thorn. His prayers surely indicate that he saw his circumstance as a heavy affliction. Yet this was a prayer that God chose not to answer in the way that Paul desired, but in the same time God clearly indicates that His greater glory would be accomplished in denying Paul’s request. Indeed, there is no such thing as “unanswered prayer”. Although His grace and power could remove the thorn, it is the ability to bear it that God sometimes chooses to enable. When He leaves us with a thorn, He provides grace sufficient to bear it (v9). It is striking to learn that the God-given ability to bear the pain of a thorn is a matter of divine grace, one of undeserved favour, for my power is made perfect in weakness, – says the Lord. In other words, when we humbly acknowledge our frailty or inability, we find that God accomplishes the extraordinary in and through us. Armed with a divine understanding of God’s good purposes for his thorn in his flesh, Paul can even speak of gladness and glory in his weakness. Therefore, he finds contentment in weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions and difficulties for Jesus’ sake, for he has learned that when he suffers such burdens, he is in a position to know, through experience, the strength that comes only from Christ.
It is not easy for me to say this, but in the terrifying threat of this deadly Covid-19 pandemic, I see clearly a divine opportunity to be drawn closer to God in humble dependence and to experience – like Jabez and Paul did – how God’s power will be made perfect in our weaknesses. AMEN.
Suggested Hymn: Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side; bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to thy God to order and provide; in every change He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord, when disappointment, grief and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
LET US PRAY:
Almighty God, we are not as strong as we think we are. The burdens of this sudden pandemic caught us defenceless. Our patience is stretched to the limit and the anxiety is overwhelming. As we think of those who have passed away or are suffering because of this Coronavirus, help us Lord to pray and believe that You will never leave us, nor forsake us. That You are a God of power, revitalising our spirits and renewing our strength. As things are weighing heavily upon us, flow into our hearts and out through our lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. We thank You, Lord, that we can bring you our deepest needs, our inner yearning for meaning and purpose, confident that, when we ask in faith, you will hear and answer. Help us, for we need your guidance. Be with each and every human being of your created world and bless all as people turn to you. We pray for loved ones in this painful separation as the weeks go by and join in prayer for those in care-home or hospital loneliness. We bring before you all those affected in Home Farm Care Home, Portree and our beautiful and now quiet Skye. Bless all NHS-staff in our country as they work hard to alleviate the pain of many and saving lives.
We pray for all those who keep our country going. Be with Her Majesty our Queen, Her Family and Government. Bless Your Christian Church Universal in all its branches. We pray for our Church of Scotland in all its presbyteries and congregations, for every member of our own Christian fellowship. Dear Lord, though faith cannot insulate us from being hurt by our circumstances, we thank you for being there to comfort, ready to mend our broken hearts and wipe away the tears. Thank you that, in sickness or in health, joy or sorrow, your arms continue to enfold us, eternity held in your embrace. In you alone lies our hope. Reach out and deliver us from this storm, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.
THE LORD’S PRAYER is always there for us to sum up all our petitions by saying: OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN. . .
MAY THE LORD OF PEACE HIMSELF GIVE YOU PEACE AT ALL TIMES AND IN EVERY WAY. THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST BE WITH YOU ALL. AMEN.
Sandor, your Minister.