Living Toward Death and The Prayer of Jabez
You do realize, don’t you, that among our thousands of readers—and visitors to our ministry web site—some will die this year—in 2011? Could YOU be one of them? The question is not “Are you prepared to die?” The question is “Are you prepared to live—really live!—during your journey?” If Jesus is Immanuel—God fully present with you in the NOW of your life—then He will be just as fully present with you at the time you die…and beyond. I know, I know it’s the beginning of a brand-new year full, presumably full of hope for a bright future. And you’re thinking, “Why is Bill writing about death and dying? Shouldn’t he be writing about the new year full of hope and great things God may have in store for me?” That’s all very true. I do hope the new year of 2011 is full of bright hope for your life-journey in 2011. I do hope that God has great things in store for you this year. But the stark reality is that some of my readers—maybe even me—will die during 2011. Some of us might not live to see Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Wow! That’s kinda morbid, isn’t it?
My Deep, Dark Secret
Can I tell you a secret about me? I get upset with some (not all) people who approach me on the street or in a public place and harshly and accusingly ask me: “Do you know Jesus? Are you prepared to die?” I just don’t appreciate the haughty and condescending attitude some of those people display when they approach me and ask me such questions. So…I devised an answer that kinda startles them and maybe gets them to thinking about the manner in which they approach people. I respond to such questions: “I’ll be damned if I’m not!” Hey, I’m not swearing or cursing; take a minute and think about my answer. Have you done that? Are you okay with my answer? I hope so. I don’t want to offend you. Anyhow, we do need to have a personal relationship with Jesus. We do need to be prepared to die. Because it’s gonna happen to each one of us…sooner or later.
The Year We Call 2011!
Having said all that, now I want to go ahead and wish you a happy new year—a successful and prosperous new year! Remember how I defined “success” and “prosperity” from the Bible in last February’s issue of The Traveler? If not, let me know, and I can e-mail you that issue again from our archives. I really do wish you a great journey during 2011! A year full of blessings, peace, success, and prosperity from God. I pray for God to pour his love and grace into your life abundantly and overflowing. I pray for you to have a deep, abiding, personal relationship with Jesus—a relationship that will remain fresh and intimate all year.
I’ve stated on many occasions that when you enter a new year, you can enter that year full of assurance that God has gone before you throughout the entire year; He has already walked ahead of you through all the days and weeks of this year we call 2011, and He knows exactly what will happen to you throughout this year. Your year called 2011 is in God’s hands…and you are in his hands, and all will be well. Whether you live or die, God will be fully present with you during your journey in all the days, weeks, and months of 2011!
A Brief Prayer In The Bible
For the past decade or so, a tiny little book entitled The Prayer of Jabez has positively influenced the lives of millions of people around the world. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you get a copy of the book by Bruce Wilkinson. In this issue of The Traveler. I simply want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned from the book. The “prayer of Jabez” comes from a reference in the Old Testament of the Bible: 1 Chronicles 4: 10. In that reference, a fellow traveler named Jabez prayed a simple prayer one day about 2,400 years ago. We don’t know much about Jabez; we just know that he prayed a brief prayer and that God granted him what he requested. Other than that, we don’t have any details at all—just that he prayed and God answered his prayer. I look forward to meeting Jabez in person in God’s Kingdom after Jesus returns to planet earth. I want to sit down with him and learn all about Jabez’s life and the amazing ways in which God answered his simple prayer.
First, Jabez prayed that God would power-fully and wonder-fully bless him. Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t that kind of a selfish prayer? Shouldn’t I pray for God to bless other people, not me?” Yes…and no. If I pray “properly” for God to bless me, the intent of my prayer is that God will bless me…only so that I—in turn—will be in a position to bless others. In the Bible, what does “bless” mean? It means to live a full life of success and prosperity so that I can, in turn, bless other people with the blessings God gives me. It’s a concept that expresses the special joys and satisfaction experienced by a person who is a God-believer through Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I want God to bless me in that manner, so that I can reach out and bestow those types of blessings upon other people during our journeys together. So…I’ll be praying daily throughout 2011 for God to bless me.
Jabez prayed that God would “enlarge his borders, his territory.” At the time, Jabez was literally praying that God would give him and his tribespeople more land so they could raise more livestock and grow more crops. I don’t feel we’re doing an injustice to the intent of the Bible or misusing it if we echo this portion of Jabez’s prayer throughout 2011 as a springboard for our own prayers, asking God something like this: God, enlarge—expand—my influence, expand my ‘calling,’ expand my ministry, expand my outreach to other people. In 2011, please empower me to tell more people the Good News about Jesus. God, increase my income so I can give more money back to You. God, give me more opportunities be a witness to others about You and your great salvation through Jesus….”
Ministry of Prisoners
I write to a number of prisoners throughout USAmerica and send some of them a “hard copy” of The Traveler. I often encourage them that even within the limitations of their confinement, they can ask God to expand their witness and “ministry” to other prisoners and to prison employees. I strongly encourage them to engage in a personal “prayer ministry” where their prayers can give them a vital, meaningful, worldwide ministry of reaching out to hundreds and thousands of other prisoners. Another thing I encourage them to do is pray for thousands of other Jesus-believers around the world who are imprisoned and tortured because of their faith in Jesus. So…for you prisoners reading this issue of The Traveler, during 2011 ask God to “enlarge your territory” as your brother, Jabez, prayed many centuries ago.
Next, our brother Jabez prayed that God’s hand would be upon him. That’s a biblical expression meaning God’s presence and power. Jabez was praying that God would fill him with his presence and power. Be careful in praying that for yourself. When God answers you, He might want to take full control of your life and radically change some things that need changing. It’s no small matter for you to pray for God to fill you with his mighty power and presence within you. Yes, it’s true that God is always fully present with you, but this prayer means you’re asking God for his tangible, palpable presence to fill you and empower you for service and ministry to other people. In effect, you are praying for God to be fully with you and inyou during 2011, power-fully displaying and exhibiting Himself to others through you and as you, wrapped in your skin. Be very careful what you pray for in 2011….
You’re A Minister and Priest
You do know, don’t you that every Jesus-believer is a minister of the Good News about Jesus? And a priest? You don’t have to attend seminary, be ordained, and wear a distinctive collar in order to be a minister or priest. I invite you to look again at 1 Peter 2: 9 as you did in last October’s issue of The Traveler. Where else do we find in the Bible that you are a minister, as well as a priest? Carefully read the 5th and 6th chapters of 2 Corinthians. There you’ll find the following: YOU are a “minister of reconciliation.” YOU are an “ambassador for Jesus.” You are a “co-laborer” with Jesus. I don’t know how you understand such references (and others throughout the New Testament), but it sounds to me like YOU are one of God’s ministers. And to be a “successful” minister of God during 2011, you must be filled with God’s presence and power. If not, why would you even bother to “minister” to others?
Finally, Jabez prayed that God would keep him from evil. Where have you heard something like that before? Hmmmm… How about the so-called Lord’s Prayer in Matthew, chapter 6? I won’t discuss this fourth part of Jabez’s prayer at any length because you either know what it means or you don’t. However, I do encourage you to read one of my teachings on our ministry web site entitled Soldier’s Training Manual if you want to know more details about praying for God to keep you from evil.
Well, there you have it—the prayer of our brother, Jabez about 2,400 years ago. I encourage you to adapt it to your own situation and pray it meaningfully every day throughout your journey in 2011. And then stand back and see how God will answer your version of Jabez’s prayer! If you’ll allow Him to keep you continually filled with his presence and power, you will experience a year unlike any you’ve ever before experienced. Have a great journey during 2011!
Living Toward Death
A famous philosopher once bleakly described human existence as “living toward death.” That may be true of pre-believers, but for the Jesus-believer this life is living toward Jesus’ coming Kingdom and eternity, where death is only the Kingdom’s gateway. The authentic Jesus-believer aims past this life, past death, to true eternal LIFE. So…live or die in 2011, it’s a “done deal” and God is now and forever fully present with you and in you as Jesus in his unbodied form of the Holy Spirit. Live or die during your journey in 2011, you win!
“I know what I’m doing. I have 2011 all thought out–thoughts to take care of you, not abandon you, thoughts to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. I’ll turn things around for you in 2011.” –God, Jeremiah 29: 11- 14, paraphrased
To think about this month:
“I will go ahead of you in 2011 and level the mountains you come to. I will shatter gates and barriers that block your way. I will show you treasures stored in secret places, so that you may know I am God Who summons you by name!” –God, Isaiah 45: 2 & 3, paraphrased
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Revised and Updated November 2020