July 17

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (NIV) 9Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." 10Jabez 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.

A book on this passage has recently become a best seller. The author aptly describes all the implications of this passage, of which I will try to make a brief summary. Jabez means pain. Imagine having a name like that! A name was often an indication of destiny. Jabez refused to accept the destiny handed to him in his name. Instead of yielding to what was handed him, he stood as a man more honorable than his brothers. He held himself to a higher standard.

Reaction to difficulty will make or break a person. If you see it as an excuse to justify self and compromise, it will cripple you. If you see it as a reason to strive to an even greater extent, it can be your prodding to a life above the norm. Jabez chose the later. He asked God to change his destiny. He asked for the blessing of God to be on his life and for his territory to be enlarged. Territory implied the space of his influence. We need to ask God to increase our ministry for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Do you desire to be even more effective?

He recognized the need for God's hand to be with him. Then he asked for God to break that destiny that his name held him to. He asked for God to keep him from harm so that he would be free of pain. God granted his request.

Consider: Do you feel trapped by expectations others have placed on you, or your environment, or abilities? If you are asking in line with God's will, you can break those boundaries and be all God means for you to be.

July 17

Acts 2:42, 46-47 (NIV) 42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The church of Jesus grew and blossomed overnight. The power of the Holy Spirit, through the message Peter preached, drew thousands to give their lives to Jesus. This short passage tells us what that first year of the church was like. These new believers had come from all over the region to worship at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. Instead of returning to their homes, they stayed in Jerusalem to learn from the apostles the things that Jesus had taught and done. That is what we do today as we read the Gospels. Because they were away from their homes, everyone shared their possessions and homes as needed so that all could stay and be instructed.

We see a number of elements that should be a part of any healthy Christian's life today. There is the devotion to learning about Jesus, fellowship with other believers, communion, and prayer. There were too many to meet anywhere but in the Jewish temple. It would be centuries before Christian churches were built. They shared meals with glad and sincere hearts. They spent time praising God. They had a good reputation as they walked in the fruits of the Spirit. Then we have that beautiful last line. The Lord added daily to their group. Everyday people came to saving faith in Jesus.

I didn't read about any witnessing program. It was simply the life of these new converts, their joy, and their example that drew others. Surely when people asked them, they told of how Jesus was transforming them personally. Who added? The Lord did! It was not human effort. Perhaps if we have all the wonderful elements of that early church, we too will see the Lord add to our numbers those who are being saved.

Consider: Are you experiencing all the elements of that early church? What can you do to add them to your spiritual life?