Monday, May 23, 2011

What's in a Name?

A few years ago I read a devotional book called "The Prayer of Jabez" by Bruce Wilkinson. I have long since given away my copy of the book, but the prayer has remained with me. I actually have it taped Rocky-style to my bathroom mirror for encouragement. The Scripture reads:

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez,saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

As I studied this Scripture, I was struck by the connection between Jabez's name and the cry of his heart. Jabez means pain. Consider that for a moment, his very name means pain. For whatever reason, his birth was surrounded by pain. It could have been the physical pain his mother endured or it could have had another meaning. Perhaps his father died before his birth and his mother was speaking of that loss. We don't know, and the Bible doesn't say. But we can see in his prayer, the only mention of this man in Scripture, that his name deeply affected him.

In verse 10, Jabez asks God to keep him from causing pain. That vocabulary is not a coincidence. Jabez knows the meaning of his name. He knows he was birthed in pain and he has carried that legacy through his entire life. As he cries out to God, he asks the Lord to help him rise above his name. He wants to be more than he has been told he can be.

Haven't all of us been there? We've been labeled, categorized, told what we're capable of or what we can be. The world wants to name us, to force an expectation (or lack of one) upon us, to tell us that the circumstances of our birth...our background, our income, our education, our job or any one of a thousand other external realities...will forever dictate who we are, and who we can be.

But that isn't how God sees us. God has a new name for us, a name that He Himself will give us. "To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." Revelation 2:17

Jabez cried out to God and asked Him to change the identity the world had given him. His heart cried, "My name means pain, all my life that's who I've been known as, someone who caused pain. I don't want that. I don't want to live according to this name. I want something different."

We don't have to remain in the box the world says we belong in. We don't have to bend under the weight of the pressures the world lays on us. We are not limited, defined or relegated to the names the world gives us. Man, woman, stay at home mom, single father, abused child, convict, addict, victim, rich, poor...none of that matters. God Himself knows who we really are. He knows who we can become with the strength of His love and power operating in our lives.

If we cry out with a heart like Jabez, a heart that seeks something more, God will hear us and just as He did for Jabez, He will grant us our request.

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