1 Kings 3:9 NIV
When God asked Solomon what he wanted, Solomon gave what we might think of as a surprising answer. Out of everything he could have wanted, he asked for the gift of wisdom. He prayed: ‘Give your servant a discerning heart…to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’ Solomon recognised the value of wisdom. We all need wisdom. From decision making to solving conflicts, we need to be able to make wise choices. And discernment fits in with this. Being able to discern between right and wrong, the truthfulness of a statement or the character of a person, helps us make those wise choices. The Bible says that discernment is a spiritual gift. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul shows us that people are given differing gifts (see v.10). So some of us have discernment as our spiritual gift. But for those of us who don’t, we can ask God to help us be discerning and wise in our everyday decisions, faith, relationships and workplaces. ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you’ (James 1:5 NIV). And when we’re filled with God’s wisdom, the decisions we make will bring peace, justice and goodness. And that will bring glory to God. When Solomon received the gift of wisdom, he was soon put to the test when two women approached him both claiming to be a baby’s mother. He managed to discern who the real mother was and we’re told that the people were in awe of him because they could see God’s wisdom in him (see 1 Kings 3:28). Can people see the same in us?
Judg 7:1-9:33; Mark 10:23-34; Ps 93; Prov 13:7-8
Proverbs 11:13 NLT
We all have habits, struggles, weaknesses, dreams, childhood memories, unspoken needs, and longings that we keep hidden deep inside. We don’t want the world to know about some of the more painful memories we’re holding on to, or for anyone to find out about the things we’re ashamed of. And the truth is, we can’t keep any of these things a secret from God. He sees everything. ‘He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him’ (Daniel 2:22 NIV). But even when He knows our worst secrets, He still loves us and invites us into a relationship with Him. We all have a yearning for someone we can confide in, someone to trust, and God provides that safe place for us to confess our hidden thoughts and sins. But God also provides trustworthy people who we can tell some these things to, and who can help us to work through them and keep us accountable when we’re trying to improve ourselves. And we should also be aiming to be a dependable, trustworthy friend for others. We can do that by: 1) offering them a space where they can safely be vulnerable and open (take a look at Proverbs 3:29); and 2) refusing to reveal something we’re told in confidence (see Proverbs 11:13) – there are a few exceptions, such as if the person is going to harm themselves or others, so we also need to pray for wisdom to know when we can’t keep something confidential. Let’s ask God for trustworthy friends, and strive to be trustworthy people ourselves, who others know they can depend on.
Lev 23:15-22; Acts 2:1-18
1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJV
Not only did Jabez have great ambition, he had a growing faith and a deep trust in God. He had enough faith to pray and expect an answer. There’s no mention of Jabez having any special ability or talent. The Bible doesn’t say he was wealthy or educated. We can often be worried that we’re not good enough or that we don’t have the right gifts or skills to be used by God. But if we have faith then we don’t need to worry. God will give us the necessary power. He loves to use ordinary people who are willing to trust Him. We’re all given different gifts and we all have different callings. But it’s God who equips us. His hand is with us. In the Hebrew language ‘Jabez’ means ‘painful’ or ‘sorrow’. Jabez caused his mother so much grief during childbirth that she named him Sorrow. Having a name like that may have made him feel unwanted and unloved. But that didn’t stop him looking towards the future and asking God for great things. His mother may have named him Sorrow, but in the Bible He’s called honourable. Some of us may have had words spoken over us that are actually lies. We may have been called names that aren’t the names God gives us. We may be in a challenging time right now or may be struggling to move on from something that’s happened in our past. Those things don’t disqualify us from God’s calling. And they don’t prevent us from being able to ask God for great things. Jesus said, ‘Everything is possible for him who believes’ (Mark 9:23 NIV). So let’s look to the future and ask God for amazing things to come from our lives.
Deut 5-7; Mark 6:14-29; Ps 37:1-7; Prov 11:24-26
1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJV
When Jabez prayed, “Enlarge my territory,” he was saying, “Lord, I want more than I’ve got, and I’m asking You for it!” This man had great ambitions, and God blessed them. There are three common misconceptions that can keep us from having great ambitions: (1) We confuse fear with humility. We say, “Oh, I could never do that,” and think we’re being humble. But that’s not humility. That’s fear; that’s lack of faith. A truly humble person would say, “With God’s help I can do it. With God’s blessing I will do it. I may not be able to do it on my own, but with God’s help I can.” That’s real humility. (2) We tend to confuse laziness with contentment. We quote Paul: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11 NIV). But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t set goals. Paul wasn’t saying, “I don’t have any ambitions or future plans.” Just the opposite, in fact! He spoke of “reaching forth [to] those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13). If you don’t have a dream or a goal, ask God for one. (3) We confuse small thinking with spirituality. Some people say, “I serve God in my little way.” Why don’t you start serving Him in a bigger way? Why not let Him use you more? Other people say, “Well, I’m just fine the way I am. That’s the way God made me.” It’s wrong to blame God for your lack of growth, because He has provided all the tools and ideas you need in order to grow. Bottom line: Think big or you’ll get in God’s way!
Soul food: Deut 3-4; Mark 6:7-13; Ps 2; Prov 11:22-23
1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJV
In 1 Chronicles, the Bible tells us about a man named Jabez. The first nine chapters consist of genealogies, listing more than six hundred names. And right there in the middle of all those names, God singles out one man for special recognition, and his name is Jabez. There are only two verses in the entire Bible about Jabez, yet he’s given more of a mention than the six hundred other people listed in the chapter. The Bible says: ‘Now Jabez was more honourable than his brothers’ (v.9 NKJV). There are a number of reasons why he was seen as more honourable. Firstly, he dared to ask and believe God for great things. ‘Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, that You would 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.’ Sometimes we can find it difficult to ask God for big things. Maybe we’ve faced a lot of disappointment in our lives and we don’t believe great things can happen for us. Maybe we struggle to even think of big things to ask God for. But God wants us to ask Him for great things. And He doesn’t just want us to ask, He wants us to ask expectantly. We need to ask believing that for God, nothing is impossible. Paul tells us that God ‘is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us’ (Ephesians 3:20 NIV). We shouldn’t put our human limitations on Him. We can’t out-ask or out-dream God.
Acts 27-28; Mark 5:31-43; Ps 94:12-23; Prov 11:16-18