“Oh, that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border …and God granted him what he requested.” I Chronicles 4:10
What if God had a drive-thru window in which we could place our orders? What if the “Golden Arches” truly were golden archways to short-order blessings? If so, would our American mindset be evident as we rolled down our window, casually leaned out, and said,
“I’ll have the border special, please.”
“Would you like that super-sized?”
“Why, yes, please super-size my border.”
And, in keeping with the fast food analogy, would we check our order when it was handed to us and complain if we didn’t get all we asked for? I’m thinking that’s exactly what would happen. Missing ketchup packets and napkins are one thing, but getting a child-sized border when a ¼ pound border was ordered is another matter altogether! While blessings are not something we can just “order up”, they are requests we make to our Heavenly Father that are often times not handed to us the way we “ordered”. And, because our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs, regular-sized orders are not quite good enough…we want our requests super-sized.
I thought about this recently while reading over Jabez’s “run for the border” order recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10. Perhaps this request took longer to fill than it appears, but the text rendition sure makes it sound like a drive-thru order…that was super-sized. “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And, within that same verse, the order was made, packed, and handed out the window. “And God granted him what he requested.” Order up. Order out. Order completed. I bet there were even extra napkins and ketchup packets in the bag!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some late night hankerings for “border fries”; for a super-sized order that increased the territory God had given me. Perhaps you’ve had a similar craving. A desire to reset fence posts, to clear new land, to move beyond the river. It seems like a purposeful craving…a prosperous hunger. After all, if the extra land is desired to be used for God, isn’t the request a righteous one…and shouldn’t our order be filled as quickly and completely as Jabez’s? And Jabez pulled up, rolled down the window, held out his hand, “And God granted him what he requested.”
So, why aren’t our orders filled like Jabez’s? Why does God allow us to pull up, pull out, and find that what’s in our bag isn’t at all what we ordered? I believe it’s because God, not unlike our earthly parents, wants us to clean our plates before He gives us more to chew on. I think that, while our eyes are on the lands beyond, His are on the ground beneath; beneath our feet, that is. Enlarged territories are good, and we should want them. Expanded borders are great, and we should request them. But, what is true physically, is also true spiritually… our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs and our petitions are often larger than our preparations. If we have not fully cleared and inhabited the land that we’ve been given, why should we be given more to care for? The need for enlarged borders arises when growth has been curbed due to a lack of expandable space. When we are closed in by our current borders, God resets our fence posts. When we’ve been faithful with a little plot, God not only answers our request for more territory, but He supersizes our order!
In Scripture, we find examples of people who fully inhabited their territory of faith and, when they came dangerously close to the edge of their turf, they found their boundary lines extended. There’s the widow who gave all her flour and oil to prepare food for Elijah (I Kings 17); she found her border enlarged at the end of her provisions. Then, there’s the widow whose two-bit offering was a bit too generous; she found her border expanded at the end of her stewardship (Luke 21). And the boy with the loaves and fish (John 6:9)? He found his border stretched at the end of his imagination. And then there’s Mary and Martha who, after burying their brother, found their border broadened at the end of their applied hope (John 11). In each example, the borders were not extended until the present land had been fully inhabited and the need for further territory was completely evident.
And isn’t that how it should be? Isn’t that what God created us to do? To inhabit our land so that He could reestablish our borders and let the process start all over again? I think that’s what Jabez did and that’s why God filled his order so (seemingly) quickly. I think Jabez needed a larger territory because he had outgrown the one he was in. He needed God to move his fence line back or he’d cease to be productive. When you’ve cultivated, planted, and harvested the fields you have, it’s time for more land. When you’ve been faithful with a little, then God will be faithful to entrust you with a lot (both figuratively…and, sometimes, literally!).
This process of habitation is not only true in how we inhabit that which God has given us but also in how the Holy Spirit indwells that which God has given Him. In much the same way, the Holy Spirit’s borders are determined by our willingness to allow Him complete access to areas within us. Here too we tend to offer up supersized orders. We want to be Spirit filled, but then we start fencing off plots and, often times, we even erect ‘No Trespassing’ signs on some posts. Until we allow the Holy Spirit to fully indwell the territory that He’s claimed, He won’t move beyond the borders we’ve set, but will wait for there to be a need for extension…a neediness for expansion.
As we prepare to step out of the perimeter of one year and into the boundaries of another, perhaps it is a good time to walk our fence line, survey our territories, and see just how well we’ve inhabited that which God has entrusted to our care. Are we fully using all God has given us? Are we about to outgrow the area we’re in, or do we need to go back and rework some sections? Have we come to the edge of our provisions, our stewardship, our imagination, and our applied hope? If not, then it’s not our borders but our spiritual muscles that need stretching. And, when those late night cravings for supersized “border fries” hit, we would all be wise to remember that we can’t have seconds until we’ve finished our firsts!
Sidebar…that’s oddly enough located at the bottom…about those cartoons. Well, I have a thing for the Far Side. Gary Larson’s insights (if I may elevate his humor to the status of deeply perceptual) crack me up. That’s it. I just chuckle when I see the illustrations and capsize when I read the dialogue. One of my favorites is the one posted at the top of this post. The reference to being territorial and the obvious presence of fence lines just made this seem like a good fit. The cow philosophy? Well, who doesn’t get a kick out of a cow in a toga? Am I right? As to either of these being remotely connected to Jabez, prayer, or spiritual borders…they aren’t. I just wanted you to know that I know that. So, now you do. I still hope they make you laugh!