“Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory…” 1 Chronicles 4:10b Holman Christian Standard Bible
Throughout history having enough land, enough territory has been an issue. How many wars have been fought over land? Even the Crusades, held up as a Holy War for Christians to take back the Holy Land from the evil followers of Mohammed, was really about land. Space in Europe was dwindling rapidly, there wasn’t enough property to go around for the many firstborn sons wanting their inheritance, to say nothing of all those younger brothers.
When there are not enough holdings to give to your sons, what are you to do? The answer? Take what your neighbor has and give that to your sons! Europe was quickly becoming a cemetery with more nobles in the ground than there were above. So the Pope had an epiphany! Let’s save Western Europe, give the young sons and the sons born on the wrong side of the blanket an opportunity to make good! Give them a war killing enemies not each other, so out of desperation to save the European Kingdoms, “they enlarged their territories!”
The Crusades became a great success, for a time allowing enough of the blue-blooded nobles to be “thinned,” solving the land rush beginning in 1095 and ending either in 1291 or 1588, depending on whom you believe.
In 1893 the largest of the land rushes occurred in what would later become Oklahoma, but at the time was named the Cherokee Strip. One hundred thousand people lined up for the chance to claim one of the 42,000 plots that were available. What many didn’t know is several of the prime plots had been staked out by “Sooners,” those who snuck in the night before claiming their prime plots of land. (This, of course, also provided the University of Oklahoma sports teams with their name, Oklahoma Sooners.)
At 12 noon on September 16, 1893 a canon roared and the race was on! The assortment of vehicles shooting off the starting line was as eclectic a menagerie as ever assembled. Men and women scrambled forward on horseback, bicycles, wagons, carriages, and shanks ponies (meaning those on foot); the creations were amazing! And so were the fights over the land parcels which were available.
Join me as we fast forward a little over a hundred years. We find ourselves at the end of a housing boom that is going bust in a big way. Many had the Dream of Home Ownership made a reality for them. They were given a little funding gift from home mortgage sellers using creative financing. It soon became one of the most destructive nightmares to slam the lower and so called middle classes. This little “gift” sent more families into bankruptcy than anything else, ruining many dreams and lives. Homeowners discovered their homes, their American Dream had become their American Nightmare! Many found the amount they paid for their home was more than two to four times the current value. Some families are still in the process of walking away from what they thought would be home, the place they were going to spend the rest of their lives.
In 2004 the rental home where Joni and I lived burned to the ground. That fire was the third time I personally had lost everything I owned to fire. There were many blessings God provided out of that devastation, one was the opportunity to buy our first home. We accepted the generous offer of a sweet couple and became homeowners. Never in my wildest dreams had I believed I would be a homeowner. My parents had never owned a home.
Unfortunately, we became homeowners just as the housing boom hit its peak. Within a short time the market bubble burst, as did the price on the home purchased. Unhappily, due to an illness and resulting necessity to move, we were unable to ride the wave by staying where we were. We, like so many others, lost our home. I mention this because we know what it is like to lose to disaster, to economy, even to making bad decisions. We know life, because we have done, we are doing life.
Jabez was doing life in his culture, in his time of living, and just as we do, he too sought God’s gracious blessing to enlarge his territory. Jabez appears to be one who was ambitious, he was seeking God’s blessing to increase the number of acres, the number of continued blessings he would receive from God.
As Jabez makes this request, he could be seen as rather mercenary, seeking to have more, and more, and more! However, Jabez is seeking a homeland, he is requesting a safe place to settle his family, his herds, those who work for him. Jabez is requesting a place he can call home.
Isn’t that what we call the Great American Dream, a place we can call home? Somewhere we know is safe, a place that will never be taken, a home where our children will grow in joy, in laughter, where one day the grandchildren will continue the laughter and the joy, making the house a home.
But what do you do when the dream turns into a nightmare? How do you see God when it feels like He has pulled His blessings away? What happens when the territory shrinks considerably, shrinks into oblivion? At least that’s how it feels, and every fibre of your being is shouting out, ”God what gives here?” “What is it you’re doing?” “What happened to the blessings?” “I was doing just fine without owning a house, now it’s my home and it’s going, going, gone!”
Isn’t that the most challenging part of being in a relationship with your Creator, the unanswered questions? He does not owe us an explanation for anything He chooses to accomplish in our lives, through our lives, or with our lives. What He does ask of us is that we trust Him with everything. That is one of the main purposes being made a reality in the Process of Grace. Just as Jabez asked, so can we ask God to extend, enlarge our territory, so that we will be a safe place where those seeking God will find Him.
It might be your enlarged territory is right there in your home. Maybe it’s your children who need to know God’s Grace intimately; maybe they need to hear that God loves them passionately. It’s possible a parent needs grace. There is a transforming power in grace releasing us from the past, holding us from plunging into the future which does not yet exist! This Grace Power makes it possible for us to live right where Jesus told us to live, in the present. Be present now with your family, friends, co-workers, whoever God brings to you. Be present listening to them! Give the gift of yourself, your full attention. Give them the gift of paying attention, be in the moment with the one God has sent to you.
When you ask God to “enlarge my territory,” know that when you make the request it might be a very different enlarging than you had anticipated! It is an amazing thing to walk with God in the Faith Journey. You never know what may be on its way into your life! It will be a lesson in integrity, in being an honorable disciple of Jesus Christ, and your territory will be enlarged beyond your wildest imaginings.
Remember to fasten your seatbelt!
“May the Lord give you increase more and more, you and your children. May you be blessed of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth!” Psalm 115:14-15 Amplified Bible