I want to share a story with you. It comes from a devotional book I’ve read several times called The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. This story resonated with me greatly. I hope you will find it meaningful as well.
Mr. Jones Goes To Heaven
What if you found out that God had in mind to send you 23 specific blessings today, but you got only one? What do you suppose the reason would be?
There’s a little fable about a Mr. Jones who dies and goes to heaven. Peter is waiting at the gates to give him a tour. Amid the splendor of golden streets, beautiful mansions, and choirs of angels that Peter shows him, Mr. Jones notices an odd-looking building. He thinks it looks like an enormous warehouse – it has no window and only one door. But when he asks to see inside, Peter hesitates. “You really don’t want to see what’s in there,” he tells the new arrival.
Why would there be any secrets in heaven? Jones wonders. What incredible surprise could be waiting for me in there? When the official tour is over he’s still wondering, so he asks again to see inside the structure.
Finally Peter relents. When the apostle opens the door, Mr. Jones almost knocks him over in his haste to enter. It turns out that the enormous building is filled with row after row of shelves, floor to ceiling, each stacked neatly with white boxes tied in red ribbons.
“These boxes all have names on them,” Mr. Jones muses aloud. Then turning to Peter he asks, “Do I have one?”
“Yes, you do.” Peter tries to guide Mr. Jones back outside. “Frankly,” Peter says, “if I were you…” But Mr. Jones is already dashing toward the “J” aisle to find his box.
Peter follows, shaking his head. He catches up with Mr. Jones just as he is slipping the red ribbon off his box and popping the lid. Looking inside, Jones has a moment of instant recognition, and he lets out a deep sigh like the ones Peter has heard so many times before.
Because there in Mr. Jones’s white box are all the blessings that God wanted to give to him while he was on earth…but Mr. Jones had never asked.
“Ask,” promised Jesus, “and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). “You do not have because you do not ask,” said James (James 4:2). Even though there is no limit to God’s goodness, if you didn’t ask Him for a blessing yesterday, you didn’t get all that you were supposed to have.
That’s the catch – if you don’t ask for His blessing, you forfeit those that come to you only when you ask. In the same way that a father is honored to have a child beg for his blessing, your Father is delighted to respond generously when His blessing is what you covet most.
Perhaps you think that your name is just another word for pain or trouble (like Jabez), or that the legacy you have been handed from your family circumstances is nothing but a liability. You just don’t feel like a candidate for blessing.
Or perhaps you’re one of those Christians who thinks that once you’re saved, God’s blessings sort of drizzle over your life at a predetermined rate, no matter what you do. No extra effort required.
Or perhaps you have slipped into a ledger-keeping mindset with God. In your blessings account you have a column for deposits and withdrawals. Has God been unusually kind to you lately? Then you think that you shouldn’t expect, much less ask for, Him to credit your account. You might even think He should ignore you for a while, or even debit your account by sending some trouble your way.
This kind of thinking is a sin and a trap! When Moses said to God on Mount Sinai, “Show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18), he was asking for a more intimate understanding of God. In response, God described Himself as “the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” (34:6).
Incredible! The very nature of God is to have goodness in so much abundance that it overflows into our unworthy lives. If you think about God in any other way than that, I’m asking you to change the way you think. Why not make it a lifelong commitment to ask God every day to bless you – and while He’s at it, bless you a lot?
God’s bounty is limited only by us, not by His resources, power, or willingness to give. We can be blessed if we simply refuse to let any obstacle, person, or opinion loom larger than God’s nature. And God’s nature is to bless.
If you read the Jabez story in this little devotional book, you will learn that God’s kindness is proof that it’s not who you are, or what your parents decided for you, or what you were “fated” to be that counts. What counts is knowing who you want to be and asking for it.
A couple personal notes:
This story does not at all imply that God will give you a Cadillac, a million dollars, a perfect spouse, or freedom from prison for being a serial killer or money launderer. To understand this concept of “asking & receiving” we need to understand something. Yes, we can get what we ask for, when we ask according to God’s will for us. Too often we pray like the people James is writing about in James 4:3 “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Our job is to be close to God, walking with him and obeying him and loving him and loving others well. What we find is that when we live like this, our requests change. Our desires and needs change miraculously to be more aligned with God’s will for us than our own selfish plans and schemes. Then we see answered prayers everywhere. God will knock the socks off those who are faithful to him. Does that make sense?
I’ve spent most of my life living in a ledger-keeping mindset with God. Trying to be a do-gooder, comparing myself to others, making ridiculous rules for myself that I could never keep, beating myself up when I fail, it’s all very exhausting. And wrong. I’m a work in progress, but I can tell you that the incredible freedom of recognizing how much God loves me has compelled me to change my mind. And I now see his blessing more than ever before.
One more thing. God is God and we are not. God can choose whom to bless and we may not ever understand it. That’s between each person and God. His blessing for you will likely not be the same for me. But this I know: God’s blessing for me is EXACTLY what I need, it is what is best for me (and ultimately better than what I could come up with), and it is meant to serve His purposes. I’m blessed to be his child and part of his glorious plans!