Transforming liberty in Jesus is freedom that is God’s supernatural response to our attitude and choice. We can continue to live bound by our circumstances and apparent inevitability, or we can reach out to the God who has the power to release what He has already accomplished.
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 4:10)
I encounter so many people – believers and non-believers alike – who have succumbed to what I think of as a spirit of inevitability. They walk in the mistaken assumption that their current condition is beyond redemption, that they’re somehow trapped in a pattern of repeated circumstances. This kind of acceptance denies true liberty in Christ. It contradicts a fundamental purpose of the cross – that Jesus came to break spiritual chains and bring a transforming liberty to us all. The prayer of Jabez and God’s response is a beautiful picture of redeeming grace. It reveals a spiritual boldness that defies helpless acceptance and appeals to the I AM of God. Herein lies encouragement for every believer. There is one who is way bigger than our ‘predetermined’ condition – the God who spoke the universe into being, who parted the Red Sea, and who performed limitless miracles for those who turned to Him.
Transforming liberty and self.
When we consider how important names are, we can understand how courageous Jabez was in his prayer. Even today, names are our identification. They are a defining feature, something that separates us as individuals. We know our names and respond to them, and God Himself tells us that He knows us by name. We learn who God is by learning His names, each of which reveals a different attribute. Biblical characters often had their names changed by God to fully identify them with and by His purposes in their lives. Many of the significant characters in the Bible had names that epitomised their lives and roles. In the context of all of these, it’s not surprising that anyone should equate their circumstances and future potential with their name. Jabez could easily have accepted the ‘inevitable’ and not recognised that our God is one who brings transforming liberty.
Self plays an enormous role in our potential in God, because the exercise of free will and choice is a fundamental manifestation of the flesh. From childhood, we’re raised to ‘control our own destiny,’ which is, quite simply, living a life of rebellion. Before salvation, we make our own choices as to what we will believe and what we won’t, but this can have both positive and negative implications. What’s important is that nothing that comes from the flesh is good. It may appear good, but if it’s not rooted in the Spirit and power of God and His purposes, it will ultimately work to our detriment. This may manifest spiritually and materially, but the end result is the same. Transforming liberty can never be found by following the dictates of the flesh. Self can never replicate what God alone can give through Christ and the work of the cross.
Strongholds and transforming liberty.
It’s absolutely true that Jesus brings liberty. John 8:36 tells us, Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. There are a few things that this reveals. The first is that Jesus alone makes us free – the kind of transforming liberty that overrides the natural and releases us to a level beyond human understanding. The second truth is that Jesus has already done it. His work on the cross is perfectly perfect and completely complete. Spiritually, every single born-again believer is already set free into perfect liberty. Whether or not this manifests in our lives depends on our outlook – on the strongholds that exist. This is the final truth. Jesus does the work, but whether we live in it or not depends on our attitude and our responses. Jabez provides a wonderful example of the right spiritual attitude to have when confronting our strongholds.
What many believers don’t understand is that strongholds are not independent fortresses raised by the enemy. They are internal. More precisely, they are thought patterns that are shaped within our minds. In other words, they ‘belong’ to us and are part of who we are. The devil may help to shape these, but they aren’t entirely his handiwork. We create our strongholds in our minds with our thought patterns and responses. The enemy then ‘inhabits’ these – the powers of darkness use them as protective fortresses to direct and control self, which in turn defies the things of God. The verse in John occurs within the context of sin, and we need to understand that strongholds – which raise themselves up against the knowledge of God – are sin. Salvation includes liberty from sin, which means that transforming liberty must include freedom from the strongholds that control us.
Transforming liberty in the life of Jabez.
The name Jabez literally means pain, and was his mother’s response to the pain of his birth. Within the context of the relevance of names, Jabez might easily have accepted that he would either cause pain to others, cause pain to himself, or both. He might have agreed with the spirit of inevitability that his life would be epitomised by pain, that his future was, by virtue of something continually spoken – his name – predetermined. The spoken word has immense power. Consider how many times our names are spoken. If every time we hear them, it’s within a negative meaning or context, that’s what we will ‘train’ ourselves to expect. That becomes a stronghold because it raises itself up against the knowledge of God and His perfect liberty. It’s not limited to names. Anything that denies the work of the cross, not simply a name, has the same result.
Jabez responded in a way that encourages us all to reach beyond the circumstances to the saving power of God. Instead of accepting what might be considered inevitable and ‘making the best of it,’ he reached beyond Himself. His faith enabled him to glimpse the truth of transforming liberty and to reach out for it by reaching out to God. He recognised that God was way, way bigger than any kind of ‘curse’ he inherited through his name. He wasn’t content to follow the way and response of the world or the flesh but looked upward to the supernatural power of God. Yes, the cross hadn’t yet happened. But Jesus is the fulfilment of every promise of God. All we see in the Old Testament is confirmed and released through and in Christ. Jabez rejected helplessness and reached for the eternal liberty God ordained for those who serve Him.
Surrender of self and perfect liberty
We can learn a lot from this simple prayer. The first thing is that he had faith. He chose to look to God rather than at the limitations. His spirit reached beyond the natural to the supernatural. Even more significant is the nature of his prayer. It wasn’t entirely about him. It was about God and His will, inasmuch as He asked to be kept from evil. His driving desire was to live righteously according to the Word, to be obedient – without evil – which is God’s will. Then, it was about others. Jabez’s concern was that his ‘predetermined destiny’ would not harm others. His prayer was not that he be given transforming liberty from the ‘curse’ but that others would be protected from it. He surrendered self and any thoughts of self-preservation in seeking God’s will and the welfare of others.
God’s response was, firstly, to release transforming liberty to both him and others. He honoured this courageous prayer by granting what he asked for. But liberty of this nature starts with our attitude. We must, like Jabez, reach out to our much bigger God. When we choose to break out of the mould the world has shaped for us, He brings radical release beyond measure.
Thank You, Father, that Your liberty is eternal and powerful. Thank You that we don’t have to remain trapped in the things of the world or of our lives. In Jesus, we are free, and we choose to walk in that rather than in helpless acceptance. You are the God of all things possible, and Your plan is what we desire to follow. Help us to surrender self and to see all things through the light of Your love and purposes.