From Shame to Honor - Bob Sawvelle

From Shame to Honor

We long for love and acceptance. But many have only experienced pain, rejection, and shame. In Christ, we are made new. He has borne our grief, sorrow, and shame, and we can appropriate through His cross freedom and wholeness to live free of the pain and shame of the past.

The writer of Hebrews states of Jesus, “…Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor …” Heb. 12:2 NLT

The Father, through our new life in Christ, wants us to disregard shame and receive His honor as a beloved daughter or son. We are completely accepted, loved, and desired in Him!

Looking at the story of Jabez in 1 Chr. 4:9-10, I want to discuss moving from Shame to Honor.

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 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. NKJV

Chronicles was written by Ezra toward the end of the fifth century BC, after the Babylonian captivity and return of the exiles to Jerusalem. It was to remind them of the promises God had given them and to give them hope again.

The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles consists of a long list of genealogies—with no seeming relevance. Then suddenly, we read of the story of Jabez, which serve as an epitaph for Jabez, to be inserted in the list. Based on the names before and after, scholars have approximated that Jabez lived around the time of Joshua and conquest of Canaan.

Why would God make sure these two verses were in the Bible?

There must be something significant about the context and his life that God wants us to see. Despite only two short verses, there is much here.

At that time, the Hebrew people were “God’s covenant people.” Throughout their history God repeated His promise they would be a great and prosperous nation in the land of Canaan. God first promised this to Abraham and then reaffirmed this promise through Moses to the nation as they came out of Egypt to settle in the “Promised Land.”

In Deut. 28:1-14 the Lord’s desire was to bless the Israelites and cause them to be influential, thus provoking other nations to desire to know God. Further, the Messiah, Jesus, would come from this nation, despite their rebellion and disobedience at times. God’s highest goal was to bless them so that they could be a blessing!

Paul would write of the Christian’s promised inheritance in Christ, by way of the Hebrews and specifically Abraham, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal. 3:29 NKJV

God’s desire for His people is to live blessed, according to His promise. Jesus said he desires for us to life an abundant life. Why? Foremost He loves us, it brings Him pleasure and glory when His children are blessed, and lastly with right motive, we can impact others with the gospel.

But there is a caution with the message of blessing, abundance, and prosperity! We pursue Jesus, as His devoted disciples, not for selfish gain, money, and riches. We cannot serve two masters, God, and money (Matt. 6:4).

There is nothing wrong with working hard and having wealth, but we are to be rich toward God, using the resources He gives to reach others with the gospel. It is important for us to maintain an eternal perspective. Paul warns:

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Tim. 6:9-10 NIV

Wrong Identity Creates Shame-Based Thinking

In 1 Chr. 4:9, we see that the name Jabez means, “He will cause Pain.” His mother perhaps had the Hebrew word Ah-Tzav in mind, which means anguish, intense sorrow, or pain. By transposing two letters, we arrive at his name. His name Jabez is a pun/sound.

In this verse, there is no mention of his father. So why did his mother name him “he will cause pain?” Most believe it was due to her circumstances in childbirth. Or maybe the father was absent?

Perhaps she was a single mother, or maybe the father had a bad reputation? Maybe his family was not wealthy or influential? Maybe he was not wanted? Maybe the pain she experienced was one more child to feed during tough times? We do not know for sure, but Jabez was given a name, a constant reminder that he was a source of pain.

By the way, data shows that 25% of kids in America are raised by a single parent, most of them single mothers. They often have some of the highest poverty rates in the country. For many of these children, they grow up with feelings of rejection, abandonment, and shame. They need from the Church the message of love and acceptance, as well as practical help to empower them to become who God says they are and make a difference in our world.

Most children are given pleasant names, perhaps Faith, Grace, Joseph, etc. Can you imagine growing up with the name Pain?

Every time his name mentioned, it was a reminder to him that somehow his mother and his family saw him as one who caused pain. His name was a curse to him and created shame over his life.

Proverbs tells us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21 NKJV) Our words have creative power: power to bless and power to curse. Shame attached to Jabez by the very meaning of his name and how it was spoken over him.

Webster’s definition of shame: a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong. Ability to feel guilt, regret, or embarrassment. Dishonor or disgrace.

Much of the shame people experience is due to spiritual root issues. In some cases, they have not done anything wrong, but is a result of being unwanted, rejected, or shamed in some manner. An attribute of love is to honor others, and not shame them.

 Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor.” 1 Cor. 13:5 TPT

Shame was attached to his name and to his identity. When a person comes into the world in these circumstances, it is a lot to overcome. Perhaps you can identify with Jabez. Maybe you were not wanted, born into difficult circumstances, or despise your family name. Remember the word of the Psalmist, you are known, desired, and loved by God:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.” Psalm 139:13-18 NIV

Jabez lacked positive affirmation from his parents, and the cry of his heart was to be loved and affirmed. You see, what Jabez really wanted was to hear something like, “I love you and I am proud of you; you’re going to do just great in life!”

God answered his prayer, but more importantly than receiving land and wealth, Jabez received affirmation he longed for.

We live with people all around us who feel abandoned, rejected, and orphaned. The cry of Jabez, the cry of humanity, is to receive affirmation, blessing and favor.

Such emphasis was put on success and prosperity in Jewish society in which Jabez lived, it may appear that he was being materialistic, but in essence he wanted God’s hand of affirmation, recognition, and honor. He wanted to move from Shame to Honor.

My experience in working with youth is that the primary longing of their heart is to know they have value, that their life matters, and that they can make a difference. Especially those who have come from disadvantaged situations.

His Need for Acceptance Led Him to the Father

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 Chr. 4:10 NKJV

Notice his prayer as He called on the God of Israel? He was a devout, prayerful man. He was a man who sought and walked with God.

Some Jewish scholars believe Jabez was a doctor in the law, with a school of scribes around him, and connection between his name, Jabez, and the city so named (1 Chr. 2:55).[1] It is believed that Jabez left many disciples after him.

Jabez became someone. He did not allow his past or shamed based identity define him.

“Oh, that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory…”

What is territory? In the Hebrew, this was no ordinary request. Rather, this expression means, “bless me with overwhelming blessing.” Bless me with uncommon blessing God. When you move from shame to honor, you are confident in asking God for more so others could be blessed!

Solomon asked for wisdom; and God commends him for not asking for wealth and grants him wisdom. Yet Jabez asks for material blessing and God grants it. Why? God sees the heart and motivation. Jabez, in asking for more acreage and more territory was to ask for a greater share in the covenant so that others could be blessed.

God wants His people to walk in His blessing, in His fullness. God invites you and me to dream with Him and to believe for more Kingdom territory, so others would be freed from their pain and God glorified.

The Psalmist prays, “God be merciful to us and bless us, that your way may be known on earth.” Psalm 67:1-2 Heaven’s desire is for Jesus to be made known. This happens when God’s people have a correct identity and are free from shame. They then are confident to be His ambassadors and witnesses on the earth.

Once born again, the Holy Spirit begins to renew our minds to establish our correct Godly identity. True Godly identity and beliefs, based on God’s Word, break the cycle of negative expectations, and empower you and I to live confidently in God.

For example, God, in His goodness, wants you and me blessed and prosperous. “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 NKJV

May prosper means to have a prosperous journey, or to succeed in business affairs. It means to have the hand of God resting on us, not merely money or popularity, but God’s permission to do well and be blessed. Not given to greed, but humble, and obedient to God.

If I do not believe God wants me blessed, I inhibit the power of his blessing through Christ and my sonship to receive his favor. It does not end here; others will not receive of the blessing I can release to them.

“Your hand would be with me.” What does the hand of God represent?

In the OT culture and literature, the hand represented power, strength, control, or skill. Throughout the Bible, God’s power and intervention are represented by the “hand of the Lord.”

We see a pattern in Scripture: those whom God blesses and uses with the greatest impact are those who live in submission to His authority and seek only His glory. We are to stay humble and submitted to God!

“Keep me from evil …That I may not cause pain.” Jabez was asking God to protect the blessing you bring me God and free me from the shame and anguish in my life that I may not live up to this. In other words, “God, break the cycle of pain and shame in my life so that I and others will not be affected!”

From Shame to Honor

 Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers…” 1 Chr. 4:9

Definition of honorable: weighty, represented by character, but also position and wealth. We could say that Jabez was a man of weight. Reputation is of importance in these usages of the Hebrew term.

Keep in mind these words were written, not during his lifetime, but after it had ended. Whatever the sorrowful circumstances surrounding the beginning of his life, he ended his days with more honor, greater status, and influence than all his brothers.

Jabez was a great man; though his life began in pain, it ended in honor. Prov. 15:33 states that “humility precedes honor.”

Jabez moved from shame to honor … and God desires the same for each of us!

Jesus gives a secret to joy and overcoming your past—seek to lose your life in service to others. Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” Luke 17:33 NIV

Christian: Jesus has given you a new name, a new family lineage, and a new identity!

To break the cycle of rejection and shame, you must renew your mind to the truth of how God sees you (Rom. 12:2). In Christ, you are made new and God sees you as one who is a diffuser of His love and grace, not of pain. Expect grace to flow—not pain through your life.

Final Thoughts…

Jesus became our curse and took our shame on the cross, so we could share His name and have a new identity. Let us declare shame to cease and honor to be restored.

Father, I present my life to you, and give you permission Holy Spirit to renew my mind. I renounce Ungodly Beliefs of Shame, Rejection, and Abandonment that are contrary to what your word says about me and my new identity.

I choose to believe the truth that Jesus endured the shame, that I could be free of it. I forgive others and myself for holding onto to shame and grief.

I believe the truth that you love me, accept me, have honored me, and want to bless me. Let my life glorify your name and be a blessing to others. Enlarge my territory, my influence, that others could know you and be free!

 “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor …” Heb. 12:2 NLT

 “Instead of your shame, you shall receive double honor…” Isa. 61:7 NKJV


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For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “From Shame to Honor”

[1] 1 Chronicles, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary, 43 (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909).

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