Today we move to the New Testament with the epistle of James.
“James addresses practical issues and enduring problems faced by many mature believers: impatience, failure to do what you know is right, favoritism, apathy, and selfishness. He presents wise arguments and God-pleasing solutions, culminating in the confession of sins (5:16) and prayer for help from God,…”LSB (Lutheran Study Bible) Pg. 2130 Reading James
James starts off today with directions for the church at large on just how we are supposed to act when faced with suffering, joy or sickness.
Are you suffering? He tells us, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to Pray!
Oh how insensitive this seems to appear when we offer the only solution we have to our loved ones suffering beyond our ability to alleviate.
“I’ll pray for you” seems so little and so late; and if it was nothing more than “our prayer” and the quality there of, it would be a trifling act at best.
But Cherry, a participant in our new member class offered excellent evidence why prayer is so much more than the trifling act of the individual.
She shared in class that while we are one of billions that are calling out to God in the midst of our suffering every day, we never have to wait in line for God to hear us; he always listens to us immediately.
The creator of the universe and all that He has to deal with on a daily basis, makes time for His children the very moment they want to beseech Him and talk to Him.
What appears too little and so late is actually so immediate and so great!
Who better to call…to end suffering, than the only one…who can completely and actually do it?
James also reminds us that “if your cheerful? SING PRAISE!”
Mike and I were greeting the middle school kids last Tuesday when one of the parents drove through with their car radio blasting full volume.
The song was instantly recognizable as the 80’s hair band Autograph and their one hit wonder, “Turn Up The Radio”
I reacted immediately by sharing with Mike how this was one of our favorite songs to play as loud as we could in our cars when we were in high school.
Mike turned to me and with his classic sarcastic look said, “Well of course, it’s called Turn up the Radio!”
Well played Mike, well played.
But today it is as if James is telling the church; if there is joy to be had, sing it so loud everyone can enjoy it as well.
This is exactly why my family does not like sitting next to me in church when we are on vacation together.
First of all we usually attend churches much smaller than Faith, and second of all I sing really loud even in those small churches.
And my boys don’t love it at all, because heads always start turning to stare at the guy singing louder than everyone else…unfortunately for them; I don’t notice it at all, because it sounds just right to me!
What a vehicle God has given us, hymns to turn up our spiritual radios to God!
Finally James calls us to pray over and anoint the sick!
No doubt the universal church has taken this seriously from the very inspiration of James’ epistle to the modern period today.
Pastors visit the sick and the shut in, members pray, anointings abound, and even entire hospitals were built on the premise of healing ministry.
But why?, after all, even non-Christians get sick; so how is this such a particular concern?
Shouldn’t more energy go into evangelism, education, training, and family support? Well of course! But never at the expense of God’s concern for healing.
Healing is a cornerstone because it professes one fundamental fact: If you are a sinner…you will die, and God does not want us to die…SO HE FORGIVES SINNERS.
Every sickness is Satan’s sinful attempt to take us to death as quickly as He can.
So God thwarts Him at every turn by healing our infirmities and forgiving our sins when it serves the glory of His’ victory over death and the Devil.
So we rush bed side to every sin sickened brother or sister, because we might get to see that Glory of God first hand and have an even louder song to sing our praises to Him!
What a glorious moment to see our loved ones recover by God’s will and live many more years praising Him without end.
Now everyone of you, look at me carefully and hear me faithfully, because I know many of you right now are asking yourselves in your hearts…Ok pastor but what about John?
He was so important in all of our lives and to our church as well. He was important to his friends and family and even all the way to Haiti.
Why didn’t God heal him? We prayed for him, we anointed him. We trusted in the greatness of God to listen to all of us immediately.
So tell us pastor…what about him?
It’s a fair question…now let me ask you…what about us?
I doubt that there is a single person in our tabernacle sanctuary today that thinks for even a second that John wasn’t healed. He was, and verse 15 comforts us with that fact today.
“…the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord…will …raise…him up.”(Emphasis mine)
John’s healing was absolutely and undeniably accomplished, because the Lord raised him up.
We are the ones still hurting, still suffering, still occasionally rejoicing but John is only constantly rejoicing in the loving arms of the Lamb who shed His blood to save John from his sins.
And because Jesus rose from the dead, so too will John rise; because John confessed Christ as his savior and that prayer made that sick man well by Grace through faith forever.
So what about us? I think you know, the same way John was raised will be our resurrection hope one day as well.
So by the Grace of God we go…
We pray for the sick because the strength of the righteous one’s prayer is in God working through it.
Not the power or elegance of the prayer in and of itself, but in the object of the prayer; Our God who never says no, He simply says He has something better!
Praying in the hope we have of an effective God for our well-being.
Just like Elijah prayed and look at what God did for him, as James tells us today.
Look all over the bible; the victories, the miracles, and the answers to prayer. And like Cherry recounted in New Member Class last Sunday, none of us have to wait in line to get our Heavenly Father’s attention and listening ear.
Verse 20 hit me particularly hard this week, and changed my heart in a fundamental way.
These last couple of years I have become increasingly despaired with the false teachers and preachers who burden their people with the message of works righteousness, robbing God of all His Glory.
My anger with them lamented the spreading of false teaching and the damage this does to sharing God’s Grace with the unchurched that so desperately want to hear they are forgiven; and that God indeed…does everything they need…to be saved.
James, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reminded me that helping that erring preacher helps those who listen to him, so the message of forgiveness will be preached and multitudes of sinners will be covered by God’s Grace.
Speaking the truth in love, praying for the sick and suffering, and waiting for the glory of the Lord will sustain us till that day, when we get to see Jesus and John again.