We ended our last look at James with James 5:11.
“We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” (NASB)
Did you get that?
The Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. I suppose much of this mental confusion that I have endured about His nature and character comes from the horrid sermons I have heard over the years. These messages were laden with guilt and implied that you needed to work harder, perhaps even be a missionary and have a spear run through you to prove your worthiness to God.
This kind of works based thinking is what Islam teaches, even to the point that if you get your blood spilled, you can never be sure it is enough blood.
It is head conversations, such as this, that prompt me to think, “and I am the guy that is telling people that Jesus Christ is coming back, and soon.” When I talk with people, you quickly find out that they are not looking for Jesus to return as what they have is good enough. Their lifestyle and traditions make up their comfort zone and frequent visits to some organized church allow them to call themselves Christians, right alongside the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.
I don’t know which is greater, the desire to tell people that I am looking for His return in September or showing them the details of what the time after the church will be like. I would be hard-pressed to reduce the time after the church to one word, but chaos just about covers it.
Why would I feel comfortable talking about when He might come back?
Because, as Paul states,
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; (5) for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;”
1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 NASB
After Jesus finished speaking to the crowd about the sower and seed, the disciples came to him and asked:
“Why do You speak to them in parables?” (Matthew 13:10b NASB)
It almost comes across as though they understood the parables; I don’t think so. Jesus answered them with:
“To you, it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been granted. (Matthew 13:11b NASB)
This is not that difficult and the prophet Daniel confirms that God/the Holy Spirit, will give insight to many.
“Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many;…” (Daniel 11:33a. NASB)
The argument that most throw at you, and some will argue that this is a church doctrine set in stone, is Matthew 24:36.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (NASB)
In doing this, these antagonists overlook the context, which I will give you here.
“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. “Truly, I say to you; this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:32-34 NASB)
It is a safe assumption to say that Israel is that fig tree, and its branch can be seen in some major events like the six-day war which occurred in 1967, in which Israel regained the land that God had spoken to them as being theirs, back. Sadly, that didn’t last long, as the United Nations got involved and Israel relinquished some of the captured lands. The Gaza strip is an example. Israel, to some degree, feels that it is successful and secure. In other words, the fig tree has become tender and has put forth its leaves. Having come to realize that this is happening I look to Jesus’ words when he told those listening; then, you can know that summer is near. This reference to the end of time has little to do with summer, but summer, for the fig tree, is when you can pick the fruit.
Do you not realize that we, the church, are, in a sense, the fruit?
The gathering of His church then is the picking of the fruit. He next says, “when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” Just looking at Israel alone, puts us in a place where we can look for the door to open and the Father to lean out and call us home for dinner.
Jesus gave us one more huge clue to help us determine where we are in this timeline.
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
Israel became a nation in 1948; that date alone should be the lower limit of the timeline. A generation in 1948 was 64.6 years. If you wanted to get technical, Jesus made these statements at a time when the average life expectancy was about 35 years. Based upon the more modern sixty-five-year average, then we are seven years beyond Jesus’ proclaimed time frame.
- The summer is near;
- He is right at the door,
- and this generation will not pass away.
Folks, we are there.
Considering the persecution that is coming, these words from James should bring you hope.
“You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
Since you are now filled with hope and know that God is merciful, then you can take your prayers to Him. And thus, this next section is entitled.
The Prayer of Faith
James 5:13 NASB Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.
Suffering is the Greek word kakopatheō and means to undergo hardship, be afflicted, and endure affliction.
Considering that our churches just recently got shut down again, you might think that many of us are suffering. James tells us, we must pray.
Cheerful means just that, cheerful.
If you are cheerful, then sing!
James 5:14-15 NASB “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; (15) and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.”
Sick, as used in verse 14, is the Greek word astheneō and means to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, and powerless.
There are so many things that can make you feel this way, especially when we, three weeks after reopening our churches, got them shut down again. If that is the way you feel, and many of us do, then call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over you.
“and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick,”
We just covered the word sick in the previous verse, but look up the word sick, as used in James 5:15, and you find the Greek word kamnō, which is means to toil, by implication to tire (figuratively faint, sicken), and be wearied.
With a purposefully created virus, moving our state governors to open and close our churches, beaches, and restaurants, in irregular, indeterminate cycles – causing us to lose our bearings, it is easy to see how we can be tired, sick and weary.
James tells us the prayer of faith will restore not only the sick but also the weary. The NASB conveys the idea that God will raise you up. Let’s consider the word raise for a moment.
Raise is the Greek word egeirō and means the idea of collecting one’s faculties); to waken (transitively or intransitively), that is, rouse (literally from sleep, from sitting or lying, from disease, from death.
The idea of collecting one’s faculties makes me think of the boxer who has come close to being knocked out. It takes them several seconds to regain their composure and gather their legs back under them. For some, it is called “regaining your bearings;” for others, it conveys the idea of rousing someone from sleep; and, finally, healing from a disease or death.
You go to the elders and lay your tattered life before them, with the hope of collecting your faculties; doesn’t that imply that you have missed the mark somewhere along the line?
Sorry if I keep repeating specific themes like sin, which is, at the least, nothing more than missing the mark.
Regardless, all of it was paid for at the cross.
If that is true, then why do I need to go to the elders, and confess to them that the world is tearing me up, and I am not sure how much more I can take. Only to have them declare that my sins are forgiven?
This is why James continues with,
James 5:16 NASB “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
Confess. Gr. exomologeō, To confess from the heart, freely, publicly, openly (Thayer)
First off, don’t pour your personal failures out before everyone. Some people are not safe and will spill your information in front of just about anyone; and some of those know full well what they are doing to you. Take some time to find safe people; even then, some people you thought were safe may not be. In that case, you will have to trust the Holy Spirit to lead you to something like Recovery, or a small group where the leader, under guidelines, works to create a safe atmosphere.
Why would you do this confess thing?
For some of us, this missing the mark has become a habit, and not something you think you need to worry about, as you do it so often. Depending on what it is, it can merely be annoying or lead to the destruction of relationships. For others, it can be a step toward imprisonment or death.
The soundness within confessing might be understood aS God giving you a preview of the future and the trouble it holds; that, and a chance to do something about it. Being forgiven does not mean that you continually live your life in a whirlwind and all the destruction that it brings. Confessing puts that “small” thing out in the open and eliminates it from being our secret because our secrets quickly become our prisons. You should know that what you thought was a secret sin is the thing that will get you pulled from power somewhere down the road. If these people you are sharing your small failures with don’t pray with and for you, get away from them. You see, the effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much.
It was the words of James that freed me, as one day it occurred to me that this confessing is little more than my admitting my small and big failures, even if it includes the way I recently mishandled my dog.
There are times after I have poured out my heart before the men, that several of them merely sit there staring at me. In my head, I imagine that they do not have a clue as to what I just said since they have never sinned. Now, I know that is not true, and here is why.
James 5:17-18 NASB “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. (18) Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.”
Look up the phrase, “with a nature,” and you get this Greek word homoiopathēs, which means similarly affected or subject to like passions.
What that tells me is that he was capable of sinning, and did so, just as we do. Note how the verse tells us that Elijah prayed earnestly that it would not rain – and the rain stopped for three years and six months. Some preachers will stand before you, and act like this time that Elijah spent in prayer was a consecrated and holy moment; and, that Elijah did this repeatedly in some systematic manner. I don’t know about that, for that inference of a methodical prayer life becomes especially difficult when you are running for your life from the king and his deadly wife, Jezebel.
When you look up the word earnestly, Webster’s dictionary will lead you to the word importunately, which means with urgent request and pressing solicitation. Elijah was trying to affect a turn of this murderous king and his wife, toward God. Even if it stops raining, who knows how long it will take before Ahab and Jezebel respond to God if they ever do. We know they did not. Obviously, the rain did stop, and Elijah sat by what seemed like the only trickle of water in all the land; and, the ravens brought him food because God took care of him.
“he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.”
Elijah killed the 400 priests of Baal, and then, almost as if Ahab had been standing there, says, I hear the sound of the roar of heavy rain. Stop here for a moment.
What King travels without his bodyguards?
I suspect they all do, and having witnessed Elijah hack up Jezebel’s priests, why wouldn’t they, in turn, hack up Elijah? Something we may never know here on earth. So it does not seem logical that Ahab stood quietly by as God sent something that acts like a small nuclear blast, to consume the sacrifice, the rocks, and the water in the trench.
1 Kings 18:42 NASB “So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees.”
“So Ahab went up to eat and drink,” as though it was just another day.
Elijah goes to the top of Mt. Carmel, crouches down with his face between his knees, and WHAT?
We are only left to assume he prayed for rain. How and what that prayer looked like is perhaps intentionally left out, and I can see a good reason for that, just as Jesus used a different technique each time He healed someone. The result of this man’s prayer’s, IT RAINED.
So where have we been in the last few minutes?
We opened with, “Is there anyone among you suffering or sick, they should go to the elders, where they will anoint you with oil and pray, and the Lord will raise you up.”
But we found something interesting.
Those two simple words, suffering or sick, talk about the person who is struggling, afflicted, undergoing hardships, and doesn’t have the strength to stand on their own. Only because they, like Elijah, have learned through the school of hard knocks how to pray, these elders will take your life before the Father, “and He will raise you up.”
And yet there is one more thing that seems unusual: “if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.” Well, of course, he has, we all do, but we confess our sins (one to another,) not because we like embarrassment, but because there is healing and freedom in doing that. Again I tell you, be careful about who you share your sins with because NOT everyone is safe.
James has one more piece of advice.
“My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20 NASB)
“If” is a big word, and yet it is a word with hope. I think any of us would rejoice to see even one fellow believer turn back to spiritual maturity. Having been a leader in several recovery groups, there were a couple of men who struggled at the time but still hold tightly to the Lord. Just thinking about them bolsters my heart.
Note how James, reiterates that that one brother who aided in turning back the one who was sinning, saved his soul from death. Here is where it gets complicated for me.
If Jesus could say of the disciples, of all you gave Me I have lost none, and yet we know about Judas Iscariot, then either Jesus lied, or Judas is not lost, or He never had Judas to begin with?
That evokes another question because WE have been given to Him, just as the disciples were, so how can James say we who have turned someone back, will save their soul from death?
That word save is the Greek word sōzō and can also mean to protect.
But for me, there is still that question above.
Soul here is the Greek psuchē. The first thing the Strong’s give us is breath.
We are not talking about something unreal here. We are talking about saving another human being’s life. Since they belong to Jesus, then, NO, they are not going to hell, but their potential and usefulness here on earth can be cut short. Perhaps in saving their life, our selflessness allows them to save someone else from death as well, and thereby, our voices and actions exponentially cover a multitude of sins.