James 5:12-20 (Week 9 – Faith in Action Series)
Jason White



In this final section of James, he teaches us to pray in times of trouble, when we are happy, when we are sick, and when others wander from their faith. He says the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective.







Sermon Audio Transcript
Yesterday was the opening day of our Upward soccer season. And it was hot, smoking hot out there. But it was a great day, it was a busy and a very full day we had over 400 Kids sign up to be a part of our Upward soccer season this year, which means when you add parents and grandparents coming to watch it all of those different times, I mean, there were probably over 1000 Different families that were here on our campus. Yesterday, for the opening day of our Upward soccer. I was here early with John and Nancy O'Sullivan, who helped run our Upward program to make sure that things were were getting set up and ready for the day. And as we we got closer to that eight o'clock hour, it all began to kick off and and players were showing up and coaches and parents and grandparents and everybody was around. And they're they're wondering, I mean, it's the first day, which field do I go to? How are the fields labeled? Do I have my jersey on? Right? Because they're reversible? Are we home? Are we away? Where do we sit whenever we want to watch? And how does all of this stuff work? And so there were a lot of questions to answer, you had to make sure that you were available to recognize where people needed to go. But before long, you look up and it's all going right. I mean, all the hard work and the preparation and their six games that are going on at eight o'clock and fans are cheering and kids are having a great time and all the above. But when those games were finished, new games started after that. And there were more questions about where to go and what to do. And then there was a complete transition between the small fields to the big fields. And then we had to have referees for those. And now you're trying to make sure that we had all of those things lined up and in we didn't in years, truly got to step in and ref a couple of those games. I only got yelled at a couple of times. And they were gracious in the way that they yelled at me. And they just wanted to make sure that I knew I had missed an obvious call. And I had a time or two it was my first time back on the soccer field in a while and it was hot, right? I mean, all I could think about was going back home and sitting in the AC to take a nap at some point in time. But But anyway, it was a great I mean, it's a six straight hours of just games and roughing and one thing to the next and it's it's hot and you're tired. And then and then it all finally ends about 115 or so. And you're thinking yes, like this was good, but I'm glad it's over and I get to go home and in the air conditioning and take a nap. And then you start looking around. And you notice there's about 12 to 15 canopies that need to be taken down. There's soccer balls that need to be picked up. There's goals that need to be picked up and transported and put away. There's a whole concession stand that needs to be put away. There's trash that's laying everywhere that people left around and has to be picked up. And then the trash has to be taken to the dumpster. And you're going, Oh, I'm not really done. Right. There's still a lot of work that has to be done. And there was and we were still around here for another 45 minutes or so trying to get all of those things cleaned up. That's kind of how I feel about where we're at in the book of James today. Right? I mean, it's been busy. It's been full from the very beginning, James just dove in. And here's the practical outworking of your faith right off the bat in the first few pages and then it doesn't stop he finishes that section and goes right into the next just like there was another game yesterday and another game yesterday and another game yesterday and all of these things and we've been looking at this all summer and we finally hit the end. This is it right the last few verses and you're going okay, we're just gonna coast on in today. A lot of times when you get to the end of a letter, it's just little greetings and say hi to so and so for me say bye to so and so. And here's a couple of last parting words and you just kind of all right, this is easy, right? This night with James Wright. You look up and there's still golds to put away and there's still trash laying around and there's still 45 minutes of hard work to put in out there. Right. He's got a lot of stuff to still say in these last nine verses that we're gonna look at a lot of practical application to the out workings of our faith. And so I hope that you're ready as we close in because we've got a lot of work to do to dive into what James says last here. Again, James chapter five, beginning in verse 12. Starts off and says above all my brothers and sisters now you might be tempted to think when you see the words above all All that what James is saying is listen up. Because this is the most important thing I've had to say yet so far, right? I mean, above and beyond everything that I've said so far. That's not what James is really saying here. This isn't any more important than what he said already. This is just kind of a way of bringing a letter to the close this signals to the audience that this is the beginning of the conclusion of James letter to them. So he says, above all, in conclusion, my brothers and sisters do not swear not by Heaven or by earth or buy anything else, all you need to say, is a simple yes or no, otherwise you will be condemned. Now we see the word swear there. And we're kind of tempted to think that he's talking about those four letter bad words that your mom or dad or grandparents told you were inappropriate and say, See there, I told you, the Bible says not to swear you should watch your language with all of those things. And, and I certainly do believe that the Lord wants to have a say in our words and language. He's already talked a lot about our tongue and language throughout the book of James Right. But but that is not really what James is talking about. Here. James is talking about not taking oaths, there were a lot of frivolous oaths that were part of the Jewish heritage, or those who were Jews at the time. And he was calling attention to those things. James is saying, to not invoke God's name, to guarantee the reliability of what you're saying, Don't invoke God's name, to guarantee the reliability of what you're saying, just let your less yesterday yesterday, nobody know. Right? I mean, he's he's saying that, that out of the outworking of our faith, if we're walking by faith and dependence on Christ, then really the truthfulness of our speech is going to be consistent, and dependable, so consistent, and so dependable, that you don't have to take an oath, you don't have to swear on the Bible that it's true. You don't have to say I swear to God, that this is true. I mean, honestly, you think about when people are using that language, it's usually coming from a lot of people who, because they've not usually been telling the truth, or living their lives in a way to where what they're saying can be trustworthy. They've got to come along and say, I swear on the Bible, that's true or swear, right? And he's going just, Hey, be the kind of people because this is who the kind of people God's made you into already. That just let your Yes be Yes. And your no be No, because you're so consistent, dependable on telling the truth already. Any way. Right. So this is what James starts off in his conclusion, kind of addressing your speech. And again, he's said a lot about hard speech throughout this time, right? You're like, come on, James, give me a break here. I get it. But he's got more to say about our speech just in a different way, the way we don't necessarily just talk to each other. But the way we talk to God, and this will dominate the rest of the close of the letter here, throughout what James has to say. So let's see what he goes on and says in verse 13, is anyone among you in trouble? Yes, James, we are what do we do? Let them pray that we're trouble here translates the verbal form of the word that James used just a few verses earlier in verse 10. If you back up in chapter five, you see that he was talking about the suffering, the word translated suffering there of the prophets, is the verbal form, or this is the verbal form of that word that he uses in 13 here, and it really just kind of has the basic sense of experiencing difficulties and troubles of all kinds. I mean, he's not alluding to one particular kind of trouble or struggle here. I mean, it's all kinds of difficulties and trouble. So James says when you experience trouble, right when you start to face financial troubles, marriage troubles, parenting troubles, grandparenting, troubles, career troubles, homework, troubles, bullying, troubles or troubles of any and every kind. James says, here's what you do. Talk to God about it. Pray, turn your attention to him. Turn your focus to the One who created you and the one who sits above all things and is not surprised about the situation or circumstance that you find yourself in the trouble that you are in in that moment. I turned to him and talked to him about it. I mean, really tell him about it even questioned him about it. I don'tget it. God, why am I here? What's going on? What Are you up to and all of this, ask for wisdom in those situations about how to deal with it, ask him for strength to endure the trouble in difficult situation, ask him to change it. I mean, really, God, I don't like being here, please change it. But I know that you're God. And I trust you with where I'm at and what you're doing in my life in this moment, here. Pray, when you find yourself in trouble, pray, it seems simple. It seems like kind of a dud. But I gotta be honest with you, out of all the things that James has to say here, this is the one that he slapped me personally, in the face with most this week, as I was preparing for the message, I went to lunch earlier this week with someone in our community doesn't go to this church. And he was asking how I was doing. And I was saying, you know, things are good, but I'm gonna be honest, I'm starting to experience some stress, a little bit of anxiety about the now's the time campaign and about our, our building, and just all the work and the decisions, and you start to see the money that it's costing and the rate at which it goes out and the rate in which the giving is coming in. And then when we're done with these projects, we've got more projects to do, but I don't think we're gonna be able to start them, we're gonna have to tell him to go there and tell him to come back. And I'm going, I don't really know. And I'm just being honest, I just share my heart with him and saying, I'm kind of struggling with all of those things. And he just looked me right in the eye and kind of almost called a timeout and stopped. He said, Jason, can I just first of all, ask you some questions? Number one, are you praying about this? And number two, who's praying alongside of you about this kind of thing? And it's like, I've gotta go, you know, I think I've got a meeting or something. I think my really my heart just kind of sank because I had to be honest. Like, yeah, I mean, I've prayed I prayed when we started. And but now we're in it, you know, when I did, maybe every now and then, but not, not really consistently, not with any intentionality. Who's praying alongside of me, I don't know, maybe there are people but certainly not with me. And I certainly haven't been taking the initiative to lead you as the congregation into praying about this and praying about God's continued provision in all of those things. So I just need to say that that stops today. That's what God was addressing in my life. It's what he does. That's what I prayed about before the message, that's what we do, we turn to God's attention to his word, what he wants to show us about it, and through it and how it applies to our lives in this is me, and I hope that you'll join me in that we're going to have some prayer time, a little bit later at the end of the service. And I want to invite you to come alongside of me and start praying about those things are continue. If you have, I'm going to ask you to be here on Wednesday nights, we have Wednesday night activities for our kids and our youth and Bible studies. And the first 30 minutes from six to 630, we're going to spend some time praying as a congregation about these things. And if you were here last semester, we did some of that, but we're going to do it differently, this time, some of the times, we're not going to stay in the parlor, we're going to pray together. But a lot of the times, we're gonna get up and we're gonna go, we're gonna go in the sanctuary, where work is being done, we're gonna go in our children's area where work is being done, and we're gonna pray over each of those areas that are in there, we're going to ask for God's provision for all of these particular things we're going to ask, we're gonna go to the areas that we haven't been able to touch yet, and we don't have the funds and we don't have the funds committed to be able to finish out the rest of it and go, God, we know you lead us into this. And so we trust you to provide and we're asking you to follow through with what it is that you've led us in these areas, we're going to pray for the ministry, that it's going to be done in each one of those settings and forgotten to use it to be a blessing to our community and to our kids and our grandkids and that they'll come to know Christ and that fruit will be produced in them and through them. And, and I don't want to do that alone. You and I are in this together. And so I'll invite you to be here and be a part of it with me on those evenings. I'm sorry for not taking the initiative and not following through with those things. And just hope that from here on out. You and I will join back in this and commit to asking the Lord praying what James is talking about here, when we find ourselves in difficult situations and we're really having to lean in and trust him with the things that are going on. So James says hey, at pray when you're facing troubles of any kinds. But listen, James doesn't want you and I to think that that's just the only time that we should talk to God, when we're facing troubles. So look what he says next. Is anyone happy? If you're happy, what do we do James? Let them sing songs of praise. Don't just turn to God when things are bad, turn to him when you are glad, right? Singing songs of praise is kind of a way to prayerfully thank God for who he is and how he is providing for us and what it is that he is doing. And so James says, don't just pray when you need God's help in times of trouble, pray and seeing, turn your focus and attention to him when things are going well to. Next, James continues to give us other specific times to pray, turn our attention to the Lord, verse 14, and 15. Is anyone among you sick? If so, let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Okay, so there is a lot in here, rather than James just saying, Hey, are you sick, then pray, like he had done the last couple of verses here. And James says if you're sick, and we get the sense that the way he's talking here is that this is someone who's bedridden, this is someone who's really sick, because he talks about praying over them, he talks about them being raised up. And so you get the sense, he's kind of talking about someone with a serious illness. So if that's the case, and you find yourself dealing with a serious illness, then don't just pray about that yourself, and get the leaders of the church involved. Have them pray for you. Now, a lot of people want to draw attention to the oil here and me what is what is that all about? James? Well, again, anytime we're talking about things that is written, few 1000 years ago, the very first question that we're always asking is, what is that about in this culture, in the context, the original context in which James was writing it in? Well, oil during that time in the first century was used for a lot of different things. I mean, first and foremost, it could just be used as kind of a refresher, right? The same way that you and I might might cup water in our hands and splash it on our face in a lot of times, this just man just kind of wakes you up, it's refreshing to be able to do that, well, oil was used in one sense. And so maybe he's just talking about it from that perspective. But that wasn't the only reason that oil was used. It was also used for ceremonial and symbolic reasons. And then another thing it was used for was medicinal reasons, medicinal purposes. And so some people believe that James is saying here to to let the leaders pray over us when we're sick and find ourselves in these situations, but also, then to let the role of medicine do its work whenever you're sick. And I certainly believe that it could mean that. And I do think that that's the best way to approach us being sick. If we're looking at it from a biblical perspective, we pray, we lean we trust on God as the ultimate healer and the ultimate physician. But we allow God's advancement of medicine to be a way that he is providing and treating for us as well in situations. But I'm not convinced that that's what James specifically means here. And a lot of commentators will talk about how this passage is really primarily talking about the use of oil to symbolize the person being set apart for God's special attention and care in this critically sick face. It's a symbol, a symbolic way of saying we're setting this person apart because they're in such serious sickness and dire health, that God they need a miracle from you. They need you to really step in and do what only you can do in that way. Now, the thing is, is I really don't want to get too caught up in this and make too much about the emphasis on the oil because really, the emphasis is not on the oil here. Right. I mean, James says that the prayer offered in faith will make a sick person well, he didn't say the oil will make the person well. He said the prayer are offered in faith, we'll make the sick person will. It's a symbol, in a lot of ways, just like we have symbols for a number of other things. You've all been to weddings. You've all seen someone who's getting married, do a unity candle ceremony, right? Or a sand ceremony and the mixing of the Sands. They're symbols to show that God is making the two, one are the candles making them one? Is the sand making them one? Of course not God is doing that. But this is a symbol and a picture of helping us see the work that God is going to do. And so a lot of times, maybe what James is talking about with this oil here is for them to set them aside. And oh, we're seeing in a symbolic way that we're setting them apart for doing the work that only God can do. And we're praying over them in this special way and in this special moment. So if that's true, and that's what James means here,then does that apply to us today? I don't know. I'll be honest, I don't I don't know. I mean, it was certainly something that was a way of being used as a symbolic and a ceremonial thing in their culture. Oil isn't really used in that way in our culture. And so if we go does that translate from their culture into our culture? I don't really know. I mean, does it hurt to do it? No. Right? But again, are we doing it because we really feel like the oil is going to do something in the healing? Are we doing it to say, Hey, this is something that we're setting apart for God's work to do in this way. Again, the emphasis is on the prayer. And there's plenty of other situations and circumstances in the Bible where we see people being healed, and there was no oil involved. So evidently, it's not a requirement. You don't have to have it in order to necessarily be healed if you can be healed. In other situations. There's plenty of cases in Scripture, though, where I do want to address a lot of confusion around this, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person will. So the questions that arises are okay, when I'm praying in faith, I'm always going to be healed. Or if I'm not, does that mean that I didn't really pray with enough faith? Right? And no, you're not always going to be healed and no, but if you don't get healed, it doesn't mean you didn't pray with enough faith, plenty of places in scripture where people prayed for healing and it did not come. The apostle Paul is one of them. He prayed for the thorn in his side to be removed. But guess what, it wasn't removed, it wasn't God's will. So when James says the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, what that means is that when that prayer lines up with God's will, they'll be healed. John 1414, Jesus said, If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. Now. Do you really think that Jesus meant that you can come to him and just offer up his name with anything it is that you want or desire, like some magic genie, and he's going to do it right? That's not what he's saying here to ask in his name, is to ask according to His will. We ask God to heal, we pray and faith that he can. We asked him to do it, we even beg him to do it. But we still leave it in his hands and we declare Thy will be done. You're a good God. You're a compassionate God. We trust you with your decision in this. Now the last thing to mention before we move on, is that James says if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. James is implying here that sometimes illnesses that we have could come from sin in our lives. Right now, that's not always the case. It wasn't sin and there wasn't sin and Job's life. James had just brought him a favorite example, a few verses earlier, we talked about that last week. Joe didn't get sick as a result of sin in his life. Jesus was even asked one time about a man who was sick, people came to him and say, Hey, Jesus, who was it that sin? We know that's why sick, we know he's sick, because either he sin or his parents sin. Now Jesus, you know, all things. So which one was it? Was it this guy? Or was it his parents? And Jesus looked at him and said, Neither. Right? And so it's not always a case that we end up getting sick as a result of sin in our lives, but we can we live in a fallen world there are consequences to sin in our lives. And sometimes that can be it illness. So James says, If notice that word being in there, if this person had sin in their lives, and that led to them being sick in this situation, they need to know that they're forgiven, right? Of course, they're forgiven. Jesus's blood covers all of our sin, past, present, and future. And as you turn from that sin, then there could be healing. And that's kind of what leads James to say what he says next and verse 16, Therefore, confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other, so that you may be healed. The prayers, a prayer of a righteous person is powerful, and effective, James says, Now, in this context, James is still talking about sin in people's lives, that could be causing them to be sick. He's saying to confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other, that you may be healed, he's still talking about this same thing. It's all flowing together. And so James says, confess your sins to people in the church that you trust, get that hidden sin out into the light where people will know about it, where they can come alongside of you and pray for you and help you turn from that sin and, and begin to walk in the power of the Spirit again, and James says that, that this prayer, from your Christian brothers and sisters who are righteous in Christ is powerful. And it's effective. I don't think James is talking about, you know, the prayer of a righteous person, meaning it's coming from someone where you see that in their behavior, oh, man, you can tell they're a really righteous person because of their behavior, right? That Scriptures tell us that the moment we put our faith and trust in Jesus, our sins are forgiven, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, we enter into a spiritual union with Jesus who is righteous, and in him then that righteousness gets applied to us, it's now part of our new spiritual DNA. And so in Christ, you and I are made righteous. And when we're made righteous, then that makes our prayers now powerful and effective. So James is saying, be a part of Christian community. It's not a lone ranger type of Christianity, be a part of Christian community and talk, like, really talk about the real stuff going on in your life. And pray for people as you talk about the real stuff that's going on in your life and let people pray for you. Because if their brothers and sisters in Christ and the righteous in Christ, then those prayers are going to be powerful and effective. So he says all of this stuff about prayer and how they're powerful and effective, and just leads James under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to think of an example. Let's give him a picture of what we're talking about here. Verses 17 and 18. Elijah James says, was a human being, even as we are, he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again, he prayed, and the heavens gave rain and the earth produced its crops. So you know that Elijah was an Old Testament prophet. what James is talking about here is about this time, when there was a three year drought, you can read about it in First Kings 18. And at the end of first Kings 18. We're told that Elijah bit down on his knees, he put his face between his knees and he prayed for rain. And then after he prays for rain, he gets his servant says, Hey, go on the lookout, go over there and look out for clouds. Look out for a storm coming and tell me what you see. So he goes out. And he comes back the first time and says, you know, I don't really see anything. There's not really anything happened. And it's kind of a bluebird got a day here, Elijah, right? And he says, we'll go do it again. He comes back and he says, I'd still don't see anything. And he goes back, and he still doesn't say anything. This happened seven different times, right? And he's going, there's just not anything happened. And Elijah is praying each time. And finally, on the seventh time, the servant comes back and says, you know, I don't know I could be seeing things. But but maybe like, I mean, way, way off over there could be a cloud. I mean, I don't know. It's like, whatever I see is kind of the size of a fist. And Elijah looks at me says, You better go get your umbrella because it's about to rain. Right? And it does. I mean, the rains come at that particular time and so, so James says, Hey, do you see what happened when Elijah prayed? His prayers were powerful and effective. right in this example that he's showing us, but he also mentions that, hey, Elijah was just a normal human being in these verses just like you and me. And so he's saying, again, you being in Christ, and a normal human being like him, that makes your prayers powerful and effective, as well. But here's what I really want you to see. All this takes place at the end of first Kings 18.It the very first of First Kings 18. Here's what we read. After a long time. In the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah, before what we read at the end of first day kings 18, right, here's what he says, go and present yourself to Ahab. And here's what I'm going to do. I will send rain on the land. In other words, God had already told Elijah what it was that he was going to do. He already told him his will for this situation, that he was going to send rain on the land. But what do we still see Elijah do? Pray and ask God to make it happen. He's on his knees. He's praying earnestly for God to do what it was that he told him, he was all ready going to do. To put it in our perspective and example of what we've already talked to. I truly believe that the Lord led us into the now's the time campaign. It wasn't just me praying about those things. In the beginning, it was our leaders, and there was much discussion involved. And it was obvious to all of us that this is the direction that God was leading us in, right. He told us in anything that he's telling us to dive into, he's going to provide for but in the same way that he told Elijah what it was that he was going to do. And we saw Elijah still pray for it means that you and I still get on our hands and our knees and we passionately beg Him and pray for him to do what He already said he was going to do. This is the way it works, right? So James says, to pray when there are tough times, to seeing and pray when things are good to pray and ask church leaders to pray over you when you're really sick, to confess sins to brothers and sisters and ask them to pray for us. And he shows us even how with the example of Elijah, to pray, were to pray earnestly and with passion and persistence and expectation in anticipation of his will. But look at how he closes this letter out quickly. Verses 19. And 20 says my brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth, and someone should bring that person back, remember this, whoever turns a senator from the error of their ways, will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. As family as brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not give up on one another. When our brothers and sisters wander away from God, our mom or dad, our spouse, our kids, our grandkids, our Sunday school members, we don't give up on them. We pray on our hands and knees with passion and intensity, we love them unconditionally. We're patient with them we speak truth into their lives, as the Lord leads us to do so. And when we do so we do so in love because that's the way he says that he will work. But ultimately we entrust them to the Lord, as we plead with him. And as we participate with Jesus in these ways, and he does his work through us to turn them from the path of destruction that they were on. It can certainly save their lives from that path of destruction and bring healing to them. So keep praying for the people you love who have wandered from the truth, keep loving them and serving them and being available for how Jesus wants to use you to bring them back to him. So again, as we we in this book of James, what we see overall in this section as he closes out this letter is this emphasis, this encouragement, this calling for us as brothers and sisters in Christ to pray to pray when we're going through difficult situations to sing songs and pray, even when things are going well, to pray and ask the other leaders in the church to pray when we're dealing with sickness, to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ and to let our brothers and sisters in Christ pray over us, as we confess sins to each other. And then finally, to pray for our brothers and sisters who are far from God who are wandering in the desert, and to not give up on them, but to pray for them. And so this is what we did. This is how we respond. Even now, in this moment. We pray. So I am going to begin our time of prayer together. And I'm going to pause and just give you a chance to pray. Are you going through something difficult today? Pray, pray for a now's the time campaign. Are you sick? Pray? Do you need to ask others to pray for you. I'm here, I'll be up here. I'll be available. You can go to someone else in here. Do you know someone who's wandered and they're far away from God? Pray there unconfessed sin in your life that's causing you destruction and you need to get it off your chest and talk to someone then do that today, maybe even right now in this moment, but James calls us to pray. And so let's respond. And let's pray