Unlike Paul’s epistles, James’ doesn’t end with a final greeting or prayers of thanksgiving. Rather, it ends very abruptly. It may seem strange as we read these two verses this week that this is the end, but we should not be surprised. This is par for the course given the style we have seen from James throughout the book. He is not afraid to get in your face and tell you like it is. Which is exactly how he challenges the readers to be. When you see your friend (day six) drifting in their faith, you go after them. You bring them back.
Why end here though? Why the abrupt stop? He stops because he wants to emphasize this one final command: a call to community. James recognizes that the Christian walk is not intended to be done alone. We need one another. We are BETTER when we are TOGETHER.
There is a kind of friendship where one will go after their friend if they have wandered off the path. This kind of friendship is responsible, careful, and present. There is a gentle strength to it, that you rarely find elsewhere. It is patient, but persistent. Willful but not overbearing. Life-giving rather than draining. Never afraid to say tough things, preferring to whisper when it does; harsh and loud rarely leads anyone back to safety.
This kind of friendship is a rare find indeed, but doesn’t have to be.
Like a gem, it is forged over time, with great intentionality, and God-centering pressure.
“My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,” Does it make you uncomfortable to fathom that you might get “off track” in your faith?Have there been moments or seasons when you/we “strayed from the truth” in either doctrine or behavior? Part of God’s design for the Christian life is to live it in community- with other believers- to be vulnerable and transparent with one another. God uses other believers to encourage, correct, and restore faith. Has He done that to you?Through you?Do you have those kinds of believers in your life?If so, will you thank them?If not, will you find them?
“If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4
Today, we are pressing the pause button on Re:Verse…our hearts are hopefully turned to Thanksgiving. In our nation’s history, the pilgrims recognized God’s hand in delivering them from starvation and death. Their hearts were turned in gratefulness to Him. We have seen God’s guiding hand of provision all through the past 450 years since. In more recent days, each of us can look back over our individual lives and see the hand of God at work. When we see all that He has done, how can we not be moved to gratitude?
As you sit down today before a feast of food, pause to reflect on the specific blessings you can see in your life…life itself, family and friends, health and happiness, food and provision, shelter and protection, joy and peace of heart, guidance and wisdom, love and security. God’s richest blessings are ours. We sometimes fail to see these blessings because we use the wrong measuring stick to measure them. Psalm 95:1-7a establishes the standard that should govern our lives! Count your Blessings!
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,20 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.
Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
The need to have others in our lives to help shape our faith and hold us accountable is immeasurably valuable. To be a disciple and a disciple maker is part of the ongoing working out of our faith as we navigate this mortal journey. Where are you on this spectrum? Are you being discipled? Is there someone in your life that you need to disciple? This is not an either/or proposition, this is how we do faith. Getting forward as a body of Christ contains an element of accountability. Let us all be praying for God to reveal who we can partner with today.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. vs 16a
In the middle of a passage about healing physical sickness, James tells us that if we really want to be healed, we need to confess our sins. His reasoning for the correlation is threefold. One, sin is the root of sickness. God is not punishing someone because of their sin, but sickness is a result of the brokenness created by the fall. Sin exists; therefore, sickness exists. Secondly, spiritual wellness is paramount to any physical wellness. This is why Jesus would always say after healing someone, “Your sins are forgiven.” If our soul is not well, fruits such as joy, patience, and peace that are necessary to withstand trials will not be readily available. Lastly, by confessing to other people, you enable accountability. Not only will these brothers and sisters help you eradicate the sin, but they will come along side you when the going gets tough to give you encouragement and counsel. Confession is a necessary step in healing.
Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Jame 5:15
Pastor James is not encouraging some form of believe-ism, name it and claim it religion, or the power of positive confession, as if answered prayer is only limited by our imaginations. Nope, not at all. James has already told us that our prayers aren’t answered because we ask with the wrong motives. No amount of confession or speaking-it-into-existence will change that.
What he does teach, is that we can go to a personal God who is more than able to forgive our sin and heal our sickness (sometimes the two are connected).
We put our faith in God, not our power to think something into existence, as if prayer uttered in “faith” is some form of magical incantation. Praying like that is more akin to witchcraft (control or manipulation of the natural world), than anything resembling the prayers of the faithful.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.
Were YOU encouraged by the ReVerse passage this week? Did you sense that you were welcomed and encouraged to experience grace, strength, and help?
God’s invitation to seek and find Him through prayer and praise is not just for the “Super Saints” it’s for Anyone. It’s for YOU, it’s for ME. We are on this invitation list. There is help! There is encouragement! There are promises! For Anyone!!
In this week’s passage, James continues his exhortation to practical living. No matter the circumstances, prayer is the proper response. Suffering or in need? Pray. Cheerful? Pray. Are you sick? Pray. Have you sinned? Confess and pray. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Whenever you are in doubt, pray.
What is your first response when things happen? Is your first inclination to praise God…to thank God…to seek God…to confess to God? By seeking God first, we acknowledge that He is God. We do not try to seek our own way or do things in our own power. The apostle Paul also taught this truth to us… “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17); as well as Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount…“Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) Want to live a life of righteousness? Make prayer your first priority, which translates to making God your first priority!