James: Pure & Practical Wisdom (Week 11)

 The wise confess + pray.

James 5:13-20

If anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

James finishes his letter to those planted amongst the nations with a prayerful and practical end, particularly in relation to suffering. The first point he makes is if you are suffering you should pray.  No matter what that prayer looks like or sounds like, just pray and remember God’s promise that He will be with you. And don’t just pray on your own but pray with others.  And praise with others.  According to James, christian community is vitally important to how we experience and express the reality of God’s love, grace, goodness, redemption and healing. He writes, “if any are sick..let them call the elders of the church and pray over them.”  There is something incredibly significant about us helping each other by praying for each other for healing and walking alongside each other in our suffering.

As James encourages us to pray for healing he acknowledges the connection between the body, mind, soul and spirit. There are many forms of suffering and sickness and whilst some sicknesses originate within the body others originate from within the soul itself. In fact our spiritual lives and our physical lives can be closely related.  It is possible that physical infirmity will effect us emotionally, psychologically or spiritually.  Unconfessed sin, guilt or shame may well effect us in profound ways – the interaction between them and the cause and effect are not always clear.  Although not all sickness is because of sin sometimes there can be a connection and so James encourages confessing our sin one to another because confession is powerful.  When we practise confession not in order to gain God’s approval but rather to keep our hearts pure from sin it then becomes the pattern of a healthy spiritual life and this will likely also affect a person’s physical well-being.

James brings in the example of Elijah as a model for our prayer life.  Elijah was just like us – human, vulnerable, struggled with sin and yet his prayers were effective and powerful.  James is reminding us not to underestimate what God can do with someone who walks closely with him.

Listen to the full sermon and other sermons in this series here.

Questions to discuss in groups:

What role does Christian community play in terms of our flourishing?

Take a moment as a group to read out loud James 5:13-20.

  • According to James in what ways do we help each other what’s going on within our personal lives?
  • What do you think is the prayer of faith that James describes in verse 15?
  • What do you think James is communicating about connection between sin and sickness?
  • What lessons can we learn from Elijah about faith and prayer?
  • what do you think it looks like to bring back someone who has wandered from the truth?
  • Is there anything else that stands out to you from this passage?

For Personal Reflection:

Think about yourself spiritually, physically, emotionally and relationally – is there any unconfessed sin that is causing you not to flourish? Who might you confess that to?

V16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

Wisdom for each day:

Monday: No guilt or shame.

I recently heard someone clearly articulate the difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt is to be mortified because of what we have done; shame is to be mortified because of who we have become.   The two go hand in hand and they can cause great internal pain within us.  We all have different ways of dealing with that pain; either we withdraw from relationship for fear of being judged and having to feel that pain further or we begin to mix with others who legitimise what we have done as not really being that bad.  The problem is that both are merely external mechanisms for trying to deal with problems in our heart and the pain will sooner or later catch up with us. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus has taken upon himself our guilt and has bestowed upon us His identity – we are now children of God, no longer guilty, no longer in shame.  This week let’s meditate upon this truth through Romans 8.

Tuesday: God is for you.

 Romans 8:31 If God is for us, who can be against us?

The wonderful truth that Paul paints is, that if the God of the universe; mighty, powerful, creator and sustainer is for us then what enemies could ever destroy us.  The devil is no match for him; the devil is not God’s equal. Our sin is no match for God; Jesus sacrifice is sufficient. Death is no match for God; Jesus resurrection demonstrates this truth.  And so why is it that we still struggle with fear.  If you are fearful today, even if it is the smallest fear or the largest debilitating fear remind yourself God is for you.  He is for you.  He is with you.  He is championing you on.    The full force of heaven is with you. I wonder how does knowing that God is for you change your perspective for that which you must do for today?

Wednesday: You can’t earn or lose God’s favor because you have it in Jesus.

Romans 8:32 He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

You mean so much to God.  You are so valuable to Him.  You are his treasure; He paid the highest price to have you. God did not spare His own son so that He could win you back.  Why then would you ever doubt God’s heart for you and His plans for your life and your after life. Sometimes in the midst of our own suffering we can doubt whether or not God actually loves us.  But He loves you with an everlasting love and He has given you an inheritance…it is that you might be with Him for all eternity.  It is that you have His presence with you now and forevermore.

Thursday: If God doesn’t point the finger at you then no-one else can.

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

When you became a christian and put your trust in Jesus – at the moment you received a new status before God.  Because of all-sufficency of Jesus’ death on the cross, in God’s eyes it is as though you have never sinned.  You have a right standing with God and open access to Him. In fact, you are just as righteous in God’s eyes as Jesus is. It doesn’t mean that we don’t still struggle with sin and that our sin doesn’t affect the quality of communion with God, with others and with ourselves.   But what it does mean is that access into God’s throne room is never denied us. We may need to confess our sin in order to experience the depths of that relationship but there is no sin that God can’t forgive. What is stopping you from running into your Heavenly Father’s throne room?

Friday: You are free from condemnation.Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn you? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

I have met so many people who find it easy to accept that God forgives them and yet they do not forgive themselves.  It’s almost as though they think they deserve to be punished therefore they punish themselves.  Unfortunately they are missing the point of the good news of the gospel, because they are inadvertently still trying to earn their own right standing before God.  But the truth of the gospel is that Jesus get’s what I deserve in order that I might receive that which He deserves. If God doesn’t condemn us than why on earth do we condemn ourselves?

Saturday:  God really really loves you. 

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?….No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. 

I find Paul’s words so powerful here….as he talks about the different realities that the early christian’s faced; tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, sword – it is God’s love for them that transforms their perspective and even brings victory within these scenarios.  The truth is that no matter my circumstances, nothing can affect this relationship; I belong to God and He belongs to me.  I am secure not because my circumstances are secure but because God’s love for me is steadfast, true and prevailing. I am eternally connected to Love himself and nothing and no-one can break that connection.  Do you need to remember your eternal connection to Love with what you have to face today?