If you ever get a chance, take a few moments and research how and why ships lose their way at sea. I don’t want to be a big spoiler, but I’ll give you a teaser – NO ONE KNOWS. Obviously, that was more than a teaser, but no one knows why ships wander, why they get lost, or what happens to their navigational tools. It’s a mystery of sorts. The only thing we are sure of is that it happens.
Like ships lost at sea we sometimes begin to wander and get lost. Have you ever been having a conversation with someone and your mind suddenly begins to wander and you yank yourself back into focus? Why did it happen? NO ONE KNOWS. The only thing we are sure of is that it happens.
As believers not only do our minds wander, but there are times when we stray from the path God has set before us. All of us. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s path to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.” (Emphasis mine)
When that happens we need people that are more interested in our restoration than the fact that we made a mess. Making a mess is inevitable, restoration is intentional. It’s the kind of attitude expressed in Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
The word trespass literally means a lapse or deviation. The same as wandering. How those around us respond to our deviation helps determine how we recover after we wander. We save a soul when we choose to restore rather than condemn.
What a great journey it’s been going through the book of James one verse at a time this month! Our heart is that you will join and share the conversation about His Word as we grow in our understanding together.
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Tradition has an amazing nickname for James. James is often referred to as “Camel Knees” because of how much he prayed! Coming to the end of the book, we can see how much emphasis James puts on prayer. Tradition also tells us that when James was martyred in 62 A.D he was praying for his persecutors.
The first part of this verse is about us confessing sins to one another. There’s so many different ways to live this out. I think its important to find a person / persons that you trust to confess, but it’s also important that we don’t just confess to each other, but we also confess our sins to God—who is the ultimate forgiver of our sins.
I love how James places an emphasis on the righteous person’s prayer. The way we live matters. Have you ever tried to pray, operate in a spiritual gift when living in blatant sin? It feels weird. Not that God can’t use us in our sin, but how much more effective are we spiritually when our lives honor the Lord.
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
Here’s the deal: We’re no different than Elijah! The same spirit that was with Elijah dwells in us! The outward expression of God’s power may look different, but the power is still with us. James is using Elijah here to illustrate the point of how the fervent prayers from a righteous person is heard by our God.
The story of Elijah: 1 Kings 17-22.
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
This reminds me of the parable Jesus shares in Luke 15 about the lost sheep. We all know someone who used to proclaim Jesus’ name. Someone who was active in the church, and for whatever reason, they have wandered. James is encouraging us to go after those people.
My prayer today is that we would be inspired and be given the boldness to reach out to anyone that we know that has wandered away from the truth. That we would pursue them regardless of how awkward it might be because as James instructs we are being used by God to save them.
James 5: 13-15
Life gives us constant trials and consistently tests our faith. But God has proven himself faithful above all. Faith for so long has been defined as mere “believing in what we cannot see,” but this is actually not the case. Faith goes so much deeper than just belief. It is widely accepted in the Christian community that every word that Jesus spoke is true (as it should be). But if that is so; then when he says “ask anything in my name and it will be given to you through faith” or “with a mustard seed of faith cast these mountains into the sea,” it should be done. So why isn’t it always done that way? Because belief can be conjured up. I can convince myself of believing in something, but I cannot convince myself to have more faith. Faith is a gift from God, and it should be treated as such. Belief is not faith, but rather, it opens the door and invites faith to step in. Faith is mentioned several times as a spirit, and with deeper research into the original Greek, we actually come to find that it is the same word used for the “Spirit of Faith” is the same for the “Holy Spirit”.
Time and time again Christians will anoint the sick with oil to pray and believe for a healing or miracle in someone’s body (James 5), and if they don’t end up seeing the miracle straight away, they will try to pray harder, as if the words they say had any effect on the outcome. When we beg God for a miracle, we are subconsciously thinking ourselves more gracious than He is. They don’t realize that when the spirit of faith is present, the free gift of God is given, miracles just happen. We don’t have to beg or plea. We just invite the Spirit of God to move and He will. Jesus is the perfecter of our faith, and in Mark 8:24-25 we see that Jesus had to pray for a man twice to be healed of blindness. If Jesus had to pray twice, then I would say we have perfect license to pray until the job is done. We cannot convince God to do what we want Him to do, all we have to do is invite the spirit of faith and continue to press into his word. It takes the pressure off of us completely and places it all upon the grace freely given to us.
In this last chapter of James, he’s giving us the opportunity to practice the patience he was discussing in the previous 2 verses.
As humans, we tend to grumble or moan about others moment by moment. We don’t enjoy being the one mumbled about. Yet, we do not hesitate to grumble about others.
This is the practical application. Stop blaming each other. This feat requires patience. We will be judged one day by what we say and it’s closer than you know. This is the point Jesus was making in Matthew 7.1.
James then summarizes that our patience is learned from suffering.
I am simply in awe that great honor is given to those who endure suffering. (v.11) Dare we say suffering by trials is a gift?
He gives us Job, a man of great endurance as an example. We see suffering, endurance and blessing in Job’s life. This ties back in to the first chapter of James 1.2-4. We learn that suffering comes, we endure, and blessing comes. This builds our character as only the Lord can build.
James needs us to see that The Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. This is grace and love tied together. In the midst of trials, our patience in God to develop our character will bring us grace. This we will have confidence in.
In verse 12, James says “Above all”, do not take an oath by heaven or earth or anything. A simple yes or no is sufficient. If you trust in God’s grace, you have no need to impress God or people, and you can be at peace with saying honest words.
Patience and endurance, those two words are like being hungry while on a diet; none of which sound very fun. The very thought of these two words is enough to bring me to my knees in absolute surrender to Christ! Without him I couldn’t endure let alone be patient. We as a society are focused on the right now, and how can I get what I want faster. Have you ever prayed for someone or a situation and it seems as if nothing has changed?
In James 5:7 he refers to the farmers waiting patiently for the rains to fall, so that their valuable harvest will ripen. Then he proceeds to tell us in verse 8, you too, must be patient, take courage for the coming of the Lord is near.
Ok, so we may not be planting fields of crops but we are praying without ceasing (1Thes 5:16), we continue to be faithful even when we can’t see a change. As I’m patiently enduring the answers, I pray his words. Jesus wants us to rejoice when we run into trials, because it develops endurance and endurance, character (Rom5:3, 4).
Satan wants us to become weary and doubtful of what we have planted, it’s easy to lose hope and feel like you did something wrong, when you’re waiting and waiting, with what seems like no end in sight. I find it comforting that we are to take courage, because Jesus is coming! So until that time comes I will consider myself the farmer and wait for all the things that God has promised me.
A commonly heard cliché is “money is the root of all evil.” However, this is a misquotation of 1 Timothy 6:10 which actually says, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” James 5:1-6 reveals the sorrows that come from a love of money. The gold and silver corrode, the fine clothes become moth-eaten, and their cries of anguish ring out.
So is James saying that all who are rich will perish? The answer is no. The aim of James is to lead first-century Christians away from hypocrisy and point them toward right Christian living. An example of this is when Jesus spoke with the rich young ruler. With an eager spirit, the wealthy man asked what good thing he could do to achieve eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments, to which the ruler responded that he already does. One last thing Jesus asked of him: “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21). This, the young man would not do, and walked away sad, retaining his wealth.
What we see Jesus doing is exactly the point of the book of James—marrying faith and works. Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler was aimed to reveal the man’s heart. The reason this man wouldn’t do the work of selling all of his things was because of his great love for material possessions over God. His lack of faith is revealed by his lack of deed. Further, this passage in James shows not only does the love of wealth show lack of faith, but it also can lead to taking advantage of and abusing others in the pursuit of more wealth.
Is it impossible to love God and remain wealthy? No. But the love Christians have for God must surpass the desire to accumulate wealth so much, that we are willing to give it up and share our resources for the Kingdom. We must keep a loose grip on the things of this world, and a cling tightly to Jesus’ commands.
Additional references for further study: Proverbs 11:4, 28; Matthew 6:19-24