Peninsula Community Church
July 21, 2013
James – A Call to Prayer and Praise!
James 5:13-15 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.
Throughout the Book of James, James has detailed misuses and abuses of the tongue. We have seen him condemn complaining, swearing, and judging others. Here, in this text, however, James moves toward expressing how the tongue can be a positive influence. A tongue that positively influences their environment is one that exalts God, prays as a means to focus one’s heart on God, and focuses on praising God.
In this passage, James presents several rhetorical questions. He presents a question and then answers his own question. He asks, “Is anyone among you suffering?” His answer is “Let him pray.” The idea presented through this word “suffering” or “affliction” is that there are outside impediments to one’s ability to live life to the fullest. This could be viewed as one’s boss, one’s spouse, a car accident, the weather, a stock market crash, the crash of the housing market, an illness, and so on and so on. The affliction is one that is burdensome and ongoing. This affliction is not like a hang nail, stubbed toe, or a bad hair day. It is a major issue.
When we face suffering, we are to pray and to refrain from complaining, judging, criticizing and finding fault with others which tends to be the pattern when we are afflicted. The mature believer is one who talks to God about their problems rather than complaining to others about their problems. Through this text we witness the power of the tongue to bring results when we pray. We have here the dynamic of our responsibility and the dynamic of God’s response to our spiritual action. Next week we will see that calling upon the elders to pray and confessing our sin brings answered prayer and victorious answers.
What do we do when we are afflicted? We pray. Praying serves a number of purposes. First, we turn our eyes away from the affliction and the desire to criticize, judge and complain onto our need for prayer and for God’s intervention. We turn inward to allow God to change our heart. By praying, our focus is shifted away from the problem and the affliction we face, and it is turned to Christ. We are humbled by the fact that we can enter boldly into the throne room of God. Second, in prayer our faith is built, as by praying, we are in essence putting our trust in the one who is able to help us deal with the affliction of our life, especially when that affliction is beyond our control.
When it comes to prayer, this study reminds me of the little boy who had been acting up in church. Finally, his dad had enough, so he scooped up the little boy and put him over his shoulder. On the way out the door you could hear the little boy yell to the rest of the church. “Pray people pray!” I don’t think that is what James had in mind.
When we pray; one of two things will happen. We will either be rescued from the affliction or we will be given strength to navigate through the affliction. Either way, God gets the glory and we get the blessing. We would all love it if the afflictions of our lives were immediately removed. But, we also understand that God strengthens us, at times, to endure the affliction and the issues with face with grace and mercy from God. And sometimes, we must remember that the trials we face are often the consequences of decisions we have made and the disobedience of our past where we are currently reaping the fruit of those decisions and those acts of disobedience. At times unfortunately, we are reaping the fruit of others decisions. Remember the little boy in our earlier story? He asked for prayer in hopes the penalty of his disobedience would be removed?
I love the words of Paul who puts this issue in such a great context. He says:
If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:6-11).
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus ‘sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).
What powerful words!!!!!! What hope we have!!!!
The second question posed by James is “Is anyone cheerful?” His reply is “Let him sing praise!” I would also propose that it is a good time to sing not only when we are cheerful but also when we are afflicted. Music moves and inspires the soul. It awakens something within us that other stimuli are not capable of doing. Think for a moment when a song comes on the radio that might have inspired you when you were younger. Perhaps, it is a love song you heard as you sat in your car at inspiration point or at the curb of her parent’s house. What is your reaction when you hear that same song, today? Think for a moment about the kind of music that moves you in worship. Perhaps, it is the music that made an impact in your life, somewhere on your journey.
I love the song “It Is Well With My Soul!” The reason it is so special to me is that I and some friends were facing a difficult season in our lives in college. The college and the church on campus had been broken into and serious damage had been done. The piano had been turned upside down. The organ was now on its back four rows into the sanctuary. The communion set was lodged into one of the stained glass windows. When the first police officer arrived on the scene, the culprit picked up a metal lectern and threw it, completely across the sanctuary, at her like a spear. She yelled for us to grab him as he exited the back of the sanctuary. We did so with fear and trepidation, as he had just demolished a piano and organ all by himself. Because we witnessed all of this, we had to appear in court everyday for more than three weeks. We had to testify against a man who had once been a student and a friend; and now he was in trouble with the law on a number of levels and completely messed up emotionally. After the trial, the ruling came down that he was innocence by reason of temporary insanity. We were heart broken because of what he had done and the fact that he was now allowing drugs to dictate his life. In the service, the next Sunday, the choir director led the congregation in “It Is Well With My Soul.” Those facing the difficulty broke into tears as the song ministered to their hearts. When I raised my head I saw that there was not a dry eye in the church. People were rejoicing with tears of joy because they were not going to allow a messed up young man to dictate their worship or if they would have joy. Since that time, this song has had special meaning to me. No matter what comes, it will be well with my soul.
The idea of this word “cheerful” is the idea of “being joyous in mind.” The idea presented here is that our heart is dictating to our mind the response we need to have. It is a response of worship and praise. Through singing we let those around us know what is in our hearts. I would suggest to you that singing praise is not just relegated to times where we feel like it but it is to be a part of all we do. Sometimes, as we begin to sing praises to God, we sense a change in our mood and we are suddenly empowered to endure whatever is thrown our way.
While the heart dictates our response, there are also times where we need to purpose in our hearts to sing praise even when we don’t feel like it. We choose to sing! We choose to praise God! We act out on what should be rather than what is. This is not some fairy tale experience but it is a conscious decision of the heart formed by wisdom and understanding by God’s Word that chooses to pray and to sing.
Think for a moment, the difference that comes when we pray and sing rather than judge, complain and criticize. Have you experienced this? What’s your story? Would you tell someone your story today? Will you tell someone your story this week? Are you facing affliction, pray? Are you cheerful, sing?