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James 5:13-18, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”
James knew that healing for the believer should include fervent, earnest prayer. James points out the example of Elijah. Elijah was a man who prayed in God’s will that it would not rain, and it did not. Then Elijah prayed for rain, and God gave it. Elijah prayed according to God’s will in both instances. Elijah was strong in the promises of God.
Psalm 139 14, states that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Galatians 6:9, states that we are not to grow weary in well doing because we will reap if we do not faint. God is able to heal and deliver in His will. This is the earnest prayer that should be given for each other as we pray for healing and blessing on our lives and the lives of others. God knows us better than we know ourselves and is able to answer prayer in order that He might be glorified in our lives. I Corinthians 10:31, states that we should glorify Him in everything we do. We need to persevere in prayer and expect that God will hear and answer according to His will. The Spirit of God will move us to pray and answer prayer according to God’s will and plan for each of us. Christ’s life was filled with daily fervent prayers. Christ spent hours in prayer for decisions and events that He would face in His life. Christ is praying for His children even now. Elijah prayed several time, and so we need to pray for those who are sick and in need of healing.
Many times we do not have answers because we are not humbly asking God for specific answers. We must be continuously asking God for answers and not lose faith even when we must wait for an answer or for healing which may even take some time. The prayer of faith can save the sick, save the soul, or bring a victory in the life of a believer. Our faith needs to be strengthened by the prayer as well. The basis for all of our actions must be in Scripture. If we persevere in prayer, there will be more answers. As we study the prayers in Scripture, we should be strengthened in our faith and know that God will bring forth that which He plans for each of us. If He has more service for us to perform for Him, He can raise us up. When our work is done, He will welcome us home. We must trust Him in both instances as we pray.
Proverbs 23:4,5 says “Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings: they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.”
Have you ever heard of someone winning a lottery and in a few years, they have nothing? Or, a professional athlete making millions of dollars, and by the time he is 50, he is broke? Maybe you work all week, collect your pay check, and by the weekend it’s all gone. Where does it all go?
We know that God is the provider of all that we receive so we should be wise about what we do with what he has provided. Pastor Baker has spoken of a planned, principled, purposeful giving, referring to an offering or a tithe. I know many people get upset when the discussion of finances comes up, but Scripture makes mention of it; therefore, it is a topic worthy of our attention.
Matthew 6:19,20 says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal; But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”
The treasures spoken of here are not just referring to money, but time, effort, and obedience. Why do we do what we do? Why do we serve? Why do we give our time and money? If we do it to be seen of men, we have our reward. That means no treasure in heaven. Do we witness to honor the Lord who saved us? Do we clean the church to thank Him for what he has done for us? Do we give to the poor because God so graciously provided for us? It’s all about attitude, isn’t it? God sees the heart.
Where are your riches, here or there?
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life;
For many years, there has a been a pink little bunny that runs around hitting a drum that is powered by a certain type of battery. It just keeps going and going and going! Seemingly, never-ending, signifying the battery will last a long time. In reality it eventually wears out and a replacement is needed. But there is a power that continues to come and will truly never end: God working within the believer.
The highlighted verses above are well-beloved and yet often overlooked and forgotten. Paul reminds the readers that obedience is a good thing and he further defines it as working out salvation. The Greek for that action is one that literally means to “work out,” not in the sense that we need to figure out our salvation, but that we need to exercise it; we need to use it. But he doesn’t just leave it there, he adds a reason why.
The “for” at the beginning of verse 13 is the signal that the following statement is the grounds or reasoning for the previous statement: God is working within the believer. The verb in this instance has the same root as the one translated “work out” in the previous verse. The difference is that instead of the preposition “out” as in verse 12, here in verse 13 the preposition is “in” allowing for the basic translation of “work in.” The transliteration of that verb in basic form is energedzo. Look familiar? It should, it is where we get the English word “energize.”
So, putting the two verses together, God energizes the believer, so the believer is now enabled to utilize his salvation for the purpose God bestowed it upon him: worshipping God. Again, in that same verse, Paul uses energedzo a second time, which is translated this time as “to do.” So, for God’s good pleasure, He energizes the believer to obey His commands by exercising his salvation. It doesn’t end there, though. The next statement provides the attitude the believer is to have while exercising. One without grumbling or fighting; one without blame and pure; one without rebuke, even though the circumstances around the believer are not the best. Next, Paul defines what the believer does in straightforward words.
The verb in the latter clause of verse 15, translated “ye shine,” is in a middle or passive voice in the Greek. The two forms are identical, and it is dependent upon context to determine which is correct, if a choice needs to be made. In this instance, both have a strong case, and it makes sense that it is both. If the middle voice is translated it would be “you shine yourselves.” If the passive voice is translated, it would be “you are being shone,” with God carrying out the action, since in the previous verse, God energizes the believer.
Due to the fact that God created man with the ability to choose obedience or disobedience, the middle voice makes sense in that man has a part in the whole situation because he must choose to obey. But the passive voice makes perfect sense too, as God works within the believer to enable him to obey and be used as that light in a “crooked and perverse” world. Both voices have their place in the circumstances; man’s choice to obey is enabled by the energy he receives from God for the purpose of shining, being shone, as a light in the world that is in such need of that light.
How is your obedience? God works within us to enable us to exercise our abilities, our salvation, in an effort to shine and be shone around the world as a light because we have the “word of life” that this darkened and dying world needs. God has the power. There is no question of that fact, but will you shine?
I hope you’re not pushing and pulling your way through life. Undoubtedly, many folks would testify that their life is one constant struggle. Come with me to the Scriptures: James 3:16-17, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (Is this your life?) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” It is easy to see the distinction between the worldly human conditions and heavenly wisdom.
In chapter 4:1-5, many aspects of the pushing and pulling of this world are described. These are believers who lust and want things, yet they are empty as they ask amiss. They try a dual friendship that will not work. The friend of the world is the enemy of God. Only through a submissive humble spirit can their need be met. (Verse 6)
In verses 7-11, the believer is given a list of imperatives that leads to victory. I will deal only with verse seven which says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” So, my friend, in an attitude of humility, we are to be under obedience to God; and we are to stand against the devil. These steps will put you on the pathway of a changed life. Your life will no longer be characterized by the chaos of pushing and pulling but by praying and praising. Every Christian needs to pray for a humble spirit which leads to submission and when we do, we will find ourselves praising the Lord.
What I’m giving you is just the start on the road to Christian blessing. Please read verses 7 to 11 and you will find the rest of the imperatives that God lays out for the New Testament Christian to follow.
In closing, I ask you to read James 4:17. God bless you and may each of us have the victory.
This summer the local South Carolina peach farm had an excellent crop of cling-free peaches! They were large. They sported a blend of red, yellow, orange, pink, and gold colors across their outer fuzz. They balanced a wondrous blend of tangy tartness with succulent sweetness. They were juicy enough to make indoor-eating a challenge. So, we bought three bulging baskets and took them to my family in Iowa. The peaches were a gift that they greatly appreciated.
Now, would they have valued our gift if they had refused to accept it? What if they had said that they weren’t worthy or couldn’t afford the gift? They had to accept the gift if they were going to show that they really valued it. The same is true regarding our gift of salvation. God has offered us the gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins! This gift is far greater than some silly succulent something from South Carolina. According to Ephesians 2:4, He showed mercy by His great love. According to the next verse he makes us alive in Christ and offers salvation by grace. According to verse six, he gives a citizenship and a home and a status in heaven. He gives out an inheritance in kindness through Christ Jesus. In verses eight and nine we read, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” We have quite a gift!
But we must accept this free gift if we truly value it! The peaches would have done my family in Iowa no good if they would have just said, “That’s nice,” but never accepted them. Likewise, God’s salvation from sin does no good to people who recognize what it is but never accept the gift for themselves. Have you ever asked Christ to be your Savior and received His free gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins?
Furthermore, if we value a gift, we will use it! What would have happened if my family would have accepted the gift of the peaches and never eaten any? Would they have valued the peaches if they left them to sit in the baskets or even on a shelf? How would they be valuing the gift of peaches if they let the peach fuzz turn to black and white mold fuzz? That would be ridiculous, of course! Similarly, it would be ridiculous for us to accept God’s gift of salvation and then not live out our salvation as God intended. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” He gave us the free gift of salvation from sin. He gave us the free gift of a relationship with God. How are we valuing the gift if we accept that salvation and continue in sin? How are we valuing the gift if we accept that salvation and don’t walk with God?
Let’s show we value God’s free gift to us by accepting God’s free gift. Then let’s use our freedom from sin by living the Christian life to please God!
I have recently been reading a series of historical fiction books about the life of Christ. People have different ideas about fiction, but my thought is that anything that we understand to be fiction but which releases our sanctified imagination about how it might have been when our Saviour was on earth is a very good thing.
In this case, the researcher, Brock Thoene, is at the top of his field, and the writer, his wife Bodie, is also at the top of hers.
Each book takes a character in the gospels and fleshes him or her out as that person might have been.
All of the characters have one thing in common. They pursue Jesus. Initially, most do it from what could be called a selfish motive—needing healing or a friend or something to believe in other than the diabolical pagan gods.
But eventually each character becomes a true follower of the Lord, whether a formal disciple or a person who regularly crosses paths with Jesus some other way (like Mary Magdalene). They all adore Jesus and try to see Him as often as possible, bringing other needy people to Him as they go.
That makes me see the value in these books—they introduce Jesus as a real person (which He is) whom many people adore. I adore Him, too, through the Scriptures and through reading books like this that remind me that He is a real historical figure who lived here on earth for around 33 years. People who knew Him well loved Him; the more I get to know Him, the more I love Him, too. Books like this remind me of how much I long to meet Him—a real person, the God-man who gave me every good thing I have ever known.
Although He is so much more than just someone to meet the needs of all of the people He has created, He does that, too. As a needy, fallen human, it is appropriate to run to Him. It is appropriate to run to Him for salvation, then to continue running to Him as to the friend whose presence we crave. It is appropriate to tell others to run to Him with us in their need.
In the simplest way, that is salvation—knowing that He is a holy God, that we are nothing without Him, and that we must run to Him. Witnessing is simply encouraging others to grab our hand and run with us!
Today we are bombarded by what seems to be “fake news.” Even our President complains about it. Fake news may be very damaging causing one to truly believe statements that are not true. We may even relate these stories to others as fact.
Fake news is not a new device but used to be called “propaganda”; lies spread to hurt and deceive. (Think of WW II.) Fake news has its roots in the Old Testament as Satan lied to Adam and Eve, telling them they could become as “gods”(Gen. 3:1-5).
John 8:44 states the devil “… is a liar and the father of it [lies].” The lie of humanism that man may become as God has been drawing men away from the true God ever since the lie, fake news, was used in the Garden.
In John 14:6, we read that Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” He also instructed believers “… if ye continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
So don’t worry and fret about the “Fake News,” give out the “good news” that Jesus saves! “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).
God made us for Himself. God made us incomplete – perfectly incomplete – that we might find our completeness in Him.
To live for God is a far greater objective than to live for self because we are being called to step out of our own little lives and live for what is greatest and highest and deepest, that is, for the glory of God. This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise (Is. 43:21). Indeed, to live for Someone who is much greater than myself is a much higher quest than to live for merely my own mean, miserable, mortal self.
Man’s quest for God quenches pride and quickens hope and quells fear and qualifies for service.
Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shall have good success.
I am amazed at the extent to which Americans will go to operate, define, seek solutions, offer help, and expect results without acknowledging the slightest possibility that there is a God in heaven who is anything more than a cold hard fact. I define fact, as something known to have happened or to exist. In 1944, 96% of all Americans believed there was a God. In 2016, the number who believes there is a God in heaven has dropped to 79%. Both the Gallup and Pew Researchers have basically consistent percentages.
I am and will always be with the crowd that believes there is a God and that he is not only a fact, but He is the ultimate factor in each life. He is my life and my all as a Christian. God must be more than a fact. He must be allowed to rule and rein in our lives. We should join the Psalmist in Psalm 42:1-2a, As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.
My hope and prayer is that you would allow God to be more than a fact in your daily life. God can become the dominant factor by your choice. Good godly choices are the result of a surrendered heart based on a love for God and the knowledge that God can be a real factor. He will, in fact, influence every outcome of your life if allowed to do so. Joshua 24:15, And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
If your life is only at the fact stage, let me offer you the wonderful blessing of allowing God to become the major factor in your life. This means you are choosing to allow the great God of heaven, the Creator, to influence, control, and direct your life. Oh, what blessings you will have! What victories you will experience! What joy will abound in your life! How often you will see mountains become molehills! You will see the impossible become possible. The pathway for your life will become clear. Allow God to become a factor in your life today. Seek to have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5).
Should you be one of the 10%-11% who do not believe there is a God, read the Gospel of John. It is often called the Gospel of belief. John 20:31, But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. Let’s have biblical answers and lives for this non-biblical culture in 2017.