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As Todd walks us through James 5:7-20 we're remind that this life promises difficulty. When we're ill, facing death, struggling with sin, dealing with the difficult issues of life, we're to turn to God, His word, and His people. And we pray. We're called to pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances.
Truth About Prayer and Healing
The Truth About Suffering and the Believer
The Truth About Wealth and the Joneses
The Truth About Slander and Silence
The Truth About Conflict in Our Lives and Communities
The Truth About Transformed People
The Truth About the Tongue
The Truth About Genuine Faith
The Truth About How to Treat People
The Truth About the Believer and the Word
The Truth About Temptation and How True Believers Respond
The Truth about Troubles and Trials
Welcome to Watermark. If you've not been here, you are really confused right now. We have spent I don't know how many weeks in the book of James, and we have titled this little series Walk the Line. The reason we did that is I had a Johnny Cash tune in the back of my mind that talks about a man who had been radically changed by the love, in his case, of a woman.
I want you to listen to these lyrics, because what we have… I want you to understand this. We are not a dead religion. We don't have a dead God, and we are not to have a dead faith. We have a living God. He calls us into relationship with him. He wants us to have a relationship with him. He says, "I love you. I'm going to make provision for you. I am going to turn the tide. You're not going to turn the tide; I am."
The tide of sin and death has been reversed through the love of God. As a result of that, he expects our hearts to be given fully to him, and this ought to be our song back to him. So just like Johnny said in that song, "I'm going to keep a close watch on this heart of mine…" Then he says…
I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit that I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine, I walk the line.
Does that sound biblical? At the end of the day with your thoughts, you have to ask yourself, "Hey, what am I going to do? What have I done? Have I been a fool for Christ? Does the world look at me and say, 'You have to explain to me the way you're living'?" First Peter 3:15 says you change your life, you sanctify your heart, and you don't do that by your own will; you do that by being transformed by the renewing of your mind.
God is no longer this oppressive woman deity to be avoided; she is your joy and your life. He's not going to keep you from catting around having real fun; he's going to teach you what love really is. You sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart, and then it says you always be prepared to make a defense when anyone asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.
"Why, Wagner; why, Christ follower; why, Watermark; do you love the way you love? Why are you not adulterating yourself in all the things that I am, looking for life and love in all the wrong places? Why is your heart true?" Answer: because he's mine, and because I love him.
As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I've known proves that it is right.
It's just what Jesus said. "I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life." Your life ought to be a testimony to the rightness of walking with God. Now here's the deal. James is going to close up that book and let you know that in this life that rightly walks with God, there are still going to be troubles. This was the end of the book.
James is a realist, and what he's going to say is, "Listen, gang. We're not home yet. It's not going to be all easy. You won't be rocky in your relationship with God unless you leave him, but you're still going to have a rocky relationship with earth, and especially with fullness of life in it, because sin and death and disease and betrayal and disaster are still a part of the normal course of things here, because this is not the world I intended.
I am not pulling you out of this world. I am leaving you in this world so that you can be a light and a hope to the world so you can sing about where real love is. It's in relationship with me. When you are done with your tour of duty there, I will call you home, and you won't have to walk the line, because I've paid the price for you, but you will enjoy me forever." That's the book of James.
So he has walked us through a right understanding of trials and suffering, a right understanding of our pea-brain and his infinite brilliance and goodness, so we should be slow to speak against God, quick to listen to his Word, that he can remind us and soothe us and comfort us and encourage us so we don't wander away in the midst of the difficult times.
He tells us in James, chapter 2… This is the truth about relationships. "Don't you love men and respect persons because of their external appearance or because of their deep pockets. You love all men the same, and you make sure your faith isn't dead but is alive and active, and you live rightly in relationship with God. Don't say he's a great God, that a wise man would marry him…"
Can I tell you something that's really true and sad about me? There was a girl who hung around me when I was a single guy, and people used to say to me, "Why don't you like that girl?" I go, "I like her. I hang out with her all the time." "Well, what's wrong? Why aren't you pursuing her?" I'll tell you what. I'd tell people this all the time. I'd say, "If I had a good friend who I loved who I was really going to try and help, I would set them up with this girl, because there is no one else like her I've ever seen. She is kind. She is secure. She's not finding her validation through men."
But I had, at times, in my little warped mind, different little stories about what the girl I would give myself to at some time would look like. I even had in the back of my mind this sense that "Maybe I ought to keep looking because that one maybe isn't all there is." I tried to tell my good friends, "You ought to date this girl," and they all tried. None of them could. Then finally, one of these days, I saw her in a pair of Wranglers and a chamois shirt, and I went, "Where have I been?"
I started taking that little girl out, and I married her. I said, "You know what you ought to do? You, fool, ought to marry the one you've been telling everybody is the right one to marry, a godly, beautiful brunette named Alexandria." I just wasn't ready, frankly. I thought I could find life and just move in a lot of different places. Some of you guys are like that.
You would tell people, "If there is a God and it is true about him that he is loving, concerned about you, and that his desire is to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit… He's not needy. He doesn't need you to validate him. In fact, he has given his life for you to save you. He will choose to be your beloved. He has offered his belovedness to you, but you have to take it."
If you walk around telling everybody how great God is but you have not engaged with him fully and personally, it is doing you no good, and you are single, dead in your relationship with God, though you know all about him, and you will singularly stand before God with nothing to offer him except your imperfect works. I'm going to tell you something, friends: you don't want to do that. So marry yourself to this bridegroom. That's James 2.
James 3 is "Now watch your tone. Pure and undefiled religion changes the way you treat others, and it changes the way you speak." James, chapter 3, says, "There's a way the world goes, and there's a way godly men go." The end of chapter 3 reminds you of that. It's the truth about heart transformation. James, chapter 4, says, "You want to know why you guys have trouble? Because your hearts aren't changed. You're still trying to find life apart from this God that you've told everybody is where life is."
Then James, chapter 5, says, "This life is still going to be hard, so you should endure and not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you." There is a way that almost all of the letters to the churches end: "This isn't going to be easy, and you should pray." That is exactly where we are in James. When you really set out to walk the line, you should know this: it isn't going to be easy, and you should pray.
This text in James 5:13-20 is a perfect way to end a commissioning to the church as they get busy. He told them last week, "You're going to be longsuffering. Your emotions cannot control you. Let faith control you." I say it a hundred times in here. Feelings are real, but they are not reliable, so make sure your emotions don't have you spiking against God. Slow to speak, quick to hear.
That is not a verse to use in marriage counseling. It won't kill you if you do. You should be slow to speak and quick to listen there, but it is certainly true when you are betrothed to a divine and perfect God who makes no mistakes. He has told you, if you just listen, why you're in the travail you are in. Let those things purify you, and let it show that your faith is as good as gold, which does not perish. Let's read it together. James 5:13 and following, all the way to the end.
"Is anyone among you suffering?" That's the same word that's up in verse 10. "Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit."
I'm going to teach you all about this. This is an amazing text in your Bible about prayer. Just like last week we had six times the idea of "Be patient, be patient, endure," six times here in these verses it is "Pray. Pray. Pray." Then we have these two verses on the end: "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 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."
That is good news and something we want to do for one another. Let me pray, and then we're going to dive in, and I think you're going to learn something today. I know I did this week as I enjoyed getting ready for this time with you.
Father, we do pray that you would open the eyes of our hearts that we might see you. We have friends who are here who have never understood that you are the good one, that you are the lover, and that your greatest expression of love, in fact the exact representation of your nature, the visible image of God, is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, who has come to do what lovers always do. They don't talk about care; they offer it.
There is no greater love than to give your life. It's such an amazing, wonderful idea that the King and Creator of the world would humble himself, take on the form of flesh, and give himself imperfection for our sinfulness, that we can't even attain to it, but nonetheless, you tell us that's your story. So this morning we just come, and we pray you'd open the eyes of our hearts and that we would talk to you often and that we would walk with you and we would not grow weary and we would love and pursue each other the way you pursue us. Would you teach us now? Amen.
Here we go. This is a great text. He is going to remind us this week of how we ought to all be individuals who pray. I will start by telling you this. The greatest mystery in heaven, I do believe, is prayerlessness on earth. You cannot be an individual who has a real relationship with your God… You can't be a person who has a relationship with anybody and never talk to them, and specifically not talk at them.
As any woman in here will tell all of us knucklehead men, "I don't want to hear an information dump. What I really want you to do…" What do wives always say? "I want you to understand. I want you to listen. I want you to empathize with me." In other words, "Relate to me in your deepest, innermost being. Not just talk at me and tell me what I'm doing wrong and that if I didn't feel a certain way or act a certain way we wouldn't have a problem." I am the king of that.
God is saying the same thing. "Listen. I don't want you to tell me what I'm doing wrong, you little pea-brained human who doesn't have any idea about sovereignty, goodness, and eternal plans. I'm not mad at you, but it's not going to do us any good in this relationship if when you think you're praying you're just lecturing me about what a lousy God I am." That's this text. You be slow to speak.
The purpose of prayer is not so much to change heaven's course but to align our hearts with his and to put ourselves before the holiness of God and, if I could say it, shut up. That is really what it says in the Scripture. I did eight weeks on prayer in a series called Vacate, because that's the word that basically we get when it says, "Be still and know that I am God." You get out of the place of God and know that he is God and listen to him, and he'll tell you what he's doing.
That word vacate, that phrase be still, is the phrase shut up, literally. "Just shh! Stop telling me how incompetent I am as a deity. Shh! I've told you why there's sin, death, suffering, betrayal, and divorce, and it isn't my bad. It's sin. I have saved you from it if you'll let me, and I'm leaving you in it so you can save others in participation with my Spirit. I'm going to use you for an eternal purpose, and it will be well with your soul, but this isn't the day that it's all easy."
James was called, believe it or not, "Old Camel Knees." Have you ever seen a camel's knees? I have a beautiful dark red golden retriever, and anybody who sees him… He's now about 13 years old. Right there on both of his elbows is worn hair, and he just has black pads. People always go, "What's wrong with your dog?" I go, "Nothing is wrong with my dog. He's a dog, so he's always down, and when he's down on concrete or on hardwood floors or he's just down for 14 years, it has worn the hair off, and now there is a big thick callus on both elbows."
Have you ever seen that in a dog? Of course you have. That's what dogs do. They get down. James understood who he was in the eyes of God. "I am a dead dog. I have nothing to offer you. You've made me your sheep. You've made me a king in your eyes, but I am a dog." So James was always on his knees, and his nickname was "Camel Knees." I have a lot of nicknames, but I've never been called that, to my great shame.
Church, listen to me. We talk about this thing called Raise the Mark. Do you want to know why Watermark is where it is today? It's because, for years, a lot of people have been praying. I don't think you have to come to Raise the Mark to be a prayerful person, but there is something being said about our body that we are one-tenth present, at best, when we do that. If you really want to see this church change and really become impactful in this city, why don't you help us raise our attentiveness to God on our knees and join us at that?
I don't ever believe the most prayerful people are at Raise the Mark. I'm just saying that's when we come together and make a corporate statement. "We need God, and we want to listen to him and get our hearts aligned with him." I'm going to tell you personally if you don't raise the mark by hitting your knees and having a time… All of us feel guilty about our prayerlessness, and I'm going to teach you today we are not just supposed to pray as an activity on our knees; we are to pray continually. It's at the end of almost every book. I'll show it to you.
Gang, we have to be individuals who are deep in prayer. This young man I've been discipling… I have told him repeatedly, "I don't see prayerfulness in your life," and what I don't mean by that is, "I don't see you in your closet on your knees." What I mean is, "I don't see you actively engaging God and pleading for him to guide you in your choices day by day. I see emotionalism. I see immaturity. I see flesh. I see self-protection. I do not see humility, and it is killing everybody around you, and it is hurting your testimony."
If you are not a prayerful man or woman, you are not an individual who's going to be greatly used by God. Prayer is what marks us. We are to pray without ceasing. There's that constant attitude of prayer. I'm going to show you what it looks like. James tells us right from the beginning how we're to pray.
Remember the word last week? There were two of them, but there was one word, specifically, that I told you is the word for patience: makrothumeo. Makro means big or large; thumeo is the word for impassioned or tempered. It is a strong word. You're supposed to be big-tempered. Not temperamental, but longsuffering is the idea.
"Is anyone among you suffering?" The word for suffering is two Greek words shoved together. One is the word we get the English idea of pathos or pathology from. Ology means the study of. Path is one of two ideas. It's either suffering or disease. It's the same word, and context determines whether you're just suffering or if there's a disease that is responsible for the suffering, because you always suffer when you have a disease.
A pathologist is somebody who is supposed to study the origin of the suffering or the origin of the disease. That's why when they carve something out of you they send it off to the pathologist and they go, "What's causing this tumorous growth?" Or we might say, "What's causing this suffering?" Which is why (you're going to hear me say it again later; I'm going to say it right now) our first pathology ought to always be spiritual, and it ought to never be afraid of physical.
We should not ever rush to the physical without considering the spiritual. This is especially true when dealing with emotional sickness. Psuche…psycho, soul sickness. Psychology, study of the soul. It wears me out that people who say they know the Creator and Author of the soul go first to people who do not believe there is a creator God, and their first thought is for you to deal with this as if there was no God and to give you tips and techniques and go back and look at all kinds of theories about humankind.
You say you love God and know God, and your first default solution is to have a physical solution given to what has not been thoroughly investigated as a spiritual problem. There is no question you can pop a few pills and feel better, but that's not going to deal with the disease. It's like if you have a major infection and all I do is give you lidocaine or some other medicine that numbs you but I don't deal with the infection, you might feel better, but the sickness is there.
Don't make me talk about you when I say this. I believe there are a disproportionate number of people who are going just to the physical and are skipping the spiritual. They are numbing themselves from a deep suffering that God alone can heal, and the worst thing you can do is numb it with some medication.
Now note what I'm not going to say is if you've done everything you can do in soul work that there are not times that there is a need to come along also and brine some other healing, but let's not skip the primary step. I'm going to show you today that sickness can be because of sin. I'm going to show you today that sickness is not always because of sin.
That is a fool's perspective, but what else is foolish is to go, "It's too painful to do soul work, so I'll just do numbing work, and I will chemically alter my brain," when the Bible says, "You want to alter your brain? Then do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Start there, Christian. Start there, world.
If you don't do deep soul work and all you do is run to a physical feeling better, you might feel better, but you are still sick, and I mean really sick. We are an overmedicated, God-denying society. It is killing our children, it's killing many of you, and as lovingly as I can, I want to say listen to old Camel Knees and be slow to numb yourself and quick to run to God.
James is going to say, "Are any among you kakopatheo?" When I say the word kaka, the Spanish translators are going to pause. It is the Spanish word for excrement. In Greek it's the word for bad. I see where the Spaniards got it. With all the Ebola out there right now, it is bad to handle excrement, let's just agree. It's always bad to handle excrement, and it's bad when excrement is what defines your life.
"How's life going?" "Excrementally bad right now." We abbreviate that in the English language. "How's it going?" "Not good." James says, "What should you do if life isn't going well for you right now?" What do you think he's going to recommend? Pray. Watch this. "Does any among you have a crappy life?" That's literally what it says.
"Are you feeling crappy? It might be because of disease. It might be because emotionally you're worn out. I have a recommendation for you. Meditate on God, his goodness, his promise to deliver you from sin and death. Meditate on God, the fact that he's never asleep, he's never inattentive to you. Do not say, O Jacob, and do not claim, O Israel, that your God is not aware of your ways. He never sleeps or slumbers."
You might be like, "Well, I sure wish he'd do something." That's why I want to go to you, "Shh." Quit telling God what he should do. Remember that he is good, and you pray. The best way to pray is to open your Bible and meditate on it and get your mind right with God. Now listen. James says not only if you have a crappy life but also if your life is cheerful. Remember the word for suffering, makrothumeo? This is the word for cheerful: euthumeo. The word eu in Greek is the word well.
If your life is well emotionally, if you're doing well emotionally, if things are as they should be, then guess what the Bible says you should do? Sing praises. Guess what singing praises is? It's a form of prayer. It's called adoration. It's called thanksgiving. So what is James doing? He is doing exactly what Paul says in a verse that troubles all of us when it says, "Pray without ceasing." That doesn't mean you have to be walking everywhere you go on your knees. That's not how you get camel knees.
It just means you ought to always be praying. "In everything give thanks. In everything live with an attitude of prayer," he says in 1 Thessalonians 5. He says in Ephesians to pray at all times in the Spirit. Paul says that in Romans. He says it in Colossians. He says it in Ephesians. He says it in 1 Thessalonians. James is just saying, "I don't care where you are in the spectrum of life. Are you longsuffering or is it well with you? Pray."
That's why the righteous king… Psalm 101 starts this way: "I will sing of your lovingkindness and justice forever. To you I will sing praises." What David is saying there is, "No matter how it's going in the kingdom, I'm not going to let somebody tell me God is not good, he's not just, and he has forgotten me, and when it's going well I will sing praises."
You might be here this morning and it might be really hard for you. We love you and we want to minister to you and care for you. I'm going to show you exactly how we should do that, how you should do it in your community. You might also come in here and it is well with your soul. You might be a TCU grad today, and you have euthumeo going on in your little heart.
You might be a Baylor graduate, and like a maiden who has been a virgin for 70 years, you finally have a boy loving you, and you can't stand it, and you're just wildly excited. Or you might be Texas and think you always get the stud, and you are home alone right now. Whether you're suffering or doing well… I am obviously mocking real pain, and I'm obviously mocking the source of real joy, but let me tell you what you should do wherever you are, whether you're in Tuscaloosa or Oxford: pray. Acknowledge God's goodness and set your hope there.
Some of you guys are hurting, so we want to mourn with those who are mourning. Some of you guys are doing well, and we want to take our strength and come alongside of you and testify to you the goodness of God. Most of us who are here are in a really good place. It is euthumeo day for most of us. So what we want to do is what we are called to do biblically. Right here in the middle of this message we're going to stop and sing.
Those of you who can't sing, you don't have to sing. Let us sing over you, and we're going to remind you of ultimately why we sing. We don't sing because TCU won. (That's for you, Fort Worth.) We sing because our God reigns, and we should never stop singing. But some of you guys are from Norman and you didn't go home yet and you're here and are discouraged. I'm going to remind you it's still okay. Let's stand and sing. If you can't sing, just listen. If you can sing, let 'er rip. Here we go.
That's why we sing. We don't sing because we're always winning here; we sing because we're going to win because Jesus has paid the debt. So we sing at funerals. I buried my 94-year-old grandmother last week, and we won. We sang at the funeral. It is what marks us. We are a peculiar people in a world that is rocked by Ebola and ISIS and mockery of God that we sing, but it's because we know that though we might be a loser right now in an ultimately defeated cause, we are going to be a winner in our ultimately victorious one.
Woodrow Wilson said that. He essentially said, "I would rather be a loser in a battle I'm going to ultimately win than a winner in a battle I'm going to ultimately lose." When you know something no one else knows, you can sing, and the world goes, "Why are you singing?" The end of Philippians says the reason you sing is it's going to make them go, "Who are these people? What do they know that we don't know?"
We know there is a God and he has it in his hands and it's okay. So we must pray. When? When we are suffering and when we are cheerful. The word there for cheerful (it's just helpful to see this every now and then) is psallo. It's where we get the word psalms from. We will sing psalms when we're cheerful, and we will pray truth into our hearts when we are not.
"Is anyone among you sick?" The word sick there is used several times in your Bible. It is a word that could mean weakness, it can mean stumbling, it can mean ill, it can mean disease. It is used of physical illnesses in Luke and Acts. It is also used of a sick or a weak faith that sometimes isn't as developed as it should be. Context is usually what determines what it is.
By the way, this amazing passage on prayer is really screwed up by these next two verses. It's not these next two verses' fault. It's our fault, because we want to run to these two verses and develop a theology out of them that really pulls them out of the whole context and that, frankly, causes a lot of confusion and error and sets us up to not be encouraged here but wonder why what we think we see here isn't happening.
So let me just walk you through this. Let's just read it for exactly what it says. "Is anyone among you [weak or stumbling or ill or diseased] ? Then he must call for the [spiritual leaders] elders of the church…" Here's the deal. We have five guys who are officing here as pastor. The words pastor, bishop, overseer, elder…all the exact same word. There's a reason for that. We don't have one imperial wizard leader here at this church. We have a bunch of pastors on staff. We have a bunch of pastors out there.
In fact, we are to be a kingdom of pastors. That's what has always made Watermark unique. When you come here, we let you know that full devotion is normal for you. We don't want you to come and watch the pastors do ministry and go, "That's awesome." In fact, the pastors who are here on staff are equippers of the saints. We're equipping you to do the ministry and the worship and the leadership and the training and the caring.
So what you should do here… It says, "Call for those spiritually mature among you." The word here I can't separate from the office, but let's just be honest. Everybody in the Diaspora who was sick… The expectation was not that James or Peter or John would come a-knocking, but the spiritual leadership should come. If there is no spiritual leadership at Watermark except me, I'm a lousy elder, because I've not been doing my job to raise up the saints. If I'm the right guy to be there (and I often am because of the relationship) I'll be there.
But what you want to do here in context is when you are feeling weak, ill, diseased, stumbling, not doing well, call for spiritually mature people around you. Why? Because there are some times you don't have what it takes. I've told my staff, "Hey, gang. If something tragic happens in my life personally to one of my family members…an overwhelming event that's very personal, not one we're living in in the midst of all the world that's going on…I'm telling you what I want you to do. You come and sing me songs. Get around me and sing."
Jon and I sat down and came up with a bunch of songs. If you're on Spotify, you can type in for a playlist called "Songs from the Valley." We have 50 different songs that are great to listen to when you need to be reminded of God's sovereignty, goodness, and care for you. We have them there for you. It's free. You can download it. (If you don't pay a monthly subscription, you have to listen to a commercial once every 10 songs, but so be it. They're about 15 seconds long.) Or just go and see what the list of songs is and accumulate it any other way you want, but we've put that in there.
I've just told folks, "That's what we do." We come and we sing and we remind each other of things that are true, if you are makrothumeo, if you have big pain. What he's saying right here… Call the elders. Call the spiritual leaders. If there is no spiritual leader and you're a member of this church… We get a lot of folks who show up here and are not a part of any body, and no wonder they're suffering. God did not make you to live alone.
The people who are the loudest, the squeakiest wheels here are folks who are just walking in here, and that's why we care for you. We have a whole team of people to love you and care for you in a very specific way. It's not going to be any one personality; it's going to be a people, and we're going to call you to engage with God's people and not just give you some quick salve, but we're going to call you to a long life of relationship, obedience to God's Word, surrender, submission, and meditation on what is true.
You call for spiritual leadership around you. You go, "Wait a minute, Todd. There's something else going on here." It says, "…they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord…" Let me explain this to you. You really could put an and there where there is a comma. "They are to pray over him and anoint him with oil."
We always think, "Okay, anoint with oil. That's getting Benny Hinn on me all of a sudden. Something amazing is going to happen here." There is this bad mindset out there that health is just a prayer away. "If I just get the magic guys to put on the magic oil, I won't be sick any longer." That's an error. That's a mistake. That's not what your Bible teaches.
Every single person here is going to get sick before they die unless you get eaten by a shark, hit by a meteor, or taken out by a semi or something in that family. My wife and I, coming back from that funeral, started talking about "What are we going to do when I'm dead? You know, you die first. Where are we going to bury each other?" We started talking about that. I told her, "Just pray I'm eaten by a shark someday so you don't have to worry about it."
At some point, if you're not eaten by a shark, you're going to get sick. Let me just share with you some truth of Scripture. This is what Paul said in 2 Timothy. This is Paul, the apostle, who healed folks, raised somebody from the dead. He said, "I left Trophimus sick at Miletus." He said to the Philippian church at one point, "Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who's your messenger and ministers to me in my need… He was longing to be with you because he heard you were distressed because you had heard he was sick, for, indeed, he was sick to the point of death."
Paul says in 2 Corinthians, chapter 12, at one point, "I prayed three times for this thing to leave me, and it didn't leave me. God just said, 'My grace is sufficient for you in your thorn in the flesh, your suffering.'" So whatever is going on here in James 5:14, it's not that health is just a prayer away. Sometimes what is going to happen is God is going to bring health to your very unhealthy circumstance.
There's going to be joy for you, single mom, even though your husband is not going to change. There's going to be joy for you, parent, even though your prodigal is not going to change. There's going to be joy for you, abused child, even though your parents are still abusive. But only if you have folks who come around you and speak psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to you. That's the mark of a Spirit-filled person.
That's what we're called to find. Find those people who will speak to you with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, who will thank God for his sovereignty and the fact that vengeance will be his and he will execute full justice against evildoers. You don't need to do it. You don't need to have bitterness, anger, wrath, or malice well up inside of you, because that'll make you sick, but be forgiving toward them, call them to repentance, and hang in there.
The word anointing happens a couple of times in Scripture. Sometimes it's a ceremonial act, like when David was anointed with oil before he was king, and sometimes it is a refreshing event. It is more medicinal and hygienic than it is anointing. That's what's going on here. What James is saying is if you are sick, suffering, not well, weak, stumbling, diseased, ill, call for spiritual people. Let them come, pray over you, and anoint you with oil.
Why do we do that? Because oil here… It's what the psalmist says in Psalm 23. "He anointeth my head with oil." It means, "It refreshes me." It is ointment on a wound. It's Neosporin. It's going to get rid of some of the infection. Actually, if you go back and look at Luke 10, it says that when the Good Samaritan came along a guy who had been beaten up… It says, " [He] came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them…"
The wine, the alcohol, was a disinfectant and the oil was a healing balm. All it's saying here is "Don't believe that all you have to do is just pray. You ought to be proactive in this. If there's something we can do to bring some physical relief, we should do it. Let's massage them. Let's disinfect it." So what I would do is go to my elders to pray, and I'd call my doctor to get to work, and I would thank God that he has given men the ability to do everything they can medicinally to get after it.
But you don't need somebody to put Crisco on you so you're not sick. You might get oil and still be sick. What it's saying here is address this thing spiritually and medicinally. That's why when you're sick… What do you do? "Pray that I don't grow weary during this time, that I don't curse God during this time, that I don't become agitated and angry during this time, that I don't use my pain as an excuse to be ungodly." And what else do you say? "Pray for the hand of the doctor, that they would be skilled in their work."
Some folks have asked me, "Hey, Todd. How come you never had us anoint you with oil when you had cancer in your foot?" I thought, "You know what? I should have done that," because I love having my feet massaged. If some of you guys want to be literalists and you feel like I need this, come, and I will give you some Johnson's baby oil, and you can go to work on my feet, and I will thank you all day long. I just don't think because you're doing that I'm going to have less cancer. You can just pray away.
I think the reason I still have my foot and it's not cut off yet is because God, in his kindness, has chosen to limit that sarcoma and not chase it to my chest, which could cause real problems, or not cause me to have that whole foot taken off, which we thought for a while was going to happen. I just went to docs and said, "Let's talk about this. Let's evaluate."
We took a knife, not oil, and we took out what we could or what we thought we should in that moment, and we're just continuing on, and we're praying. I appreciate it when you guys come up and go, "We're praying for you, Todd." I go, "Amen. Thank you." That's what you should do when I'm diseased, ill, or suffering. The cancer may not go away. I'm going to die of something. It might be cancer. It might be a great white. I don't know. That's why I swim in the ocean as often as I can.
Do you understand what's going on here? It is spiritual and medicinal. It is not a magic ointment, just like the Lord's Prayer is not a magic prayer. The Lord's Prayer is, in fact, a model prayer. That's why it says when you do that you pray in the name of the Lord, because it is the Lord who heals, and you want to pray in faith. I told you James is a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. James knows in the Sermon on the Mount there was the Lord's Prayer, a model prayer.
We don't say 50 "Our Fathers" to get God to do something; we go to the one model prayer and say, "What does that say?" You remember that your God is in heaven. He makes no mistakes. He is holy. He's your Daddy. He cares about you. He is holy. Don't try to get him to pour his infinite brain into your finite mind, and you pray this way: "May your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." In other words, "Not my will but your will be done." That's the prayer of faith.
"Hey, Lord, I pray this breast cancer would not affect my friend. O Lord, I pray that that rebellious, foolish man would return. O Lord, I pray that this bad circumstance in our society would leave, but I know you're up to something. Not my will but your will be done." "…and the prayer offered in faith will restore…" The word there is sozo. It's the word for salvation. It'll bring you back to a place of strength. There is some element there of spiritual and even physical refreshment.
"…the one who is sick…" The word there is different than the one before, but it means wasting away in heart or in vigor. That is true of people emotionally and physically. "…and the Lord will raise him up…" It doesn't mean you won't be sick. It just means exactly what it says in Psalm 71. "You have afflicted me, that I might be a marvel to many, that your grace is sufficient for me."
Do you know what marvels the world? Not that everybody who gets sick gets well, because we know that hasn't been happening to the tune of about eight billion people already, but that you sing at the grave and say, "My God is all good all the time, and my circumstances do not equate to his having a character problem. I know why there's sin, evil, death, and cancer in the world. I know why men leave their wives, and I will not be shaken. I will not curse God. I will not slander men. He will take vengeance for me. I will not grow weary in doing good."
The world sees that and goes, "Who are you?" We are people of faith who know the living God. Do you all understand that? It says also if there is a sin problem, the Lord will lift you up in your sin, because sometimes there is a sin problem. This is why Jesus, when he talked to folks, when he came across them… The reason Jesus healed is not that he came to deliver us from physical maladies and diseases. Physical maladies and diseases are here because sin is in the world.
There was never any sin, physical maladies, or death in the world before we left God. When we leave God, we leave good. When we leave perfection, we get corruption. So when Jesus comes and they bring sick people to him, he looks over them and says, "Here is your problem. Sin is your problem. You live in a sinful world. You're a sinner. Your sins are forgiven." They go, "Hey, who can forgive sins except God alone? You can't tell that guy he's forgiven. He sinned against God."
He goes, "Great point. What's easier to say? 'My son, your sins are forgiven' or to deal with the physical malady and the effects of sin?" They go, "Well, it's a lot easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven.'" He says, "That's exactly right, but so that you might know that the Son of Man has authority in heaven and on earth to forgive sins, boy, you take up your pallet and you walk and you go, because I am here to reverse the effects of sin." Do you see why he did it?
That's why he did it in the order he did it. "I want to let you boys know what I'm doing." Do you guys know there was still a bunch of physically sick people on earth? Jesus hid from them sometimes. The primary act of a spiritual leader is not to heal everybody of their physical sickness. We're not going to. We never did, not when the apostles were at work, the prophets were at work, or Jesus was at work. You're going to get sick, probably, and die.
The greatest faith healers in the most Pentecostal, charismatic, wacko churches in the world get sick and die. And do you know what they do? Those bullies say, "It's because you didn't pray the prayer of faith. The problem isn't with my gift of healing; it's with your lack of faith." Those guys anger me. You will remain sick in your sin if you don't have faith that Jesus is the healer of sin, and if you don't teach that, that angers me.
Notice what it says here in James. "…and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him." It doesn't mean that every time you're sick it's because of sin. Everybody listen to me here. Remember everybody was listening very closely when I talked about medication? Not everybody who's on medication is on medication when they have a sin problem. I think too many people are, and they're covering up a sin problem…bitterness, anxiety…by not dealing with that in all the ways God said they should, but I'm not saying everybody.
"Well, what about me? What are you saying about me?" I don't know. Why don't you get loving, spiritual, wise people who will sit with you and help you do a fearless moral inventory, apply all of God's truth to it, and let's see where we go. Start there. Don't just run to a doc, because he's going to give you a prescription, mark my words. Take this prescription first.
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed." That's the point. He's summarizing here. "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." Do you all think I'm righteous? Do you know how you should answer that? "I don't know, Todd. Do you trust Jesus Christ? Are you clothed in his righteousness alone? By grace through faith have you been reconciled to God?"
"Then you can boldly come before the throne of grace, brother. You're righteous." So are you if you know Jesus, and you rush right into the throne room of God, that you might receive grace to help you in a time of need.
"Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…" Homoiopathes. There it is. He felt just like us. He was insecure. He was nervous. He was angry. He lived in a very wicked world. Elijah was in a world led by Jezebel and Ahab. He saw his world spiraling out of control, so guess what he did? What godly men always do. What should you do in a world that is increasingly becoming led by Jezebel and Ahab? (I will refrain from giving you American equivalents today.)
If they are leading us, what do we do? Panic? Assassinate? No. We hit our knees and pray. What did Elijah do? He said, "God, bring a depression on our land. Let this world experience what it's going to get if it pulls away from you." In an agrarian culture, that was three and a half years of drought. Elijah hit his knees and prayed, "God, let these people experience separation anxiety from you. Let them experience pain and suffering apart from you. You told us we'd be blessed if we walk with you. This land is not walking with you, so may pain and suffering come."
That's exactly what happened. He prayed for revival, and he knew revival often only happens when people are flat on their backs, so they finally look up. That's why I saw our country… On September 12, 2001, where did we run? Right. The church. That's why the following Sunday when I preached I said, "Don't be overly impressed with the flooding of churches. Let's pray that truth in churches, if they are true preaching churches, flood the hearts of men."
I think you can see our heart has not been flooded with righteousness, because we've gotten increasingly worse since September 11, 2001. That's why I told you guys on that day, "This is just a warning shot across the bow. God is showing you, 'This country isn't great. No military prowess is going to protect it. I protect you. I've protected you for a long time because you've been people about my work, but you've been increasingly running away from me. I want to just show you something. It's almost biblical, isn't it? I can take you down with eight men. I can lock you up.'"
What did he do? He melted our financial institution in a moment. He went right into the heart of the Pentagon in a moment, and he scared the people in a moment. Not eight radical jihadists. I believe it's the Lord saying, "America." So don't fret. Pray. Call people to repentance. Let's turn our country around by getting them to know God, not run to church when it's scary. That's what wicked men always do. Don't be that kind of guy.
Prayer is not a parachute you pull out when you need it. When are you supposed to pray? The whole gamut. When is America praying? We shouldn't have a country led by a guy who puts his hand on his Bible for a moment and then runs off. He ought to be informed by that Bible all the time, and when he's not… Brace yourself, children, when Daddy is not informed by righteousness.
So Elijah prayed for that drought to come, and then he prayed for that drought to go away. I could tell you a great story from 1 Kings 17 and 18, where it came time… After God had done his work in the land, he was going to let rain come again. It says Elijah got down on the ground and put his head between his knees, and he sent his disciple away, and he said, "Tell me, is it raining yet?" The guy came back and said, "It's not raining." He said, "Well, go back. Is it raining yet?"
"Well, go back."
Seven different times. Then finally, Elijah asked, "Is it raining yet?" and the guy went, "It ain't raining yet, but I do see a cloud out there in the west over the Mediterranean the size of a man's fist." Then Elijah got up and said, "Well, you'd better get your umbrella, boy." That's the way you pray: persistently, prophetically, with great confidence.
I'll close with this very quickly. Verses 19-20. We don't just pray; we are proactive. When you see somebody who is in sin, this is what you do. You go to them. "…if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 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."
You can't just pray when you see wickedness in this body. You are to go, individually if you're approved, collectively if you're approved, and you widen that circle. This is what it says in Proverbs 24:11-12. "Do you see somebody who's doing what they think is right to them but in the end it's the way of death? Deliver such a man as that." Deliver those who are being taken away to death, who are following the course of the world, the lusts of their flesh, and are bringing suffering to themselves.
Don't just pray for them; go to them. Throw yourself down in front of them. You importune them. If you say you don't see it… Verse 12 says, "And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?" In other words, if you don't do what Jesus did and prophets do and James did, which is interrupt the drift of the Christian church, and you just let the Christian church drift and all you do is pray and you don't ever speak the truth in love, you aren't doing your job.
If you see somebody in our body beginning to not abide with Christ the way they should, it's your job to lovingly, gently…not arrogantly, looking to yourself lest you first be tempted, taking the log out of your eye before you do the little speck in theirs, but you go and you speak and you tell them, "This isn't right. It's not as it should be." You turn them around.
Let me close with one little illustration. It's the story of a pastor, a leader. He was in this little courtyard, if you will. It was in a monastery, the pastor's story goes. He walked up. He watched this little stoneworker gently working on this little figurine. He watched this guy just chiseling away on this little piece of stone and making a thing of beauty.
The pastor leaned forward and said, "I'd give anything to be able to conform the hearts of men to beauty the way you are conforming stone to beauty." That stoneworker looked up at him and said, "You know what? If you worked on your knees like I do, you probably could." But watch what's wrong with that analogy these preachers tell. That's true. He was working on his knees, but what else was he doing? He was getting busy on his knees. You do both.
Do you want this church to change? You pray up and speak up. You be humble. You be faithful. You don't think you're not going to be sick. You encourage each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. You always have an attitude of thanksgiving, and you be subject to one another in love. This, church, will be the hope of the world. Amen?
Father, we pray that we'd be your church, that we would serve you and love you. We thank you for James, old Camel Knees, and the way he elded his people and shepherded them toward truth and righteousness. I pray that we would have such elders here who would be men who speak the truth in love and who pray often.
Would you multiply spiritual leaders in this church? We are a kingdom of priests. May we endure trials with wisdom. May we not rile against you. May we not show favoritism. May our faith be alive. May our tongues be sanctified. May our way be the way of Christ. May our hearts be filled because we seek you. May we be longsuffering, and may we be men and women of prayer, amen.
If you are here this morning and you've never had a multitude of sins covered, would you come to Jesus? He alone can heal you. Do not run without receiving that provision.
Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.