In conclusion …

James 5:19-20 (NLT): “My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.”

I really like Selwyn’s final comments on James’ letter. Especially, “James draws attention to the fact that the main business in which the Christian community should be engaged as they wait for and look towards Jesus’ second coming, is helping those who have been spiritually hurt and encouraging them back on to the Christian path.

… He is saying that if a Christian friend stumbles, through unbelief or despondency, they will never be brought back by criticism or by an attitude of self-righteousness. Your effectiveness at restoring them will depend on the extent to which you allow God’s principles to work in your own life.”

Put another way, your effectiveness in God’s harvest field (your ability to love others, as God loves you) depends on the extent you allow (by faith) the power of the Holy Spirit to work through you. Do you agree?

 

Spiritual giants

James 5:14-18 (NLT): “Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well.

And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.”

Selwyn makes a number of interesting statements in today’s study. One is that ‘confession of sin is needed, too, so that the spirit is cleansed and made whole’. Maybe, God uses illness to bring some people to the point of confession, perhaps their spiritual ‘illness’ is severly limiting their Christian ministry – what do you think, is this possible?

Another comment, is this one about the use of oil. He says: “Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38[NLT] – ‘And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.’)”. Therefore, as a symbol, it is not really required – what is required, is a belief in the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you agree?

Finally, in his conclusion, he writes: “When the elders (those leaders of a church who are spiritually mature in their faith – unfortunately – this is not always the case) pray and anoint a sick person with oil, they draw together the faith of the whole church in believing intercession for the person who is sick. God’s promise is that such faith is rewarded. And, if you think that only the prayers of spiritual giants are effective, James reminds us that Elijah was just an ordinary person like you and me. A spiritual giant is anybody – plus God.”

The main thought I think we can carry in our hearts is that the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power. All those, who follow Jesus, have the power of the Holy Spirit within them: are you living your life, with His power?

‘Why pray when you can worry?’

James 5:13-14 (NLT): “Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.”

[I’ve read in one commentary on these verses  that the Greek word, translated here as ‘sick’, could also be translated, as: ‘tired – lacking the energy to continue’; either way, I believe that prayer is beneficial.]

Selwyn’s conclusion captures my point in a much better way: “Prayer marshals the healing power that emanates from God, and makes it flow, either naturally or supernaturally, into the spirit, soul and body of the person who is ill. Whichever way healing comes, either naturally (through medicine) or supernaturally (by a direct touch from God), make no mistake about it, prayer quickens the process.”

 

No double talk

James 5:11-12 (NLT): “We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.”

I thought the following two comments made by Selwyn, are excellent: “To be ‘patient’ means we possess an inner quality (given to us by the Holy Spirit) that enables us to accept the negative feelings and doubts – even though we may weep over the pain they sometimes bring – but then rise above them by taking hold of God’s lifeline of faith.”

The second comment is in regard to James’ words about not taking an oath (in a general sense), Selwyn writes: “The meaning of these statements (includes a reference to Matthew 5:34-37) is quite simple: Christians should be so open and honest that their words do not need to be endorsed by an oath.”  Some people, become legalistic over these words, and think it means that we should never take an oath, even when it is appropriate to do so, for example in a court.  What’s your view?

Get rid of grudges

James 5:9-10 (NLT): “Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look – the Judge is standing at the door!

For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”

I like these two verses – how differently we would live our lives – if we held this view in our hearts, all the time. The view of Jesus, full of love –  standing at the door – watching us express His love to others. If we grumble about each other, are we, in fact grumbling about what God has done (that He has put in our path, people we may find difficult to live with)?

I thought that this was a challenging comment, made by Selwyn: “Well, let me share something that I have discovered: a grudge, to be kept alive, has to be nourished. If you stop feeding it by dwelling on the hurts that someone has caused you, it soon disappears. One reason why we dislike giving up our grudges is because we use them as an excuse for our own bad behaviour.”

Consequently, I also liked today’s prayer: “O God, how dangerous it is to live with a grudge when I can live with grace. If there are any grudges in my heart, I ask You to uproot them now. Cleanse me from every sin. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

Waiting for His coming

The text for today is James 5:7-8 (NLT): “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.”

As Selwyn mentions in today’s study – no one on earth knows when our Lord will return – but we should be patient; on the one hand we call out to God, to return; and, on the other hand we tirelessly work in His harvest field (without looking at the clock, which would slow us down).

In one sense, God may come to any one of us, at any time – and say ‘tools down – your work has finished’, then, our wait is over!

Money – servant or master?

James 5:1-6 (NLT) “Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed innocent people, who do not resist you.”

I find it interesting that some of the words we read in the various parts of the Bible are not that gracious at times – on important, serious issues the words are often blunt and to the point. I feel it’s sad, that in these days of political correctness and soft politeness, that many preachers only serve bread and milk to their people. I think there is not enough meat and tough honesty in many of today’s sermons – the risk is that we start to act like spoilt children and we don’t grow spiritually. If this issue is not dealt with, we could become a church, filled with day-old Christians. What do you think?

I like Selwyn’s conclusion:“The warning James gives to the ungodly rich, who have built up their riches in a dishonest manner, should alert the people of God to the pitfalls of materialism. Keep in mind that money is a good servant but a terrible master.”

The money we have, can be used as a servant within the Church – especially to feed the ‘widows’ and to provide care for the ‘orphans’ (I’m using the words, widows and orphans in a broad sense, to signify anyone in need.) We should hold onto our wealth – with an open hand – so that it can easily slip off, to aid in God’s work. That is, we don’t tightly grasp onto our wealth – never letting it go. We must be good stewards of the wealth which God has temporarily loaned to us.