Pray About It

James 5:13
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.”

As this letter comes to a close, James addresses as many scenarios as he can think of that the believers might be facing. Some are suffering, others are cheerful, sick, or struggling with sin. In each case, the solution is the same. James says PRAY. The simplest definition of prayer is to talk to God. James is encouraging believers to live in open communication with the Lord. Whatever life may throw at you, learn to take those things to the Lord.

Jesus put it like this,

Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

We have an open invitation to come to the Lord, no matter what struggles we have; and He promises to provide heavenly assistance. The Psalmist declared, He will even give His angels charge over us, lest we dash our feet against a stone (Psalm 91:11-12). What are you facing today? Is it an illness, fear, or easily besetting sin? Whatever you are going through, the secret to your success is to cast all your cares upon Him in prayer.

James is known as that practical Apostle. As he writes about prayer, he gives some simple guidelines to ensure our prayers are the most effective. First, he suggests we get others involved in praying for us. Too often, we use the excuse of privacy to keep us from invoking others to pray with us, for the struggles we are facing. James exhorts the sick and the sinning to get others to pray with them, and for them.

Second, he exhorts us to pray in faith, believing God wants to heal and forgive. This is not something James made up based on wishful thinking, but rather something he understood by reading the Bible. Effective prayer is always based on what the Bible teaches. Whatever we are facing, we should look into the Word, learn what the Bile has to say on the subject, and then pray for God to do what He promises.

Finally, James speaks of fervent prayer. He is not suggesting we need to become emotional in our prayers, or to scream and shout. Instead, he is speaking about the intensity with which we bring things to the Lord. Often, when faced with a trying experience, we begin to complain; we may even invite others to complain with us. Our complaining will at times help to take the edge off our struggles. We call it venting, which means to delegate pressure. The problem is, when the pressure is released, we often neglect to take our struggle before the Lord. Instead of complaining about our difficulties, we should be entering the presence of the Lord, and seeking His assistance.

The trials you are facing today have been designed by God to draw you closer to Him. Take some time right now to invoke His assistance, as you seek to live for His pleasure.

(Joseph M. Scriven)

What a Friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and grief’s to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Pastor Jim

Speaking Evil

James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren…” 
James 4:13 “Come now, you who say…”

James seems to be particularly interested in what the Christian has to say. In the last chapter, he spent a great deal of time talking about the tongue. In this chapter, he comes back to the topic of what we are saying. He refers to at least two kinds of evil speaking. The first would be critical or judgmental speech.

James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judges.”

Jesus warned us not to judge one another, and James explains why; God alone is the Judge. We have been given the Word in order to obey it. It is the Word of God that must determine our behavior. The person who sets aside the Word of God, and decides for himself how he will live, is guilty of judging the law. To him James would say, “There is one Lawgiver who is able to save or destroy . . .” (James 4:12).

Christians are often accused of being judgmental, when it is really a persons own sin that judges them. Someone might be invited to church, be welcomed, be encouraged in prayer, and fed. Yet, when they leave, they claim they felt judged by Christians because they said it is wrong to party, do drugs or live in an adulterous relationship. The Christian did not judge them, the law did. The reason the law judges us, is so we might respond to Christ’s offer to forgive us. Jesus said, He did not come to condemn but to save (John 3:17). It is after the law of God convicts us, that we realize we need to be saved. Do not be a lawgiver, but a law abider, by surrendering yourself to Christ and living according to His Word.

Another type of speech that is warned against, is making life plans without seeking God. James refers to it as boasting. In this case, James is not teaching us how to speak, as much as how to live. We need to be those who seek to find the mind of God, or the will of God, for our lives. God has a plan for your life. He cares where you live, where you work, who you marry. If we will spend time with Him, He will make His will known to us. Sometimes, His will is progressive, meaning, we are not given step two until we have taken step one. It was like that for Paul. When he asked the Lord what to do, Jesus responded, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). Once God makes His will clear to us, it is sin to disobey.

His will seems to fit into two categories. We might refer to them as the general, and specific will of God. The general will of God is true for all of us, and is clearly presented in the pages of the Bible. The specific will of God refers to the plans that God has for you as an individual. Those things are only found when you spend time seeking God. It is the specific will of God which James refers to in this passage. You will not find a chapter and verse telling you who to marry. But you will find much in Scripture about the character of whom to marry. You will not find the answer to what job to take, but you will find direction on how to work. You will not find what college to go to, but you will find what are the most important matters to pursue in life, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Instead of trying to navigate through life on our own, let’s be sure we spend time seeking the Lord in His Word, in order to find His will for our lives.

Pastor Jim

 

 

What Did You Say? 

James 3:5
“Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.”

The largest mammal on the planet is a blue whale, whose tongue can weigh upwards of 2.5 tons. This is approximately the size of an adult elephant. In contrast, the human tongue, on average, is about 4 inches long and weighs less than 4 ounces. The tongue is certainly not one of the strongest muscles in the human body, yet it is perhaps the one capable of the most destruction. Many of us grew up with hearing “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” only to find that some of the deepest hurts we have ever felt, were caused by the unkind words of another. James explains, one of the great problems we all have is that with the same tongue we bless God and curse men.

The Bible points out the sinful uses of the tongue, of which we are all guilty:

COMPLAINING – Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without complaining and disputing . . .”

BACKBITING – Proverbs 25:23 “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue an angry countenance.”

GOSSIP – Proverbs 18:8 “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.”
                 Proverbs 26:20 “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”

TEASING – Proverbs 26:18-19 “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘I was only joking!’”

PROFANITY – Colossians 3:8 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.”

BLASPHEME – James 2:7 “Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?”

We are all aware of the sins of the tongue, are guilty of committing them, and have been hurt by them. The question is, how can we avoid them? Jesus tells us the sins of the tongue are a matter of the heart.

Luke 6:45 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

The solution then, to overcoming the sins of the tongue, is to focus on what is coming into our lives, and finding residence within our hearts. A number of years ago, a friend of mine was counseling a man who was struggling with outbursts of wrath (anger issues). He could not control his tongue and would lash out at his family. As they finished their conversation and walked to the car, he saw that the passenger seat was filled with hard-core secular music cassettes; the kind that makes you want to bang your head against a wall. He had uncovered part of the cause of the problem. Constantly filling his head with screaming, made it a lot easier to scream at others. In the same way, if you have a problem with profanity, take inventory. What are you putting into your head? If you struggle with gossip, stop listening to it and you will stop spreading it. Garbage in garbage out! The more you fill your mind with the things of God, the more you will find that your tongue is used to bless God and be a blessing to others. Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Pastor Jim

 

Work In Progress 

James 2:14  “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”

James 2:17 “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James asks a very important question, “What is the profit of faith without works?” He then adds, “Can that faith save?” To help lead us to the right answer, he uses an illustration which reminds us that talk of food will not always satisfy the appetite of a hungry man. In the same way, a dead faith cannot produce life. Right away James recognizes there will be objections to his teaching; some will say, “You have faith, I have works.” This seems to be the objection of those who think there is more than one way to God. They might say, “I am glad you have found something that works for you, but I don’t need that. I am a good person, and when I die, I will go to heaven because of the good things I have done.” James is in no way saying our good deeds will get us into heaven, but that true faith is always accompanied with good works. The person who truly believes, will have actions that support his claims.

Throughout history, James has gotten a whole lot of grief for writing this passage. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that this book does not belong in the Bible. I think it is important that we see James is not presenting a different doctrine than the rest of Scripture, but is in fact, explaining more clearly, the doctrine of justification by faith. James is not alone in teaching that faith without works is dead.

JEREMIAH TAUGHT IT

Jeremiah 7:8 “Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit.”

JOHN THE BAPTIST TAUGHT IT

Matthew 3:7-8 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance”

PAUL TAUGHT IT

Galatians 5:6 “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

Titus 1:16 “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 “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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”

PETER TAUGHT IT

2 Peter 1:5 “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; . . .”

JOHN TAUGHT IT

1 John 2:4 “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

JESUS TAUGHT IT

Luke 13:3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Matthew 7:19-20 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

Matthew 7:21-23,26,27 “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

James goes on to explain his teaching by stating, faith cannot be seen without action, “I will show you my faith by my works.” He then uses one of the most powerful sermon illustrations ever given. He declares the demons, who believe in God, show by their actions, they are not followers of God. In contrast to the demons, James reminds us of the father of faith. Who showed the reality of his faith with His obedience to the word of God. His action of placing his son on the altar, showed in a striking way, that God was his chief love (Genesis 22:1-12).

Jesus declared, the first commandment is to love God with ALL. This is evidenced in our lives, not simply by words, but by actions. With one final illustration, James brings up Rahab the harlot. Her past life was marked with open sin, although no details are given as to what led her down that path. All we know is when presented with the opportunity, she chose to depart from her old way of life, and determined to join with the believers and follow God. What about us? What are the works that show an account of our faith? In Matthew 7, Jesus stated, we must do the will of the Father. The first work to add to our faith is simple obedience.

Read your Bible and do what it says. When you come to a text that convicts you, make some changes in your living. It is not the change that saves you, but the saved will certainly change.

Pastor Jim