James is a survival manual of the Christian faith as the people of God are feeling weak and helpless, barely keeping their head above water in a hostile world. Prayer, controlling your tongue, wisdom, submission, not playing favorites, being consistent are some of the topics along the way… we end with an admonition to focus on those who “wander from the truth.” The final word in this survival manual is to care about others. If you are struggling in your relationship with God, and I could only give you one piece of advice in how to grow in your faith, I would say this: “give yourself away.” Serve others. Praying for yourself is important. Self awareness of your sins, forgiveness and repentance is vital. But so is committing yourself to do the work of God as a response of your salvation in Jesus Christ. We are called to a ministry of praying for the straying, to connect with those that are slipping away.
Pray right! In this scripture there are a several situations and instructions on prayer ~ “Is anyone in trouble?” it starts out. “Let them pray” is the answer. I.e. Pray for yourself… regularly pray for yourself… pray when happy by letting the world know through words/songs of praise. The one that gets the most discussion is the prayer for the ill and elders and anointing with oil. The Elijah example, a tremendous prophet in the old testament, is another sort of prayer…James Elijah and the prayer for drought, but the larger truth is that God is in control of world kingdoms ~ the lesson of Elijah is to also pray for God’s will to be done on earth… James also spotlights Elijah to emphasize he is an ordinary person. Prayer is not for an elite class, not for super spiritual people, not for missionaries and pastors, but for ordinary people who are right with God.
2nd half of James 5:16 applies to all the prayers: “The Prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective.” It’s a declarative statement affirming the need to pray right.
James 5:12 seems to be a summary of the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:33-37. READ
James is a book of wisdom. Today a single verse. I thought long and hard about attaching this verse to another sermon, but ultimately I went with a sermon on it’s own primarily because the verse starts out “Above All…” ~ if the people of old had access to yellow highlighters, James would have highlighted this verse. “Above All” is James’ highlight pen.
Wisdom is simple. It instinctively makes sense, but you need to hear it. “Check to see if that electric fence is on…” is simple wisdom to warn the person about to touch the fence. James is speaking to confused people not sure how to be consistent in their faith and how to interact in a complex world: READ James 5:12.
Wisdom is the right word at the right time. Wisdom, when we put it into practice, gives confidence, assurance, guides us. Let your yes be yes and your no no! What could be more simple and obvious, yet the world is full of ambiguity, people lying, people not wanting to make commitments, changing back and forth. Everyone agrees with this wisdom, but few put it into practice: Do what you say you are going to do?
The world is full of good advice when it comes to patience…. On mother’s day, patience seems fitting. Any of you give your mother the gift of learning how to be patient? Can you relate to Mark Twain? My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.
Here’s a saying I found that helps describe today’s scripture: “Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.” Last week the scripture was about having a good attitude when you have too much money (rich), and how easy it is to rely on yourself rather than God when you have no immediate needs. False trust in yourself erodes trust in God.
This week, James turns to patience. Patience is needed when you have nothing, when you are feeling defeated, spiritually bankrupt. The Lord wants us to grow in our faith in times of plenty and in times of want. When we have abundance we need to not lose sight of our need to depend on God. But then when we lose it all, when our world falls apart, we need patience.
Our daily walk with the Lord takes patience when our world is falling apart. The book of James is a survival manual of the Christian life. 3 ways to be patient…
The story goes that Erasmus, a Renaissance scholar, was watching with the pope as wagonloads of wealth were brought through the gates of the Vatican. Turning to Erasmus, the pope observed. "No longer can the church say with Peter, 'Silver or gold have I none.'" Erasmus replied, "True. And neither can the church say to the lame man, 'Take up your bed and walk.'"
There is something about being too comfortable, too secure…Money can change a person.
James challenges the “rich.” This is the 3rd time in this short book money is the topic. The “rich” must mean me? Nobody here is the richest around, but most have a higher standard of living than the wealthiest of the folks James was speaking…. The key to understand: the amount of money is not important, it is our attitude. I like the wise words of Andrew Murray: “The world asks, ‘what does a man own?’ Christ asks, ‘How does he use it?’”
Attitude is everything. James includes an attitude towards money and resources as part of this letter emphasizing Christian discipleship. The way to thrive as a Christian is to get our attitude right towards money. The way to survive as a Christian in an unchristian world is to not be sucked into the temptation of money, but to see money as a gift from God to be used to his glory. What we do with what we are given is the key. The word we use is stewardship ~ all that I have belongs to God and he calls me to be faithful in using His resources wisely.