Living by Faith
James 5:13-20 (NRSV) 13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.
19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
We have reached the end of James, and after practical instruction on living the Christian life, we have come to my favorite part of this letter. “If any are suffering, pray…” Some have asked me why we have to suffer, and the biggest question is always why do bad things happen to good people. We suffer because when sin entered the Garden of Eden, along with it came sickness and death and disappointment. Why do bad things happen to good people? Jesus said in Matt 5 the rain falls on the just and the unjust. The umbrella of salvation does not keep us sheltered from the storms of life.
Jesus told us in John 16:33 (KJV) “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” So, it is not a question of if we are suffering, but how we respond to the suffering. 1 Thessalonians 5:13 tells us to give thanks in everything. Did you know when you keep a thankful heart, it is almost impossible to moan and groan about your circumstances?
The next big question is, “Pastor, I have faith. Why haven’t I been healed?” The only thing I can refer you to is Paul and the “thorn” in his side. Three times Paul prayed for this issue to be resolved, and three times the answer was “no.” Did Paul not have enough faith to result in his healing? I doubt that was the reason.
God will heal, but sometimes the healing occurs in heaven. Please don’t question your faith if your prayers for healing go unanswered. There are things we will never understand while on earth, which is why we must continue to live by faith and faith alone.
James finishes by telling us what a wonderful thing it is to be able to help restore someone to the Christian faith. I can tell you as a pastor, I have received more joy when someone is restored than when they come to faith for the first time. Why? Because the person brought back to the faith remembers what they had and what they gave up. It is a wonderful reunion of body and spirit with the Lord Jesus Christ and one that person is not apt to walk away from again!
There is a hymn by James Wells written in 1918. For some reason it is not in the Methodist hymnal, but read the words and I think you will find them comforting.
- I care not today what the morrow may bring,
If shadow or sunshine or rain,
The Lord I know ruleth o’er everything,
And all of my worries are vain.
Living by faith in Jesus above,
Trusting, confiding in His great love;
From all harm safe in His sheltering arm,
I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.
- Though tempests may blow and the storm clouds arise,
Obscuring the brightness of life,
I’m never alarmed at the overcast skies—
The Master looks on at the strife.
- I know that He safely will carry me through,
No matter what evils betide;
Why should I then care though the tempest may blow,
If Jesus walks close to my side.
- Our Lord will return for His loved ones someday,
Our troubles will then all be o’er;
The Master so gently will lead us away,
Beyond that blest heavenly shore.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Father God, I pray that as we walk with you, we would be content with whatever state we are in, knowing that you are right beside us. Help us to live by faith in all things. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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