“FAITH THAT WORKS OUT”
Week Ten – “Faith Works Out In A Healthy Body” James 5:13-20
There was once a man who owned a GREAT DANE-and this Great Dane was not only extremely large-he was also a very ferocious dog. Picture him in your mind as sort of a "mean Marmaduke." He was a huge muscular animal with jaws of iron, a mouth full of sharp teeth-seemingly invincible. He was definitely not the kind of dog you would want jumping up in your lap. Well, one day the owner of this monster of a dog took him for a walk. Actually, I'm not sure who was walking who-but as they strolled through the neighborhood he saw another man across the street who was also walking his dog. However, unlike the Great Dane, THIS DOG was little. He had short legs, a pug-like head, and no tail. He had no hair-and instead his squat body was covered with green leathery skin. In short, he was a very ODD looking dog-and compared to the GREAT DANE he appeared to be very weak and powerless. The owner of the GREAT DANE was staring at this other little dog when the GREAT DANE-who had been looking the other way growling at a little old lady-this GREAT DANE suddenly turned his huge head and caught his first sight of this odd little dog. Well, the Dane immediately strained against the leash until it snapped in two. Then he charged across the street at top speed obviously intending to attack this odd-looking little K-9. The owner of the Great Dane yelled to the man across the street, "LOOK OUT! My dog is on the loose and he's vicious! He will kill you and that little dog of yours! RUN for your life!!!!" But, it was too late-the GREAT DANE was already at top speed, teeth bared but when he leaped to attack, the odd little dog bared its teeth and simply opened his mouth unbelievably wide and SWALLOWED the Great Dane whole. Then he began smacking his lips in satisfaction as if he had just enjoyed a great meal. Well, that was the end of that big, mean GREAT DANE. The owner of the GREAT DANE was absolutely astonished by what he had just witnessed. And he said to the other man, "What kind of dog is that?! I'm a real expert on dogs and I have never seen a little dog that could do what your little dog just did!" Then man replied, "Dog? What dog? This is not a dog. Before he got his nose run over by a truck and his tail cut off by a train, this used to be an ALLIGATOR!"
THINGS DON’T HAVE TO BE BIG TO HAVE A BIG BITE – (I.E. – JAMES)
Over these Summer months we have been studying James and learned that the central theme of this great Book is “faith without works is dead”. That is why we entitled this series “FAITH WORKS OUT”. This morning we conclude that study by looking at James’ last words where he claims faith works out in a healthy body.
Last words are very important………….
The proper exercise of prayer works out healthy relationships! Here James speaks of three types of prayer that produce three types of healthy relationships.
I. Prayer Works Out For Yourself, V. 13– PERSONALPRAYER
WHAT IT SAYS: (READ VERSES)
WHAT IT MEANS:
The first healthy relationship you need is a healthy personal relationship with God. That is only possible through prayer – intimate prayer! One of the keys to intimate prayer is to see prayer as RELATIONSHIP NOT as a RESOURCE….
The word in the Greek literally means, “to suffer misfortune, to be in distress, to be under stress, to be under tension”……
You may be dealing with a variety of issues……. - James says, “You must pray.” When you’re under tension you have two choices. Turning to God – or turning away from God. James encourages us to turn to God.
That is how faith works out – through INTIMATE prayer with a God Who knows you intimately and longs to be intimately known by you.
The sign of a healthy relationship is a Christian whose first response is to pray when under stress or pain. When you love someone you want to share your heart with him. There are times in life when we rejoice. There are other times when we weep. The word “praise” is used 550 times in the Bible. It is to be the lifestyle of the Christian. When things are going well in your life – Praise God. When you are suffering – Pray to God.
JAMES IS MAKING AN IMPORTANT POINT HERE – HE HOLDS YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH!
HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS ARISE FROM INTIMATE PRAYER. HEALTHY CHURCHES DEVELOP FROM HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.
II. Prayer Works Out For Sufferers, Vv. 14-16 – POWERFUL PRAYER
WHAT IT SAYS: (READ SCRIPTURE) - There has been much debate over verses 14 through 16.
The word "sick" can mean both a physical sickness (as in the gospels), or weak in faith (20 out of 34) In verse 15, the word "sick" can refer to someone who has become weary. So James could be speaking about those who have grown weary spiritually because of their afflictions.
Regardless of the different opinions, James outlines what must be done.
1) - the one who is sick, must call for the church elders (plural, not singular).
2) - when the elders come, they are to pray over them and anoint them with oil (probably olive oil). It was the custom during James' time period to anoint the sick with a mixture of oil, wine, and water. The term "anointing" carries the idea of "to rub over”…..
3) - there needs to be confession of sin. Verse 15 speaks of the forgiveness for the sick person's confessed sin, and verse 16 says that everyone who is involved needs to confess their sins. In fact, the context of this verse seems to advocate entering into a very vulnerable and transparent relationship of confession and accountability which will enable them to “get healed” or released from the bondage of destructive sinfulness…….
FROM PERSONAL PRAYER GROWS RELATIONSHIP. FROM POWERFUL PRAYER GROWS FELLOWSHIP! See how the health of a church develops out a spiritual environment like this?
III. Prayer Works Out For Strugglers, Vv. 17-20 – PREVAILING PRAYER
Tony Campolo, A Baptist minister, was invited to speak at a college in Valley Forge Penn. He drove to the college and before he spoke several men took him in the back room and began to pray for him, that God would use his speech.
While these men were praying, one man, just off the cuff began praying "And Lord, about Burt Harris. Lord, Burt Harris needs you really badly. Because he lives in that trailer down the street and he is considering leaving his wife and family. And Lord if you could just get through to Burt Harris...that would be great." and then went on with his prayer.
Campolo thought, "that is strange that he should pray that here." He went out and he spoke and finished his message and then he got in his car and was driving home. And he picked up a hitch-hiker. He said he knew that he wasn’t supposed to pick up hitch-hikers, but he thought, ’being a preacher, anytime I can get a captive audience, I’ll take advantage of it."
So he gets this guy in the car and he is talking to him and he says, "By the way, what is your name?" and the man said, "Burt Harris". Campolo stopped the car, turned it around and immediately headed the opposite direction. The man looked at him and said, "What are you doing?" Campolo said, "I am taking you back to your wife and family whom you are trying to leave."
The man went white! He never said another word, he sat there speechless and Campolo drove him straight up to this guys trailer. And the guy says, "How do you know where I live?" Campolo said, "God told me." (in a way He really had.)
Campolo said "I took this guy inside his home and the family and marriage was restored and God did an exciting thing."
One of the most revered men among the Jews was Elijah. And rightly so! He was a powerful prophet mightily used of God and who was rewarded with one of the awesome exits any human being has experienced - remember the firey chariot thing? REMEMBER MT. CARMEL?
Elijah's passion was to call sinners back to God. In particular, he wanted to call the people of God back to their God. Everything he did was for that purpose. The dramatic events on Mt. Carmel were for that end. And that is the point of what James is saying here, "We need the spirit of Elijah in prevailing prayer for lost or straying people!" That prevailing prayer can only happen when God's people in God's Church will enter into healthy personal relationship and into powerful healthy fellowship and then God will encourage them in prevailing intercession for the lost!
There were very few of these episodes that you could consider emotionally touching. But I do remember one. Gilligan had gotten his feelings hurt and decided to move away to the other side of the Island to live alone in a cave. Immediately, this became a miserable existence for Gilligan—he was all alone. But also miserable for everyone else on the island—one of their own was no longer among them, in fellowship with them...and there was a terrible void. They missed him at the dinner table. They missed his jokes, his laughter, his gentleness. They even missed his clumsy screw-ups. I think at one point in the episode they were sitting around the dinner table taking turns talking about the specific things they missed about him. So what did they do? I think it began with Skipper. He decided to leave the rest and go live with Gilligan so he wouldn’t be alone. Then another person did the same. Then another. Until finally, all seven people were together again on the other side of the island in Gilligan’s cave. In true spiritual community, we either make it together, or we don’t make it...at least not in a healthy way.
That my friends, is a healthy church! That is what I envision. That is my passion. That is better than healings and it will become a healing place!
(GOD CALLED ME HERE TO RAISE UP A HEALTHY CHURCH……..)
PERSONAL PRAYER – Out of personal prayer grows relationship – HOW IS YOUR PERSONAL PRAYER?
POWERFUL PRAYER – Out of confession and accountability grows fellowship – HOW POWERFUL IS YOUR PRAYER?
PREVAILING PRAYER – Out of intercession grows discipleship – WHO ARE YOU PRAYING FOR?