Facing “Your Circumstances”

James 5:12-20

As James brings letter to close, reinforces point that Christian must pursue holiness in every sort of circumstance – relationships with others, good times and bad, sickness and health, plenty and want. No dimension of life exceeds power of God accessible through prayer to address. Most of all, character of life must be such that God can use us to draw wandering sheep back to the truth. Pursuing own personal holiness is important, not in a vacuum; must be bringing others along as well.

Song – “I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time”; change “happy” to “holy”, have it be truly reflective of life. Only possible when life in all aspects is God-centered. Truly God-centered. Outwardly obvious in genuine way.

A. Description of God-centeredness

Counterfeit variety (12)

what is not forbidden: taking of oaths when required (court of law, “swearing-in” ceremonies), when sanctioned by God (Psa 15:4Heb 6:16)

what is forbidden: needless (as in, not required) oath-taking, insincere oath-taking, validating everything said with “so help me, God”, “I swear” or the like

=> needless: not required by circumstances, used in ordinary conversation, repeatedly, without being requested to do so

undermines trust – doesn’t your word / money / labor / etc. have enough integrity to stand on its own

Valero – checking $20 bills with magic pen; what about calibration of pumps, integrity of change received

=> insincere: taken without intention of keeping, rather with intent to deceive (fingers crossed behind back)

strongly condemned by Jesus (Matt. 5:33-37) and James

ultimate purpose to gain at someone else’s expense

=> expectation for Christian is genuine God-centeredness; what James condemns above all is the counterfeit

pretending to be God-centered, a friend / ally of God – an insult to God himself, leads to condemnation

for the genuine: word is their bond, no need for taking an oath; evident by life & track record

Sum and Substance (13)

once again, whole range of life: poverty and plenty – suffering and sufficiency

God must be focus in all situations

suffering: count it all joy, seek wisdom and strength from God through prayer to persevere, pray for his help (1:2-3)

recourse in adversity must be to God

not diversions (keeping busy, pleasures, etc), substances, relationships, self-help

God himself, fellowship with him, rest and joy in him, peace and contentment from him

sufficiency: count it all joy, seek wisdom and strength from God through prayer to persevere, praise for his blessing

recourse in plenty must be to God

two dangers to avoid: over-estimation of self, over-satisfaction with the moment and the stuff

praise helps us remember:

“All good giving and every perfect gift” comes from God (1:17), not our own genius

present circumstances only temporary; intended by God to move us along in journey toward perfect holiness

“For from him and through him and to him are all things.” (Rom. 11:36)

two major components of worship

prayer and praise

both are response to recognition of and love for God’s holiness

which, btw, fuels desire for and pursuit of our own holiness

both prayer and praise (when sincere) acknowledge God’s sovereignty

prayer only makes sense when addressed to omnipotent sovereign

praise reserved for the giver

is the only appropriate response in both suffering and sufficiency

Model in action (14)

once again, James uses an example: one experiencing weakness/feebleness/suffering

common experience with broad application

debilitating physical ailment primarily in view but extends to any form of affliction

first call to pastors (elders), then physician

#1 priority should be soul, then body

true whether weakness/illness has spiritual connection at root or not – physical manifestation of spiritual problem

P.S. shouldn’t wait for the elders to find out on their own!! Take initiative and call

once again, focus is on prayer

pray is primary verb, anointing the secondary; mentioned only one other time (Mark 6:13)

prayer is given clear significance, anointing not so much

B. Effectiveness of a God-centered Attitude

Power of Prayer (15-16)

“prayer of faith” is effectual – unwavering but not presumptuous (1:6)

not the prayer that has power

clearly, explicitly, God is at work – restoring to health and forgiving sin

does not preclude God’s use of means, e.g., physicians

prayer of the elders, not the sick one

primarily in view is faith and prayer of elders

faith of sick one must be operative at some level; otherwise no basis for forgiveness

prayer the impetus to healing, not anointing

anointing likely has only symbolic significance

signifying gracious activity of God bringing about healing

signifying confidence in gracious activity of God to bring about healing

place for church at large to get involved

at issue: tenacious sin that negatively affects health and life

confession permissible in lesser situations, required when it gets this serious

in this case, focus of prayer not for healing but for holiness / wholeness

physical restoration may be by-product of healthy spiritual life

“In fact, blessed is a church or group where the Gospel reigns so powerfully that “confessions” do not engender “gossip,” “criticism,” or “condemnation,” but rather shared humility, mutual support, consequent growth in fellowship, and above all, the experience of the presence and smile of God!” Krabbendam

Man of Prayer (17-18)

Elijah an average man used in above average ways with above average experiences

prayed without ceasing, fervently, confidently

passionate for cause of God

prayed the Word – worship idols, live in a dustbowl; worship God, enjoy rain and food and life – according to God’s promises; see Deut. 28

James expects NT Christians to follow in Elijah’s steps, accomplishing much through fervent prayer

C. Conclusion

Instruments of Conversion

Straying from the Truth (19a) “the careless backslider”

applies equally to belief and behavior, doctrine and discipline

all believers are at risk of wandering

matter of life and death – even more serious than physical illness

Returning to the Truth (19b-20a) “the concerned believer”

brother or sister, regardless of role within covenant community – not necessarily in leadership

have duty to prayerfully and lovingly correct one who is in error (see Joshua 22 as example) out of godly concern for their soul

true disciple will receive correction as needed and adjust course

resistance to correction should prompt shift to evangelism

Recipients of Pardon

Salvation from Death (20b) “consequent blessing”

great encouragement to one who “takes a risk”, correcting one in error

when God grants success, means erring one is genuine believer

either newly converted because of correction

or re-established in right direction

Coverage of Sins (20c) “comforting benediction”

When God has our hearts, he willingly uses us in the work of the Kingdom in spite of our many imperfections.

The one who is committed to pursuit of holiness, not only for himself but also for brothers and sisters within covenant community, is graciously accepted and loved by God. True of both individuals referenced in v.20.

solely on basis of Christ’s finished work of redemption applied to the sinner

May God stir up the fires of revival in our hearts and our church; may he give us a passion for him and an unquenchable desire for holiness. May he give us a thirst for Kingdom success – that the Gospel would advance and take new territory throughout Gorham and the world.


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