Maybe our biggest question should be: Why would we ask for healing?
Does God promise to heal everyone? Why do we ask for healing? Do we put our motives before God? Are we afraid to ask for healing? What healing are we looking for? Are we intent on living out the will of God in our lives? Could a person seek healing contrary to the will of God?
Kent Hughes tells us, “This is the divine prescription, the only one in all of Scripture! The prescription contains clear direction to the sick first, and then to the elders.”
As we study this difficult text in James, I believe that we will see that James’ “divine prescription” is about much more than our physical well-being.
An account from Daniel Doriani, college professor, commentator, avowed Presbyterian …
During the autumn when I first studied James in earnest, a friend suffered a viral infection of the heart. While it was not a heart attack, it mimicked many of the symptoms of one. My friend felt listless; he looked gray and lifeless. One day at church, I told him that James 5 instructs elders to lay hands on the sick and to pray for their healing; I suggested that he call the elders for that very purpose. Two weeks later, he told me he wanted to proceed. No one in our church had done this before, so we did something very Presbyterian: we studied the matter another six weeks and hoped he didn’t die in the meantime.
At last, we appointed a night for prayer and the elders gathered. Our church’s pastor (I was a college professor at the time) summoned the elders. Before we prayed, he told us not to expect a dramatic physical healing, since God heals in many ways. I appreciated his motive, but there was no need to restrain my enthusiasm; my doubting heart was already skeptical enough. (To make matters worse, my one prior experience with prayers for healing came when I was an unbelieving teenager. My parents asked me to let them and certain friends pray over me for a then-chronic illness. I wanted no part of it, but was afraid to say so. The prayers had no effect at all.)
My friend knelt down in the middle of a circle of elders. We anointed him with oil, laid hands on him, and began to pray. Since I had started the process, I was appointed to offer the closing prayer.
As soon as we began to pray, I had an overwhelming sense that God was, at that moment, healing my friend. My arms felt what I can only describe as bolts of fire pulsing through them. As I grasped my friend’s shoulder, heat and energy burned in my hand. I felt that my one hand could lift all of his 230 pounds to the ceiling or push him through the floor if I wished.
I knew God was healing him. I wanted to shout, “We must stop praying that God will heal John and start praising God that he has healed him.” But I was too astonished, too unsure of my sensations, to say a word to anyone that night. For four days, I kept my experience to myself.
Four days later, after church, my friend beckoned to me with a wild grin, “Dan, watch this.” At once, he dashed up a flight of steps. I dashed after him and met him at the top. He smiled, “And I’m not even breathing hard.”
“I knew it,” I exclaimed, and told him what I had felt a few nights earlier. And he told me, “I knew it, too.”
Since that day, I have joined with elders to lay hands on the sick and pray for them. I have never again felt the fire. And while I occasionally feel a flood of warmth and emotion, I have learned that my feelings and God’s healing may have no connection. A small number have experienced immediate healing from serious illness. More have recovered gradually and under the care of physicians. Many have found spiritual healing—great peace and spiritual renewal in times of crisis and suffering, whether they recovered physically or not. And some have apparently gained no physical or spiritual benefit at all.
[Doriani, D. M. (2007). James. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 189–190). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.]
Tonight: Answers in Genesis – Relevance of Genesis.
Happy 100th Birthday to You: Juanita Briggs will be the guest of honor at an open house reception Saturday, March 5, 2016, for her 100th birthday from 1 to 4 pm at the Community Center at Wesley Village. Please see insert for more details.
March 6: A group from the Pacific Garden Mission will share in our Sunday School and Morning Worship services. Fellowship dinner afterwards. Please plan to bring a dish to pass and enjoy a good visit with our brothers and sisters in Christ from PGM. Fried chicken will be provided.
March 13: Daylight Savings Time starts.
Board Minutes: Our minutes and treasurer’s report are available to youat the information table.
MARCH 25: We will have a Good Friday service here at the church. We will be serving communion. Mark Smith will be our guest speaker. Service time is 6:00 pm.
March 27: Resurrection Day (Easter). If you would like to be part of a men’s or women’s singing group, please let Dave know. Thanks.
MARCH 6: A group from the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago led by Pastor Ervin McNeill will be sharing with us in SS and MW. 9:00 am: We will welcome their arrival with a fellowship time. Coffee, donuts, milk, orange juice, etc. 9:30 am: PGM will have the Sunday School time. They will sing, share testimonies and give a Bible lesson. 10:30 am: PGM will have most of the Morning Worship time. They will sing, share testimonies, Pastor McNeill will preach, we will take a love offering for the mission. 12:00 pm: We will share a fellowship meal with our friends from PGM before sending them on their way back to Chicago with the Lord’s blessing.
MARCH 27: Easter sunrise service at the park around sunrise. We will have breakfast at the church afterwards around 7:00 am.
MARCH 27: PLEASE NOTE that our Morning Worship service will begin at 9:00 am on Easter Sunday.
APRIL 17: Shaina Ascone will be sharing a ministry update with us in SS and briefly in MW. We will take a love offering.
MAY 15: Mark Smith of Bible Tracts Inc will share in our SS and MW services to give us an update on the printing of tracts in Pakistan and other exciting news.
Missions Conference News: The missions committee with the approval of the church board has decided to not have a missions conference this year. We will still have a strong missions emphasis throughout the year as we are going to try to schedule several of our missionaries and others to share in the upcoming months. You can get an idea of this by our current schedule of missionary speakers for the next three months.
Answers in Genesis DVD series: We will continue showing this series on Sunday evenings over the next several weeks. You are strongly encouraged to attend as these videos are very faith building. However we will not show these every Sunday evening. We will take a break from the series probably every three weeks and have our normal Sunday evening service. These videos are excellent, but we would prefer not taking away our evening service for such a long stretch. Thanks for understanding.
APRIL 3: Begin our Genesis study.
PREACHING SCHEDULE through March 2016:
—February 28: The Prayer of Faith / James 5:13-20
—March 6: PGM
—March 13: The Blood of the Covenant / Matthew 26:17-29
—March 20: Building on the Rock / Matthew 7:13-29
—March 27: Resurrection Day! / 1 Corinthians 15
Have you ever thought about what the most popular Biblical book is for Believers in parts of the world in which they are the minority? The book they turn to in order to give them comfort and hope? The answer may surprise you. It is the book of 1 Peter. One of the main reasons is that Peter wrote this letter to groups of Believers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia for they were suffering as a minority group within the eastern Roman empire. They faced the ostracism, abuse, rejection, and discrimination that comes with obedience to Jesus Christ in the midst of a pagan and sinful culture.
Peter’s letter is written to comfort these believers in the midst of a hostile world by calling them to remember their living hope in Christ, and do their duty as Christians no matter how hard the circumstances they faced. What is interesting is how Peter chooses to go about that process. He begins his letter by calling his recipients the “chosen” of God. This is the word for “election” in the Greek.
What does it mean to be a part of the elect of God? It means that God has chosen, or say elected, men and women in Christ before the foundation of the world according to His goodness, as He sees fit in alignment to His will and purposes. This divine choice is an expression of God’s sovereign grace. God’s choice is not merited by anything in those that are His. We must remember that God is God and can do what He wants. He is true and just and we must trust that all that God does is in accordance with His nature. The New Testament Church is made up of a community chosen by God.
J.I. Packer makes a good point,
“…it is a wonder, and matter for endless praise, that he should choose to save any of us; and doubly so when his choice involved the giving of his own Son to suffer as a sin-bearer for the elect.”
So the questions that begs an answer is “Why does Peter start his letter of 1 Peter with the doctrine of election?” I would like to examine that today by taking a look at the doctrine of election in 1 Peter 1:1-2.
THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION IS A COMFORTING DOCTRINE
Imagine that you are a child once again. Were you ever picked last in a game of baseball, dodge-ball, basketball, track, ect…? How did you feel? I can honestly say that there were times in my life that I was picked last and it didn’t feel good. Imagine now, if you will, that you were picked first. Wow, that would be encouraging right? OK, so now let’s up the ante. You’re getting ready to play basketball and one of the captains is Michael Jordan and he picks you first. Wow, now that is special!
You see where I am going with this. God chose these believers that Peter was writing to and He chose YOU! You were not chosen last. You individually, were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)! What an encouraging thought. No matter how isolated Believers may become in a particular area, they were chosen by God Himself.
No matter what trials and suffering that you go through God has chosen you to be a part of His people and nothing and no one can change that. When people around you mistreat you, impugn your character, refuse to associate with you or try to do you harm because you are a Christian, then you must remember that you are elect of God. Jesus says this in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you…”.
It was not an accident that you came to know the Lord. It was not mere chance that you heard the gospel. It was the Holy Spirit who was working in your heart illuminating your mind to the word of God, convicting you of your sinful condition and showing you your need for a Savior. All of the Spirit’s work was in accordance with God’s sovereign choice of you before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). What a comfort that is to believers that are tired and weary of this world. No matter what obstacles you face, and how much pain you go through; God is present in your life. Romans 8:28-30 speak of this is a powerful way. God is working all things for the good of those He has called (elect). That ultimate good is Christ-likeness, culminating in our glorification.
Article 17 of the Anglican 39 Articles says,
“…our election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God…”.
You can imagine the Apostle Paul being comforted and motivated by this doctrine in his final letter to Timothy. After many years of effective and often painful service he could say, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect” (2 Timothy 2:10).
THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION IS THE REASON THAT BELIEVERS ARE A MINORITY
1. YOU ARE FOREIGNERS
The reason that Peter begins this letter with the doctrine of election is that he is seeking to comfort these believers with the great truth that they are chosen by God; and that it is this choosing that is the cause of their current suffering.
Peter seeks to give throughout his letter the outworking of the doctrine of election in the lives of God’s people. He does this at the beginning of this epistle by calling these believers “aliens.” In 1 Peter 2:11 he calls them “foreigners” as well. This is what a believer’s relationship is to the world around him. Peter reminds these Christians that they are different than the people around them. They are not citizens with the rights and privileges that go along with that status. They are not even considered temporary workers or even guests. Peter tells them that they are “aliens,” and “foreigners.” in the world that they live. The word here in the Greek carries the meaning of someone who is merely traveling through a particular area (a sojourner).
Peter lays the foundation for the rest of the letter here in verses 1-2 when he reminds these believers that they are chosen (elect) of God. It is this sovereign election that lays the foundation for the social situation of Christians in every society.
When you come to understand your place in this world it is a very freeing moment. No longer do you have to wonder what your purpose is in life and live moment by moment for the next thing that gives you temporary happiness. This world is not your home. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
Peter says that these believers have been rejected by men in 1 Peter 2:4. They are isolated and suffering to various degrees throughout this region. In an encouraging tone Peter continues in the same verse by telling them that they are living stones, “choice and precious in the sight of God.”
Later in the chapter Peter continues his encouragement by reminding these believers that they are part of a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s on possession” (1 Peter 2:9). For the Apostle Peter the doctrine of election was not some stuffy theological discussion to be debated in the halls of seminaries. It was an important reminder to him that he was special; that he was chosen by God. Just like these original recipients, your Election is a real and powerful reminder of your special place in God’s heart.
2. YOU ARE CALLED TO LIVE DIFFERENTLY
You are chosen by God to glorify Him, first and foremost in all that you do. The primary means that is accomplished by believers on this earth is through their obedience to Christ (1 Peter 1:14). God has not chosen you to live like the pagans around you. You are to show them what living according to God’s word looks like and tell them of their own need for a savior. Those that are the called are to demonstrate that they are the elect by their behavior. Paul says this in 1 Thessalonians 1:3-5when he speaks of the Thessalonian believer’s faith, hope, and their love as an outworking of God’s choosing them.
“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.”
Peter speaks of the calling of the believer in his letter. Peter says that they have been called to suffer as Christ has suffered, with His behavior as the example to follow (1 Peter 2:21). He tells them that they have been called to live godly, no matter the opposition (1 Peter 3:8-9). Our election by God is what sets us apart from the world. We are the minority, those that have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
A practical benefit of the believer’s calling is being confident about his security before God. We are confident in our calling by our knowledge of God’s promise and our obedience to His commands. Peter says in 2 Peter 1:10:
“…be all the more diligent to make certain about his calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things you will never stumble.”
What things are you to practice? Peter gives these in 2 Peter 1:5-8: self-control, perseverance, godliness, love, to name a few.
If you want to be assured of your election then ask yourself these questions. Is my love for the things of this world and the power of sin in my life being continually weakened and diminished (mortification)? Am I growing in righteousness, bearing the fruit of the Spirit daily (vivification)? These will start occurring simultaneously throughout your life as you live out your calling in this world. This is the sanctification process that culminates with you in the presence of the Lord.
The doctrine of Election is not meant to be divisive. It is meant as a comfort for believers. It is the family secret, so to speak. We do not know whom He has chosen among those that are in this world; but we do know that we would not be Christians if he had not chosen us.
He even has a “Book” that gives us all the necessary information to live in a way that pleases him and to be able to prepare to meet him after we die. (Which, by the way, Jesus Christ tells us that if we believe in him, we never really die.)
(John 11:25 ESV)Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”
If not for God’s “Book,” then how would we know these things? You would think that we would be so grateful that we couldn’t wait to hear what God has to say next about how we should live our lives. Are you tracking with me? We can actually know exactly what God requires of us–yes, that’s in the book also–and he gives us a way to live in peace and joy that nothing in this world can stop.
Jesus is coming again.
Did you know that? I do. I read that in the “Book” also. I am supposed to live my life like Jesus could appear at any time, like breaking through the clouds and astounding the entire world kind of appearing.
With that in mind, he tells me (through James his younger brother) that I should be patient through life’s troubles and trials, that he is producing precious fruit in my life. His words, not mine.
So I’m not supposed to grumble and complain when things don’t go my way …
Especially grumbling about other believers. Can you believe that? I mean we are only human. I wouldn’t believe this except, again, I read it in the “Book” and it is very clear.
(James 5:9 ESV)Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
In the “Book” I also read about people–prophets, Job, etc.–who have trusted God in this way even centuries ago. They kept believing, kept waiting, kept trusting because they knew that God was compassionate and merciful.
There is a coming day of reckoning for every person on the planet. Everything wrong will be made right. God will perfectly judge. Those who have trusted in Christ will be embraced by God beyond our comprehension. Those who refused to accept God’s offer of life will face a horror and an anguish beyond their comprehension.
In today’s text James confronts the oppressive rich with this impending day of doom. The Old and New Testament prophets call this day the day of the Lord.
The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives (Joel 2:31 NLT).
Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD (Malachi 4:5 NASB95).
James calls the oppressive rich to “weep and wail.” Or ESV to “weep and howl.”
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you (James 5:1 NIV84).
In view of the oppression and God’s subsequent judgment, James calls his brothers and sisters in Christ to patience.
We must always see the injustice and unfairness and cruelty of this world in view of a coming judgment. We take assurance in this. This helps us to stay the course and put aside our own ideas of justice and vengeance.
I want to see no one face this terrible judgment. No matter how awful they are, no matter how hurtful they have been to me or to the poor and disadvantaged of this world. But I do take comfort and strength that God will bring this about. I believe that living in view of God’s perfect justice we will be able to remain faithful and honoring to him in all aspects of our lives.
I think that this is important in the presidential election year. No matter how much we feel defrauded and cheated and lied to and oppressed by rich, powerful politicians, we trust God to be God.
Can we do that? The Church of Jesus Christ I am speaking to. Can we trust God to be God and honor him and his word in everything?
Be patient, brothers and sisters. There is a coming judgment. One day absolutely everything will be in God’s perfect order. But not now. For now we continue to believe and trust God and find our peace in his will be done. For now we stay the course in love and devotion to Christ, and in obedience to his word of truth.
Message Title: The Coming Miseries of the Oppressive Rich!
Sorry. No good news this week. James takes on the role of Old Testament prophet and blasts the oppressive rich–those who have defrauded and crushed the poor.
There really is no good news in this section. No call to repentance or confession of sin. No hope held out. No olive branch, peace treaty or truce even. Just a withering condemnation toward those who would choose personal wealth over the well-being of their fellow humans.
Here is the text:
(James 5:1–6 ESV) 1Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
No resolution. Only condemnation. So what do we take from this? What good might come from such an unusual text? It is like the prophet Nahum has snuck into the letter of James.
(Nahum 1:1–6 ESV) 1An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. 2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. 3The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. 4He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. 5The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. 6Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.
To whom is James preaching? Was this intended for believers? Non-believers? What lessons might we learn? Is it wrong to be rich?
Do we live our lives before a Sovereign Lord? Do we believe that our existence on this Earth for even one more day depends on this Sovereign Lord?
My initial question for this week’s study was, How does this section connect with the previous? Today’s text is a familiar text where we find James comparing our lives to a mere vapor or a mist, James directing us to the famous “if the Lord wills” mantra, James speaking of the sin of omission, etc.
No theological hurdles really to speak of. Just the question … how does it fit? How does it connect in the flow of his letter?
Earlier in his writing James told us why we, even as believers in Jesus Christ, sometimes fight and quarrel. And there is our connection.
Basically, we fight and quarrel because we don’t get our own way. My agenda against your agenda. My will against your will.
But what about God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven? What if we made more of an effort to consult God in our decision-making process? As in, for real, God would be the one setting the agenda and determining our priorities? Is that possible? Could God do such a thing?
What might happen if we actually began to believe in and trust an all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing Master who loves us with an everlasting love?