Bring some Spirit-filled peace into your hectic schedule every weekday morning with this new Daily Devotional.
- Start your day with God
- Renew your spirit
- Refocus your faith
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'Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.'
Jesus was both a healer and a teacher. You cannot divide up his ministry. He ministered to the whole range of people’s needs – body, mind and spirit. When Jesus left this earth he commissioned the church to carry on with that ministry and here in James we see what that meant in practice. The church is called to minister to those who are sick and to pray for them knowing that God loves to make people better and also to forgive their sins.
'Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.'
I remember as a teenager hearing a well-known preacher telling the story of a young woman who had told him that she often didn’t feel like praying. His response was that prayer was not a glandular condition! Prayer was something that we need to do whatever our feelings. That’s precisely the point that James is making here. In short, it’s always the right time to pray – whether you are going through a good or a bad time.
'But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.'
James isn’t talking here about bad language but about the very common practice at the time of trying to strengthen a statement by taking an oath. Jews made a distinction between oaths made in the name of God which could never be broken, and other oaths which didn’t mention God which could be broken. James encourages his readers to make life much easier by simply telling the truth.
'We give great honour to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.'
We don’t know exactly what James’ readers were facing but clearly it was tough to be a Christian. They needed to persevere. Amidst all the temptations, distractions and persecution that they were facing they needed to hang in there for God.
'Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!'
The bible introduces us to lots of grumbling people. Most famously we hear the People of Israel having a whinge after God had miraculously led them out of slavery in Egypt. They had been there for 400 years and, at last, they had been set free by the mighty hand of God. The yoke of oppression had been broken and they were now able to enjoy the sweet taste of freedom. But almost immediately their response is to grumble because things weren’t working out in the way that they had hoped.
'Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.'
The idea of waiting is easy – until you have to do it! Waiting can be incredibly difficult and especially if you don’t know how long you are going to have to wait. Waiting for medical test results, waiting for a member of the family to make contact or waiting for someone to repay a debt. Any of those can sap your energy and leave you feeling disappointed and confused.
'Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags.'
You can almost see the steam coming out of James’s ears can’t you? He is furious at the way in which the rich people were abusing their position. His very specific gripe with them was that they had failed to pay their workmen for mowing their fields. For James this wasn’t a little economic problem. This was an evil that had reached the ears of God himself and the rich people were heading for certain judgement.