The Eleventh (and final) in a Series of Sermons on the Book of James
What is the most important thing that a persecuted and suffering church can do? The answer is so obvious that we easily overlook it. Pray! In the final verses of his epistle, James wraps up with an exhortation to the suffering Christians of the Dispersion to seek the power of God through prayer. James reminds them that prayer is the means through God sustains his people, especially during times of great trial. Sadly, many in our day have turned James’ exhortation to pray for healing into a mantra through which God will supposedly heal all of our diseases–if only we dare claim what I rightfully ours. Instead of seeing James’ exhortation to pray as the means through which God sustains us in the midst of our trials, faith-healers have turned James’ words into the magical “abracadabra” enabling us to “claim our miracle.” It always amazes me that persecuted Jewish Christians to whom James is writing never understood James in this way, yet prosperous Americans, who have never known a moment of persecution in their lives, take James to be promising them health and wealth. What James is doing is reminding persecuted Christians that God has heard their cries, and he stands ever ready to help in time of need. All they need do is ask.
We now come to the conclusion of our series on the Book of James, as we make our way through the final verses of chapter five. I hope this series has been as helpful and interesting to you as it has been to me. There is much here for us and I hope you now feel as at home in the Book of James as you do in the letters of Paul.
While some have thought that the Book of James is nothing more than warmed over Jewish legalism, we have seen how that sentiment could not be further from the truth. James does not contradict Paul when it comes to justification, and when interpreted correctly, James reminds us of the importance of good works, as well as the need for us to be more than mere “hearers” of the word. In fact, James has taught us that it is God who brings us forth (from death to life) through the preached word, then implants that word with in us, thereby ensuring that we hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. James exhorts struggling Christians to draw near to God, because James knows God’s promise that God will draw near to us whenever we seek his face. James reminds that when we humble ourselves, God responds by exalting us. James tells us that whenever we seek God’s grace, God is willing to give us even more grace. James is very clear that from beginning to end, the Christian life is grounded in the grace of God, who has promised to see us through all of the trials of life. And the way in which God sees us through the trials of life is through prayer, the subject of this sermon.
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