My family is well aware that I’ve never been a flying-by-my-seat kind of woman. Surprises are awkward! Running behind leaves me frazzled beyond words. I value schedules and respect deadlines, which brings about working ahead and early arrivals. Confession: I’m a planner, keeping both paper and digital calendars to a fault. But when I take time to reflect and look at my paper calendar, an overview of sorts, I use discretion: Have these times displayed a life that is God-honoring? Are there adjustments that need to be made? Today I ask myself, What would James tell me?
In the conclusion of the letter of James we see reinforcement of sound doctrine to his readers. James addresses matters of life plans and the Lord’s sovereign overruling coupled with the importance of human responsibility. James encourages us to acknowledge the will of God and to allow that to put our priorities in proper perspective. Obedience to the will of God includes recognition of sins of commission (doing what God has said not to do) and sins of omission (disregarding what God has said to do).
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jas 5:12–20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Verses 13-14 remind us of the inevitable ups and downs of life and the importance of prayer, both corporately and privately. James teaches that double-mindedness is a sign that we are spiritually adrift. Truth is that we would do well to spend time cultivating meaningful friendships within the body of Christ. As we come face to face with the struggles of life, we are to confess our sins to one another and pray openly and honestly together. At best, these relationships become a kind of one another soul care. However, James acknowledges that it is the object of our faith, our Lord Jesus, that makes our faith strong — not that we are able to work up sufficient intensity.
“Maintaining open, sharing, and praying relationships with other Christians will help keep believers from bottoming out in their spiritual lives. Such relationships help give the spiritual strength that provides victory over sin. And they also provide godly pressure to confess and forsake sins before they become overwhelming to the point of total spiritual defeat…God has granted to all believers the ministry of reconciling wandering souls to Himself. When the evidence indicates a professed believer’s faith is not real, true Christians, knowing the terrible threat of eternal death that person faces, must make it their goal to turn him back from his sin to genuine saving faith in God.”—John MacArthur
but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 10:38). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
We learn patience through our longing to be with Christ. Yet, being patient doesn’t mean complacency. When James speaks about being patient, he doesn’t leave out the actions we should take while waiting for Jesus to come again. We should be patient in the sense that we wait until we know where and how He wants us to build His path before acting. We are called to be patient and speak truth while waiting well.
We’re told in Psalm 90:4 that to God, a thousand years is like “a watch in the night.” Our entire lives are fleeting (Eccl 8:8)! Nonetheless, they have incredible meaning not just for the now, but for the future. Ultimately, James grounds his instructions in the reality of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (5:8-10). This should serve as a warning that just in the days of James, the time remains near for us. James is concerned for genuine faith that works because he is most concerned about something bigger: Jesus is coming.
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 90:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ec 8:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
James’ picture of a patient Christian is not someone sitting down waiting for Jesus to lift her out of this world. Instead, it’s someone making her way toward Christ through gospel indicatives and imperatives (Rom 6:11). In the process, we must remove the mental, physical and spiritual barriers between people and God. We must make it easy for them to seek Jesus by seeing Him in us.
What kind of difference does James’ message make in your life? Are you living radically, as salt and light? You have an opportunity today to give glory to the only One who can save.
For further study: Read the book of James; Romans 6:11; 8:5-8; 14:23; 15:2-3, 7