Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
* * * * * * *
Oftentimes in the midst of the troubles and turmoils of life, we find ourselves asking, "Does God really care what happens to me?"
Physical or mental illness is common to all of us. It affects each of our lives in one way or another. Why does God permit His children to suffer? Is illness necessary? Can God heal? Does God heal today? Is it always God's will to heal?
Here in the epistle of James we find that God does care about us. He is interested in meeting our needs. James tells us that it is God who "giveth to all men liberally" (Ja 1:5). If any man has need, says James, "let him ask of God." God is all-loving. He is all-powerful, all-wise, and He wants the very best for His children. God does care about me!
In James 5 we find that God is particularly concerned about our emotional and physical well-being. In verse 13 we read, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms." What are we to do with our great emotional conflicts in life? James tells us to relate them to God! Whatever else we do we are to prayto share our emotions with God.
The word afflicted used here by James refers to the difficult experiences of life, the depression we experience during times
of misfortune. Is any among you suffering? says James, Let him pray. Let him talk it over with God who hears and answers our concerns.
Sometimes the problems of life seem too hard to bear. As a result of our grief, we do not know where to turn or what to do. In Matthew 14 we are told of just such an experience. Here we are given the account of the murder of John the Baptist. Matthew tells us that after John was beheaded, "his head was brought on a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus" (Mt 14:11-12). What a shocking experience! John's disciples were bereft and confused. What were they to do? They picked up his body, buried it, and went and told Jesus of the tragedy. Yes, sorrow comes to all of us. But we, too, can turn to Jesus in our hour of grief. He understands our sorrow. Isaiah described our Lord as, "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Is 53:3). Jesus knew what it was like to be weary. He had no place to lay His head. He knew what it was to be lonely, what it was to suffer. Yes, my friend, we have an Intercessor who is concerned about us when we are distressed.
But there are also glad days. Gladness is a blessed emotion. James declares, "Is any merry? let him sing psalms" (Ja 5:13). Happy or sad, dejected or cheerful, James says to share it with God in prayer. Praise is just as much a part of prayer as are requests. The word praise in its various forms is found 550 times in the Bible. Paul told the believers at Philippi to "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil 4:4). Praise ought to be our life-style.
Not only do we find praise to be the solution to the needs of our emotions, but prayer in an attitude of praise is the answer to our physical needs as well. "Is any sick among you? 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 shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (Ja 5:14-15).
First, notice what is not taught here. All sickness is not a direct result of sin. The word if in verse 15 clearly suggests that the earlier portion of this verse bears no relation of suffering to sin. James says, "If he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (Ja 5:15, italics added). Some sickness is a result of sin, and some sickness is not a result of sin.
As we study the gospels, we find that even Jesus' disciples were confused about this matter. In John 9:2-3 we read that Jesus' "disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him" (Jn 9:2-3). Jesus said that his illness was not the result of sin.
However, we also find in Mark's gospel (2:1-12) that, when Jesus encountered the man sick of the palsy, He forgave his sin first and then healed him. Jesus dealt with his wickedness and then relieved his weakness. Sometimes illness may be a result of sin; however, sickness and sin are obviously not always related.
Neither do these verses in James 5 condemn the use of means or medicine for healing. Some people believe and teach that Christians should have nothing to do whatsoever with the medical professionno doctors, no medicine, no hospitals, no human means at all. The Bible does not teach this. In fact, many scholars would suggest that the anointing oil of verse 14 was actually used as a medicine. We are told in Luke 10:34 that the good Samaritan applied oil to the wounds of the dying man he found on the road to Jericho. Much of the historical literature of that day confirms the fact that oil was used as a healing remedy.
But whether or not James is referring here to the use of
medicine, we do find that there are many references to medicine made throughout the Word of God. In Proverbs 17:22 we read, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." And if medicine and doctors are to be avoided, as some would teach, why was Paul associated with Luke, a member of the medical profession? In Colossians 4:14 Paul refers to his co-worker as, "Luke, the beloved physician." We even find that Paul prescribed a little medicine himself. Writing to Timothy who was suffering from stomach trouble, the apostle suggested that he, "Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities" (1 Ti 5:23).
Actually Jesus settled the matter plainly. In Matthew 9:12 our Lord declared, "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." Jesus clearly stated that sick people need a doctor.
So we see that James is not suggesting that sickness is always the result of sin. Nor do we find hereor in any other part of the Biblethat we are to avoid the medical profession. The child of God acts in wisdom as he utilizes the means of healing which are provided for him.
Second, notice what is taught in this passage. On the positive side, let me ask three questions concerning divine healing: (1) Is God able to heal? (2) Does God ever heal? and (3) Does God always heal?
IS GOD ABLE TO HEAL?
Certainly there is no hesitation in our answer to this question. There can be but one answer. The all-powerful God who created us can just as easily heal our bodies if it is His will. Without question we believe God is able to heal.
DOES GOD EVER HEAL?
Here too, there would be but few who would question
God's active participation in the area of divine healing. The Word of God clearly records the exercise of God's power in the healing of the sick. Not only was this true when our Lord was upon earth, but also during the centuries which have elapsed since He left.
I have experienced God's miraculous healing power even in my own life. During my student days at the Moody Bible Institute, I was seriously stricken with a malignant tumor. I was subjected to thirty radium treatments. For many weeks I was confined to a hospital bed, and the doctors told me that I possibly would not live.
Right there in my hospital room I prayed, "O God, this bed is my altar. My life is in Your hands. I subject myself to Your will." That was thirty years ago. God performed a miracle in my life that confounded even the doctors. Yes, God is able to heal, and He does heal in many miraculous ways.
IS IT ALWAYS THE WILL OF GOD TO HEAL?
To this question I would answer a definite no! There are some dear folk, however, who would answer with an emphatic yes. They contend that it is God's will to heal all sickness, that only sin or lack of faith keeps us from being healed. They would say that when Jesus Christ atoned for our sins on the cross He brought deliverance for all our infirmities.
Christ's death did bring about spiritual deliverance. It did cover the infirmities of sin. But nowhere do we find the promise of complete physical deliverance until Jesus Christ comes again to earth in power and glory. It is in that day that we are told, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev 21:4).
But to suggest that, if we now have sufficient faith, we can
be healed of all sickness and disease is a dangerous position to take. For that matter, to argue that the healing of our infirmities depends solely on our faith would also suggest that, if our faith were great enough, we would never have to die.
As we study the gospels, we find that Jesus' miracles of healing were always done for a particular spiritual purpose. On several occasions our Lord selected a particular person to be healed out of a host of those who were afflicted. In John 5 we are told that a great multitude of sick people had gathered beside the pool of Bethesda seeking a cure for their illnesses. But Jesus chose just one man to be healedand on a particular day, the Sabbath. Our Lord could have easily cured the entire lot of afflicted people, but He chose just one man that He might expose the false teachings of the religious leaders of that day, and that He might show Himself as Lord of the Sabbath. Christ's acts of healing were a demonstration of His diety.
What we find in God's Word is that our heavenly Father is concerned for His children. He may grant healing, if, in His wisdom, that is best. But in many cases He allows His children to suffer. This does not indicate lack of faith on their part, nor a lack of love on God's part. Sometimes we can learn more of God's way in sickness than in health, and often we can glorify Him more in suffering than we can in health and prosperity.
The apostle Paul was one whom God used greatly through his affliction. Paul was apparently half blind. He had to dictate his letters because he was unable to write except in a huge scrawl. To the church at Corinth he wrote that "lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice.
that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Co 12:7-9).
In Romans 8:22-27 Paul speaks of our physical infirmities and tells us that we know not how to pray. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Ro 8:26-27). Since the Holy Spirit makes intercession for the infirmed saints according to God's will, who are we to pray any other way?
We clearly see, then, that it is not always God's will to heal. It is God's will, however, that we pray for healing. "Is any sick among you?" says James, "let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him . . . and the prayer of faith shall save the sick" (Ja 5:14-15). I do not believe that this refers to ordinary prayer no matter how good and earnest it may be. On one occasion even Paul said that he had to leave behind his fellow laborer, Trophimus, because he was sick (2 Ti 4:20). I am sure that Paul must have earnestly prayed for his afflicted friend. But, in my thinking, the"prayer of faith" cannot be prayed simply at will. It is given of God in certain cases to serve His purposes and to accomplish His sovereign will.
Hebrews 11 lists the great heroes of the Christian faith. Some, says the writer, "stopped the mouths of lions," some "quenched the violence of fire," some "escaped the edge of the sword," and received mighty deliverance from the hand of the Lord (Heb 11:33-34). But, we are also told, some were "tortured," some received "scourging," some were "sawn asunder," some were "tempted . . . afflicted . . . destitute." And yet these "all . . . obtained a good report through faith" (Heb 11:35-39).
Why were some of these heroes of faith delivered while others were tormented? Because some had faith and others had none? No! They all had faith. They all believed in the same God, but God's will was not accomplished in the same way through them all.
Can God heal us in our afflictions? Yes, He is able, and He at times works miraculously in the lives of some of His servants. But is there healing for us all? No, my friend, not until one day we receive that glorious resurrected body Christ has promised to them that know and love Him.
Until that day, may we with the hymn writer, Benjamin Schmolck, say:
My Jesus, as Thou wilt: O may Thy will be mine!
Into Thy hand of love I would my all resign.
Through sorrow' or thro' joy, Conduct me as Thine own,
And help me still to say, "My Lord, Thy will be done."
My Jesus, as Thou wilt: All shall be well for me;
Each changing future scene I gladly trust with Thee.
Straight to my home above I travel calmly on,
And sing in life or death, "My Lord, Thy will be done."
* "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms" (Ja 5:13).
* What are we to do with our great emotional conflicts in life? James tells us to relate them to God!
* Sometimes illness may be a result of sin; however, sickness and sin are obviously not always related (Jn 9:2-3).
* If medicine and doctors are to be avoided, as some would teach, why was Paul associated with Luke, a member of the medical profession?
* Is it always the will of God to heal? To this question I would answer a definite no!
* Since the Holy Spirit makes intercession for the infirmed saints according to God's will, who are we to pray any other way? (Ro 8:22-27).
* In my thinking, the "prayer of faith" cannot be prayed simply at will. It is given of God in certain cases to serve His purpose and to accomplish His sovereign will.
* Why were some of these heroes of faith delivered while others were tormentedbecause some had faith and others had none? No! They all had faith. They all believed in the same God, but God's will was not accomplished in the same way through them all.
Table of Contents for the online book "How to Solve Conflicts"
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