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#16 One Last Look in the Mirror

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                 “ONE LAST LOOK IN THE MIRROR

                     (A Series on the Book of James)

Westgate Chapel 05/22/05                                  James 5:13-20

Proposition:      That prayer is a life devoted in every season and every circumstance to seeking God’s voice, His direction, and His purposes so that His will be done in our lives.

i.    introduction

-     I WONDER how many Christians quit church….because they prayed for relief from suffering and nothing happened?

-     I WONDER how many Christians quit their faith….because they prayed for the good times to never end, and they did?

-     I WONDER how many Christians quit on God altogether….because they prayed for a healing and it never happened?

-     I WONDER how many Christians gave up and went back to a life of sin….because they prayed to be delivered instantly and got tired of the battle?

-     I WONDER how many Christians have prayed for the nation to be revived…and when revival didn’t come, after a year, or five years, or ten, gave up and went back to status quo?

-     I WONDER how many Christians have prayed for the restoration of someone they love…and when it didn’t seem to make a difference, just gave up?

-     THIS is real life people! This is where you and I live. It is where I live.

-     AND remember, James is a real pastor, concerned for the wellbeing of a real congregation that all used to attend Jerusalem First Church….that is until severe persecution scattered most of them all over the Roman Empire.

-     AND this (hold up Bible) is a real letter written to them to help them live the Christian life all the way to the finish line.

-     IT is not a cook book, with recipes that call for a teaspoon of this and a pound of that…stir and bake until browned on the top.

-     THIS is a mirror….so they can hold it up from time to time and see the model of the Christian life, who is Jesus, and look at their reflection to see how they are doing.

-     AND in the last 8 verses…..before he puts his pen down and entrusts the letter and them to the Holy Spirit….he addresses some of the biggest issues of life and sums them up in one four letter word…PRAY!

-     LISTEN….before you dismiss this as one more sermon designed to guilt you into praying and tune me out….think about this:

*     As breathing is to your physical life…so prayer is to your Christian life.

*     Not as a means to get you or I what we want….but to put us into direct contact with what God wants for our lives.

-     EVERY day God has…

*     New mercies for you.

*     Blessings.

*     Guidance.

*     Opportunities for you to serve Him.

*     Challenges for you to overcome.

*     Affirmation.

*     Encouragement.

*     Divine appointments in which He wants you to represent His heart and intentions.

*     Opportunities to learn a broken and contrite spirit.

*     Healing.

*     Grace to persevere.

-     AND you will miss most of them if you don’t pray….all day and into the night.

-     THE starting place for a life of prayer is the disciplined time, set aside before the distractions and other voices of the day barge in.

-     THE time set aside for prayer that is both talking and listening.

-     BUT I am also talking about the kind of prayer which is your heart and mine occupied with God all day and into the night.

-     THAT you are going about your day, with one ear tuned to His voice, enquiring how He is feeling and what He is thinking about the life you are busy living right then.

-     SO, if you place any value on your Christian life and the finish line of your faith, you will listen to James wrap up his epistle on the subject of prayer.

-     AND you will learn an incredibly important lesson from James today….that you and I pray, not to get what we want.

-     THAT is why so many people are quitting the church, their faith and even God. They prayed and tried to muster the faith required to receive….and nothing happened.

-     NO! We pray so that we can find out what God wants….and then pray in faith believing and receive.

-     I THINK you are going to be amazed at the range of real life issues James uses to illustrate his point on prayer.

-     TURN with me to James 5:13-20 ( page 1199)

ii.   WHEN YOU ARE SUFFERING-PRAY

-     THE first real life issue James addresses is in verse 13a,

      “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray.”

-     THE word “suffering” covers any type of misfortune.

-     THINGS are not going your way.

-     PROBLEMS are compounding in your life.

-     SOMETIMES we go through whole seasons in life that are characterized by misfortune.

-     THE people to whom James was writing this epistle could certainly say that was the case for them.

-     AND for most of us in this room, the most common responses to continual misfortune are:

*     Anger.

*     Complaining.

*     Self-pity.

*     Isolation.

*     Escape….by whatever means are at your disposal.

-     NO! James says when misfortune strikes…you MUST pray!

-     IT is imperative that you pray!

-     TO escape the suffering?

-     NO! We pray, first to find out what God is saying and doing in the middle of our suffering.

-     THEN we will know how to respond, how to stand and how to believe concerning our situation.

-     UNTIL we have prayed….we are just flailing around, no matter how much binding and loosing we do.

iii.  WHEN YOU ARE CHEERFUL-PRAY AND WORSHIP

-     HERE is the second real life issue James addresses, in the rest of verse 13,

      “Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.”

-     HOW does the born again, Spirit-filled Christian handle the good times?

-     SOMETIMES the good times are the hardest times to serve the Lord and pray.

-     THAT certainly became Israel’s problem when she arrived in the land of milk and honey.

-     GOD warned them, back in Deuteronomy 4:9, “When you get into the Promised Land….

       “…give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.”

-     WHEN you are in the good times….they too easily become the goal instead of God.

-     SO, the answer is a life of prayer.

-     I KNOW that James says “sing praises”, but in reality there is no different between praise the prayer.

-     IT is the communion of the heart with the living God…and it is the only way to “keep your soul diligently” in the good times.

iv. WHEN YOU ARE SICK-PRAY

-     THE next real life issue James brings to our attention are those times of sickness.

-     LOOK at verses 14-15a with me,

        “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up…”

-     HOW many of you this morning are facing a battle with illness?

-     IT is one of the real issues of life.

-     AND again, James uses the imperative….you MUST call for the elders of the church.

-     WHY the elders of the church?

-     IS there any Scriptural support for believing that the elders have any more power than anyone else to pray for healing….or any greater access to gifts of healing?

-     NO!

-     I BELIEVE the elders are to be called for because they are in that office because of their spirituality and maturity of discernment.

-     AND one of the things that takes a hit in your life or mine when we are seriously ill….is our ability to have faith and hear from the Lord.

-     SO, the elders are called for because when you are sick….you need to hear from the Lord even more than you need to be healed.

-     WHAT is the Lord saying here? What is He doing?

-     SO the elders pray over the one who is sick…and anoint him/her with oil, which represents the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

-     NOW listen carefully, because this verse is misused and misunderstood.

-     IT is not a guarantee of physical healing.

-     IN verse 15, the word is “restore”…..restore to what? The purposes of God!

-     THAT could be physical healing, salvation, blessing, deliverance….and the verb tense is future.

-     SO the restoration could happen immediately, in the near future, or in eternity.

-     PASTOR Bill V, who is our resident Greek expert says that the original language of this verse “does not diminish the benefit of praying for the sick: it widens by far the range of God’s responses.”

v.  WHEN YOU ARE TRAPPED IN SIN-CONFESS AND PRAY

-     THE next real life issue that James brings to our attention is sin-sickness.

-     SOME physical sickness is a result of sin in the individual life.

-     SOME physical sickness is the result of living in a fallen world.

-     SOME physical sickness is so that God will be glorified.

-     AND some sickness is not physical but potentially more dangerous…and that is a life of a Christian who is living in bondage to sin.

-     SO, to that situation, James writes in verses 15b and 16,

      “…if he [the sick person] has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

-     JAMES says to confess your sins to one another.

-     I WOULD add….be careful who the “one another” is.

-     THIS is not a suggestion to air your dirty laundry indiscriminately.

-     THERE will be godly people in your life with whom you can be honest and transparent….and who will, with strictest confidence, stand with you in prayer when you fall.

-     THOSE are the people to go to….and every one of us should have someone like that in our lives, so that the Body of Christ can be a safe place to live and safe place to fall.

-     AND once again….we pray. And this time we pray for one another, so that we drawn near to God, hear from Him, and see Him align our lives with His Word.

-     THAT is the environment for healing!

-     AND James adds the encouragement that the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

VI. WHEN YOU LIVE IN A NATION THAT HAS FORGOTTEN GOD-PRAY

-     NEXT, James addresses the situation of living in a nation that has turned away from God….and that certainly was the case for Israel in James’ day.

-     AND curiously, James draws from 1 Kings 17 and 18 to make his point.

        “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.”

-     WHAT do you do when you live in a nation that has turned away from God?

-     YOU pray!

-     NOW, what is interesting here is that James 5:17 says that Elijah prayed that it would not rain for 3 ½ years.

-     THE actual account of this story in 1 Kings 17:1 says,

      “Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.’”

-     IT doesn’t say that Elijah prayed. It appears that he prophesied the drought.

-     JAMES says Elijah prayed and the drought came.

-     IS this a contradiction?

-     NO!

-     IT proves the point of my message.

-     ELIJAH said to king Ahab,

      “‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

-     WHAT was the situation Elijah was in?

*     He lived in a nation that had forsaken God.

-     WHAT did he do about it?

*     Nothing…until Elijah had “stood in the council chamber of God.”

-     WHAT does one do in the council chamber of God?

*     Listen and pray.

-     THEN….he went to Ahab and prophesied drought.

-     SO, did Elijah prophesy drought or pray drought?

-     YES!

 

VII. WHEN YOU ARE AROUND A CHRISTIAN CAUGHT IN SIN-PRAY AND RESTORE THAT ONE

-     JUST one last lesson from James.

      “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

-     WHEN you are around a fellow Christian who strays from “the truth”….pray!

-     WELL, I know the word, pray, is not in the text….but listen to me.

-     WHEN you see a brother or sister turn from the truth…..tell me, who of us has the wisdom or strength to turn them back to the Lord?

-     IT is impossible for us to do!

-     HEBREWS 6:6 says that it is impossible for them to turn themselves back.

-     SO, it may be implied, but it is no less essential that when a brother or sister turns away….that someone be praying.

-     PRAYING for understanding from God concerning what to do….approach, avoid, confront, comfort?

-     PRAYING for a Spirit of conviction on them.

-     PRAYING for a hedge that prevents them from falling away completely.

-     PRAYING for wisdom, timing, guidance, anointing.

-     WE can’t do anything in this kind of situation until we have prayed.

 

VIII. CONCLUSION

-     WE can’t do anything in any situation until we have prayed.

-     IF you don’t have an on-going conversation with God….ask Him to help you start one today.

-     IF you don’t know where to start….pick up a copy of our Westgate Chapel Discipleship Journal, True North. It will help you with the tools you need for the conversation.

-     THE bottom line is we need God….desperately!

-     HE is too gentle to force Himself on us.

-     HE waits to be invited into the conversation of our life.

-     HE waits to speak, waits to impart His wisdom, His understanding, grace and power.

-     WHAT He has for us is not always what we want or were asking for….but that is because He is God and we are not!

-     BUT that is where the conversation of prayer is to essential.

-     YOU will be tempted to quit on church, on your faith and even on God….if you are under the impression that He is there as a cosmic butler to do your bidding.

-     BUT if you realize that this Christian life is a relationship with a God who always has your best interest on His heart….and that He is just waiting to let you in on His plan….you will find this is an unequalled adventure of faith for those who pray!

 

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