Sickness is among the many circumstances in life where prayer is needed, and concerning such prayer James the apostle gives detailed instructions. Today’s sermon is an exegetical study of these. Follow me to see what valuable lessons we can learn about prayer and divine healing.
Text: James 5:14-16
A. We usually misinterpret this passage as the sick person being prayed for must have faith. If he is not healed we blame him for lacking faith. Actually James is talking about the faith of the elder here.
B. Very often we misquote Matthew 13:58 to support this misinterpretation saying Jesus couldn’t perform many miracles because people lacked faith. The truth is not that unbelief hindered Jesus’ power but the people were unworthy of witnessing such a wonder. Man’s lack of faith can never cripple God’s power to heal.
C. The application of oil being medicinal rather than sacramental (The Greek word used in place of “anoint” is not the same word used for sacramental or ritualistic anointing.) implies there’s nothing wrong with receiving medical attention along with prayer. Neither it indicates a lack of faith.
I. Jesus said healing through laying on of hands is one of the signs that would accompany the believers, (Mark 116:18c) and we can move mountains with faith as small as a mustard seed, (Matthew 17:20). Then isn’t praying for the sick a great opportunity for us to exercise God’s wonderful gift to his Church?
II. We must remember the way one responds to a call for prayer is a strong indicator of the condition of his faith. Someone that lays his hands upon the sick out of obligation, a complaining attitude or just to put up a show actually does not have faith. Trust me, I have met such elders!
III. The application of oil encourages the sick person to seek medical assistance. Receiving medical assistance is not an indicator of little faith. Luke, one of the authors in the Bible was a physician himself.
IV. Today however we live in an era where medical science has improved and oil is used as only an aid to faith. We should be careful not to turn it into an object of faith as in praying over oil and handing it over to others calling it holy and guaranteeing instant results. God alone is the healer and author of our faith.
A. The outcome is 2 fold. It brings healing and forgives sin. God permits sickness as a disciplinary agent, (1 Corinthians 11:30; Hebrews 12:16). There are other accounts in the Bible testifying to this fact. Such as the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:14); the man blind from birth (John 9:2); the paralytic at Capernaum (Mark 2:5).
B. The sin committed against fellowship also (gossip, judgment, criticism, backbiting, church politics and rebellion to name a few) reduces healing within the Christian community down to a great extent. It is because of this reason James encourages the church to confess to each other.
C. We must remember however that sin is not the reason behind every sickness. This is why James says, “if they have sinned, they will be forgiven”. There are three noteworthy practical applications here.
I. Whenever sickness occurs, one must prayerfully examine himself before the Lord to determine if the sickness is due to sin. If it is so he must confess and ask God for forgiveness.
II. If two people offended each another one of them must confess and seek forgiveness without waiting for the other person to come forward and admit his guilt first. If a believer gossips against another he must confess and seek forgiveness.
III. We can never underestimate the power of confession. It is actually the act of confession that smashes all the barriers against healing constructed over time.
A. The Bible says 450 prophets served Baal and the entire nation including king Ahab and queen Jezebel were his worshippers. Elijah in the other hand was alone. He was persecuted for not serving Baal. Sought after to be killed. Called a fugitive. A man on the run.
B. Elijah could have rejected God, sworn alliance to the royal family like everyone else and avoid all the problems. Yet his loyalty to Jehovah was more powerful than the enemy’s sword. Elijah obeyed God because he trusted God whole heartedly. This is called faith in the Bible.
C. When Elijah obeyed God in faith it became his righteousness. He was a man just like us. He had his own share of flaws and weaknesses. He too was made of flesh and blood. But God answered his prayers because he was righteous.
I. We cannot remain loyal to God in times of serious problems like sickness unless we trust him whole heartedly. When we are sick and healing takes longer we must realize that our loyalty to God is being put to test. There are two things we can do in such times. Continue to trust God and pray or take shortcuts.
II. We read about one such shortcut in 1 Samuel 28 where king Saul consulted a medium. Occult is a very dangerous shortcut. Assuming it’s God’s will for for us to remain sick and not praying also is another short cut. (There are times that God permit sickness as in John 9:3. But it doesn’t excuse us from praying). Belief in fate (The teaching that everything in life is predetermined and irreversible.) also is another common shortcut that contradicts the Bible.
III. The Bible says we are made righteous by faith. The moment we take short cuts we fall short of faith. We can’t please God without it or be righteous. Anything we do in our hour of need that undermines faith is a sign of disloyalty and unrighteousness. Then let us have faith because it makes us righteous and the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
Unlike other circumstances in life sickness is capable of crippling us physically and emotionally both. Thankfully God is more powerful and superior than any sickness. Now I know some Christians who never got healed. Unfortunately it’s another subject and should be addressed in another sermon. Still lets just remember that God is the healer. He decides to heal or not to heal and when to heal. Our role is to pray without ceasing.
Image by: Jeremy Holmes