Friday, June 4, 2010

James 5:13-20 Prayer and Shepherding

James ends this book out with two very important subjects: prayer and shepherding. Subjects that are often neglected. James displays the power of prayer although at times it might seem to be useless and dry, we see why we should pray here. Also, he presents the subject of shepherding or spiritual care for one another.

(vv13-18) BE FAITHFUL IN PRAYER: If you're suffering or going through some tough things, pray! Just like we read in the last chapter, we must have patience and endurance through this life, but while we're waiting and persevering let's pray! How about those who are cheerful, let them praise the Lord. In verses 14-15 it's somewhat difficult to pull out the true meaning of what is being said, so let's take a deeper look. The word here in the NASB translation is sick. "If anyone among you is sick." At first glance we would think that this is a man who has some disease or sickness. If we look at the Greek and read within the context we will we find something very different, James is not talking about a physical sickness. The word sick is Asthenei which means to be weak. If a brother is sick in the faith, if he is spiritually weak, he is to call the elders of the church so that they might pray for him. This prayer will restore him who is spiritually weak. In other words the prayer will save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction, save a suffering one, or aid one to an effect (Energeo). Also if he has committed sins they will be forgiven, this man will be restored, refreshed, and ready to continue on in his walk with the Lord. In the first part of verse 16 we see the importance of community prayer. Let me ask you in this moment, do you feel spiritually dry and dead? Then God wants you to spend time with those closest to you, those who have a deep, personal, and intimate relationship with the Lord so that you can be restored. They are here for you in your times of need and you in turn for them. God will use them in your life to restore you to a state of fullness in your walk with God. Remember that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and can accomplish much. Keep the importance and power of prayer in mind. In verses 17-18 James tells us about Elijah and what the prayer of a righteous man really can do. We find this example in 1 Kings 17:1; 18:41-46. If a man can pray and it not rain for three and a half years, how much more can our prayers assist those who don't know Christ. How much more can our prayers impact the world that we live in.

(vv19-20) BE A SHEPHERD: What does it mean to be a shepherd. Let's take a look at a few passages so that we can get a better idea as to what the word shepherd means (Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:10-11; Ezekiel 34:1-10; Zechariah 11:4-7; 1 Peter 5:1-4). These are only a of the few passages that talk about shepherding. Today we call shepherds pastors and many of them aren't true shepherds, many don't do what they are called to do. They are called to shepherd the people or flock of God. That means to feed them, to take care of them, to guide them and make sure that they are well. I think Psalm 23 is the best example of what a true shepherd really is. We as well are called to shepherd those who have gone astray from the truth. Onto verses 19-20... "if any of you strays from the truth." The word stray is Planao and it means the following: cause to stray, to lead astray, wander, roam around, lead away from the truth, lead into error, to deceive. "If any of you strays from the truth and one turns him back", this is shepherding this is being a true friend. When a brother is spiritually sick and straying from his Master's path, the true shepherd turns him back and shows him the way. The one who does this saves his friends soul. The word soul here is Psuche, it means breath, breath of life, the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing, a living soul. In other words you save the actual life of the one who is going astray from the truth. How can this be? Here's an example. A long time ago a famous christian hymn writer went astray from the faith. For years he lived a life of carnal pleasures and strayed so far from the grace of God that he once used to sing about. One day he ran into a woman who was reading a book. Very interested in the book, the woman came across a line from one of the authors famous hymns and quoted it to him. The man told her, "Ma'am, I am the poor miserable man who wrote that hymn." The woman then told him that those rivers of grace that he sang of still flowed today. The man repented, turned back to the Lord, and was fully restored. This story is true; and in this case the woman was used by God to save the soul or life of this man.

CONCLUSION: Let's be continually dedicated to prayer and fellowship so that when we are weak or spiritually sick our brothers and sisters in Christ can lift us up and restore us.

This concludes the book of James. A book full of blunt spiritual truth. Let us apply these truths to our lives. Let us not just be hearers of the Word but doers as well (James 1:22).