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One Last Hand Up [7-2-23]


July 2, 2023

James 5:14-18

“One Last Hand Up”


As we wrap up verses 14 – 18 of James 5, here’s something to remember:

GOD CHOOSES HOW AND WHEN HE HEALS.


With that in mind, let’s read James 5:14-18 one last time:

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.


Our first look will be about anointing with oil. There are all kinds of theories and suppositions around these three little words, anointing with oil. At its simplest, anointing with oil has nothing to do with the medicinal properties of oil. There is nothing physically therapeutic going on here. It’s not like your local olive orchard owner is also your pharmacological proprietor of healing oil. Healing oil is like holy water…a figment of people’s superstitious minds.


Here's some background to James’ point.


When the shepherd brought all the sheep back into the fold after a day of grazing, he used his staff as a sort of gate to make sure only one sheep got in at a time. As each sheep passed by, the shepherd checked over the whole body. Where there were any wounds or scratches, he salved it with oil, and then let the sheep move on. Where the skin was dry, oil applied. That was part of the shepherd’s job…caring for the sheep.

Here's the point of the oil. It soothes. It’s a way for the shepherd to express concern. What does Psalm 23 say? “He anoints my head with oil. My cup overflows.” The primary purpose of anointing is as an expression of care, love, and concern. “My cup overflows,” means that God provides an abundance of grace and mercy in difficult times. We are not depleted by hardship. We are made stronger. Our faith is fuller. When our hearts are filled with God’s power and presence, He can accomplish His sovereign purpose in and through us.


Has your confidence ever slipped? Have you caught yourself worrying too much? Do racing thoughts carry you to a place of anxiety? That’s where you need someone to talk to…to pray for you. That’s where you need a figurative anointing with oil. James is talking about a ministry of caring, restoration, and encouragement. That’s something we do with and for each other. Amen?


Here's something you might want to write down:

PRAYER OFFERED IN FAITH RESTORES THE ONE WHO IS WEARY AND HAS LOST HEART.

When you come to the point in your life where you are spiritually weak, and you’ve tried to pray, but it’s a struggle, call on someone to pray over and with you.


When you come to a point in your life where if feels like rock bottom, call on someone to pray over and with you.


When you’re in the middle of suffering or strife, call on someone to pray over and with you.


When you’re weak, and it feels like your prayers are going nowhere, call on someone to pray over and with you.


When you’re losing the battle, and things feel like they’re falling apart, call on someone to pray over and with you.


Two simple observations that are laminate-and-fridge-posting-worthy:

  • IT’S OKAY TO GO THROUGH AWFUL PLACES…JUST DON’T STOP AND UNPACK.

  • “WE SUFFER MORE OFTEN IN IMAGINATION THAN IN REALITY.” {Seneca}


It’s okay to call on people of faith to intercede on your behalf. Let them symbolically anoint you with oil. Let them express support and encouragement for you. There are times in our lives when we need to be

lifted up.


Next, James transitions to an affirmation of how God honors the prayers of His people. He does it with a great bridge word - therefore – “Therefore… the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”


The prayers of a strong believer can assist you when you’re feeling weak. Let’s face it. We all have times of emotional or spiritual weakness. That’s when a friend in Christ intercedes on our behalf. It is such a lovely promise.


Look at what Jesus did. Mark 1:35 gives us a description of what was foundational for Jesus:

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Simply commit to prayer. Either asking others to pray for you or your own prayer life, but preferably, a combination of both. Lock into the power of prayer.


Here’s the way I look at it. I don’t know how my mobile device works. I don’t know how rechargeable power works. I don’t even know how electricity works. I’m dumb in those areas. But I still use my mobile device to its fullest potential.


The same goes for prayer. There are probably people smarter than me who can explain how prayer operates in our lives. All I know is Jesus did it and Jesus invited us to do it, so that’s all I need to know. I hope that makes sense to you.


I love what it means when James says prayer faithfully given has great power.


Here are the multitudinous meanings of the phrase translated at the end of verse sixteen, has great power as it is working:

  • To awaken, wake up, rouse, stir.

  • To raise from the dead, or from a sick bed.

  • To be excited.

  • Like an electrical current energizing a wire, bringing it to a shining light bulb.

  • To restore from a damaged state.


Here’s the point. Because we have tremendous power to come alongside one another, we ought to be doing that for each other. We don’t want to be weak people. We don’t want to buckle under pain, pressure, confusion. We want to be strong people. And James says, sometimes, we need a big hand up. Nothing wrong with that. As God promises in Isaiah 40:30-31:

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

That is such a beautiful promise. James draws from that. And we understand that sometimes, when we are faint and weary, we are not alone. We have the prayers of strong believers to lift us up and bring us back to spiritual and emotional health. Are you with me on that? We are never alone.


Let’s close with a simple observation. This is going to lead us into next week’s message:

SOME PEOPLE THINK THEY’RE PRAYING WHEN THEY’RE REALLY JUST PLACING AN ORDER WITH GOD. IT’S LIKE HE’S THEIR DIVINE WAITER. OR IT’S LIKE GOD IS THEIR DIVINE SECRETARY, AND THEY’RE DICTATING A WISH LIST OR TO-DO LIST.


When you pray, first and foremost pray to build your relationship with God. Pray to know God’s will for your life. Pray to do God’s will in your life. Sometimes that’s going to mean praying for the strength to do difficult things or to sacrifice your own comfort in order to better serve God. Life isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. How many times do we pray for God to meet our perceived needs, which almost always align with the great American dream? Let’s all pray for God’s will, not our will, to be done. That’s when we’ll find the faith of a righteous person at work.


Let’s close with an observation on prayer offered in faith. This is laminate- able and fridge-worthy:

A PRAYER OFFERED IN FAITH, WHILE CERTAINLY INCLUDING THE NOTION OF CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S ABILITY TO ANSWER, ALSO INVOLVES ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE IN THE PERFECTION OF GOD’S WILL.


Until next week:

SOLI DEO GLORIA…

To the Glory of God Alone


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