The Rebuild: Together sermon notes
Passage: James 5:13-18
Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
The Church @ Hamilton
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Pastor Ben Marshall
Key Goals: (Know) Life is better when we do life together. (Feel) Feel the need to do life together with other believers. (Do) Find a small group of people to do life with.
Introduction: I attended Taylor University for my undergraduate degree, and while I was there we had a “buzz phrase” that floated around campus, from students and teachers to promotional materials and website slogans: intentional community. If you have ever lived on a college campus, you can understand the gist of it. It is honestly difficult to not live in community. I lived on a wing of a dorm with about 33 other guys. You couldn’t really avoid people. You had to live in community. The intentional part of the community was not just living together but doing life together. We didn’t just want to live on the same wing or attend the same college; we truly wanted to do life together. These guys, from Third West Wengatz, are guys I could call up right now and start a conversation like no time has passed. These are the kind of “doing life together” friends who would be by my side at a moment’s notice. That’s the power of together.
Today, as we wrap up The Rebuild series in the book of James, this is the tool James is going to leave us with. James compels us to rebuild together. Later this morning we are going to fire up this engine and (hopefully) see the beauty of an engine rebuilt, with all the parts working together to produce a running engine.
First, though, let’s read James 5:13-18 and dive into what the Bible says about rebuilding together.
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 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. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
Suffering should lead us to pray (v. 13). This is perhaps one of the more obvious parts of this passage. It just makes sense that when you are suffering, in a storm, experiencing hard times, that you would pray. Even the mainstream media could agree with this, with hashtags on social media that gain popularity wherever a terror attack has happened: #prayfor and then the location. Suffering naturally leads us to prayer. That makes sense.
When things are going well, remember where every good and perfect gift comes from: God (James 1:17). James says at the end of verse 13, if you’re cheerful or in good spirits, sing praises! This Greek word means “to strike a chord, to play and sing along with a musical instrument, to sing a hymn to celebrate the praises of God.” It is sometimes when life is going well that we take things for granted. Realize that if you’re not in a storm right now, you should praise and sing praises to God for leading you to where you are!
Additionally, James talks about the sick in vv. 14-15. He tells the sick to 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. There is a lot here. First, we do practice anointing with oil at Calvary. There are a number of you here this morning that have followed this passage and gone to the elders of the church, the leadership council, and we have anointed you with oil and prayed over you for healing. The anointing oil is associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Oil was used to anoint kings in the Old Testament; Samuel anointed David with oil. When we anoint with oil we are asking for a special presence of the Spirit on someone. We are asking the Holy Spirit to heal and to work in a very special way in this person’s life. The act of elders praying over someone and anointing him or her with oil is spiritually powerful in a way that physically can’t be described.
The phrase the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick is not referring to the salvation of an individual, but instead is referring to healing and wholeness of a sick person. The Greek word for “sick” in verse 14 is asthenei and in verse 15 is kamnonta, which literally mean “to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless” (Hebrews 12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted). Scripture doesn’t separate the physical from the spiritual. The one who is sick could be physically sick and weary or fainthearted spiritually and emotionally. We separate things in our culture that the Bible doesn’t separate. This save the one who is sick is a blend of the spiritual and the physical. There is a connection. For the person here this morning discouraged in his or her faith, who has recently experienced more failure than faithfulness, who may be weary of the battle of life, or the one experiencing physical or relational struggles, be encouraged. Don’t go it alone. Ask for prayer. It brings healing when done in community. James reveals the context of prayer and healing in verse 16 in such a way that it could be the definition for “intentional community.” But before we dive a little deeper into this verse, do you want to see if this engine will start? I do too. Let’s give it a shot.
Okay, so why the engine? What’s the significance of starting this, other than being able to say we started a car engine on stage during the service? We began this series with a broken engine. There were parts on the ground. There were pieces missing. There were broken parts. It was an engine that did not work. Over the past ten weeks, we have been slowly rebuilding this engine. It took time, just like it takes time to rebuild our lives with the Gospel. Today is the culmination of that hard work. When we heard that engine turn over, it was the result of many parts working together to produce a finished, working engine.
Just like that engine, the body of Christ, the church, works best when we do life together. When we see a Christian faithfully serving, faithfully following Christ, and faithfully leading in his or her home/work/school, we are seeing the result of many parts working together to produce that fruit. It is not the Christian left by him or herself that thrives, but the Christian in godly, intentional community.
Today is not about the engine; it is about doing life together. The engine starting is the sum of all the little parts working together for an intended purpose. We can’t rebuild alone. We must rebuild together. This verse in James, again, gives us the formula for rebuilding together: 16Therefore, 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. It is in confession and prayer that Christian community is clearly experienced. Being fully known is uncomfortable. But we need people in our lives that fully know us. The healing here is literally “to make whole.” Sin thrives in the dark, hidden away in our mind and heart. And let’s be honest, we can’t live in freedom and victory alone. We’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Confession brings healing because sin is being dealt with in community.
Confession alone doesn’t bring healing. Prayer must be present, and the prayer of a righteous person is effective. The righteous person is not perfect, but has developed a habitual lifestyle of character and integrity, faithfully following the Word of God. This person is one who loves the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27).
James gives an example of the prayer of a righteous person from the life and ministry of Elijah, an Old Testament prophet.17Elijah 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. 18Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. James describes Elijah as a person just like us. One translation says that Elijah was a human being like us. He was familiar with the struggles of life; the hardship and toil of trying to be faithful through adversity. Elijah is our example from James of a righteous person’s prayer having great power as it is working. Elijah prayed in faith, as a faithful follower of God, and God responded. 1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
Where James writes Elijah prayed fervently, the literal translation is “in prayer he prayed.” He prayed with the fervent, persistent, confident prayer of a righteous person. For three and a half years there was no rain. Elijah faithfully followed wherever God directed him to go during this time, and eventually he prayed again that rain would come. Elijah had to patiently wait for the answer to this prayer, but God responded and sent rain upon the earth once more and the earth produced a harvest.
If we want to rebuild together, we must do three things according to the passage:
First, we must pray with and pray for one another (vv. 13-15). Through private and community prayer, we need to pray for each other. We need to pray for protection, pray for opportunities to share our faith, pray for healing, pray for God to grow and mature each another. We need to pray against the work of our Enemy in the lives of others and pray for physical, spiritual, emotional, relational healing. We must pray with and for one another. And we must do it often.
Second, we must confess to one another (v. 16). This closely follows praying with and for one another. How will we know what to pray if we don’t know the struggles and temptations of our close friends? Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says Two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! . . .12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. We are stronger together than apart. Do the nitty gritty of life together. Confession is a big part of that. We will struggle and we may fall, but let us not fall alone. Fall in community with believers around you to pick you up, dust you off, and help you continue to walk down the narrow road.
Third, we must be faithful (and it is easier to be faithful as we follow Christ together) (vv. 17-18). Elijah, a human being just like you and me, was faithful to God even when he didn’t understand, even when the situation was abnormal. He wasn’t super human; he wasn’t a “super Christian” (same as Job from last week). Elijah was faithful. Day in and day out, in the little things and the big things, Elijah gave himself wholly to God. He determined to faithfully follow God.
Determine today, with a few other people, to be faithful together. Husbands and wives, determine together (and include your children if you have them) that you will pray with and for one another, confess sins, failures, and shortcomings to one another, and faithfully follow Christ together as a family. Singles, determine together with a group of friends that you will pray with and for one another, confess sins, failures, and shortcomings to one another, and faithfully follow Christ together as a close group of friends. Young adults, students, kids, find close friends and perhaps older adults and determine together that you will pray with and for them, confess sins, failures, and shortcomings to one another, and faithfully follow Christ together.
We are going to end things slightly differently this morning. A little over a month ago we took our high school students on a winter retreat. Saturday night at this retreat, our guys’ group did something really special. It’s one of those things I’ll look back on many years from now and still remember in detail. It was an impactful night. We gathered together in a big circle around a fireplace and lived out James 5:16. We had a very intentional time of confession and prayer that led to healing. During this time we had students confessing things they were struggling with, things they had tried to handle alone but it wasn’t working out. They needed accountability and community. They needed some guys to do life together with them. Every time one of these guys confessed, our whole group would stand up, go put a hand on him, and one or two of us would pray for freedom and healing. Afterward, we challenged everyone to continue this with an accountability partner. Today some young men are living in healing and freedom from sin because of living out James 5:16.
Today we’re going to end the service living out James 5:16. What does that look like? There are people here this morning with physical and spiritual ailments, struggling through sickness, cancer, chronic pain, family issues, sin issues, recent betrayals, hardships, and so on. If you are willing this morning to stand up, we want to pray for you. If you are struggling and need prayer, we are asking you to go ahead and stand up where you are. If you are seated, we want you to find someone who is standing and pray with and for them. One or two of you, or everyone around a person, can pray. If you’re standing, you don’t need to tell your whole story to everyone around you. If you’re praying for someone, you don’t need to know the whole story to pray. Pray for the need of the person as you have knowledge of it. Pray for spiritual growth and health. Pray for God to receive glory through this person’s story and struggle. Pray for strong faith.
© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
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 The NET Bible.
 J. Ronald Blue, James in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, gen. eds. John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1983), 835.