James 5: 13-16
In trouble? Pray
Happy? Sing songs of praise.
Sick? Call the elders of the church to pray and anoint with oil.
Your condition or emotions call for a response. Keeping your condition or emotions to yourself is not natural for a Christian. Waiting for and expecting things to change on their own isn’t natural for a Christian either. Perhaps Saint Francis of Assisi said it best: “Let us leave sadness to the devil and his angels. As for us Christians, what can we be but rejoicing and glad.” We so often think to exaggerate our emotions or circumstances would cause others to take steps away from us. Oh, he’s at again. Who’s to say when we express our condition or feelings we’re exaggerating.
The story is told of a farmer who had lived on the same farm all his life. It was a good farm, but with the passing years, the farmer began to tire of it. He longed for a change, for something ‘better.’ Every day he found a new reason for criticizing some feature of the old place. Finally, he decided to sell and listed the farm with a real estate agent who promptly prepared a sales advertisement. As one might expect, it emphasized all the farm’s advantages: ideal location, modern equipment, healthy stock, acres of fertile ground, etc. Before placing the ad on the internet, the realtor called the farmer and read the copy to him for his approval. When he had finished, the farmer cried out, “Hold everything! I’ve changed my mind. I am not going to sell. I’ve been looking for a place like that all my life!” For the farmer, the ad copy didn’t exaggerate. It did take him by surprise. If we express what we really are going through in our lives, would it surprise our Christian friends? Would they rejoice with us, much to our surprise? Would they be the help we’ve needed all along because they would earnestly pray for our wellbeing better than we could?
The apostle James shares significant portions of wisdom for growing Christians in his epistle. My focus this morning is in these last verses in chapter five. If you’re in trouble, pray. It’s shortsighted and foolish to keep your troubles to yourself. Similarly, it’s inappropriate to not openly rejoice over what good has happened to you. We so want to keep these things to ourselves because we don’t want others who are in trouble or are not happy to feel bad.
One of the guilty pleasures of April and me is to watch reruns of the sitcom, Last Man Standing, before supper. We watched an episode recently where Kristin, the oldest daughter, sheepishly announced she was pregnant. Mandy, the middle daughter and a newlywed, was offended because she and her husband were having difficulty conceiving. Mandy told Kristin she was insensitive to her and Kyle’s pain in not being pregnant. We don’t need to be insensitive. I recall Paul in Romans 12: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. (12:14-16)” We don’t need to be insensitive to those who are not where we are, but I believe we should take advantage of where we are to bless those in need or pain.
Are any of you sick? Don’t keep it to yourself. The issue is not to merely express your condition in the church, but to seek and ask for the elders in the church to use their faith to address the pain of a fellow believer. James is inviting his readers to share their lives with one another and to live out their faith in God to bless and heal one another. Why? Your sister and brother in the church don’t deserve to suffer. There’s too much faith and love and hope when we get together to not see our friends in the church experience deliverance and healing and forgiveness.
(Preached at Lincoln UMC in Lincoln, AL, October 24, 2021)