Good morning friends,
It should not surprise us that James would return to the same thoughts as he closes his letter that he used at its beginning. He began his letter telling his reader to “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Joy? In this instance, joy comes from perseverance which results a complete/perfect faith. Most would agree that we don’t find joy IN the suffering those trials produce.
As James closes his letter, he takes his proposition to one last level of understanding, the role of prayer in each and every season of life. From verses 13 through 18, James will introduce the encouragement to pray several times, moving from the prayers of the individual to the prayers of the prophet. Verse thirteen draws his reader’s attention to the prayers of the individual.
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.”
James has just turned our attention to the suffering that will occur within the course of our lives. He reminded us of the prophets’ sufferings which came as a result of their ministry calling. He also reminded us of Job’s suffering and the blessing that came through his perseverance. Knowing that we will all face periods of suffering in our lives, he now shares with us how we can respond during those seasons…..by praying.
Suffering is not limited to suffering that comes from being sick. The examples he has provided have confirmed that suffering can come through opposition (as in the case of Jeremiah), through loss of life (as in the case of Ezekiel), and in marital dissolvement (as in the case of Hosea) and those are just examples. Suffering can occur without warning and without preparation in any season of life throughout life. James’ instructions when facing suffering are simple….pray.
James also knows there will be other seasons in the life of a person where they will be joyful, cheerful, happy. The original text is not meant to be interpreted as trouble-free, but “to be buoyant.” In other words, to maintain the “joy” James shared at the start of his letter.
The point is that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves, there is an appropriate response for the follower of Christ to demonstrate and both are directed towards God. There is no season in one’s life where God should be left out of the experience. We have a God who will be with us through every experience in life. Isn’t that the natural conclusion for someone who has reached a mature place in their faith? In both extremes of our life (and every season in-between), we have a God who is sufficient. Scripture records God’s sufficiency.
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8
“And my God will meet all your needs accord to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:19
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3
“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power in made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
These verses, and many more, are a reminder that God is always sufficient. So, when we are suffering, our prayer is an acknowledgement that His sovereign power will meet our needs. And when we are in a joyful season, our praise is an acknowledgement that his sovereign power is in control of our positive circumstances. In both instances God is our sufficiency!
When we reach the point of having a mature/complete faith, we will know that whatever we face in life, our responses, our hope, our trust, our pathway should be directed towards God. Everything in life should present us an opportunity to come into His presence. If we are praying or if we are praising, our attention, our focus is on the ever-sufficient God of the universe!
James’ exhortation is for his reader (and I would add every contemporary person studying James’ letter) to evaluate how God-directed our lives are. At Jesus’ most agonizing night of His life, scripture says: “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
Prayer did not remove Christ’s affliction, but it gave Him the opportunity to demonstrate his trust in God THROUGH the affliction. Like Christ, when our response to the sufferings of life is prayer, we are acknowledging as individuals our trust and assurance that God is all sovereign and sufficient!
Have a great day!