Spiritual attacks will happen no matter what. No matter what you’re up to, where you are, or who you’re around… if you are dedicated to serving God, you will be under attack.
Not that it was a spiritual attack, but I witnessed a huge fire today. A motor home sales lot saw their service center go up in smoke, and for a couple hours, things looked really dicey! The chaos of it all really made people anxious. Nearby drivers were filled with fear and anger, honking their horns (as if the people driving in front of them WANTED to park there on the road near the flames). And, as I’ve said before, anger is often the summation of hurt, sadness and fear… all rolled together.
What I found most interesting was, while I was caught up in all the traffic that surrounded the fire, I allowed a guy to enter into traffic in front of me, as he was exiting his apartment complex. It was just a simple, “Ok… it’s your turn to enter into this sea of slow moving cars with the rest of us.” But, what surprised me was his reaction. He looked straight at me and mouthed the words, “That was nice.”
Now, I’m not pointing this out for any personal glory or pats on the back. I just want to show one small example of how easy it really is in our busy, chaotic lives to stop for a second and do something cool. I mean, I’m willing to bet that the next time that that guy is in that situation, he’ll let somebody out onto the road just like I did.
As I read through the Bible, all I see is one passage after another telling us to love one another. Yet, what I saw as I drove around the fire-stricken area (it was located right in the middle of my town, and right alongside a major highway) all I saw was selfishness and anger.
What does this have to do with the Book of James? Maybe nothing, but it stood out in my week! Now, in regards to James, I think of Paul (no, Paul didn’t write James, Jesus’ half-brother James did). I picture Paul as he was writing his epistles sort of standing with his left arm across his chest and his right hand running through his beard… thinking… then sitting… and writing. However, James, I picture sitting very firmly and deliberately writing this stuff out. It’s very hard core.
Here’s an example in chapter five:
Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. 2 Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. 4 For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (James 5:1-4)
Man! If you’re wealthy, those are some tough words to hear! Now, there are other verses in the Bible that talk about wealthy people who gave to the Lord and served the Lord in very kind and gracious ways. Because it doesn’t matter how rich or poor we are, all of us can serve God.
James also hits home an amazing message just a few verses later in verse nine:
Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9)
James doesn’t write like Paul. It’s very different than Romans, or Ephesians or Galatians… but it’s still God’s Word. And what is God’s Word good for? We see the answer to this question very plainly in 2 Timothy 3:16-17,
The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right.17 It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone.
So, we know that men did the actual penmanship of the Bible, but God’s Word was actually breathed out to and through them. So, as you are reading the Bible, know that you are not just reading some guy’s words. You’re reading the very words that God breathed out and put into their fingers and in their minds!
Skipping down to verse twelve, we read:
But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned. (James 5:12)
What he’s saying here is that you don’t ever need to say to someone, when you are in an argument, “I swear to you. I swear on my kids. I swear on my mom. I swear on my grandma’s grave!” (and by the way… I’ve done this so many times).
You see, if we live honest lives, then a simple “yes” or “no” is sufficient, because everyone will know that the words that come out of your mouth are true. But, in order to achieve this level of honesty, you need the Holy Spirit.
But, how can we constantly be in communication with God throughout the entire day? By surrendering your daily lives to the Holy Spirit, it’s easier than you think.
It all comes down to the power of prayer.
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:13-14)
I know that this sounds a little weird by today’s American standards. I mean, if I’m sick wouldn’t a nice bowl of soup be nicer than pouring oil on me? But, it’s in the Bible – the New Testament, no less. And, we need to obey God’s Word.
Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. (James 5:15)
Now, this is the most “Catholic” part of the Bible I have ever read. In fact, growing up in the Catholic Church, I always struggled with, “Why am I telling my sins to a priest, when I could tell my sins directly to God?”
Yet, the next verse answers what I think Catholicism clings to in terms of why we confess to a priest.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Now, I don’t believe that in order to receive forgiveness of our sins we need to confess to a priest, necessarily. Because, when Jesus died, God tore that cloth that hung between God and His people and said, “You don’t have to do that anymore.” We have direct access to the Lord now. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that we are now priests, ourselves.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. (James 5:16-20)
That last paragraph… that’s what my friend Rob did for me.
I can only hope that I have done the same for other people over the years. It’s what we should strive for. If we are Christ-followers, we should be on the lookout for other Christians who have wandered away and ways to guide them back onto God’s path for their lives.
So, in summation, James 5 is telling us that we really need to be talking to other Christians, allowing them to be involved in our lives and us being involved in theirs.