Summary: How do we remain stable in the midst of instability of life?
“Faith That Works: A Beautiful Body”
Life is certainly not lived on an even plain. The path is never level for very long. We’re constantly in a state of flux. We fall from the peaks to the pits; we slide from the heights to the depths; we shift from the sunshine into the shadows.
And much of this movement is beyond our control. We cannot prevent it from happening. We are victims of unexplained moods and unplanned circumstances. For example, we may have an outstanding day, get a good night’s sleep, and yet wake up in the morning feeling lousy. Or the opposite occurs; it was a lousy day, nothing went well and we ought to be feeling rotten – but we feel great. Such is life.
In light of all this, how do we react to life? How can we be stable in the midst of this instability? James reminds us (16), “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Prayer is the key to stability. It is the axle around which life can move meaningfully. As such, prayer is the core of a caring community, the key ingredient to a beautiful body.
In verse 13 James refers to our INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY. We are to pray whether enduring suffering or experiencing success. To those ENDURING SUFFERING James says “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.” We’ve all had to endure hard times, and will again. You may know real, physical pain, be seriously ill, or fighting to hang on. Or perhaps a dearly and deeply loved family member is in grave trouble and you can’t seem to help. Maybe a person who holds a special place in your heart is wandering from the way and you wonder if she will ever return to the fold. It might be that you feel rejection, persecution, bullying, or shunning because you are a Christian. It could be that you have lost your job, a prized possession, or even a loved one. Whatever it is, you hurt. You cry out for help. You know you cannot make it alone.
James says “Pray.” It’s not just a simple “When all else fails, pray,” nor is it “The least we can do is pray.” For James PRAYER IS THE FIRST RESOURCE, NOT THE LAST RESORT. The first thing to do when you realize your resources are depleted or powerless, is pray. Give our Lord a chance to renew your strength. The Psalmist understood: “LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” I am a worm and no man, scorned…and despised…all my bones are out of joint…Why are you so far from helping me?” Jeremiah similarly lamented, “You deceived me, LORD, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me…Give heed to me…hearken to my plea…Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow and spend my days in shame?” Even Jesus, in Gethsemane cried out, “Let this cup pass from me.”
WHEN IN TROUBLE, PRAY. God wants you to bring your suffering and hardships to Him, just as children bring hurts and pains to their parents. Whether the suffering or hardship is caused by self-pity and despair, or actual attacks – God wants us to turn to Him. He’s given us a standing invitation. That’s why Jesus’ blood was shed and the curtain in the Temple torn in two – God wants you to come into His presence. You may kneel weakly but you will rise powerfully and in strength. When in trouble, pray.
But life is not all suffering. There are times we have the joy of EXPERIENCING SUCCESS. Life has its great moments. What a joy to have those days when nothing goes wrong, everything is okay and you’re filled with vim, vigor, and vitality. Nothing can get you down! James knows it’s easy at such times to get wrapped up in the moment and in ourselves. So he says “Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” If in suffering we tend to leave prayer as a last resort, in success we tend to forget prayer altogether. Remember the 10 lepers who were all in dire need? Jesus healed them all. Yet only one returned to thank Jesus for his new life. Only he was truly healed and free. As Dr. William Brownson put it, “PRAISE THROWS OPEN THE WINDOWS OF A SELF-CENTERED LIFE AND LETS THE FRESH AIR OF HEAVEN IN.” (1)
The Psalmist shared the same spirit: “It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord, to show forth loving kindness in the morning, and his faithfulness every night…Every day I will bless thee, oh Lord, and will praise thy name forever and ever.” Praise keeps life in perspective. Times of success are tremendous times for worship, for counting up blessings, for committing to the work of the Kingdom, for serving in new ways, for re-investing yourself. When you’re fortunate enough to experience the thrill of success, GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE and worship and serve the Lord with gladness. Come into His presence with singing.