Summary: This is a summary sermon of the book of James. The focus of the series was putting your faith into practice.
James 5:19-20 October 17, 1999
Living in Expectation of Jesus¡¦ Return (Part 5); Disaster Relief
About 6 weeks ago, people on the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina were bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Floyd. The hurricane at one time was a class 5 storm ¡V the most powerful classification of a hurricane. Everyone prepared as best they could, and then millions of people fled their homes for higher ground. By the time that the hurricane reached land, it had decreased in power to a class 3 storm. The initial damage from the storm was minimal. People south of North Carolina headed back home to begin the clean up of what was mostly minor damage. The preparations had paid off, or so it seemed. But there was no way that anyone could have been prepared for the amount of rain that fell in North Carolina. Over 20¡¨ of rain fell in just a couple of days. Since the ground was hardened from the lack of rain earlier in the summer, the rains that fell from Floyd did not soak in but just ran off into already full rivers like they would if they had fallen on concrete. The rains came down, and the floods came up. Thousands of homes were completely destroyed, and many thousands more were damaged extensively.
In just the last week or so, the floodwaters have receded enough for people to return to their homes and begin the task of cleaning up, repairing and rebuilding. Can you imagine what this experience must be like for the people in that area? Try and put yourself in their place. First, you are woken up in the middle of the night by someone pounding at your door saying, ¡§Get up! You¡¦ve got to get out of the house! The floodwaters are coming!¡¨ You only have time enough to gather up some clothes for you and the kids. There¡¦s no time to get the wedding pictures, the computer files, the kids¡¦ toys, or all those knickknacks that you have collected over the years. Once you get out of the house, you have to go to a shelter for 2 or 3 weeks, all the time wondering what is happening to your belongings and wondering what you will find when you finally do get to return home.
After the rains have receded, and you have an idea of what Noah must have felt like, you take the trip that you have been dreading ¡V the trip back to what used to be your home. When you walk in the door, the tears begin because you see something that you hadn¡¦t prepared yourself for. You see mud. It covers the carpet, the walls, and the furniture, everything that is still in the house. You walk to the basement door, and inside, you find mud that is 3 feet thick. Your washer and dryer are totally covered in it. That load of laundry that you had in the hamper is definitely going to have to be washed again. Before you can even begin to think about repairing or rebuilding, you have to think about cleaning. How are you ever going to get all the mud out?
At that point, you hear someone at the door say, ¡§Hello¡¨. You turn around to see a short, black-haired man with a big smile on his face. He says, ¡§Hi, my name is Bob White. I¡¦m with the southern Baptist disaster relief team. We¡¦ve come to get the mud out of your house. Where would you like us to start?¡¨ Once you regain your composure and can talk clearly through the sobs, you ask him to start on the basement. By the end of the day, Bob and his buddies have cleaned out the basement, have taken up the carpet and are preparing things for the construction work that will begin tomorrow. You can¡¦t believe the work that these men and women have done for free for you ¡V a total stranger! You wonder why people would take vacation days from work, and come hundreds of miles from home at their own expense to help you. So you ask, and Bob says something like this: ¡§We do it because we want to show you that God loves you, and that even in the midst of this tragedy, He is in control.¡¨ Up to that point, you had never thought too much about God, but now, you want Bob to tell you everything he knows about God. Bob tells you about how Jesus suffered and died for you in order that you might receive forgiveness from your sins and get the mud out of your life not just out of your home. There in that virtually destroyed home, you and Bob kneel on the still moist dirt, and you ask Jesus to come into your life and clean your heart.