I’d like to do a short ‘quiz’ with you this morning, in fact it’s really easy, has only one question – and is quite entertaining and enlightening!
I want to find the person here this morning - who has been going to church for the longest time.
(Longer than five year? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty? …)
Longest is: ………… years of attending church regularly!
The reason I am asking this, is I am trying to decide how effective ‘preaching’ really is.
As a regular church attendee of around 50 Sunday’s per year, listening to only one sermon each Sunday – we listen to around 500 sermons over a 10 year period!
That amounts to:
§ 1000 sermons after 20 years,
§ 1500 over 35 years,
§ 2000 Bible messages over 40 years,
§ 2,500 after 50 years,
§ 3000 after 60 years, and if you live to make it –
§ that’s over 3,500 sermons after 70 years of attending church!
Okay – who can tell me what I preached about last Sunday?
Great! – What about the Sunday before that – who can tell me what the topic of the sermon was about?
Well, it seems I’m not alone in this endeavor.
Listen to this:
A church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.
"I’ve gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 30,000 Sermons. But for the life of me, I can’t remember a single one of them. So, I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all."
This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:
I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!"
You see, the Bible says in Romans 9:6
It is not as though God’s word has failed.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Well – last week I spoke on: The Meaning of Easter.
And two weeks ago we were blessed out of our socks as four young men committed their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ,
…as they were obedient to Him by being baptised in water.
Baptism is a big step that everyone must take who loves the Lord Jesus Christ and surrenders their lives to Him.
In fact, it’s been said, that: Baptism in water deals with the past, but baptism in the Spirit deals with the future.
Having been baptised in water,
…we must now pray and seek for each of these young men to be baptised, immersed and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
It’s encouraging when our children, our family members begin to move in the power of the Spirit of God.
Growing to be more like Christ every day as they read His Word and find guidance and purpose in their lives.
The challenge of the four young men who were baptised,
…and the challenge that faces each and every one of us on a daily – hourly and minute by minute basis –
…is to grow to be able to hear the voice of God speaking into our hearts and directing our lives for His purposes and glory.
And it’s not an easy thing learning to discern between what is the voice of the Holy Spirit, our own desires and at times the temptations of the devil.
Countless of thousands of people have done sinful things – all claiming it was the voice of God that told them to do it.
Along these lines of hearing the voice of God - I have just one more very short newspaper article I want to read to you this morning.
It appeared in the New York Times – Thursday March 24th 2005.
A Southgate, Michigan man named Scott D. Guzik was clocked driving his Camaro at 106 mph by an Indiana State Trooper who gave chase resulting in an hour long pursuit involving multiple police agencies through several counties before Guzik tried to abandon his vehicle near Lebanon. Inside his car sat his 6 year-old daughter, Amanda. When questioned by police Guzik replied that ‘God was driving the vehicle’, and that he was on his way to sacrifice his daughter under God’s orders.
Some people do some crazy things in the name of God
– and this is only one of many articles I have found in the last month that have to do with people thinking God has told them to do some weird and bazaar thing.
It rally can be difficult when someone says that; ‘God has told them to do something’.
How do you argue with that?
Especially when the thing that God has supposedly told them to do is beyond the realms of normality,
…as this only convinces some people more - that only God could be telling them to do it!
I wonder how you would respond to someone claiming God had told them to do some weird and wacky thing in His Name?
How would you respond - if one of your family members tried to tell you that they thought they were God Himself?
How would you respond to a claim like that?
Imagine one day talking with your older brother and he said something like this:
“You know Roger, I think I might actually be God!”
Quite frankly I wouldn’t believe him – I’d think he was nuts!
It reminds me of a conversation between two patients waiting in a psychiatrists office.
One patient says to the other, "Why are you here?"
The second answers, "I’m Napoleon, so the doctor told me to come here."
The first is curious and asks, "How do you know that you’re Napoleon?"
The second responds, "God told me I was."
At this point, a patient on the other side of the room shouts, "NO I DIDN’T!"
I know it sounds funny – but it happens – it really does!
Many years ago when I was working at my first church,
…I remember one of our church members actually coming to see the pastor because this man was convinced that he had now become transformed and he as now God Almighty!
Imagine it – if someone came to you today - even one of your friends – and began to think that they were actually God.
Like our friends waiting in the psychiatrists room – you’d think them a little crazy!
In fact I was reading an ancient book during the week, and discovered that things like this have been going on for thousands of years!
The story I read was about an insignificant family of Jews in a relatively unknown town of Galilee.
There was this carpenter by the name of Y’shua started going around telling people he was God!
And His family reacted in just the way you or I would!
Please turn with me to the gospel of Mark 3:21:
When Jesus family heard what He was doing, they said to themselves; ‘He is out of His mind!’
What we have now, is a fascinating story that indirectly weaves its way through the pages of Scripture.
A journey of faith of a man called James as he wrestles with the realization that his brother Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the Messiah.
You see, Jesus came from quite a large family.
He was the first born child in a family of seven children, four brothers and two sisters.
A little further on in Mark’s gospel, we read in chapter 6:1-5
And the people doubted Jesus, saying; “Isn’t this the carpenter – the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. Aren’t His sisters here with us also?” And they took offence with Him.
They simply didn’t believe Him!
Imagine having Jesus as your big brother!
Imagine being part of God’s family!
Just perhaps it’s not too hard to do after all!
Well at first, Jesus brothers and sisters didn’t believe He was the Son of God,
…but there is a remarkable progression of events that unfold through the pages of Scripture that we’re going to have a quick look at this morning.
A journey from doubt and skepticism that is transformed into faith and obedience.
Just maybe this morning we might be able to take this journey ourselves as we identify with James, the brother of Jesus.
Allow me to read to you John chapter 7 verse 3 to 5.
Before we read this passage, we need to understand that it was written in sarcasm – as this was how the brothers of Jesus felt about Him.
Jesus brothers said to Him; “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples can see the miracles you claim to do. No one who makes claims like you do should stay in secret. Since you claim to be doing these things – go and show yourself to the whole world!’ They said these things because even Jesus own brothers did not believe in Him.
For even Jesus own brothers did not believe in Him – not even James – the brother of Jesus!
Allow me to fast forward the tape this morning as we travel with James the brother of Jesus on his journey of faith in Jesus.
James continued to doubt the claims that Jesus made,
…true, there were times that James stood beside Jesus and believed in Him - but there was one thing that changed his life forever.
James abandoned Jesus at His hour of need when Jesus was crucified.
55 At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.
56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
I guess James probably felt a bit sad, thinking to himself; “I knew it was all talk – now Jesus is dead and so are all His dreams and proud boasting!”
After all – James had felt that way at least two times before!
But we know the end of the story don’t we!
I’ve read the end of the book!
Jesus had an appointment with death – but death could not hold Him down and He rose victorious on the third day!
His resurrection is the pinnacle of our faith – everything else hinges upon it!
The resurrection of Jesus validities each and every promise contained within His holy Word – the Bible.
And – after spending three days in the grave wrestling with sin and death - Jesus had another appointment later that week.
1 Corinthians 15:6 tells us that Jesus appeared to over five hundred believers at the same time where he also had a special meeting with His own brother James.
Imagine what that that would have been like to be part of that initial gathering!
Imagine a group of over five hundred people with the risen Jesus in their midst!
I wonder what that would have been like?
I wonder how the people would have acted – how they would have believed and worshipped Him?
I wonder how you and I would have acted if we were part of a large group of people who had the risen Christ in their midst?
Not too hard to do really is it?
Isn’t that simply what church is all about?
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Well, what happened next?
How did this meeting change James’ life?
Let’s turn to the next chapter in the life of James, and we find a man who is very different.
Instead of being a man of unbelief and doubt, we read in Acts 15:13 that James is now a leader of the Jerusalem Church.
The Apostle Paul, in Galatians 2:9, called him a ‘Pillar of the Church of Jesus Christ!’
What a dramatic change of events – from at first being a brother of Jesus who doubted His divinity,
…and now being someone who loved the risen Lord and served Him in His church – prepared even to die for Him!
And indeed, not too long afterwards, James did had the privilege of being a witness for his brother Jesus.
The root of the word witness is literally ‘martyr’ - and James was killed for his faith in Jesus during the persecution of Emperor Nero in A.D. 62.
He was probably crucified or burnt at the stake.
But James leaves us with more than a story of unbelief to faith,
…for James has written us an awesome little epistle that is named after his own name – the Epistle of James.
And I believe God has something to say to us this morning.
It’s as if the ink is still wet on the pages of Scripture that James is writing to us with all the belief that you could imagine after having spent some time with a resurrected savior.
Let’s turn to the epistle of James, chapter 5 verses 7 to 17.
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Above all, my brothers, do not swear - not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No", no, or you will be condemned. Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
My main topic this morning is to briefly teach on the ‘anointing of oil’ and praying for the sick.
There is actually a lot of debate as to what this term means
Some would say that it is symbolic, that placing oil on a person is an act of faith that we believe God is going to heal that person.
Others point to the fact that the word ‘oil’ was actually an important form of medication used in the early Christian centuries. (Luke 10:34 – Isaiah 1:6)
And that James is actually combining the use of medicine with prayer, of doctors and faith.
It is interesting that the Apostle Paul, from whom handkerchiefs were taken and posted throughout the country and whoever touched them were instantly healed,
… this man also later told Timothy to ‘take a little medicine – a little wine - for your stomach upset’. (1 Timothy 5:23)
In fact we also have a fascinating story of Jesus coming up to a blind man.
John 9:6, 11
Having said this, Jesus spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.
Later the man told the others, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see."
Some historians say that spittle was the number one antidote and medicine that was used to cure and treat blindness in the days of Jesus,
…that it was widely used by doctors and healers as a form of medicine.
Along these lines – it appears that Jesus and Paul both at times combined prayer and faith in God to heal with medicine and faith in the medical profession.
I suggest that we too should hold this balance.
My personal beliefs are that we should trust both in the medical profession and when it comes to anointing with oil, we are to trust God and believe in a miracle!
Like James, I have had a personal meeting with the risen Jesus, and that has changed my doubt into trust, my skepticism into faith!
For me, I love to pray for people to be healed,
…and when I do, I often place a small amount of anointing oil on my finger and I inscribe a small cross on the forehead of the person requesting prayer.
There is no healing power in the oil, but by anointing the person with oil,
…we believe that Jesus rose from the dead and He also has the power to heal our physical bodies!
Let me share a fascinating little insight that we can only ‘pick up’ when we study these verses in their original language.
14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
In verse fourteen, the word for sick is asyenew astheneo and means ‘one without strength due to sudden sickness’.
And in verse fifteen, it is a different word kamnw kamno and means one who is ‘worn down through the effects of a constant illness’.
We are to pray for those who have both a short term and long term illnesses.
We have a wonderful promise in verse 15:
And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.
Taken out of context, this passage has been used to claim that every prayer for healing will be granted,
…that if we are not healed then it is because of sin or unbelief in our lives.
It is no coincidence that James has just quoted the story of Job in verse 11.
As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
When I was a new Christian, I was very extreme and presumptuous.
The word ‘presumptuous’ means:
too bold or forward; taking too much for granted; showing overconfidence, arrogance, or effrontery.
Basically – it means: taking things too far – to their extreme.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Unfortunately – I know many Christians who I know fit into this category – they take things too far – even the commands and promises of Scripture,
…and end up living a legalistic, extreme form of Christianity.
Unfortunately – I used to be like this myself.
I thought it was ‘spiritual’ to go overboard for God.
As far as the example of Job we just read about, in my Bible, when Satan came to attack Job –
…I wrote in the margin of my Bible that if I was Job,
…I would have used my power as a son of God and rebuked the Devil and then the sickness would have had to go!
I have now matured a little and realize that it was God’s perfect will that Job should experience sickness and suffering.
Psalm 119:67 says:
Before I was afflicted I want astray, but now I obey Your Word. It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn obedience!
That is why in verse 10, James encourages patience in the face of suffering.
You may ask what right I have to speak about patience in the face of suffering?
Let me share a little of my journey with you this morning.
Over ten years ago I had major surgery to repair the effects of a serious digestive illness that I still live with today.
It effects every minute of every hour of every day of my life.
On a good day I only take around 15 pills to bring it under control, including daily pain relief.
On a bad day I can take around 30, and then suffer the side effects of an over dose.
Do I have the faith to believe God can heal me?
Yes I do – but I’ll tell you one thing that is more important that having the faith to believe in a healing!
That it takes more faith to believe in a God of miracles and follow Him each day of my life – even though He has chosen not to heal me -
…than it does to have faith in an instant healing, especially now that two of my children have also inherited the illness from me.
Along those lines, James has also paved the way for the place of healing with his comments in chapter 4 verse 15 where he says:
Instead, what you should say is this; ‘If it is the Lords will, then we will live, or do this or that, but as it is, your bragging and boasting is evil’
What I am trying to say is this:
Gods Word challenges us to do three things:
1. To call for the Elders, be anointed with oil and believe in a supernatural healing from God.
2. To also trust in the medical profession and medicine.
3. To endure in our pain and suffering, always keeping our eyes on God and not our situation.
Our job is to trust and pray – God’s job is to answer how He sees fit.
But, in saying that - what can you expect from God as we pray for you, as you are anointed with oil this morning?
At the very least you can expect God to fill you with an inner peace that passes all understanding.
At the very best, God might come upon you in a deep and powerful way and heal you instantly.
God might impart into you a deeper faith and trust in Him.
God might help you to accept your situation and give you a deeper trust in Him that He has your life under control.
But do you know what, you probably won’t experience anything if you stay in your seat.
That’s why James also tells us these important words:
Faith without actions is dead.
Unless our faith actually has legs upon it, unless we are actually prepared to take some action, our faith is dormant.
Perhaps this morning you have been on a journey like James the brother of Jesus,
…and perhaps you too need to meet the risen Jesus so that your unbelief can be turned into faith!
Perhaps you are on a journey of sickness, or a loved one, a family member has an illness and you would like us to stand with you and pray with you this morning.
Can I ask the Communion Stewards to come forward now and begin distributing the Communion elements as the musicians also come forward.
We’re going to give you the opportunity to respond this morning to what God might be speaking to you about.
As the Communion elements are now given out, we will also have a Communion tray with us at the front here,
…and we would like you to respond and allow us the privilege of praying with you and serving you communion this morning,
….and if you desire anointing you with oil.
So, if you desire us to serve you Communion and have us pray with you, please come forward,
…otherwise simply receive Communion as it is brought around the church this morning and take it yourself when you are ready in your heart.
Lets pray as the communion stewards come forward now to distribute the emblems and the musicians come and lead us in worship to Almighty God.