Summary: This sermon looks at the second key to passing the affliction test--the corporate key.
1. Corporate confession
2. Corporate prayer
I saw a sports headline a couple of weeks ago that really surprised me. It turns out that one of the freshmen for the University of Tennessee’s football team got into some trouble with the law. That’s not really the surprising part. It seems that Tennessee has players in trouble with the law all the time. At least WVU players wait till they get into the NFL before they make national headlines. So that wasn’t surprising with Tennessee. What was surprising was the article. The article was making a big deal about Coach Phil Fulmer punishing the entire team for it. He made the entire team get up at 5:00 and run. What’s surprising to me is that the writer seemed surprised. We live in a different day today, don’t we? A day when that kind of corporate punishment is considered unfair. I remember early on in basic training. We were getting ready to have our first inspection on our wall locker. It was a big deal because if you didn’t pass it, you couldn’t get a patio break. Patio breaks were the only time you could go outside and eat candy bars and make phone calls, so they were a big deal. But I remember how ready I was for this inspection. I had everything in my locker perfect. And then came time for the inspection. The sergeant looked in my locker for what seemed like an eternity. Then he stared real close at me. And then he moved on to my neighbor’s locker. I was safe—I had passed. Everything WAS perfect. But my neighbor’s wasn’t. I was sure glad that wasn’t me. He was ripping into him about how awful his locker looked. And then something wonderfully unexpected happened. He started bragging on my locker. He said something like, “How can such an awful locker be next to such a perfect one?” And then he surprised me again. He came back to my locker and threw everything out onto my bunk and onto the floor. And here’s what he said to my neighbor—as he was staring at me, “This time, you need to watch him. Apparently he only knows how to get things right for himself.” By the way, I got to put both of our lockers together while he was on his patio break. How unfair! Mine was right and his was wrong. So why did I have to bear the burden of his bad locker? Well, it seems obvious now. He was teaching us that we were a team. He was teaching us that when one of us stumbles or struggles, it affected us all. And the only way to overcome that is for those who aren’t struggling to come to the aid of those who are. Togetherness, teamwork, camaraderie, unity—whatever you want to call it. That was the lesson. We were no longer a group of individuals. We were a unit—a corporate body. Oh, that we as a church would learn that lesson. But here’s the difference. In the military or on a ball team—those are just made-up teams. They are corporate bodies only in the sense of temporarily uniting for a temporary cause. But the church is radically different than that kind of unity. Because the church IS a corporate body. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 says, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” And on down in verse 27, God’s Word says; “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” As this local church called Brushfork Baptist Church, we are members of Christ’s body. We’re not just some type of made-up team. We are a corporate body because we are Christ’s body and He is our head. So, doesn’t it stand to reason that we have a corporate responsibility to those among us who are going through affliction? Not just one or two among us, but all of us—unified, corporate. Just like the ball team that runs as a team because one of their teammates has stumbled, we have a corporate responsibility. In our passage this morning, we are in the middle of James’ final test of faith—the affliction test. Last week we saw our individual responsibility. We saw what each of us as individuals have to do to pass the affliction tests that come our way. But that’s not where it ends. Because God didn’t save us in isolation. Salvation isn’t solitary confinement. He saved us into a corporate body—the body of His Son. This body called the church. And as a saved part of this corporate body of Christ, we have a responsibility toward those among us who are going through affliction. We have a responsibility to get each other to pass the affliction test. The affliction test isn’t just an individual test. It’s a corporate test also. One person can’t pass unless the whole body passes. And the body can’t pass unless each of us passes. I want us as a church to pass the affliction test this morning. I want us to pass it by helping the afflicted among us pass their individual tests. And here’s how we’re going to do it. We’re going to do it by confessing and praying. The first step to corporately passing the affliction test is corporate confessing. We have to look at verse 15 and the first part of verse 16, so let’s read that.