Summary: In James 5:13-16a, the brother of our Lord teaches us how the Christian ought to respond in times of trouble, happiness, sickness, and sin.
James is the brother of our Lord Jesus. Since Jesus was Mary’s firstborn child (Luke 2:7), James was obviously a younger brother. In fact, it is likely that James was the second-oldest of the five sons that Mary had (cf. Mark 6:3). James eventually came to believe that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, the Anointed One sent by Jehovah to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
The letter that James sent out “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1) is really a remarkable piece of literature. It has been said that the letter of James is the “Wisdom Literature of the New Testament.” I tend to agree with that assessment, as it is contains wonderfully helpful material about how to develop a faith that really works in the nitty gritty of life.
In his letter James addresses all kinds of issues that are important for Christian living. In our text for today, James describes the Christian’s godly responses to various situations. Let’s read what James says in James 5:13-16a:
"13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 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. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." (James 5:13-16a)
Some of you send me articles of humor via the internet. Someone sent this to me some time ago. It is titled “You know it’s going to be a bad year when. . . .” Let me share it with you.
You know it’s going to be a bad year when. . . .
• The Government notifies you that your Social Security number has been revoked.
• Your personal computer threatens to tell all.
• The moving van starts to unload next door, and the first four items down the ramp are dirt bikes.
• Your 14-year-old daughter insists that Jesus never preached against pierced noses, tongues, and belly-buttons.
• Your ailing station wagon fails to qualify for the demolition derby.
• Your new boss asks if they’ve filled your old position yet.
• Your pacemaker is recalled by the manufacturer.
• Your church treasurer says, “The IRS called me the other day about some of your donation totals.”
We smile when we hear about these humorous situations. But life so often presents us with situations that are not humorous. How do you respond to the various situations that come your way in life? For example:
• How do you respond when trouble comes your way?
• How do you respond when you’re happy?
• How do you respond when you’re sick?
• How do you respond when you have sinned?
Each of us responds in different ways. However, the word of God has some clear guidelines for us as to how we ought to respond to the various situations that come our way in life.
In James 5:13-16a, the brother of our Lord teaches us how the Christian ought to respond in times of trouble, happiness, sickness, and sin. Let’s learn what the Christian’s godly responses should be in these situations.
I. How Should Christians Respond When in Trouble? (5:13a)
First, how should Christians respond when in trouble?
James begins in verse 13 by asking, “Is any one of you in trouble?”
The Greek word for “trouble” is “suffering misfortune,” or “suffering in difficult circumstances.” James uses the word “trouble” to describe any suffering, misfortune, or difficulty in life.
We should note in the first place that Christians are not exempt from trouble in life. It is false doctrine that teaches that Christians do not suffer difficulty or misfortune. Proponents of the “prosperity gospel” are in error when they teach that Christians should be healthy, wealthy and free from trouble.
James does not define the nature of the trouble that a Christian can face. However, in this letter written to Christians scattered abroad because of persecution (and persecution sounds like a “trouble”!), James mentions a number of troubles facing them:
• discrimination because of poverty (2:1-4)
• exploitation and litigation by the rich (2:5-7; 5:1-6)
• lack of clothing and food (2:15)
• fights and quarrels (4:1-3)
• slander (4:11-12)
• physical, personal, and material suffering (5:10-11).
There is plenty of trouble! Well, how do people respond to trouble? Some may become angry at their lot in life. Or they may try to ignore their trouble. Others may become depressed. Still others may, like the sailors on Jonah’s boat, pray to his own god (Jonah 1:5). None of these is the proper response for the Christian.