Faith Tested True

A Study of the Epistle of James


Trustworthy Faith is Triumphant Faith - James 5


In the last chapter of this inspired epistle of James we will reach a crescendo in the defining of trustworthy faith. As we have seen faith must be tested if it is to be trusted (James 1:1-8). And by way of review from James 1:9 and onward we have seen various aspects of trustworthy faith like the facets of a diamond God is cutting in us. These facets have consisted of:


·       Trustworthy faith has a proper perspective on worldly wealth - 1:9-11

·       Trustworthy faith endures temptation successfully - 1:12-15

·       Trustworthy faith knows every good and perfect thing in life is from God - 1:16-18

·       Trustworthy faith is self-controlled - 1:19-20

·       Trustworthy faith applies the word of God to life - 1:21-25

·       Trustworthy faith has pure and undefiled religion - 1:26-27

·       Trustworthy faith is fair to all and unprejudiced - 2:1-13

·       Trustworthy faith is evidenced in tangible works - 2:14-26

·       Trustworthy faith controls it's words - 3:1-12

·       Trustworthy faith relies on heavenly wisdom - 3:13-18

·       Trustworthy faith understands it is in a spiritual war - 4:1a (really entire chapter 4:1-17)

·       Trustworthy faith understands outward conflict comes from inward conflict (i.e. the sinful nature) - 4:1b

·       Trustworthy faith realizes the ways of the sinful nature area  dead end - 4:2a

·       Trustworthy faith prays - 4:2b-3

·       Trustworthy faith is not spiritually adulterous by being too friendly with the world - 4:4

·       Trustworthy faith is not proud but humble - 4:5-6

·       Trustworthy faith understands God's strategy for victory in the spiritual war - 4:7-10

·       Trustworthy faith doesn't usurp God's position by speaking evil of other - 4:11-12

·       Trustworthy faith doesn't godlessly and proudly live with no concern for the will of God - 4:13-16

·       Trustworthy faith acts on opportunities to do good - 4:17

Now in this final chapter of this great epistle we will see that Trustworthy Faith is Triumphant Faith. And in this chapter we will four reasons why trustworthy faith is triumphant:




1.     Trustworthy Faith is triumphant faith because it isn't riches oriented - 5:1-6

2.     Trustworthy Faith is triumphant faith because it patiently waits for Jesus’ return – 5:7-12

3.     Trustworthy Faith is triumphant faith because it is prayerful – 5:13-18

4.     Trustworthy Faith is triumphant faith because it holds others of faith accountable – 5:19-20

Trustworthy faith is triumphant because it is the faith that will bring us across the finish line. The faith spoken of in this last chapter is victorious. James five speaks to us about the final destination and reason why it is worth experiencing trustworthy faith. It also speaks to us about  this victorious finish line faith and what living by faith in light of Jesus return looks like. Let's go to the word of God and complete our study of this great epistle.

James 5 (NKJV)

5 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.

Trustworthy Faith is triumphant faith because it isn't riches oriented. James calls the rich out by saying "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!" There is some question as to whether or not those "rich" being spoken of here are actually born again believers or simply those who liked (for whatever reason) to be seen amongst Christians. I tend to see these people as genuinely Christian but having a problem with prosperity. James gives no indication that these are not genuinely saved people. And given the climate of persecution in which James wrote this epistle it is doubtful that anyone would hang out with and seek to be around church people under persecution. There is a kind of prestige that comes with being around those who have a cause like Christians being persecuted, but still, it's more likely that those being spoken of were wealthy Christians who need to press the rest button for their priorities.

In much of the church today sin amongst those who are ”rich" (Greek plousious - or wealthy, abounding with material resources) is overlooked and left unaddressed for fear of offending those seen as a revenue stream for the church. There are church bills to be paid, building to be built, there are private Jets to be bought and maintained and upgraded. Too many churches today are more concerned with fleecing the flock of God than spiritually feeding them. Therefore, wrong priorities and questionable practices of the wealthy who are seen as potentially big financial donors are left unaddressed. There are some churches which put a dollar amount on each person who attends their church. There are others who stir people up emotionally to pledge donations beyond their means and then resort what looks all too similar to strong arm tactics to bring those pledges in. There are multiple offerings characterized by coercion that border on extortion. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils and unfortunately much of the church has lost her way in such "love" (cf. 1 Timothy 6).  

A byproduct of this perversity in the church are carnal worldly congregations whose prime focus is how to get rich wrapped in a religious package. People come to church or choose a church solely based on a what's in it for me? mentality. People come to church looking for whatever the church is willing to give them. The church becomes just one more stop in a line of handout opportunities.

All of this is done by church organizations under the guise of being good stewards but frequently it is nothing more than further reducing the body of Christ to a corporate structure. Individuals are lured into the church with carnal motives. The world is characterized by such materialism. The church should not be! Remember what James said in the previous chapter, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?" (4:4). James calls the materialistic rich to a better way.

James calls the rich to "weep" (Greek klaio  - sob, wail aloud, mourn, weep in pain and grief) and "howl" (Greek oloyzo - howl, shriek, cry loudly) because of "miseries" (Greek talaiporia) or a wretchedness, misery, hardship or calamity that is in their future and coming upon them. James is making this call in hope that those rich in earshot of his words will amend their ways or repent. What is it that James sees as misery producing if left unattended? What can we learn here that can help us avoid misery? 

So what should our attitude be toward wealth? The Apostle Paul was inspired to write, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). God, through Jesus, will supply for all our needs. This doesn't merely mean He will meet our material needs but that we should look to Jesus for instruction in what it means to be a good steward. When we look at James' words we see the underlying words of Jesus reiterated by the Holy Spirit. What did Jesus say about stewardship?

First, Jesus said we should focus on eternal not merely temporal wealth investments - “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21).  James the half-brother of Jesus must have had these words of Jesus in mind when he was inspired to write - "Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, . . ." James is writing to those who need to be reminded of these words of Jesus. Jesus warned people not to accumulate things that would corrode or are able to be stolen. James readers had apparently disregarded Jesus' words or at least forgotten them and now James is reminding his readers of Jesus words in no uncertain terms.

Second, Jesus said we should not get caught up in accumulating  temporal wants but trust God to meet our needs - "31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:31-34).

Third, Jesus said it is God who provides our resources and one day we will be held accountable by Him as to how we used what He provided to us. Therefore we should use God's provided resources wisely. Jesus communicated this truth in the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). "Talents" includes monetary and other kinds of wealth. But it also includes other less tangible resources like, yes, our talents or abilities or God-given skills. Jesus further illustrated what He meant by the acceptable use of our resources by speaking of helping those in various needy situations. He also said that our compassionate use of God-given resources or lack thereof would be accounted for before God one day (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). James alludes to this when he is inspired to write, ". . . and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days."

James adds, "Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth." James speaks of "fraud" (Greek apostereo) or despoiling, defrauding, stealing from people by fraud, earning wealth by fraud, robbing people. The lust for more wealth is one of the evils that comes from the love of money. Here an employer keeps back the wages of his laborers. For what reason or purpose the wages were kept back isn't stated. It may have been to earn more interest where the money was kept or to have more money to invest elsewhere at the expense of the laborers' wages. Whatever the reason, what was justly due to workers was not given to them. James says the cry to God from these apparently prayerful workers had reached the ears of "the Lord of Saboath." "Saboath" is not speaking of the God of the "Sabbath." "Saboath" speaks of the Lord of the armies, the Lord of hosts. It speaks of the Lord as Commander of a vast and powerful host of armies of angels (e.g. Judges 5:20; 2 Kings 6:17). How powerful an army of angels does God have? Just one ordinary angel was able to destroy in a single night, 185,000 terrorist Assyrians! (2 Kings 19:35; cf. 2 Kings 18-19).  Therefore this title for God used by James speaks of His omnipotence.   And it is to the ears of this Almighty God that the cries of His people about the fraud and injustices of the rich have come. That should get our attention. I'm sure it got the attention of the rich James was writing to.

Then James goes on to write, " You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. The implication by James is that the rich here have lived in pleasure and luxury with no regard to their persecuted brethren! Like the Corinthians who could pig out gluttonously in their "love feasts" while others of the congregation had nothing to eat (cf. 1 Corinthians 11), these wealthy were guilty of not doing the obvious good to help others that they were capable of doing (cf. James 4:17). They have been sinfully self-indulgent. "The rich, by presumptuous, unrestrained living, were preparing themselves for the Day of Judgment like animals gorging themselves for the day of slaughter."[1]In other words, their guilt will be exposed undeniably by their inappropriate gorging.

Finally James assesses, "You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you." Apparently turning a blind materialist hedonistic eye to their persecuted brethren wasn't enough for them. They compounded their despicably sinful behavior by participating in the unjust persecution and murder of those who felt so helpless and at their mercy that they did "not resist you."

James gives us a clear inspired picture of the evil the results from what Paul referred to as a "love of money." It isn't a pretty picture and those who have been blessed with wealth and resources should especially pay attention that they don't follow this damnably corrupting road themselves.

Later in the New Testament Paul will be inspired to instruct Timothy to - "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:17-19). That is the perfect balance of holy stewardship that is acceptable and blessed by God.

Jesus' Parable of the Talents and Parable of Judgment discuss holy stewardship in a context of living in "the end of the age" (Matthew 24:3 introduction to the Olivet Discourse of Jesus on the End Times). And it is to the coming of the Lord that we now turn.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! 10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment.


Trustworthy Faith is triumphant faith because it patiently waits for Jesus’ return. Jesus instruction to His disciples about the End Times and His eventual return was:"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming" (Matthew 25:13). He said,  "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angles in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the tie is" (Mark 13:32-33). Jesus said, "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36). These words of instruction were not limited to the apostles and disciples of Jesus of the first century. James is passing them on to others and each successive generation of Christians need to continue watching for the imminent return of Jesus.


These verses under consideration give us instruction about how to watch and wait for Jesus return. This is a picture of the faith that will bring us across the finish line and into the waiting arms of Jesus. That's a victorious objective and it will take trustworthy faith to bring it to pass. So let's look at what James says here.


First, finish line faith is patient for Jesus' return like a farmer is patient for his crops to grow and yield a harvest. James writes, "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord." "Patient" (Greek makrothymeo) means to be long-spirited, forbearing, bear long with suffering, patiently endure, patience. This is the prime characteristic of finish line faith. And at the heart of such patience that endures is a trust in Jesus and His words. We wait patiently, expectantly, because we believe Jesus is true to His words and will return. We wait patiently, expectantly, because we believe Jesus is alive and able to return. We wait patiently, and expectantly, because we believe and know Jesus loves us and it coming back for us. Jesus leaves no one behind!


Now to illustrate this patience James refers to farming stating, "See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. The idea here is that just like there is a process in farming that leads to harvest that there is a process or things God needs to put in place before the harvest and return of Jesus occurs. Jesus spoke with such agrarian images because the people of His day were familiar with them. We may be less familiar and perhaps miss some of the nuances. But with a little prayer and study and of course the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can receive from Jesus words just as His first listeners did. Jesus said:


·       Mark 4:26–29 (NKJV) - 26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

James likely had Jesus' words in mind when he was inspired to pen his. The context of Jesus' teaching identifies God's word and in particular the gospel as the "seed" planted here (cf. Mark 4:14). Similarly, we share God's word with people in hope that they will come to a saving spiritual birth through faith in Jesus. Sometimes that seed finds fertile soil immediately and sometimes it takes longer. But like the farmer in the parable we are to scatter the seed of the word of God and then sleep on it. We should sleep soundly and we will if we have faith in Jesus and His promises. We plant. Others may water. But increase comes from Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:5-8). There is a mystery to how this works - "he himself knows not how." There is a process to how it works too - "scatter seed on the ground . . .  sleep. . . . the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."


James uses this planting imagery in regards to patiently waiting for the Lord's return. There is a mystery here too. We don't know when Jesus will return. But until He does we are to follow the process and cooperate with God's redemptive plans. God desires all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). God desires none to perish (e.g. 2 Peter 3:9). So the process leading up to Jesus' return involves our continued planting or sharing God's word, waiting for the Spirit's conviction of sin and drawing people to Jesus. We continue hard at work until the full harvest of Jesus return comes. Are you willing to patiently wait for Jesus?


Second, finish line faith  establishes its heart until Jesus return. James writes, "You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." The word "establish" (Greek sterizo) means to set fast, to literally turn resolutely in a certain direction, to confirm, to be fixed and set, to be established, steadfast, strengthened. As we wait for Jesus we need to have a firm heart commitment to following the Lord. Finish line faith is totally committed not shrinking back trustworthy faith in Jesus. We have to be committed to follow Jesus no matter what. Do you have that kind of faith?


We might look at the inspired words of James stating "for the coming of the Lord is at hand" and think, wait a minute, James wrote that over 2000 years ago! On what planet is that "at hand"? Well, two thousand years to us may seem mile a lot. But to God two thousand years is like two days (cf. 2 Peter 3:8). You see, God lives in a timeless dimension. God is not limited by time. He definitely has a set plan that is orderly , scheduled, and prophetically being unveiled, but He is not limited by time as we are. God condescends to speak to us of time sequences. God is eternal. So what looks like ages to us is really just a moment for God. Keep that in mind when you question God's timing.


But also know, God is never late! God does operate by an orderly schedule. Jesus came in the "fullness of time" (e.g. Galatians 4:1-5). If you're waiting for Jesus' return, or anything lesser in life, and you think God is taking too long or questioning His timing, just remember, God is never late. God is always just in time.


Third, finish line faith doesn't grumble. James states, "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!" Remember, conflicts between come from an inflamed sinful nature and the spiritual warfare brought by Satan against us. Instead of being known by our grumble we should be humble before the Lord. We need to follow the example of Jesus and "Do all things without complaining and disputing. . . . holding fast the word of life, so that [we] may rejoice in the day of Christ. . . ." (cf. Philippians 2:14-16; see context of Philippians 2:1-11). the next time you are tempted to grumble against someone remember, "The Judge is standing at the door!"


Fourth, finish line faith follows Biblical examples. James continues, "10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful." the prophets point us to people like Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, the Minor Prophets. These prophets spoke "in the name of the Lord" meaning they represented God and were mindful of that. They did not want to misrepresent God or bring disgrace to Him in any way. The prophets were willing to suffer. The Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 tells us that some were imprisoned, tortured, stoned, sawn in two, slain. We need to be willing to follow their example.


There is a blessing for those who endure or who use their finish line faith to finish the race. That blessing is falling into the waiting arms of Jesus. Oh for that day!


Job is particularly singled out by James here. Job is particularly relevant in speaking with those who are wealthy because he was wealthy. Job was a man of wealth who lost everything and then spent 37 of 42 chapters trying to hash out with his "friends" why this had happened to them. The reader knows Job's losses are the consequence of spiritual warfare (Job 1-2). But Job and his friends seem oblivious to this. Instead the "friends" blame Job and Job defends himself and both are off target concerning what is really going on. But more importantly because of Job's patiently faithfulness to the Lord, (even when he was confused and doubtful about God's plan), when we look at the end of Job's story we see his family replenished and his resources restored to double (Job 42). The message of Job is one of the worth of a quality faith that endures to the end. That is what these readers of James who were persecuted Christians needed to hear and be reminded of. We can profit from Job's example and story too.


Job was afflicted and experienced great suffering and loss all because he was in a spiritual war he was apparently unaware of. His "friends" tried to help him understand from their perspective and opinion the cause of all his calamities. But none of them considered the possibility of spiritual warfare. Hindsight is 20/20 and we have the benefit of Gods' revealed word in the complete canon. So when we are afflicted we should persevere. James point additionally is that Job persevered to the end with far less of God's revelation to rely on. Those who he wrote to and we today certainly should endure with all our added benefits. And we should always have hope not despair because we know of God "that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful."


Fifth, finish line faith is trustworthy. James writes, "12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment." James doesn't seem to have been big on political correctness. He doesn't encourage swearing by heaven. When a person is not trustworthy or is undependable, when a person has a history of not be trustable or unreliable, that person has to swear by something or someone higher than himself to convince others to believe him. By saying "let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No," James is exhorting his readers to live a righteous holy way where they have a good reputation and are seen as able to be trusted. He conveying the idea that they should be people of their word. The judgment spoken of here could be the judgment of other people who have learned by experience that the person in question is not trustworthy. When we are untrustworthy or undependable in little things or secular things, people will likely not believe us when we try to speak spiritual truth to them. Finish line faith is trustworthy. Let your "Yes," be able to be received as "Yes," and your "No," be able to be received as "No."


13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

Trustworthy Faith is triumphant faith because it is prayerful in times of trouble. When we pray we draw near to God. And when we draw near to God His promise is that He will draw near to us (James 4:8). When we pray we resist the devil. And when we resist the devil in prayer God's promise is that he devil will flee from us (James 4:7). Prayer is vital to persevering to the end.


James instructs his readers that if anyone is suffering to "let him pray." There are two ways of looking at this and they are both important. First there we should encourage the person to pray about their situation. Then second we should give them space to pray. When we are suffering our inclination is to seek out a shoulder to cry on. We are to weep with those who weep its true (Romans 12:15). We are to love them and put an arm around their shoulder and support them. But we should also encourage them to get alone with God in prayer. We are not the answer. Others are not the answer. God is the answer. No answer to suffering is as effective and complete as it could be without seeking the Lord and depending on Him in prayer. Fellowship and human support is not a substitute for prayer time with God.


Psychological illness. The "suffering" (Greek kakopatheo) spoken of here means generally to undergo hardship, be afflicted, endure afflictions or hard times, suffer trouble, or to be in distress. This idea of being in distress seems to point to the mental side of difficulties. We can only imagine the psychological and heart stresses for those being persecuted. There are few stresses greater than those of the persecuted.  Prayer is the great remedy for mental suffering. In His word God instructs us to not be anxious about things but instead to pray about them. And He promises that when we pray in such situations His peace that surpasses understanding will guard our hearts in Christ (Philippians 4:6-7). Prayer helps us to think on the right things or have the proper perspective on our circumstances (e.g. Philippians 4:8-9).  In these ways we cast our cares upon the Lord who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).


" Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms." "Cheerful" (Greek euthymeo) or to be cheered up, be cheerful is an attitude and state of mind which further confirms that what James is addressing  here is trials of the mind. Singing psalms is a great way to lift the spirit and comfort the mind. We connect with God by the Spirit in Jesus name when we worship (John 4:23-24). Worship is a wonderful tool to minister to psychological afflictions.


The Psalms are the hymnbook of Israel. There is a psalm suited for nearly every occasion of life. We don't have to let our circumstances determine or limit our cheerfulness. Paul and Silas sang to the Lord in a prison cell (Acts 16:25). If we are in a cheerful mood we should not forget to thank God. The Lord loves to hear our songs. He will send us a song in the night of our despair (e.g. Job 35:10; Psalms 77:6). If you are joyful sing to the Lord. If you are down or depressed, sing to the Lord by faith. God has a way of lifting our spirit when we worship Him.


Physical illness. Now James speak to those with physical sickness or illness. In the church when people become sick they are to be given opportunities for the pastor and leadership to anoint with oil and pray over them. James states, "14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." The sick person is the one who should take the initiative to be prayed over by the pastor and leaders. There is evidence that church were overseen by an individual pastor or "elder" (Greek presbyteros - an elder, an older more mature in the faith Christian) in the congregation and that there were also under-shepherds or "elders."


"Oil" is not magical for healing, it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (e.g. Zechariah 4). When a person was anointed with oil for healing it is a public statement of surrendering to the Spirit for God's will to be done. But oil also has actual medicinal purposes. The Good Samaritan used oil to anoint the wounded victim he cared for (cf. Luke 10:34). This leads us to an interesting insight well expressed by one commentator who states:


      What does it mean to anoint with oil? In Scripture, we see oil used symbolically, when, as an illustration of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, prophets, priests, and kings were    anointed with oil before they assumed their positions of authority. We also see oil used     medicinally, as in the story of the Good Samaritan who put oil on the wounds of the man     left for dead (Luke 10:34).


      I suggest that the anointing of oil spoken of by James refers to both the symbolic and the            medicinal realms. It speaks of a person saying, “I’m looking to the Lord for healing. I’m    submitted to His will being done in my life; I believe in His power and presence—and            I’m going to use His gift of medicine as well.” There are two streams of healing: prayer       and medicine. But it’s the same God who works through both streams. Medicine does not   heal. Prayer does not heal. God heals.[2]



God can heal through prayer alone. God can heal though prayer and medicine. Walking in the Spirit will show us the course we need to take.


The "prayer of faith" speaks of praying in faith but it also speaks of how when we pray and God answered through healing our faith is increased. The Lord gives faith for when He desires to heal (e.g. Acts 3:16). As we walk in the Spirit and are sensitive to His leading there are times when we sense He is going to work in an extraordinary way. By faith we obey Him. But not everyone who is prayed for is healed. There are times when God's will is to not heal (e.g. 1 Peter 4:19). To be anointed with oil means to come praying in faith and belief that God can heal, but surrendered to His will even if He decides healing is not to be.


We might not understand why God doesn't heal. There are things in God's infinite plans that us finite beings can't fathom. But we pray in faith for healing. We should expect healing. God is able  to heal and when He is willing people are healed. God is still healing people today. No matter what PRAY!


The causes of sickness. All sickness and physical deformities are the consequence of the general pervasiveness of planetary sin. We all fall short of the glory of God. We live in fallen bodies in a fallen world. But sickness and deformity due to planetary sin does not carry with it human culpability or blame (e.g. John 9:3). We can't blame children born with birth defects for their condition. There should be no stigma attached to them either.


But there is however some sickness that does come as a consequence of personal sin (e.g. Mark 2:5-11; John 5:14). Sexually transmitted diseases are an example of this.  Sexual promiscuity has been linked to all kinds of disease. And there are innocent victims who suffer as a result of their parents sin not their own.


Sickness is therefore connected either objectively or subjectively, either directly or indirectly, either planetarily or personally. We should praying for healing in all of it and every circumstance trusting for the will of God to be done.


Confession. James says,"16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." There is a place for confession of sin  to one another." Some take this to the extreme broadcasting their sin in public and often live to regret it. There is no need to go to "Confession" in a church or a "Confession Booth." This isn't what James had in mind here. There is simply a time, when we are suffering physically as a consequence of personal sinfulness, that we can seek out reliable, discreet, spiritual people in the church to confess our sin to and seek the support of our godly spiritual brethren in an environment of prayer. Vulnerability is humbling. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Follow the leading of the Spirit in this.


What are we to confess? James says we should confess our "trespasses" to one another. "Trespasses" translates a Greek phrase paraptomata pas hamartias which literally means "the faults, the sins." Paraptomata is a noun from paraptoma and refers to fall beside, fall where you should have stood upright, to deliberately fall or hurl oneself toward. There is a deliberate aspect included in this term. Hamartias is from hamartia  on the other hand and involves sin, sinfulness, missing the mark, any deviation from God's known law. Hamartia is an umbrella term for sin which covers all kinds of sin both intentional and unintentional.


Why should we confess our sins to someone? Confession isn't a work that makes us righteous. We are righteous by grace through faith in Jesus as our Savior. That is a done deal when we are born again (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:21). Sin does cloud our spiritual thinking and does create static in our prayer lives (e.g. Psalm 66:18). Saving faith by nature includes an element of confession of our sins to God. But confession of sin has other benefits.


Confession facilitates prayer. When people confess their sins to one another  and seek support it facilitates prayer. It's natural to want to pray for and with the person who humbles themselves in confession of sin and seeks help from other Christians.


Confession pours water on the enemies' powder. In olden days when muskets involved pouring powder in the barrel there was an expression "Keep your powder dry." This meant to be ready for action. Wet powder won't ignite and is useless. Confession pours the water of the Spirit on the powder of Satan. Satan lures people into sin and then compounds his victory by exposing such sin to cause embarrassment, shame, and tarnishing of the image of God in believers. When we confess sin to people it humbles us and protects us from pride and it also prevents the enemy from igniting or exposing sin in a powerfully evil way.


Confession quenches pride. Confession involves humility. It can be very humbling to go to someone and confess a sin problem. But that is the best place to be with the Lord; humble. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Pride will destroy us (Proverbs 16:18). Pride brought down Satan and he uses pride to bring down others (Isaiah 14:12-15).  God gives grace to the humble. We need as much of God's grace as we can experience. Therefore humbly confess and find grace to help in time of need (e.g. James 4:6; 1 Peter 4:5-6; Romans 5).


If in doubt, pray. Just pray always and you can't be far off the mark. Whether psychological or physical illness, whether personal or planetary sin, whether a person confesses sin or not, make sure to always pray. But how should we pray? That's what James turns to now.



Effective Prayer. James gives a short sentence of the kind of prayer that will be potent in such situations. He says, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."The "prayer" (Greek deesis) spoken of here is to bow down, petition, requesting prayer, supplication. The phrase  "effective" (Greek energoumene from energeo -  Present/Middle/Participle) means working, operating, accomplishing, being made effective. The word "fervent" is a translation of a two Greek word phrase euchesthe (Greek verb euchomai - meaning pray for, express a desire for) proseuchesthe (Greek verb proseuchomai - to pray). It is a Hebrew idiom literally meaning to pray with prayer and expresses an intenseness in prayer. The idea of such prayer is described by E.M. Bounds who states:


            “Prayers must be red hot. It is the fervent prayer that is effectual and availeth. Coldness         of spirit hinders praying; prayer cannot live in a wintry atmosphere. Chilly surroundings   freeze out petitioning; and dry up the springs of supplication. It takes fire to make prayers go. Warmth of soul creates an atmosphere favorable to prayer, because it is favorable to    fervency. By flame, prayer ascends to heaven. Yet fire is not fuss, nor heat, noise. Heat is intensity – something that glows and burns. Heaven is a mighty poor market for ice.  . . .     The Holy Spirit comes as a fire, to dwell in us; . . . Our Lord warns us against feeble praying. ‘Men ought always to pray,’ He declares, ‘and not to faint.’ That  means, that we            are to possess sufficient fervency to carry us through the severe and long periods of           pleading prayer. Fire makes one alert and vigilant, and bring shim off more than a     conqueror. . . . Fervency has its seat in the heart, not in the brain, nor in the intellectual      faculties of the mind . . . It is not in our power, perhaps, to create fervency of spirit at           will, but we can pray God to implant it. ”  [3]

Our heart must be in our prayer. We must be serious about what we are praying for. We must be personally invested in our prayers. Effective prayer is more than reciting memorized "prayers" mindlessly. Jesus criticized such prayers as heathenish (cf. Matthew 6:1ff.). We must pray in the name of Jesus or like Jesus, in the Spirit, in our heart.


A "righteous man" is a man who seeks the Lord and is dependent upon the Lord for his righteousness. Those ingredients in prayer "avails much" (Greek ischyon) means to have force, to prevail, have strength, accomplish much. A righteous person is one who has been cleansed of their sin with the blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7).


James refers to Elijah as an example of such forceful praying. He states, "17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit." James is clear to point out Elijah "was a man with a nature like ours." Elijah was just like us. Elijah wasn't perfect. He didn't glow. He was an ordinary human being through whom God did extraordinary things through like stopping and starting rain. Stopped any rain lately?


The big example of Elijah's prayer is found in 1 Kings 18 and 19 where he faced off against the prophets of Baal. Elijah had prayed for the heavens to be shut up and give no rain. Elijah was confident in his prayer because he was putting faith in God's word and promise. This drought led to a confrontation with Ahab and his pagan prophets. Elijah set up a challenge. The proof of whose God was real would be fire coming from heaven to burn up a sacrifice. Elijah used the confrontation as an opportunity to call God's people to decide whether or not they are for God. H put his prayer currency where his mouth is challenging nearly 500 pagan prophets to prove whose God is real and whose is not.


Effective fervent prayers are not necessarily long prayers. The pagan's prayed all day, they even cut themselves to show their zeal. But nothing happened. Elijah ridiculed them for their god's impotence. One commentator says tongue in cheek that Elijah might have said, "You’ve been going all day, boys. Your god has baal-ed out. Now it’s my turn.”[4] When Elijah prayed he prayed a short prayer that takes only about seven seconds to say (1 Kings 18:36-37) and God's fire fell from heaven and ignited the sacrifice.


Jesus did not equate long prayers with power in prayer. He said heathen or non-believers think that by praying long it makes prayers more powerful (Matthew 6:7). Pagan's think they have to impress their god. Those who know God know He knows our heart, is true to His holy word, and is faithful to fulfill His promises.


Effective fervent prayer is grounded in God's word. There was scripturally basis for Elijah praying for a drought (Deuteronomy 11:16-17). It's likely Elijah, a man of God, would have been familiar with God's word. When God says something that settles it. And once it is settled in God's word it only takes a short acknowledgement in prayer to bring the answer home. Therefore, it only takes a concise, faith-filled prayer to unleash and deliver God's blessing. Prayers are powerful in proportion to their dependence on God's word. If we abide in Jesus and His word we need only ask accordingly and it will be done for us by God (John 15:7).


Effective fervent prayer is birthing prayer. After the confrontation with the prophets of Baal had been decided the issue of the drought needed to be resolved. Elijah returns to prayer. The account states, "then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees" (1 Kings 18:42). What's interesting about this comment on Elijah's position is that this was a birthing position. A woman would give birth by putting her head between her knees. Elijah began to pray until he birthed the solution to his problem.


Elijah would pray seven times and have his helper check for rain and it was only at the seventh time of prayer that his helper noticed a cloud the size of his fist. As soon Elijah heard of that small indicator, his faith in God's promise took him the rest of the way. He knew the cloud burst was coming. And it came (1 Kings 18:41-46).


There is a lesson to be learned from comparing the relatively short prayer made by Elijah during the challenge with the prophets of Baal and the longer repeated prayer for the drought to end. There are different kinds of prayers for different purposes of God. Jon Courson explains how God uses prayer with us:


       There come times, gang, when in prayer I will go to the Father and I will pray like Elijah in the first example. I’ll pray simply, casually, and comfortably. But the fire doesn’t come   down or the heavens don’t open up, and I wonder why. I have learned that during such     seasons, the Father is saying, “Pray fervently. Come back a second time and a third time,    an eighth time and a twelfth time. Why? Because I know what’s ahead.”

      You see, as the story unfolds, on the heels of his incredible victory on Mount Carmel, we     will see Elijah fall into such depression and despondency that he will despair even of life     itself (1 Kings 19:4). Knowing this, God says to Elijah, “What you need, Elijah, is not for         Me to respond immediately, but to come into My presence repeatedly. I know what’s      coming—and you need to log in time with Me.”


      So, too, sometimes I pray, “Father, Your Word promises this…” and boom! It happens           immediately. Other times, God says to me, “You think you need that relationship     resolved or that ministry opened, or that financial matter worked out. But I see where        you’re going to be tomorrow. I see that what you’re really craving is not what you’re     asking. You’re craving Me. So come back three times, seven times, twenty-seven times,    forty-two times and spend time with Me.”


      And you know what I have discovered, dear precious people? In coming back over and      over with my head between my knees, so to speak, laboring and wondering, I find that      what I was so concerned about fades from importance, for I find in Him everything my       heart desires.


      What was birthed by Elijah that day on the mountain wasn’t a rain cloud. It was a             relationship. That’s what it means to pray fervently—not to get God’s attention, but to         birth a deeper relationship with Him.[5]



The point here is that Elijah was an ordinary person who trusted in God. And His trusting prayers opened the door for God to do extraordinary things through him and in him.


Sometimes we pray and nothing seems to happen. The following illustration shows us why we should push on in prayer.




            A man was sleeping one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with
            light, and God appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and
            showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man
            was to push against the rock with all his might. So, this the man did, day
            after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set
            squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with
            all of his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out,
            feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.

            Since the man was showing discouragement, the Adversary (Satan) decided to
            enter the picture by placing thoughts into the weary mind: "You have been
            pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn't moved." Thus, he gave
            the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure.
            These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man. Satan said, "Why kill
            yourself over this? Just put in your time, giving just the minimum effort; and
            that will be good enough."

            That's what the weary man planned to do, but decided to make it a matter of
            prayer and to take his troubled thoughts to the Lord. "Lord," he said, "I have
            labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which
            you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by
            half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?

            The Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when I asked you to serve Me
            and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with
            all of your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that
            I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me with
            your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But, is that really so?
            Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown,
            your hands are calloused from constant pressure, your legs have become massive
            and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now
            surpass that which you used to have. True, you haven't moved the rock. But your
            calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in
            My wisdom. That you have done.

            "Now I, my friend, will move the rock."

            At times when we hear a word from God, we tend to use our own intellect to
            decipher what He wants, when actually what God wants is just a simple obedience
            and faith in Him. By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but
            know that it is still God who moves the mountains.

            When everything seems to go wrong.................just P.U.S.H!
            When the job gets you down.....................just P.U.S.H!
            When people don't react the way you think they should....just P.U.S.H!
            When your money is "gone" and the bills are due.........just P.U.S.H!
            When people just don't understand you..................just P.U.S.H!

            P=Pray - U=Until - S=Something - H=Happens

Prayer is so vitally important to trustworthy faith. Truly, the victories we experience are in proportion to our prayers. And even when it doesn't seem like God is working, we need to press on or push on in prayer. Who will be an Elijah? (1 Kings 17-19). Who will be a Hannah? (1 Samuel 1 and 2). What ordinary person of us will step out in faith in prayer and be used in extraordinary ways by God?

19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Trustworthy Faith is triumphant faith because it holds others of faith accountable. James earlier spoke of confessing sins to one another. There is a place of accountability. To be accountable requires we make ourselves vulnerable. Many people are more concerned with how spiritual they look to others than they are to how spiritual they actually are. Having an accountability partner, especially if you struggle with a particular sin, is an important part of establishing your heart before the Lord.

The word "wanders" (Greek verb planao) means to roam from, be deluded, deceive oneself, go astray, deceive, seduce. The word "error" (Greek noun plane) refers to one who wanders from truth.  The idea is a Christian who will ultimately end up in heaven but who has gotten off track in their walk with the Lord. This could be caused by any number of reasons. Satan works overtime to get Christians off track. He doesn't want them to fix their eyes on Jesus but to get their eyes on themselves and others.

When a Christian "wanders from the truth," and slips into sin, the Holy Spirit will convict him of that sin either through a thoughtful impression, the word or through other believers. When this happens being around other Christians may make them feel uncomfortable or convicted about their sin. Therefore, they may shy away from fellowship. They may use a supposed doctrinal difference as an excuse to stay away. But they will begin avoiding fellowship.  And this puts them in a much weakened position spiritually. There is strength in the numbers of fellowship. We will survive together but likely die alone. When this happens a faithful fellow Christian can help them get back on track with a helpful word and encouragement.

James speaks of the wandering Christian who is turned back "from the error of his way will save a soul from death." The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). If left unattended sin will lead to eternal damnation and death. But there is a death involved that relates to this life when sin is indulged. One commentator explains:

      What kind of death?

      First, we have saved him from physical death (1 John 5:16). There is a sin, in which, if a       man or woman continues to persist, God will take him or her home prematurely. If a             person is rebelling against the Lord and walking farther and farther away from Him, such     a one is in danger of being blown out into outer darkness. So God in His mercy may say,      “It’s time to take this person to heaven.” While this obviously doesn’t mean that anyone            who dies before the age of ninety is out of fellowship, the Word does, indeed, declare that    there is sin that will cause a person’s life to end sooner than it would have had he     continued walking in fellowship. . . . [6]


      Second, if we convert a brother who errs, who has wandered away, we save his soul from    spiritual death. Because the wages of sin is always death, as you watch people who aren’t plugged in, who aren’t walking with the Lord as closely as they once did, you see death   in their lives—the death of joy, the death of purpose, the death of peace. Their eyes             become dull. Their faces become drawn. They start looking sad as they trade vitality for       mortality.


      Third, saving an erring brother from death could mean saving him from eternal death. The reason the debate has gone on for centuries concerning whether a Christian can go so   far that he ends up forfeiting his salvation is because Scripture can be used to argue both     sides. If this issue were cut and dried, a lot of people would drift farther and farther out in   space. But because it is not, we have to realize that one’s eternal destiny is at stake.[7]


When someone walks away from the Lord we should do two things. First, as soon as we are made aware of the situation we should begin to talk to God about this person and situation in prayer. Second, we should approach the straying person in love and speak Gods' truth in love to them. We should ask the Lord how we can love them back into their walk with the Lord.

Sometimes we will need to give people their space. Others times we will have to pursue them in love. We should guard against pursuing people who have been disciplined by the church simply because we sentimentally feel sorry for them. We need to allow the Lord's discipline to have its full effect. it's important to walk closely with the Spirit in such things. But we should never give up on people because "he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins." God has a way of bringing prodigals home (Luke 15:11-32).  Praise Him for that!

That is triumphant faith; to "turn a sinner from the error of his way and save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins." This last chapter of James was delivered in light of the return of Jesus. Trustworthy faith will triumphantly get us to our destination and make us ready for Christ's return. Such faith will help us to keep a right perspective on worldly wealth. Such faith will prayerfully get us through our psychological and physical ailments. Such faith will make us ready for the Lord's return. It's fitting to culminate this letter on an uplifting note. The wayward brethren should be sought out and brought back home. Trustworthy faith will being us all home and into the arms of our Shepherd Jesus. Can't wait!


[1] Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.


[2] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1531). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[3] E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer  (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1981. Page56, 58,59

[4] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1537). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (pp. 1539–1540). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1533). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1533). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.