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The Church At Its Best

James 5:13-20 
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Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises. [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 offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. [16] Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. [17] Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. [18] And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit. 

[19] My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, [20] let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins. 
 

I don't know if you've figured it out yet, but I'm madly in love with the Church. Certainly, I mean this church. I'm having the time of my life being your pastor, but in a broader sense, I'm madly in love with the church in general. Verses 13 to 16 of James 5, in my opinion, shows the church as its best-ministering and caring for one another in diverse circumstances. Some of them are suffering, others are cheerful and others are sick. 

James includes them all in these few verses. The suffering are to pray and beseech the mercy of God on their life, the cheerful are to sing praises and the sick are to ask the elders of the church to pray for them, believing in faith that God can heal them. 

It isn't that they are to ignore medical attention, that's why verse 14 mentions anointing with oil. The anointing was not exclusively a religious ceremony, it was medical treatment. Remember in the story of the Good Samaritan that he used oil as a part of his first aid treatment he gave the wounded man. Luke 10:34 (NIV) says, "He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him."

Yes we are not to ignore medical attention, but neither are we to fail to ask the Great Physician for his healing. Referring to Elijah's prayer, James promises us that our prayers matter.

AUTHENTICITY

What I want you to notice about these verses isn't the individual teachings, but the entire thrust of the text. James is telling us to be real, and not put on airs. There will be some among us that are suffering, some that are cheerful and some that are sick. There is a place for all of those people in the church at the same time.

This is an appropriate place for deep, agonizing prayer. It is a place for joyful laughter and exuberant praise. It is a place for gut-wrenching conviction and honest confession. You don't have to fake it-you can be who you are at the time.
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