James 5:13-16 (NASB) "Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to 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."
Introduction: Over the past several posts we have been engaging in a thorough study of James 5:13-16 regarding the subject of God's provision of healing. As a pastor I often experience the direct impact illness and suffering has in the lives of church members, my own family and in my own life. The subject of God's healing power and will to heal has been an issue that I have found to be both encouraging and mysterious.
Oftentimes when reading anything on the subject, one will encounter one of two extremes: either God wills all Christians to never be sick or He is in a general sense no longer performing miraculous acts of healing in the church. To offset these two extreme positions, this blogger has found James 5:13-16 to be very helpful in shedding light on this very personal, emotionally charged and what can be spiritually liberating subject.
We have considered thus far in this study:
1. The need for prayer when seeking God for healing
2. God's concern for those who are physically ill in the church.
3. We looked more closely at the act of anointing with oil and the manner in which God promises healing in James 5:14-15a.
4. We then focused attention on the spiritual benefits that are offered by God in the act of anointing with oil in the name of the Lord in James 5:15b.
5. James 5:16 shows why practical, pastor ministry need to emphasize God's provision and power to heal.
6. In the last post we considered the importance of praying after the event of "anointing with oil.
Today's post concludes our study by noting life applications for teaching, preaching or devotional situations.
Life Applications of James 5:13-16 that can be used in teaching or preaching or for private devotional use.
The ultimate goal of this study has been to take what we glean in observation and interpretation and apply it to people who need it the most. To bring home the life application of this series, I will take the headings we assigned throughout the study and render them into points for teaching, preaching and practical ministry situations.
1. Prayer is necessary to prepare for anointing with oil. James 5:13. Unless the person with the illness and the church leadership (and really the whole church itself) is prefacing this act with prayer, nothing will come of it.
2. Physical sickness is being described in James 5:14. This point may sound obvious, however the fact that so few churches ever think of anointing with oil as a first option necessitates the mention of this point. In terms of how serious the illness needs to be before calling forth the elders (in other words, if someone has a cold) can only be determined by the instructions contained in the passage itself. By consistent application of James 5:13-16, the ill patient and the leadership of the church can discerned through prayer when, where and how to exercise this act of anointing with oil.
3. People in the church requesting anointing with oil. James 5:14-15. We can note what it looks like from beginning to end when someone requests to be anointed with oil in the name of the Lord.
a. The request must be made to the representative church leadership. James 5:14
b. God can deliver healing immediately, eventually or ultimately following the act of anointing with oil. James 5:15a
c. Particular spiritual provisions such as forgiveness of sin and spiritual strengthening are guaranteed in the act of anointing with oil. James 5:15b
d. Anointing with oil in the name of the Lord can be done privately but is set forth as a public act in the life of the church, so that the church body can participate in encouraging the one who is sick. James 5:16
4. Persist in prayer for the sake of receiving your healing, whether immediately, in the near future or ultimately in Heaven. This final point is to underscore that God desires to heal and has the power to heal. The only element to which none are told is the timing. God wills to heal, this we know. However God determines when to heal. He can heal immediately, however He can also choose to heal that person ultimately when they leave this world. A third possibility may be that the person is healed eventually. When instructing people in the anointing of oil, I would urge them to not stop praying, but ever persist in being receptive to God's healing virtue.
Let me lay down a few principles that flow from the above observations, and then illustrate. First, it is God's pleasure to heal His people, otherwise the Holy Spirit would not had inspired and moved James to write what he did in James 5:13-16. We can also note on at least 25 occassions in the Gospels where people came to Jesus or were brought to Him for healing, not one times does He refuse to heal them.
Secondly, God has the power to heal (Psalm 103:3). We must remember that it is the power of Jesus Christ, not faith, that heals (Luke 5:17).
Thirdly, personal faith receives healing. Faith is the God-given vessel that we have to receive all that He has to offer. Faith must be present to receive Jesus immediately in salvation (Romans 10:8-10). Faith must also be present and ready to receive healing whether it be at that moment or six months down the road (Luke 7:50)
So then why do some people get healed immediately and others later on? This is the mystery side of healing. Some erroneously blame the lack of faith. Faith cannot do anything to effect healing. All it can do is receive it. The Apostle Paul for example prayed three times for His ailment to be removed, and yet God did not deliver Him of it. Are we to blame Paul for lack of faith? Hardly. The only answer we can give in understanding why some people get immediately healed, or later healed or even ultimately healed in heaven, and others don't, is due to the purpose of God. Hence, it is God's purpose that determines when the healing takes place.
To illustrate, whenever I travel, my cell phone is ever ready to receive a signal. At times when journeying in a mountainous area, the signal may not be forth coming. However, that does not mean the phone is useless. My phone's operation and readiness to receive does not make the signal travel slower or faster. All it can do is receive the incoming signal whenever it arrives. The signal will come through once I get through the other side. I may not know when the signal may come, but I best be sure to keep the phone on for the sake of receiving the signal. The suggestion is that this is how healing practically works at times, and the conclusions are drawn from the above study. There will always be the mysterious elements of healing that we do not know, however we must not grow discouraged nor doubt the goodness and power of God.
Well that concludes this study of physical healing and anointing with oil in the name of the Lord in James 5:13-16. My prayer is that readers will find this useful and beneficial in ministry and private devotional situations. To God be the glory!