James 5 devotional

Prayer is something that we as Christians all know we should do regularly. And for some, it comes naturally–it’s one of the easiest aspects of the Christian life. But for others, it’s one of the hardest. And one of the reasons it can be difficult is because we don’t always know what to pray for. Maybe you’ve heard people who are sick praying to be healed, for example. But you’re not sick. Things are actually going really well. What are you supposed to pray for? In James 5, James discusses or alludes to four different types of prayer that we are to pray in different situations.
Relief from suffering:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.
Of the four types of prayer I’ll be discussing here, this is probably the one we pray most often. Even non-religious people may pray this type of prayer when they’re desperate. But let’s really think about this: The God of the universe, who created 100 billion galaxies, wants to hear about your problems. He wants to hear when you’re in pain. He desires that you ask him for help. And God does not just want to hear about big things, like a cancer diagnosis–he wants to hear about even the smallest problems you have.
And he wants to hear when you’re just worried about something. While Christians are not to worry, one of the ways we can overcome our worrying is by entrusting our worries to Jesus. When we’re suffering, no matter what we’re going through, we don’t have to go through it alone. We can always call out to God for help.
Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.
This does not explicitly mention prayer, but it is in the context of a detailed section on prayer, and so I think it is appropriate to view prayers of praise as at least an application of this verse. How often do we pray to ask God for something, and then the moment we get what we prayed for we move on to the next thing without even taking a second to thank God for answering our prayer? It may even have been something we thought about every day, but the moment that it was over we forgot about it.
Imagine your parents buy you a car. Maybe you’ve been asking them for a car for months. Or maybe you never would’ve even thought to ask them to buy you one. Either way, one day you show up to the house and they surprise you with a car waiting for you. And you immediately grab the keys, jump in and drive off without even a thank you. How do you think your parents would feel? Would they feel appreciated? Would they feel you are grateful? In the same way, never thanking God for his blessings sends the message that you think you’re owed whatever he gives you, and don’t value him, only his gifts.
Forgiveness of sin:
And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
This one may seem the weirdest. Aren’t we already forgiven? Why do we need to pray for something we already have?
In an ultimate sense, yes, we are completely forgiven. All our sins have been fully paid for in the work of Christ, we are righteous in God’s sight, we are at peace with him, and nothing will ever change that.
But sin can still hinder our relationship with God. We cannot be in complete intimacy with someone when we rebel against them. And sin can still lead to earthly consequences, including illness. It is important to emphasize that sickness is not always the result of sin, as the example of Job given by James shows. But that does not mean sickness is never the result of sin. This section clearly shows it can be.
When we sin, we are telling God that we don’t love him as much as we love that sin. When we ask God for forgiveness, we are telling him that we were wrong, that we want to commit to our relationship with him, and that we love him above all else.
Prayer for others:
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. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.
If we were to keep a record of everything that we pray for, I think a lot of us would find that most of our prayers are for ourselves. And, again, God wants us to come to him with all our needs and concerns. But if we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, then we should be just as eager to pray for others as well.
When we’re stressed, when we’re going through a difficult time, we all find it encouraging to hear someone is praying for us. In the same way, we should provide that encouragement for others. But more importantly, even if the person does not know we’re praying for them, God does. And God desires to glorify himself by answering many prayers (2 Corinthians 1:11).
Which of these types of prayer do you pray most often? Which do you find yourself most often neglecting? Whatever one that is for you, I encourage you to spend time today in that type of prayer, and to make it a regular part of your devotional life.

Jame 4 1/2

There is a famous study known as the “Asch experiment.” In the study, groups were
shown graphs with several lines, and with each graph were asked to identify which line
was identical in length to the “target line.” Each time, the correct answer was obvious.
All but one of the “participants” in each group were actors instructed to give wrong
answers to a majority of the questions. A third of the time, the one true participant would
join the group in giving the wrong answer, either because they didn’t want to stand out
and rock the boat, or because they assumed the other participants couldn’t all be
Theologian David F. Wells describes worldliness as that which “makes sin look normal
and righteousness seem strange.” It is what happens when we allow what we see and
hear around us to influence how we think and how we live more than the Bible.
Sometimes this is done intentionally, to try to fit in or avoid being disliked by others.
Other times it is done unconsciously, when we base our beliefs in what is good on what
everyone else is doing.
All sin ultimately comes from the heart. It would be a mistake to think that our greatest
spiritual danger is outside influences. But it would also be a mistake to think outside
influences pose no spiritual danger at all. As the Asch experiment shows, we are
naturally inclined to do what those around us are doing.
In James, this meant his audience was committing the same sins as the non-believing
gentiles around them. They were showing partiality, cursing each other, and neglecting
those in need. And these are temptations we can still face today. For example, in a
country like the U.S., all of us, even if we personally struggle financially, are wealthy by
global standards, and therefore have an exceptional ability to help the needy. But it is so
normal for us to see people using the money they have purely to benefit themselves,
that we often don’t even question the idea of doing the same. The assumption is that
money is for personal pleasure, and the more we have of it, the more we can spend on
But worldliness encompasses more than just the sins described in James. It refers to
any time we sin because we are imitating, consciously or unconsciously, those around
us. And this is something we are all guilty of, because we are all in the world and not yet
fully sanctified. But it expresses itself in different ways with each of us. For some, it
means sex outside of marriage. For others, it means a lack of love. And for some, it
means simple indifference to the things of God. Worldliness comes in as many forms as
sin does.
So we all need to ask ourselves: In what way am I committing worldliness? In what way
am I living based on what I see those around me doing instead of what God has
revealed in his word? And the only way to do that is to look at what God’s word says. As
we cannot and should not remove ourselves from the world, it is crucially important to
constantly be renewing our minds with scripture. If we look to it for guidance instead of
those around us, we will be able to live the life that God created us to live.

James 3 Devotional

Have you ever been having a bad day, and then someone said something kind or encouraging that made it better? Or have you ever had your day ruined by someone speaking to or about you in a way that was hurtful? I suspect most of us have experienced one or both at some point. These are just two examples of how much power the use of our tongues, or speech, can be.

A major theme in James 3 is the evil that can be done with the tongue. One form this takes is speaking cruelly and hatefully to or about another person. This is the first example James talks about–“with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (verse 9). Sometimes this can be done directly to the person. We see this most often on the internet, where the anonymity and lack of follow up emboldens people to act as cruelly as they can.
Other times, this can be done by talking about someone. Maybe we see someone as our competition in some regard, and so we think that bad mouthing them will give us an advantage. Or perhaps we realize that insulting someone that directly carries a risk of backfiring, causing people to view us negatively instead. So we mask our insults in nice-sounding passive-aggressiveness. But any way we do it, if we are using our speech to tear others down, we are using it in an ungodly way.
But there are other ways the tongue can do evil. The tongue can be used to create and spread lies. This can range from something as big as a corporation defrauding investors or a politician making things up to get elected, to something as seemingly small as cheating on a test. God is a God of truth (Isaiah 65:16), and so all dishonesty is in a sense a rejection of who God is.
Connected to this is the promotion of unbiblical worldviews–from the multitude of false religions to false ideologies, like the rejection of absolute truth. Of course, people in these worldviews don’t necessarily know that what they’re affirming is not true, so it’s not the same as lying. But it is still one of the most dangerous ways the tongue can be used: to lead people away from Jesus and his word. To hinder people from finding their only hope of being right with God.
So if the tongue can be used for so much evil, should we just stop using the tongue altogether to make sure we don’t do any of these things? Of course not. Beyond the obvious impracticality, our ability to speak comes from God, and he made us that way for a purpose. The tongue can be used just as much for good as for evil.
The obvious examples would be the flipsides of all the things I mentioned above. Instead of using the tongue to speak cruelly about someone, use the tongue to speak kindly. If there’s something you admire or appreciate about a person, tell them that. If you see someone is having a tough day, encourage them. In fact, sometimes just taking the time to talk to someone can in and of itself be a major encouragement.
And instead of lying, we are to tell the truth. Except in extreme situations like protecting others from harm, we are to say all that is true and nothing that is false. This sounds easy until we come to a situation when lying could benefit us, and telling the truth could cost us.
Recently, a friend of mine, who worked for Chick-Fil-A at the time, was asked to throw away some bags of food. Being hungry due to a long shift, he decided to eat some of the untouched food he was supposed to throw away. Only afterwards did he realize that this was against Chick-Fil-A’s policies and, in their view, was theft. This may seem like a silly rule, but they take it very seriously, and he knew he could get fired for it. Or, he could simply not tell anyone about it, and have no risk of consequences.
Given that I’m telling this story in this section, you can probably guess that he did tell his boss what he did. And the management team seriously debated firing him. In the end, they did not, and told him that they decided not to because him telling them the truth showed that he was a person of integrity. But that outcome is not guaranteed. Sometimes, telling the truth carries a real cost. But no cost outweighs the blessing of being within God’s will.
But the greatest good that can be done with the tongue is using it to proclaim the gospel. The gospel is the greatest news anyone can receive, and the only hope of sinful mankind–that is, all of us. It is easy to say “preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” And it is certainly good to glorify God by our actions. But if that’s all we’re doing, we are not proclaiming the gospel. After all, non-Christians can be just as moral and loving as Christians. No amount of kind actions can communicate to people that Christ died for our sins and rose again three days later. The only way people will know who Jesus is and what he did is if we tell them. There is no better way to use the gift of the tongue that God has given us.