Excellent Guidance for Everyday Life (Part 2)
Christianity Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Part 13: Excellent Guidance for Everyday Life (Part 2)
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - May 13, 2012
*As we got to the end of James last week, we saw that he closed his letter with excellent guidance for everyday life.
-In vs. 13, seek God’s help for your suffering, and sing God’s praise. Or as James said: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.”
-James also told us to share our faults with one another. In the first part of vs. 16, he simply said, “Confess your trespasses to one another.”
-James also urged us to steer people to God’s truth, and we found this guidance down in vs. 19-20:
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.
*There was one more piece of guidance we didn’t have time to cover last week. It concerned praying for other people. As James got to the end of this practical, powerful letter, he stressed prayer more than anything else.
*Let’s take a close look at prayer tonight in vs. 13-18, because in these verses God gives us 4 great reasons to pray.
*On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you believe in prayer? I’m sure most of us would say 8, 9 or even 10. But what if the answer to that question was based on how much you actually prayed last week?
*We all need to grow in our prayer life. But can my prayer make a difference? -- Does it matter? -- Without a doubt, the answer is yes!
1. So pray first of all, because it’s the proper thing to do.
*Over and over in His Word, God tells us to pray. Here the Lord tells us to pray 3 times in 4 short verses:
-In vs. 13: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.”
-In vs. 14: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him.”
-And in vs. 16: “Pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
*Many times God tells us to pray, and He teaches us to pray.
 Jesus taught us to pray by His example.
*Mark 1:35 lets us look into the Lord’s prayer life and says: “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”
*Just before Jesus chose His 12 Apostles, Luke 6:12 says: “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer to God.”
 So the Lord taught us to pray by His example, but also by His explanation.
*Luke 11 is a great place to hear some of the Lord’s explanation of prayer.
-So let me ask you to keep your place, and please turn to Luke 11.
*Listen to Luke 11:1&2:
1. And it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.''
2. So He said to them, "When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven. . .”
*God wants us to pray to Him as our Heavenly Father, and you can if you receive His Son Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.
*Vs. 2: . . . “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God wants us to pray with praise and an obedient heart.
*Vs. 3: “Give us day by day our daily bread.” God doesn’t just care about our spiritual needs. He cares about our physical needs too, and He wants us to pray about it.
*Vs. 4: “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” God wants you to pray with a heart like His: A forgiving heart, always seeking to do the right thing.
*Next Jesus teaches us to keep praying, and He does this in Luke 11:5-8.
5. And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves;
6. for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him;”
7. and he will answer from within and say, “Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you”?
8. I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.
*God tells us to pray, and He teaches us to pray. So pray because it’s the proper thing to do.
2. But also pray because the answer has been promised.
*One of the greatest promises for answered prayer is right here in Luke 11. Listen to the Lord Jesus in vs. 9-13:
9. "And I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
10. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
11. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?
12. Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13. If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!''
*God made an amazing prayer promise there in vs. 13. If you will pray, He will give you the best thing He can possibly give you: He will give you Himself.
*And you know that if God will give you the best thing, He will give you everything else you could possibly need. -- Through prayer.
*God gives us many other promises of answered prayer. And we see some of these promises back in James 5. Please listen again to James 5:14&15, where James said:
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.
*Some people see the oil in vs. 14 as a kind of medicine that was often used in that day. This is the way oil was used in the story of the Good Samaritan.
*Listen to the Lord Jesus in Luke 10:33-34.
33. “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34. and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”
*These verses remind us that God approves of hospitals and medicine. But oil is also one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit, so its use in James 5:14 can also be symbolic of the presence and power of God.
*And here in vs. 15, God makes 3 strong promises of answered prayer: “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.”
*James says, “The prayer of faith will save the sick,” but here is an important point:
-Our faith is not in the oil.
-Our faith is not in our prayers.
-Our faith is not in our faith.
*Our faith is in the name of the Lord. Our faith is in God, Who always answers our prayers in the right way, at the right time. As Jesus said in Mark 11:22, “Have faith in God.”
*Here in James 5:15, God promises to heal in answer to prayer, and many times He does. Actually all healing comes from God one way or another. But of course, it is not always God’s will to heal, because this world is not our home.
*Many of you will remember Roger Bennett. For almost 20 years, Roger served as the pianist for “The Cathedrals.” Then Roger was pianist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of “Legacy Five.” Roger went home to be with the Lord in March, 2007, after a long battle with cancer. I think he went through at least two bone marrow transplants.
*About 6 months before Roger died I saw the end of an interview he gave on a Christian TV show. I don’t know when it was made. Roger looked pretty ill, but he made a powerful statement on healing.
*He said that a word-of-faith lady had come up to him, I think, after a concert. And she was upset that Roger hadn’t claimed his healing. Roger said that she didn’t know it, but at the time, his bone marrow was 40% cancerous.
*And I wish I could quote it word for word, but Roger said that it was very humbling for him to realize, but 10 out of 10 people die. He also told her that all healing is only temporary. And that if you signed-up for Christianity for the health plan, you’ve got the wrong idea.
*Roger then told about one of the passages of Scripture that meant the most to him during his ordeal. It was sent to him by a lady who was a breast cancer patient. Roger said that he had never noticed it before. It is 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, where Paul said:
16. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
17. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (1)
*God may not answer our prayers exactly the way we ask them. But we need to hang on to those prayer promises. And keep on praying, because God will answer our prayers at just the right time in just the right way.
*Pray because the answer has been promised.
3. But also pray because the results have been proved.
*In vs. 17&18, James tells us that the power of prayer was proved by Elijah.
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.
*Now we could think, “Oh well, that was Elijah. He was one of the greatest men in the Bible.” And surely he was.
*One sign of Elijah’s greatness is the prayer we see in vs. 17 that it would not rain.
-It’s easy to pray for good weather.
-It’s easy to pray for rain when we need it.
-But who would want to pray for a drought?
*There is no doubt that the Lord led Elijah to pray this prayer because of Israel’s rebellion against God. But how hard would it be to pray a prayer you knew would cause so much hardship, heartache, destruction and death?
*Elijah was a great man.
-But this example wasn’t given because Elijah was better than us.
-It was given because Elijah was a man like us.
*The only perfect person who ever lived was Jesus! Everyone else in the Bible had faults and failures just like us. But over and over they proved that God answers prayer:
-Moses proved the power of prayer in Exodus 32, when the whole nation of Israel was spared through his prayer.
-In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah proved that God sometimes gives children in answer to prayer, and Samuel was born.
-In Psalm 32, David proved that God will forgive our sins in answer to prayer.
-Solomon proved that God will give wisdom in answer to prayer.
-Jonah was saved from the belly of a fish through prayer.
*Many times in the Old Testament and New, God’s people proved the power of prayer. And the testimony of millions of believers can be added to their names.
*Author Tony Campolo gave a great example. It happened when he was invited to preach at a college in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Tony drove to the college and before he spoke at chapel, eight men took him to a back room and began to pray for him.
*But while these men were praying, one of them, off the cuff began praying, “And Lord, about Charlie Stoltzfus. Lord, Charlie Stoltzfus needs you really badly. God, you know Charlie. He lives in that silver trailer about a mile down the road. You know the trailer. Just down the road on the right hand side.”
*The man just went on and on about his friend. “Lord, Charlie told me this morning he is going to leave wife and kids. He is going to walk out on family. Lord, step in, do something, bring that family together again.”
*After a while, Tony thought, “Knock it off fella” -- And finally he did.
*Tony preached at chapel and then headed for home. He was about to get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike when he picked up a young man hitchhiking on the side of the road. As he pulled onto the road, Tony introduced himself, “I'm Tony Campolo. What's your name?”
*The hitchhiker answered, “My name's Charlie Stoltzfus.”
*Tony didn't say a word. He got off at the next exit, turned around and headed back. Charlie said, “Hey, mister! Where are you taking me?”
-Tony said, “I'm taking you home!”
-“Because you just left your wife and three children. -- Right?”
*Charlie leaned against the passenger door the rest of the way, staring at Tony. When he pulled off on a side road and headed straight to the silver house trailer, Charlie looked at Tony in amazement and said, “How did you know I lived here?”
-Tony answered, “God told me!” (And in a way He did.)
*Charlie ran into the mobile home ahead of Tony. His wife’s eyes were as big as saucers. Tony sat them both down and within an hour, both of them had trusted in the Lord, and their marriage was saved too. (2)
*That’s just one example of the power of prayer, and there are millions more.
-Pray because the results have been proved.
4. But also pray because the way has been provided.
*God tells us the way to pray in vs. 16, where James said: “Confess your trespasses [or faults, the KJV says] to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
*In this verse, God makes 2 crucial points about the way to pray.
 First, He wants us to pray with intense energy.
*The words “effective, fervent” come from one Greek word, and that word is where we get our word “energy”. So, James is telling us here to have energized prayer!
*In vs. 17-18, Elijah was praying this kind of energized prayer. We see more about Elijah’s prayer for rain back in 1 Kings 18:42-45.
42. So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees,
43. and said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea.'' So he went up and looked, and said, "There is nothing.'' And seven times he said, "Go again.''
44. Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, "There is a cloud, as small as a man's hand, rising out of the sea!'' So he said, "Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’”
45. Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. . .
*Vs. 42 tells us that Elijah “bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees.”
*Jack Hayford said that this was the same position that the women of that day used when giving birth. And it was a sign of Elijah’s great passion in his prayer. (3)
*I had the privilege of being present at the birth of my three children. Mary decided to have natural childbirth for the first two. Now it was exciting for me, but she was a whole lot more than excited! She was energized!
*And James says that’s kind of prayer we should pray. God wants us to pray with intense energy.
 But we also have to pray with God’s righteousness.
*Verse 16 points us to this truth when it says, “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.”
*This verse could cause us to lose hope in our prayers, because as we honestly examine our lives, we can see faults and failures. But James is not trying to say that only perfect people’s prayers get answered. If that were case, he wouldn’t have asked us to confess our faults in the very same verse.
*The only real righteousness we ever have is the righteousness we receive from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That’s why Jeremiah 23:5&6 says:
5. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
6. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
*All of us have sinned, but Jesus Christ died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. Then He rose from the dead to give us His righteousness, if we are willing to receive it. The only way we can ever get the righteousness James is talking about here is to acknowledge our sin, turn to Jesus Christ, and trust in His sacrifice on the cross for us.
*Calling on the Lord to save us: This is the starting point. Then you can begin to see more great things happen through prayer, things like Howard Hendricks saw.
Dr. Hendricks was a well-known preacher and teacher in Dallas Texas. He had been concerned about his dad’s salvation ever since he was saved as a little boy. Howard’s dad was a soldier, and Howard had prayed for him many times over the years, especially when his dad saw combat.
*Here’s how God answered Howard’s prayers: It started when someone gave one of Dr. Hendricks’ preaching tapes to another preacher named Butch Hardman. It was a sermon where Dr. Hendricks talked about his dad’s spiritual need. Butch also began to pray for Howard’s dad.
*Months later Butch went to a pastors’ conference in Philadelphia where Dr. Hendricks spoke. Then, back home in Arlington, Virginia, Butch was driving the church bus down the street. That’s when he saw a man standing on the corner. He looked a lot like Howard Hendricks. Could it possibly be?
*Butch backed the bus up, stopped, got off, went over to the man and asked, “Are you by any chance Howard Hendricks’ father?” -- And you know what? It was! A cup of coffee was the start of a friendship appointed by God. Butch patiently endured the old soldier’s cigars, and his endless collection of war stories.
*Before long he learned that Howard’s dad had terminal throat cancer. Months later Butch was at his hospital bedside and said, “Mr. Hendricks, I’ll be leaving shortly for a Holy Land trip. Instead of my listening to you tonight, would you let me tell you a story?”
*Butch then told him about Jesus and Nicodemus from John 3. He invited Mr. Hendricks to receive Jesus as his own personal Savior, and he did! Then he got up out of bed, stood, saluted with a smile and said, “Now I’m under a new Commander-in-Chief!”
*And how long had Dr. Hendricks been praying for his dad? 42 years. (4)
*Calling on the Lord to save us: This is the starting point.
-Then we can see more great things happen through prayer.
-And don’t give up! -- Your prayers can make a difference!
*We can get started right now. Would you please bow for prayer.
1. TV interview with Roger Bennett seen on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006
2. "Let Me Tell You A Story", Campolo, W Publishing Group, 2000 - Also in “You Can Make a Difference” (Source: “Called For A Purpose” by David Layman - Sept. 12, 2004 - I Tim 1:12-17)
3. Original source unknown
4. Howard & Jeanne Hendricks. FootPrints. (Multnomah Press, 1981) pp. 16-19 - www.bible.org/illus/p-q/p-q-83.htm - “No Prayer Is Ever Wasted” - (Source: SermonCentral sermon “Ask, Seek and Knock” by John Hamby - Matt 7:7-11)