WHAT IS GRACEFULLY, REALLY
Well, here we are again! We’re still in the last chapter of James. Remember last week, the verses dealt with how much God doesn’t like people revolving their whole lives around money - people who do anything, even hurt other people, just to get rich - people who even have been responsible for people dying, just so THEY can make more money. The book of James is showing here what the opposite of GRACEFULLY really is. It’s about self-centeredness to the N’TH DEGREE! It’s all about me, me, me, me!
So, as we begin today, we start at James 5:12 and realize that James is telling us what GRACEFUL LIVING REALLY IS AND WHAT IT ISN’T! “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.”
To make this as simple as possible - He is just saying here that you just get so used to telling the truth in your life that you don’t even have to try to prove it, by swearing that you’re telling the truth. He wants us to just be living our lives from our hearts and, therefore, when we do, our hearts are pure and true. We don’t even feel like we have to convince people that we’re telling the truth. Living in the truth of the Word of God on a daily basis will have an effect on our lives to the point that we don’t even have a thought of trying to prove it, by swearing that we are. By the way, when it mentions ‘falling into judgment, it’s talking about ‘falling into condemnation of people you’re talking to - not God’s judgment. As born again children of God, there is no condemnation for sin - He’s already paid the price. The slate is wiped clean! But we have to really live gracefully, the way He wants us to - and, when we do, it has a huge impact on our lives - our prayers - our actions - and everything else - and our Heavenly Father loves to see us following His ways of doing things.
Now - let’s go to James 5:13 - “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” This is kinda’ referring back to the previous verses in this chapter, when he was talking about suffering and patience. He is actually reminding us that, even going through suffering, you can have a peace and joy that is beyond understanding. The way you do that is by having such a close and intimate relationship with the Lord, that praying (or talking) to Him fills you with a peace and joy that you can’t even explain.
I want to read Philipians 4:6-7 - I love these verses. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; AND THE PEACE OF GOD, WHICH SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, WILL GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS THROUGH CHRIST JESUS.”
Now - let me say this! When you are suffering with some kind of trial, some pain or sickness, some kind of huge family problem, or money problem, and on, and on, and on - in other words, ‘suffering in any way’ - talking to God intimately, is very important. BUT - that means that you are not to complain to Him, and ask Him why He’s letting this happen, or go into great details thinking that you have to get Him to understand. So many Christians think that’s what prayer is. He already knows the details of it all. BUT HE DOESN’T OPERATE IN OUR LIVES INDEPENDENTLY OF US. WE HAVE TO OPEN IT UP FOR HIM TO DEAL WITH IT. He gave mankind authority in this earth. That means that WE have to believe His promises and the truth of His Word, and trust Him.
That boils down to this. I am not to complain to the Lord, and ask Him, “Why, Why, Why?” I should not be begging Him to do something. I just must come before Him, and tell Him, “Lord, I know that You know about this situation (and I just give a brief description of what I’m referring to) - and then, I begin to thank Him for already having the answer to it. I quote Scripture verses which are promises of His to me. I HAVE TO REALLY BELIEVE THOSE PROMISES, WHICH MEANS THAT I AM TRULY OPERATING IN FAITH! I can’t just put on a good show. It has to be coming from my heart.
I like to remember Bible stories about Christians who suffered mightily but praised the Lord through it all. I love the story about Stephen, who was preaching the Gospel, and praising the Lord, and was stoned to death. I love the story about Paul and Silas who were in prison, with their feet chained (so they couldn’t even move around) suffering, and yet praising and worshiping the Lord - then, all of a sudden, an earthquake came and the prison doors were opened and they weren’t chained anymore. They didn’t run out, but ended up leading the jailer to the Lord, along with all of his family. THEY WERE SUFFERING BUT THEY WERE WORSHIPING THE LORD!!!! THAT’S LIVING GRACEFULLY!!!
Now - that verse also talks about singing Psalms. Almost every time I spend time with the Lord, I sing little songs to Him. Last Wednesday night, as Pastor Gary was talking about ‘spending time in the Throne Room with the Lord’, I was thinking about the fact that almost every time, I have quiet times with the Lord, I sing to Him. Sometimes, I even make up little songs about stuff I’ve been thinking about. Sometimes, I make a mistake in the way I sing something, and, as I giggle, I know that I know that I know that He is giggling with me. Prayer time with the Lord is just closeness and intimacy with the Creator of the Universe - who is my Heavenly Father.
Now let’s go to James 5:14-15 - “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 sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Now, this isn’t meaning that this is the only way to receive healing. Many of us have received healing, as we, ourselves, have prayed over our own bodies. But, there are times when sickness, or accidents, come at us, and the pain or the sickness is so bad that we need help.
Now - this is one of the reasons that it is so important to be a part of a church family. It’s important to be a member of a local church and actually know your pastor and the others who are considered ‘elders’ of your church. They know you and you know them. It’s really God’s plan for us to really know one another - the people we see in church on Sundays. A lot of people are embarrassed to ask for prayer from the pastor, or the elders. It’s right here in the Word of God! AND - you know what else? It’s okay to get close to people at church (others who are not elders) and pray for one another when it’s needed.
It talks about the prayer of faith saving the sick - so it’s extremely important to be in a church where people actually believe in healing and understand what REAL FAITH IS. THANK THE LORD FOR GRACE TABERNACLE!!!!!!!! We’re talking about LIVING GRACEFULLY AND ‘GRACE’ IS THE NAME OF OUR CHURCH!
Now - James 5:16 - “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.” Now a lot of people struggle with a verse like this. I’m going to make this as simple to understand as possible. Sometimes, although we believe in healing, and have been spending time with the Lord concerning a healing issue in our body, there seems to be something hindering it. Often times, (not always - but just sometimes) there is an area of our life which is hindering us receiving our healing. There are very delicate areas in the lives of each and every one of us and, if we will really just be honest with ourselves and with the Lord, we haven’t been handling something, or saying something, or dealing with something - God’s way. Often, we have been kinda’ hiding something - or just plainly, not being honest about something. As long as we keep the trespass hidden, we are actually lying - and it’s become a big hedge in the way of answered prayer. Every single Christian who has ever lived, since the moment they were born again, has had to deal with living a life in absolute honesty. That opens up the way - knocking the hindrance out of the way - and brings faith into the situation.
James 5:17-18 - “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. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”
My - My - My! Three and one-half years with no rain! Now, I’ve done a little searching back in 1 Kings and there was a lot of stuff going on with many, many, many of the Jews turning away from God, worshiping other gods, going completely away from the ONE TRUE GOD WHO HAD BROUGHT THEM UP OUT OF EGYPT AND HAD BROUGHT THEM TO THE PROMISED LAND - THE GOD WHO HAD FED THEIR PREVIOUS RELATIVES ‘MANNA’ FROM HEAVEN FOR 40 YEARS! I believe that the Lord led Elijah to prophesy and pray for no rain for 3 1/2 years in order to bring Israel back to God.
Then after the drought for all that time, all those people of Israel began to realize that they had to turn back to their GOD, who had provided ‘heaven-sent food’ (manna) for them for 40 years. So after the drought, the Lord led Elijah to pray again for rain.
Elijah was led by the Lord to pray both those prayers for the benefit of His people. But it sure does show us how God uses the prayers of His people to bring His will into the earth. Did you notice - that God didn’t just whoosh down and do these two miraculous things - He used a man! Remember God gave authority to mankind. That ought to motivate us to be God’s ‘Helper’ or His ‘Go-To-Person’ here on this earth. REAL BELIEVED - FAITH FILLED - PRAYER BRINGS GOD’S WILL AND HIS BLESSINGS INTO THIS EARTH. BUT IT DOESN’T HAPPEN UNLESS WE DEVELOP AN INTIMACY WITH THE LORD - AND WE TALK TO HIM AND HE TALKS TO US.
I believe that our brother, James, was led of the Lord to bring up these prayers of Elijah’s to let us know that He wants to use all of us to bring godliness, belief in God, faith-filled praying and many other things into the world around us in which we live.
Now - let’s go to the two last verses in the book of James. James 5:19-20. “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 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.” Now - first of all, let’s be clear about something. He is talking to Christian brothers and sisters (ANYONE AMONG YOU WHO WANDERS FROM THE TRUTH)! He’s talking about caring deeply about each other in the Body of Christ.
In other words, He wants us to be close to one another and keep in touch with one another - and, when you are aware that a brother or sister seems to be getting farther and farther away from the truth, you shouldn’t just give up on them and forget about them. First of all, we should be praying for them.
THEN, as we pray for them, we should be making ourselves available to the Lord for Him to use us in bringing that person back into closeness with the Lord. I have found, in my life, that, as I pray for individuals, often the Lord will lead me to pray specifically in certain ways for them. I have to say that praying in the spirit has been a huge positive way for me to pray for people - especially those who are going through things that you don’t even know about. Sometimes, things have gone on in their lives and they haven’t shared it with anyone. As I have prayed for individuals, the Lord has placed in my heart a specific way to pray for that person. Then, later on, I hear about a change that has taken place.
Now, He wants us to be close to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. In fact, He wants us to view one another as REALLY BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE FAMILY OF GOD. Now, I know that’s hard for some people because they are used to just viewing people as just people that go to the same church as we do - or we know they go regularly to another church. He wants us to have a family relationship with our Christian brethren.
Now - I am going to read from Andrew Wommack’s New Living Commentary about these two verses. It really helps to understand it. First from verse 19 - “The word ‘brethren’ denotes this is speaking to believers. If a believer errs (literally to roam) from the truth, his brothers in the Lord should seek to convert him or bring him back.” Now from verse 20 - “This is talking about a believer being brought back to his relationship with the Lord. The one who converts him saves his soul, not spirit, from death.”
Now - this is saying - down to the nitty gritty - that a person who is truly a believer (in other words, has been born again) but starts a downward plunge in his life (or ‘wanders from the truth’) is walking a walk that can lead to an early death. If a person is truly born again, he is going to heaven when he dies - not to hell. That means that his spirit is alive to God but his soul (where his mind, will and emotions are) is just making choices which are having an effect on his life here on earth being short lived.
Therefore, the brother or sister who prays for, and helps this Christian, who is on a downward spiral, turn back to the Lord and surrender to Him, has done a very, very good thing.
Now - let’s look at this from the standpoint of LIVING GRACEFULLY. Remember - Grace is undeserved favor! It is the way the Lord has dealt with us. We didn’t deserve His favor. To put it just as bluntly as possible, so it is understandable - He wants us to live our lives while we’re here on this earth, with the same kind of grace toward ALL OTHERS as He has given to us.
Now - think about it! Isn’t it wonderful that God isn’t constantly bringing up to us everything we’ve ever done wrong in life and telling us to still be ashamed, and to see ourselves as terrible, terrible people who don’t deserve anything good ever in life!!!!!! He doesn’t treat us like that. Therefore, He wants us to help others see themselves as precious children of the Most Holy God of the Universe.
But, you know what? We can’t help people see themselves that way if we can’t see ourselves that way. If He’s going to be able to use us to help others see themselves that way, then we have to see ourselves that way. Like I often say, I believe that THE LOVE OF GOD IS THE MOST POWERFUL FORCE IN THE UNIVERSE. THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN OVERPOWER THE LOVE OF GOD.
Often, when I’m by myself, in my bedroom with the door closed, in my comfy chair, I sit there with my eyes closed, and picture Jesus hanging on that cross - blood flowing out of His body, nails pounded into His wrists, and His ankles - being stabbed - and thorns pushed down into His head - and then, Him praying, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” You talk about LOVE!
All I can do is thank Him and praise Him, and sing songs to Him, and tell Him I love Him. He could go through all that for you and me. How can I not surrender to Him and do everything the way He wants me to - as much as I am able.
So - instead of getting mad at the brother or sister who is getting further and further away from the Lord - I must pray for that person and offer myself to the Lord to try to help him or her - and do whatever He tells me to do.
Christians on this earth are to be a picture to the rest of the world of what a JESUS FOLLOWER is like. But, brothers and sisters, it’s got to be coming from our hearts. It can’t be us just trying in our own strength to look good - it has to be from our hearts and in His power that has been placed in our new born again spirit.
Now - as we get older and older, we often have situations to deal with that tempt us constantly to be self-centered, thinking about how everything affects us, and on and on. The only way we can overcome that is to be so tuned in to the Lord that He helps us see people and situations the way He does and He also helps us treat people the way He wants us to.
GRACEFUL LIVING IN OUR OLDER YEARS IS A DELIGHT TO THE LORD!!!
Now - I believe the Lord wants me to make some suggestions which will help us live more gracefully. First of all - be sure that you take a period of time out of each day to spend time alone with the Lord. It’s not just about praying to ask Him for things. It’s about developing an intimacy with Him - worshiping Him - learning to be so close to Him that you are aware of when HE is revealing something to you. So many Christians have just made daily prayer to be a 15 minutes every day to tell God what you want and need. HE yearns to have a closeness with every single one of us.
Second - make sure that you surrender to the Lord in such a way that you let HIM know that you want to see people the way HE sees people. It’s only then, that prayer for others is really prayer of faith and not based on how a change in them is going to affect you.
Third - Try to make it a daily habit of spending some time reading in the Word of God. God doesn’t want us to have an attitude of, “Well, I’ve read two chapters today! I’ve done good! Aren’t you proud of me, Lord?” NO - It’s about just paying close attention to the WORD that has been given to us so that we can know and understand WHO GOD REALLY IS AND WHAT HE IS REALLY LIKE - WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR US - HOW POWERFUL HE IS AND HOW MUCH HE LOVES US - AND ON AND ON!!!!
As I’ve said many times, in the last few weeks, the book of James gives us a ‘down to the nitty gritty’ picture of what GRACE IS AND WHAT IT’S NOT. That’s why some call it, “God’s Book on Grace.”
We can’t just read what God has shown us throughout the Bible about ‘GRACE’ and then just think, inside of ourselves, “Well, it sounds good but I just don’t think I can go through my life being all nice and proper all the time - at least, I’m still going to heaven - and that’s what it’s all about.”
The way to look at it is this! “While I am still here on this earth, for however long it is, I want to have a life that is showing people what a ‘Jesus Follower’ looks like. I want to see prayers answered. I want to see miracles happen. I want to be usable to God. I want to be His ‘go-to person’. When I am gone to heaven, I want my family to have good memories about me. I want my life to have purpose. I don’t want to be a lonely, self-centered, grumpy, grouchy, hard-to-deal-with person!
THAT’S LIVING GRACEFULLY!
Scriptures for this lesson