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Steve Mickel: Love, James 5:7-20

August 29, 2022

Audio Recording

Patience, prayer and sacrificial love will mark the lives of true followers of Jesus. 

Steve Mickel: Love, James 5:7-20

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 My name's Steve. I'm one of the senior pastors here and, and glad to see everyone that's watching online as well. digitally. It's good to have you with us. Also, we're finishing up a series that we've been on in the book of James. So James, the half brother of Jesus, wrote a letter to the churches that were the believers that were scattered across, the Roman empire. And we've been working our way, over these last five weeks through this letter. And this letter is, hard hitting, I don't know, for those of you that have been here for most of the series you had you you've, since that, like there's a lot of lists in James of what you should do and what you should not do. And, and did you guys know that Martin Luther, did not think James should be included in the can of scripture, that it shouldn't be in our Bibles, Martin Luther, the reformer, and the reason that he felt so strongly about that is because he knew that people would use the letter of James to bring condemnation and shame into people's lives because of all the dos and don'ts all the, this is, this is how you should live.

01:10 This is how you should live. That kind of thing, and people. And he knew that the church now, of course we haven't done that in the last few hundred years, but maybe just a little. And so, as we read, as we kind of finish up this series, I wanna remind us that the reason why we do, what James is asking us to do in James is not so that we might earn God's favor, cuz that's what Luther was afraid would happen. That we not, we wouldn't read the pages of scripture and go, oh, well, if God, if I want God to love me, I need to do certain things. He loves you full stop. There's there's nothing that you have to do to earn. God's love for you at all. If you've ever heard that from any other preacher or church or anything, they're lying, it's not true.

02:02 God loves you. Just like you. Like he created you. He loves you. You guys aren't getting it. I mean, I'm looking at it and they're like, I don't know, is that really true, Steve? Because I've been in church a long time and that's not what I feel. That's the problem. God loves you. And if, and, and, and we can read through James and we can start to think, Mmm man, but I better, I better live, right? otherwise, Nope. God loves you. The reason why we love others is why, because God loved us first because he loved. We love because he gave, we give because he sacrificed. We sacrificed because he laid his life down. We lay our lives down because he lived a pure sinless life. We try to live a pure sinless life. It's a response. Everything that we do as Christians to follow Christ is a response to what he's already done for us.

03:07 His last commandment to his followers. Love one another, just as I have loved you, no greater love than this can be shown. That's that's the call for us. So as we finish up James, I want you to be reminded that that it's all, it all flows out of the love God has for us and our desire to live according to his word, because he loves us so much. And I wanna, I wanna try to live up to that standard. I wanna try to live into the grace that God has given us. I want to do that because he loves me so much. And so as we close out this series, we're gonna be looking at James chapter five. If you have a Bible, go ahead and open it up to James chapter five, verse seven. We're gonna be looking at the last 14 verses of his letter to the church.

03:53 And in it, he, he says this phrase so many times, brothers and sisters, and occasionally he puts dear in front of a dear brothers and sisters. And I want you to think of this, this letter that James writes. I want you to think of it in the context of community, that what he's saying about these, these principles is all, it all works better in relationships with one another. And he does this throughout this, last few, this last section, dear brothers and sisters. I want you to do three things. He's gonna tell us to do three things. And li I can imagine James sitting at a, you know, I don't know, did they have tables back then? They had tables, right? It's not that far long ago. I dunno. Anyway, sitting at you. I can just envision him just thinking, okay, how do I want to end this letter to the churches?

04:40 And he's, and there's, I, I, I can feel this overwhelming love that he has for the church. And he's thinking that there's three more things. I just wanna make sure that they get and that they live into this. even after I'm gone, I think is what James is thinking. And three things that he's gonna encourage us to do. Persevere, pray and restore, persevere, pray and restore. Look at verse seven, dear brothers and sisters be patient as you wait for the Lord's return. And if his words don't have more, even more application today, it had been a few decades, since Jesus rose from the dead, when he's writing this and he's telling them be patient for the Lord's return, and I'm thinking, James, you had no idea what you were writing, man. It's been 2000 plus years and he's, and, but I think he, I think he saw something that he knew that believers would need to have patience as they wait for the Lord's return.

05:41 Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall. And in the spring, they eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen you. Two must be patient take courage for the coming of the Lord is near don't grumble about each other. the longer you're with someone. The more likely it is. You're gonna grumble about that someone. And so he says, don't grumble about each other brothers and sisters, or you will be judged for look, the judge is standing at the door. there? It is. Again. James is hard, man. James is hard for examples. A patient for example, is a patients and suffering. Dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

06:33 I'm glad he said that you can see how the Lord was kind to job at the end. So if you've ever read job, it doesn't feel like God is very kind. God allowed Satan to take away everything that job had. His family, his possessions, everything, but in the end, God was faithful. That's what James is reminding us for. The Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. But most of all, my brothers and sisters never taken oath by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no so that you will not sin and be condemned. So let's look at this for a moment. This idea of perseverance. did any of you ever take long road trips with your family as a kid who talk about the need for perseverance? I have an older brother, older sister and a younger brother, and we, every summer we would take a trip somewhere, in a little tiny, one of those station wagon things, you know, with the, wood paneling, we had that.

07:30 And, I was, I'm a kid of the seventies. And so, we would take these long road trips and I mean, my siblings, we just got along so great. We never argued. We never fought. It was just perfect bliss actually. Yeah, we didn't have DVDs. We didn't have phones. We didn't have anything to distract us. Mom is trying to get us to stop fighting in the back seat long enough so that her and dad could have some peace and quiet, never happened. This is how we grew up. And I remember this one road trip. we went to the coast, so it wasn't very long road trip, but doesn't matter one hour is too long of a road trip and so we went to the coast and I remember it was a rough one. I mean, we were fighting, it was, it was hard.

08:12 And I remember I was at breakfast at this restaurant, all of us. And I look across, the room and there's this other table, there's this family. They look so happy. they look so happy. I started imagining what it might be like to be part of that family I was thinking that would be so wonderful. Now they did have a cute 12 year old girl daughter about my age. So that might have had, that might have played into it just a little bit, but by the end of a trip, I was like, I'm done with this family. Give me another one. And that's what happens sometimes when we wait so long in relationship with one another and in our culture, we don't know how to persevere in relationships. We tap out way too quickly, in my opinion, with churches and, and, and in, in all sorts of relationships with jobs, I mean, we just kind of, we just have a short attention span when it comes to relationships and, and James is saying, listen, you gotta persevere. Cuz sometimes you're not going to see the fruit of your perseverance until the end

09:19 And that's okay. Persevere. And then he talks about suffering and he uses the example of job and he's like, he's just he's listen. You're not gonna, I mean, if you, if you tap out too quickly on relationships with one another and with God, you're, you're going to not see the goodness of the Lord, the way that you might, if you persevere, he just keeps holds steady. Don't don't run. Just stick with it. Imagine a farmer, right? He uses example of a farmer who, who is faithfully planted, watered their crop. And they have no control after that. Do they? They have no control of what happens with the weather or acts of God as it's called, right. They, the feeling of helplessness and we can feel that way. And so what happens so often is we do what James tells us not to do is we make oaths. Did you ever wonder if you read this? Like, that feels like a little, like a little tangent, like, oh, what does oaths have to do with being patient and endurance and what he's saying? So, I mean, for example, let me just, let me just, I promise, I promise you that I'm going to be here on time tomorrow morning for work at 9:00 AM.

10:30 I promise, can I guarantee that I'm gonna be here at 9:00 AM tomorrow for work? I'll do everything I possibly can to make that happen, but I cannot guarantee it that's a silly example, but we make, we make promises guarantees because we want to have some sense of control. And, and James is saying, listen, that when you do that, you're actually acknowledging that you don't, you're not dependent on God who gives the reign to the, just and the unjust. And so he's saying persevere, let God be in charge. And he is so counterintuitive to this way of thinking in our world. But I've learned this as I've gotten older and boy, am I getting older? God doesn't always come through for us when we want him to. But eventually he comes through.

11:30 I have to believe this. Otherwise suffering doesn't make sense. And perseverance is impossible. I believe I've chosen to believe that God is faithful and that he will make all things right. He will make all things new that he is working even right now to restore the things that are broken in my life. He is doing that. And I'm believing that he is faithful. That even if it's at the end, I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living. I believe that. And I'm gonna persevere to the end to see it. the second thing that James talks to us about is prayer. Look at, verse 13. Are any of you suffering hardships?

12:15 Anybody? Yeah, you should pray. Are any of you happy today? Anybody, few of you, I can see you should sing. Praises are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over. You anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Why does he, why does he move from perseverance to prayer? Because what happens? And I've experienced this in my own life. When you suffer long enough, you begin to disbelieve in the power of prayer. You begin to believe that God is not listening. If you suffer long enough and hard enough, you begin to doubt the very presence of God in hearing your prayers and answering them. You begin to doubt that God is with you. And so he's saying, listen, as you persevere, don't stop praying. Don't stop because you'll be tempted to stop praying.

13:13 You'll be tempted to start believing that God is done. That he's, that he's out of office that he's not listening. And James is like, don't stop praying, such a prayer per a persevering prayer offered in faith will heal the sick and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person is great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are. And yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years. I think he should have been more specific about the timing Elijah. Then when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. The power of prayer, especially among the people who have suffered deeply, cannot be underestimated.

14:11 Suzanne and I and our, and two of our sons, we were in London for part of my sabbatical that I just returned, from, from about two weeks ago. And we were in London. I'd never been to west minister Abby. So, I found out that you could visit west minister Abby at seven 30 in the morning for free . Okay. I might be a little cheap, but I didn't wanna stand in lines in the afternoon and pay the entrance fee. And I found out, Hey, you could go at seven 30 and pray and you could see the, the Abby without paying anything. So we did that Suzanne and I did that. my two boys dint for some reason. but we did. And, we, we walk in and, there were about seven of us, that showed up for prayer that morning. And, and it was beautiful. It was one of the most meaningful prayer services I've ever been a part of and it, and it's Anglican. So it was very liturgical. They handed us a, a guide that tells us when to stand, when to sit what to say, what not to say, and when, what the priest says, what we say. And it was just, and it was very choreographed. And I think in our thinking, we think that that means less.

15:19 But then when I started to pray the prayers that were on the page and I heard the priest praying and reading scripture and, and it was all of a sudden it, the holy spirit came into this place and begin to minister to us. And through us, the power of prayer, corporate prayer together with other believers, it makes a difference in me and around me. It makes a, it will, it will make a difference in you and around you prayer, the power of prayer. And I've been challenged lately to not pray my prayers. Do you know what I mean by that? I've got a lot of needs. I've got a lot of things I want. I've got a lot of, things that I'm other people I'm praying for. I've got a lot of my prayers, but I've been challenged to pray God prayers that might sound like over spiritual.

16:12 What does that mean? It simply means I want to discover what God is already doing and pray according to his will. I wanna pray a what God, what, what are you saying to your church? God, what are you saying to our country? God, what are you saying to our world? Because there's a lot of noise out there. There's a lot of opinions about, how we should be thinking about things. And I, I want to discover what God thinks and pray according to God's will. And James says that those types of prayers are effective. Why are they effective?

16:49 Because they're, God's, he's already doing that. He wants us to pray according to his will. And then you can, you can almost be like guarantee that those things, those prayers are gonna happen, cuz you're praying according to God's wills. And then James moves from prayer to confession and he says the prayer of a righteous person when I've read that, I've always thought, oh, I wonder who that is. it's not me. I thought, man, I so does that mean? So if I want my prayers to be affected, I I've thought this to you guys. So I go to pray for someone that's sick because of this passage, I'll get my act cleaned up. You know what I'm saying? I'll do a lot of confessing prior to the praying for that person, because I'm afraid that my sin and this uncon confessing in my life, won't, won't, won't have the impact of praying over that sick person. And and that's that whole thing is sick. It, it's not, that's not how it's supposed to be, but there is something, I think what James is saying here is that there's something powerful that of that's connected between confession and healing, confession and answered prayer. There is a connection there and I don't wanna get weird about it and I don't want to get religious about it. But I, there is, there is something about us confessing our sins, one to another and the results of our praying.

18:22 And so confession. When was the last time you confessed? I told the team, earlier this week, I think, I think we should put a confessional in the church. Any Catholics? Any, any Catholics in the house? Yeah. Yeah. I love Catholics. my nephew actually converted from Protestantism to Catholicism. It's usually the other way around. but, but he went the other way and one of the reasons was this idea of confession, someone always available to hear your confession in confidence.

19:00 And and I appreciate that. James said confess your sends to each other, not to a priest. So I have a little bit of a disagreement about that. It has to be a priest. And the reason why is because it's way harder, it's let me just say this it's way easier to confess your sins to God or a priest. Why is that? Why is it so much easier? Cuz God already knows your stuff. So you're not, you're not breaking the news to him. And we all kind of, we all kind of think our priest does too. He or she knows more than they're letting on yeah. God tells us your deep dark secrets. No, of course not. But I think there's something in us that thinks, oh, the priest knows. I mean, I know this to be true because when I, as soon as I save to people, I'm a pastor, man. They clean up their language. They start acting better. I mean, it's like, that's weird. I start acting worse when I tell people just to put 'em at ease, but it's way harder to confess your sins to someone else that may not know.

20:16 And it's risky. I get that. And you know, I'm not gonna have us turn to one another today and confess your sins to one another. James says that, but that I don't think that's what he's, he, he doesn't wanna create an unsafe church, but we've also lost the art of confession in our gatherings. And so what might that look like for you and for me,

20:41 Has any of you ever wronged any, as someone else said something you shouldn't say did something you shouldn't do and you felt kind of bad about it. And you're like, I sh maybe I should say something. Yes. That's called confession, going to someone and like, listen I'm so I blew it. I said this, I didn't mean to say this. This happens. This happens more regularly than I wanted to between me and our staff here. And the what reason I say that is because I, if I, if I catch myself saying something that I shouldn't say, I, I have to it's, it's a non-optional in my life. I have to go to that person. I cannot not go to that person. It's just a rule that I have that I, I don't wanna live with UN anything unconfessed. You know what typically the response is, I didn't even notice that you did something wrong. I'm like, well, thank you. But I need to do this. Cuz I felt a check in my spirit that I wronged you and I want to make it right.

21:43 What is it about our culture that we don't like owning up to stuff? What is it? Why, why are we blame? Why do we blame everyone else? James is like, listen, there's a judge waiting at the door, man. He knows your stuff, confess it own up to it. Maybe you're part of a group of friends that, you have a good relationship and, and you know how it is, right. If someone does something and is kinda like, Ooh, Ooh, with their friend group and like, oh, they shouldn't have done that. if you have a, if you have a good friend group, somebody will call you on it and then hopefully your response is yeah. Yeah. I, my bad I'm so sorry, please forgive me. please forgive me. Do you guys know that word? Forgive. It's actually in the English language. It's amazing. We don't use it very often.

22:33 Please forgive me. I blew it parents. Oh parents, this is a tough one. So we have every opportu. We have opportunities from the time my, our children are two, to forgive because they blow it every single day they do something they shouldn't do. Don't touch, don't touch, don't touch. And you, and, and there's this idea of forgiveness and what happens parents when you blow it the first time and I made this a practice. The first time I apologize to my kids for something I said to them, you should, you should looked at their faces. Like, what's the trick here? What what's going on? This bothers me. I mean, that's the feeling they have, like this isn't normal. It should be normal. It should be an everyday part of our life where, when we blow it and we ask for forgiveness. So let's make this a practice of confession in our lives, perseverance, prayer and confession.

23:32 And the last thing is to restore. Look at verse 19, my dear brothers and sisters. If someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the center back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. I love this. So, so much this idea of, oh, I love that James uses this word wander. I am I instead of thinking of, I mean, he uses the word sinner too, and I know the church really loves that word a lot, but I, I like the word wanderer. It's, it's just intriguing to me, like to think of people who have left the faith as people who are wandering, any of you ever been lost in the woods or in a city or something. And I was in forest gro forest. Do you get lost in forest Grove?

24:25 I've never, I'd never been there. I went on a run. It was supposed to be a four miler, ended up total being a little over almost nine miles, a little over eight miles cuz I got lost and I got completely turned around. And so I, I, I'm literally thinking I'm going back to my hotel over here and my hotel is over there, but I'm convinced, but I just thought I was on the right trail, you know? And, and so I'm, I'm I'm com and then I realize about mile four I think I, I don't think I'm going the right way. And so I stop and do what every man loves to do and asked for directions and I, so I asked one person, Hey, do you know where this hotel is? And they looked at me like, wow, you're really, you're really lost.

25:10 I'm like, yeah, yeah, I know. Do you know how do I get? And they, they were so nice. They were like, yeah, you do this and this and this. I was so far away that I remembered about half of what they said. So about halfway back to my hotel, I had to stop again and ask someone else, Hey, where's the, where's my hotel. And they helped me. You know what? They didn't do you fool how did you get lost? It's forest growth. do you not have a GPS on that wrist of yours? Can't you find your way back? What's wrong with you? Why, why did you get lost in the first place? They didn't make me feel worse about myself. They knew I was lost and I needed to get where I was going. And so they helped me. And I think about that as I think about what James is saying here, that this is how we should help restore a wandering Christian, someone who has left the faith. You don't need to make 'em feel worse about themselves. You don't need to remind them, oh, you are a sinner. man, look at how far you've strayed. Oh, they know Jesus said, I've come for the sick. The ones that know they need a doctor, let's just wrap our arms around them and accept them and embrace them. Jesus, Jesus came for those people who are Wanderers and we get the opportunity every day to ex extend his love to them. Well, let me finish up. And, and

26:47 With this principle of perseverance, patience and restoration, do you know all three of those happen better in community than in isolation? Think about it for a moment. Perseverance doesn't happen in isolation. You will give up. If you feel alone, if you feel rejected, you will not make it. You have to be in relationship. Community connection. Connection will help you persevere, help you keep going. Now I know we can all pray by ourselves and please do. That's great. But the most powerful times of prayer that I've experienced in my life is when I've been praying with another brother or sister and I've been, or in a small group of people and we've been contending for God's will to be done. Those are powerful moments of prayer and confession, man. It's so easy to confess our sins to God and so much harder to confess to other people, but so powerful when we do that in community. And Paul said that we should all do the work of evangelism, which means that we all should have open hearts to those who have wandered. But can you imagine a community like ours, where every single person that walks in that gets connected to somebody from west side feels this love and acceptance and embrace the power of that.

28:14 I've experienced this personally for more, for more and more people all the time that when it's one of the most powerful demonstrations of agape love, which is means unconditional love. It's the love that God has for us. It's called a godbe love. And when you see this happen in your life, it'll changes everything. When I've wronged someone, my wife, a dear friend, a coworker, and I go to them and I repent. I apologize. I ask them for forgiveness and you know, they're and when they, and when they respond this way, I love you. I forgive you. And sometimes the embrace follows just you don't get that anywhere else. There's no other environment where you get that kind of agape, unconditional love and acceptance. The kind that Jesus had for us, it is the most powerful demonstration of love is when we forgive those who have wronged us,

29:26 The context of community. So let's do it this fall. We are launching our community groups and we believe you guys. We believe that literally everyone at our church should be in community of some kind, whether that's one on one in a small group, whatever it is we need, we need to be together in some fashion. I wanna encourage you. Don't walk alone, don't suffer alone. Don't pray alone. Find a community of people that you can do life with. Maybe you have a community right now and you should just start a community group with them. This fall start connecting with them. I wanna encourage you to do that today. You can sign up. you can get more information. You can ask some questions, pastor Dave, who's gonna be out in the atrium. Wanna encourage you to go and talk to him about how to get part of a community group, how to launch one? I think it's important. Well, let me finish up and then Lindsay's gonna lead us in a song and we're gonna take communion together.

30:26 So, after the prayer time, it at the west minister, Abby, they invited us. If we wanted to partake of communion together into a small little room with the same priest. And so Suzanne and I were like, why not? Let's do it. We're not Anglican, but they didn't say that we had to be. And, and so we went into this small room and there were about another five or so people that came in, so it was dozens of us or so in this small space and the priest is getting all of the elements ready, you know? And, and I, and, and so we're standing, there's a whole liturgical thing as well. It's an actual little service. And so there's times to pray times to stand times to sit, et cetera. And he then at the end, the end, he prepares the wafer and it's just this wafer.

31:09 And he breaks off a piece and you hold your hand like this and he drops it in and he blesses you and you take it. And then the, and then the J I was, I was curious is how they were gonna do that, you know, with post COVID and everything. And so it is what I imagine it was going to be a cup, the wine in the cup. And he, with a, with a, a cloth, he went around and each person took from the same cup. was like, I was gotta look at her out or like, okay, they look pretty healthy.

31:40 Nobody looks okay, nobody's nobody's sweating or anything. All right. You know him, I go. And, he comes around, he serves the juice to each person wipes. It turns the cup. If you've been part of a service like that, you kind know how it goes, but, and he gets to me and, he looks right at me, like, just like, and I was thinking like, all of you think, man, this guy knows everything about me right now. I mean, I don't know how that's possible, but, and he looks right at me, gives me the juice, big, old smile on his face and blesses me, you know, I felt loved. I felt loved by a guy in London. Who's has a who practices his faith in Jesus so differently than I do. And I felt this expression of community. Like I, he and I were one in that moment. And according to scripture, we were, we are one in Christ, one body, one blood.