Prayer is the Key that Unlocks Joy in Trials

Scriptures: James 5:13-20
by Jacob Abshire on February 1, 2021

They say that a person’s scars can tell the stories of one’s life. Sometimes, those scars are so deep that can only be seen within a person’s soul. The mark of a wound caused by a child’s rebellion, a spouse’s adultery, a tragic death. The damage of a heart distressed by persecution, disappointment, betrayal. Or, maybe the injuries of our pride being broken under the weight of God’s chastisement. Then, there’s those marks caused by our own mutinous hearts and sinful choices. Life, particularly the Christian life, is a repeated step through the thorny thickets of trials whereby our faith is strengthened under the providence of God. And, our scars tell our stories.

Looking back at James, I wonder what kind of scars we might find in ourselves now that his main thrust is over. He began by getting straight to the point. “Count it all joy, when you meet trials of various kinds for the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (Ja. 1:2). And, when trials run their course and steadfastness is complete, we “will receive the crown of life” (Ja. 1:3, 12). This is how God brings “us forth by the word of truth” (Ja. 1:18). Trials validate and mature our faith.

First, we learned that genuine faith has an unquenchable thirst for the Word of God, both to hear it and obey it, causing us to carefully examine our obedience. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Ja. 1:19-27). Then, we looked at partiality and came to terms with how often we misjudge and mistreat others based on their outward appearance (Ja. 2:1-13). After that, we saw how a profession of faith means nothing if you don’t have works that accompany it (Ja. 2:14-26). He described our tongues as “restless evil” and “full of deadly poison” when it is not refined by the Holy Spirit. Even worse, it reveals the secrets of our heart (Ja. 3:1-12).

He also addressed our wisdom. If it lacks godly meekness, it is “false to the truth” and nothing more than “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (Ja. 3:13-18). Things really hurt when he pointed out that our passions are at war because we acted more like enemies of God when we coveted and longed for the world’s things (Ja. 4:1-10). He told us that failing to include God in our plans positions us against God (Ja. 4:11-12). In the trial of wealth, James told us that pursuing riches, luxury, and self-indulgence is like building up a storehouse of firewood for us to burn in (Ja. 5:1-6). Finally, as if it were not enough already, he tells us that impatience, grumbling, and lying to relieve yourself of suffering is the way of the condemned (Ja. 5:7-12).

Trials are painful. They leave scars. And, even the most mature of Christians is wounded by them. David, in his psalm of repentance after failing a trial, cried out to God for joy and gladness. “Let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (Ps. 51:8). If you have the faith that God ignites in those who love Him, then your cry is the same.

Maybe, the trials of life have left you broken and wounded. Maybe you have lost the strength to establish your heart in Christ (Ja. 5:8) and fallen into sin. Or maybe you have failed the tests and wonder if you have the faith that saves. If this is you, then you are right on track. Paul said:

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail to meet the test!” 

2 Corinthians 13:5

If you are wounded by trials, then the Lord is at work in your life positioning you for grace. God gives grace to the humble (Ja. 4:6). His word is alive and powerful (Heb. 4:12) and it accomplishes His purpose (Is. 55:11), which at this very moment is to draw you to Himself (Ja. 1:18). Are you exhausted by your battle with sin? Have you been crushed by the righteousness of God? Are you wounded by the testing of your faith and need the healing balm of the Father? Listen to the gentle words of the Lord.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 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. 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. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:13-20

This is a passage on prayer. It is not about healing, extreme unction, spiritual giftedness, raising the dead, essential oils, or massage therapy. It is about prayer, particularly the powerful work of prayer. James links prayer to restoring our strength (Ja. 5:13), renewing our joy (Ja. 5:13), recovering our faith (Ja. 5:14-15), rebuilding our fellowship (Ja. 5:16), reviving our power (Ja. 5:16-18), and rescuing our souls (Ja. 5:19-20). This the prayer of faith. Those who are wounded are to call upon God in faith trusting Him with their burden.

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