James 5:13-16-“13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
Ups and downs are a part of life. James reminds us of that reality in these opening verses. Trouble will come. How many of you have dealt with any form of trouble this past week? Let me see your hands. Right. It’s common to all of us. James says when you’re in trouble, get God-focused. Focus your mind on God. Seek God. Ask God for His perspective and help. When you are in trouble, pray.
James then says if you are happy, that is also the time to get God-focused. Start singing songs of praise. Start thanking God for what He has done, is doing and will do. This past week I waited in a conference room with Jack Wright, his son and Mandy, for Joyce’s surgeon to come tell us how her by-pass surgery had gone. We were given great news. I said, “Let’s pray and thank God for what He has done for Joyce.” God had done something huge and amazing. We were happy, and we needed to stop and acknowledge God’s goodness. We instinctively pray when we are in trouble. We are less inclined to be God-focused when we’re happy and have something to be thankful for.
These verses also tell us there are times when we need to go beyond calling upon God. There are times when we need to call upon other brothers and sisters in Christ to assist us. We are to be God-focused, yes. But we are also to be Body-Dependent. You are supposed to be able to count on me. I am supposed to be able to count on you.
A few weeks ago when we were told my dad wasn’t going to live (by the way he is back at his nursing home and doing well!), when we were told he wasn’t going to live and to get the family all here, my reality was that in a short amount of time, I was going to have a house full of company. Within about four hours, my brother’s family would be pulling in to spend the night. The following day, my mom, my sister and her family would be coming in from FL.
Ladies, you know what goes through a woman’s mind when unexpected company is on the way. You immediately go through a check list of everything that has to be done in order for you not to be mortified when they arrive, right? I made an SOS call to Tami Evans. I’m not sure who all descended on my house because I wasn’t there, but within an hour, some angels came, dawned their dust masks, took their own lives in their hands, and went to town cleaning my house.
Another team of angels started pulling cheese, chicken, stuffing, mayonnaise, eggs, and anything else you could make a casserole with, out of their fridges. Some others went to the grocery. Our kitchen counters were suddenly littered with delicious food. All the sudden, blow up mattresses started dropping out of the sky and an invitation for family to stay at the Rollins’ “Bed and Breakfast” was given. We reached out for help and many of you reached out to us, and it was your support that gave us strength and courage that weekend.
There are many times you need to lean on your church family, but James 5:14 says that when you are sick, that is for sure one of the times that you need to depend on the Body of Christ. You are to call upon the Body of Christ to minister to you when you are suffering with physical issues. Perhaps that is because when we are sick we are more likely to be weak in our faith. When we are sick in our body, maybe our spiritual sensitivities can also be compromised. Maybe the faith of our brothers and sisters enables us to offer what verse fifteen describes as the prayer offered in faith. In other words, there are times when we are to trust God, but also we are to lean on our brothers and sisters in Christ to help see us through.
That weekend of my family’s crisis, I couldn’t pray but more than three or four words. “Jesus, help me.” But I knew my church family was praying for me, and those prayers caused a protective bubble to be put around me. Verse 15 tells us the prayer offered in faith, that is, the collective prayer of the Body of Christ, brings healing. We know healing doesn’t always turn out the way we desire for it to turn out, but we see from verse 15 that getting the church involved in praying for us produces a positive result.
Now, our key verse for this morning: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
God commands us to move beyond admitting we need help when we there is a sickness. He is asking us to admit we need forgiveness, and here He says not, “Confess your sins to God,” although we must do so. He adds another dimension to the equation by saying we should confess our sins to one another.
Now I’m not suggesting that we should have open mic Sunday where everyone comes clean about all of the sin in their life. Although I’m sure we could get a crowd of interested people out—at least to listen. But what I am saying is that the Body of Christ, by God’s design is supposed to be relating to one another on more than a surface level.
God wants us to be real not only with Him, but also with each other. Notice the passage didn’t say, “Confess your sins to the pastor, and let the pastor pray for you.” It said, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for each other.” There is supposed to be a mutual vulnerability, a mutual realness with which we relate to one another. What is it about confessing our sins and our struggles with each other, and what is it about praying for each other that will be for our benefit? How can healing come into our lives as we are real with one another?
- Corporate confession brings dark and painful things into the light where Christians are supposed to live.
Light is one of God’s favorite things. In fact, in Genesis 1, He created it first! Light was first! Jesus is the “Light of the World.” We are supposed to “Walk in the light as He is in the light.” We are to “Let our light so shine that people will see our good works and glorify our Father who is in Heaven.” God wants your whole life to be lived in the light, including your sin!
I won’t forget the pain I suffered about six years ago as I was walking through our basement in the dark. I stepped on something and had the most intense and shooting pain go into my foot. I couldn’t even fathom what had just happened. Something was wrong, terribly wrong, but I couldn’t begin to deal with the problem until I turned the light on and examined what it was that had taken place. The kids had been playing with colored toothpicks on the floor. They left them on the floor and I stepped into the whole pile of them. One of them snapped in two and half of it went right into my foot, sending me to the emergency room for surgery!
Proverbs 4:18-19 says, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.”
Confessing our sins, our shortcomings, whether one on one or in a small group setting or over coffee with a Christian friend, enables us to bring that which is paining us into the light to be examined. When we confess it, we expose it to the light and we can see what we are dealing with. I believe God commands us to confess to one another because our first instinct is to hide and try to cover things up. Isn’t that what Adam and Eve did? They tried to hide from God, right? Hiding and covering things up, however, leads to isolation and darkness and separation from God. You see, by connecting us to each other through confession, God is assisting us in staying connected to Him.
There is a definite connection in Scripture between our closeness to one another and our closeness to God. I John 1:5ff says, “But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Do you see a connection between our fellowship with God, our fellowship with one another, confession, forgiveness and light? Satan wants to isolate you in your sin and pain. God wants to draw you closer to Him and into closer fellowship with the Christian Community where you can find healing. Just like plants, Christians grow best in the light. Sin, however, grows best in the dark. Don’t let Satan keep you in the dark where sin can grow. Confess your sin.
Sometimes private confession can be less than genuine. It may feel easier to admit something to God because we can’t see Him. We may run the risk of a half-hearted confession, but having to admit what we’ve done to God in front of someone we can see, being willing to be vulnerable and completely honest shows our sincerity. As one person said, “Do not expect God to cover what you are not willing to uncover.” Listen, whatever you will expose can be fixed. But whatever you hide will continue to be like a crack in the foundation of your house. It will cause more and more problems and will eventually cause spiritual, moral, relational, financial, and emotional collapse if you aren’t careful.
- Corporate confession helps us live rightly. Scripture doesn’t tell us we will live
above sin all of the time. I know that makes some of you old Church of God people bristle when you hear that because we have historically taught the Doctrine of Entire Sanctification which maintains that a person can be so filled with the Spirit that they won’t ever sin again. If that’s true, I have yet to meet any person who is entirely sanctified! No, Scripture says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (I John 2:1) Jesus even said we need to ask for forgiveness when He modeled the Lord’s Prayer.
God wants you to know that it’s okay to say you’re not okay. There is only one Righteous One. His name is Jesus. The sooner we admit to God and each that we aren’t righteous, the sooner the Righteous One can apply His blood to our lives and make us righteous!
The Pharisees were self-righteous. Jesus condemned their self-righteous acts. We have to be careful lest we become self-righteous as well. Count up everything you do right in one day, and it still won’t be enough to impress Jesus for thirty seconds. We need to stay in a constant state of awareness of our need for His cleansing blood to be at work in our lives and for our lives to be based on God’s daily forgiveness through Christ. When we do that, we maintain a right relationship with God through this act of self examination, real confession and forgiveness.
Confession ought to be a habit just like reading your Bible, praying, witnessing and tithing. Set in the context of prayer, this encouragement to confess our sins with one another is filled with the innuendo that whenever we come to Jesus for anything, we first ought to come clean. Before we ask for physical healing, before we ask for a new car, before we ask for a new job, before we ask for anything, we should ask for forgiveness. Let’s face it. We will always need forgiveness more often than we will need anything else. Amen?
- Corporate confession fosters corporate accountability.
You see, when you confess your sins and weaknesses to another Christian brother or sister, you are alerting them to your need for help. Picture someone who is on a family camping trip. The family is gathered around a campfire, but this one particular person decides to walk through the trees towards the lake. Unintentionally, the person falls in the lake after losing his balance. Those at the campfire can’t see him because the trees are in the way, but he isn’t out of earshot at all. The man is drowning, but no one goes to help him because he never called out for help. God wants you to know you don’t have to struggle with sin alone when there are people who can help you by praying for you and by supporting you through Christian friendship.
You’ve heard the expression, “Partners in crime.” Well, we’re supposed to be partners in righteousness. Confessing your sin to another Christian makes them your ally in your battle with sin.
I was in my early twenties, and I was single. There was someone in the church who was about my age, and he was just a really nice guy. He was married with a child. I remember this thought went through my mind, “If anything ever happened to ____________, (his wife) I could love their child.” Immediately alarm bells went off in my head. I knew I had to get control of my thoughts. I went to my prayer partner and confessed the thought that had gone through my mind, and guess what? Getting that thought out in the open took all of the energy out of it. I didn’t dwell on it, add to it or fantasize about it. In fact, through that confession, I completely captured that thought and made it obedient to Christ and avoided any kind of sin whatsoever. My friend repeatedly asked me about that thought and if there had been any more since the first one.
Is there anyone here who experienced help and support from a Christian friend that they couldn’t have gotten on their own? Of course. One reason we are supposed to confess our sins to each other is because “Iron sharpens iron.” (Proverbs 27:17) God has designed for the Body of Christ to be a place of mutual submission and accountability. He wants to sharpen you through mutual confession and prayer. I am accountable to you. You are accountable to me. The Christian who thinks their behavior is no one else’s business it sadly mistaken. That’s not biblical.
In I Corinthians chapter 12 we clearly see that we are a part of the same body, the Body of Christ. Paul details how I need you and you need me. This passage reinforces our mutual accountability. Christian accountability is found multiple places in the Bible.
Galatians 6:1-2 shouts accountability: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” The Bible says your behavior is my business. My behavior is your business. The passage goes on to say, “But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” You aren’t above slipping into the sin pit yourself. That’s why when someone confesses their sin to you, you need to ask them to pray for you as well.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Something about the way we help and support one another, according to Scripture, says we fulfill the law of Christ.
When someone shares a sin or weakness with you, your job is to pray them out and encourage them out of that behavior. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Why does James tell us to confess our sins to each other and to pray for each other? Because we need the accountability and support we can’t experience on our own. We need to be spurred on and encouraged to obey God fully.
Last night at 7:00 p.m. I heard a little inner voice say, “Exercise. Exercise. You need to exercise.” Well, I wanted to exercise about as much as I would want to sit in a tree stand in 45 degree rainy weather with the hopes that a deer would cross my path. Sorry, hunters. Just keeping it real.
On a whim, I asked Josh if he would get on the elliptical exercise machine next to my treadmill and stick with me for thirty minutes. I asked him if he would encourage me. We started . . . and he started in on me, “Let me see some steam, Mom. Keep it up. Pick up the pace. You can do it. We’re going to do this every day, and when we’re on vacation, we’re going to do pushups and sit ups. Forget 30 minutes, Mom. We’re going an hour. Keep going, Mom. You’re doing great, Mom. You can make it, Mom.” Every time I slowed down he’d start again with the pep talk. Several times he made me laugh. He told me to keep my eyes on the football game, and I’d forget I was exercising. It actually worked for about eight seconds. Long story short, I made it and actually ran more of those thirty minutes than I ever had.
Now, I knew I needed to exercise, but I wouldn’t have done it had Josh not done it with me. I was too tired and unmotivated. Just because we know what we should do doesn’t mean we always want to follow through and do it. Josh’s partnership and encouragement empowered me to do what I needed to do.
You know this Christian life is compared to a race. We’re supposed to run it with endurance (Hebrews 12:1) and perseverance. We know what we’re supposed to do, but doing it is often difficult. We often lack motivation. But the partnership of another brother and sister in accountability and prayer, like Josh’s partnership with my exercise last night, will enable you to cross the finish line. I asked Josh for support. You and I need to reach out to the Body of Christ and ask for the support and encouragement through prayer that we need.
Refusing to share your struggles, not making yourself vulnerable, keeping yourself isolated from the body, not reaching out to ask how you can be praying for others. . . that’s not Body life. That’s not what God intends. We are supposed to be so connected to each other that not praying for each other is considered a sin. (1 Sam 12:23) “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.”
- Corporate Confession makes us authentic and attractive to the world,
Are we going to just go to church together, or are we going to be the church together? Are you just attending here, or are you connecting in Christ here? I said earlier that we are to walk in the light. Listen, I need your help to do that. I need your help to walk in the light and you need my help to walk in the light.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 “Two are better than one.” Look at your neighbor and say, “You need me.”
Philippians 2 tells us we need to be concerned about each other. What you are going through, what you are interested in, what you are in need of, all of that is my concern.
People want to be a part of a group where people are real and they genuinely care about one another. They are looking for authenticity.
“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” The bottom line is there is some healing that God intends to bring to you through the Body of Christ. Your willingness to get real with one another will be the conduit through which God’s healing can flow. Matthew 18:19 says, “”Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” It takes two for there to be agreement in prayer. You can’t agree with someone in prayer by yourself. This spiritual principal is God’s design to help keep us connected to Him by way of connection with one another.
A few years back, Thom and I got some devastating news. We were hurt. We were angry. We were sad. We were physically sick. We were emotionally crushed. We were caught off guard and totally shocked. Because of the nature of that situation, we didn’t share it with the masses. But we did what we knew to do. We reached out to part of the Body of Christ for help. We called Pastor David. We didn’t know what he could do, but we knew we needed help.
Forty minutes later at 10:00 p.m. he showed up in our driveway with communion. He didn’t say anything that changed our situation. He didn’t have a solution for our breaking hearts, but by coming and serving us communion, the meal that is especially designed for God’s children to share, we were reminded that we were family and we weren’t going to have to face the coming days alone.
If there is any place that you can admit you are hurting or you’ve fallen, it ought to be the church. As we confess our needs and receive the ministry of accountability and encouragement that comes as we pray for one another, we become an attractive place for a world that is asking, “Can someone really love me just the way I am?”
With whom do you go deep? Who really knows you, and is that person someone who knows Jesus? Are they holding you accountable? Are they praying for you? Who are you praying for? What do you need to confess today? Let someone come and give you the support and encouragement you need through the power of prayer. Come. Get real, and get healed.