If you or someone you love is seriously ill, then you can understand the cycle of hope and worry that defines your days, the emotions that go up and down.
But underneath it all, there's a lingering pall of fear that won't go away. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll is teaching from a section in James Chapter 5 that teaches us how to respond when someone is sick. And during today's program, he'll present four practical lessons we learned from this passage. Again, teaching from James Chapter 5, Chuck presents A Biblical Case for Healing.
Is anyone among you sick? This is critical that we understand the meaning of the word and that we understand the process we go through. It means to be weak, to be without strength. Stay with me. It means to be disabled, to be incapacitated. Now let's go through the step-by-step process and let's pay close attention to what God has written in his word.
I'll give you three steps, just as they appear here, not steps, but parts of a process. First, the sick person takes the initiative. The sick person takes the initiative.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him, let the sick one call for the elders of the church. Sometimes there are people who are sick in the church and the pastors are the last people to know about it. If you are sick, if you are incapacitated, if you are unable to be up and around, then it is your move to take the initiative.
Let him or her call for the elders of the church. Number two, once they arrive, they carry out two functions according to what I read in verses 14 and 15. Before describing those functions, let me point out the particular construction in the original Greek sentence that will help clarify this phrase in verse 14. Let me read it for you literally.
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil in the name of the Lord. Do you notice the order of the verbs? Let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil. So which would come first, the oil or the prayer? The oil would precede the prayer. There are two Greek words for anoint.
One always has a religious and ceremonial connotation. The Lord had David's head anointed with oil. In extra biblical usage, this same term was used with reference to bathing, when a person would rub soap and water onto the body.
When the good Samaritan stopped and took care of the man who was beaten along the road to Jericho, remember the scene? We read that he poured oil and wine into the wound. The same term appears in ancient Greek documents and medical treatises for the use of oil for the purpose of medication. When the term does not have a religious ceremonial use, and this one does not, it is frequently used in medical treatises with reference to the application of proper medicine.
I suggest that for today's use, it would refer to the proper use of medication and the assistance of appropriate professional help. And then secondly, they were to pray. They were to pray fervently. They were to pray believingly. So the third thing I would write in our process of healing is specific results are left in the Lord's hands. His will is to be done.
Let's not disconnect verses 14 and 15. Let them pray over him having massaged, having poured in, having applied oil in the name of the Lord. That is a colloquialism in that day for the will of God. Have them place this on him doing it in the will of God.
Have them pray in the will of God. And the prayer offered in faith, when it is the will of God, is the implication of the context, will restore the one who is sick. Don't yank that out of its context and then speak only of verse 15 without seeing 14 tied in with it. It's all a part of the same piece of biblical tapestry. The elders are praying over this person in the name of the Lord, that is invoking God's will, asking God's presence, God's blessing. And the results, see the verse for yourself. When it becomes his will, it becomes obvious at that time or shortly thereafter, the prayer offered in faith will do what? First of all, it will restore the one.
The word is sozo. It means to save. It will literally save his life. He will no longer have to be reclined on four or five seats in an airplane.
He can sit up on his way home to Louisiana. A person can sit up and before long take in nourishment and before long be back at work. It is a matter of returning, being restored. See the word raising. The Lord will raise him up.
I take it that it is a miraculous, if you will, instantaneous healing. And if there has been the commission of sins, please notice if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. So forgiveness, should this have been the root of the problem, there will be an admission of it in the midst of it. This reminds me of another case in my own life. I was ministering in another city.
The city isn't important and the person isn't important for the story. She happened to have been the wife of a medical doctor, ironically. She was a believer, suffered from terrible, terrible pain all across her back. They could not find the reason. They worked through the assistance of orthopedic men, several of them, an orthopedic lady, a woman in the field who was excellent in that city. She was at a loss to trace the problem. It didn't seem to be that. They got neurological counsel to check all of what might be a problem related to the spine, the nervous system.
They could not find the answer. She was in incredible pain. They were beginning to apply some real intense medication that could become habit-forming. Her husband was very concerned about that. She was concerned about it. Sensitive, spiritually-minded woman, didn't happen to be a member of our church, the place I was serving, but she knew many of us who were and she took advantage of our friendship and she should have. She said, I wonder, Chuck, if you could get together a group of the elders from the church and if you could come. I said, certainly, we'd come and we went. There were about six or seven of us. We walked into the hospital room.
As I recall, it was a Sunday night, rather late. The group of us had been at a church meeting and so we just pooled a ride together and went in one or two cars. We came to the hospital, which was in the downtown area, and we all went up into the room. Some of the men didn't even know the woman. I knew her rather well. Her husband happened to be our pediatrician in that particular city.
I met her. I walked over to the bed and I expressed concern. She was in such pain, she could hardly talk. She said, I don't know what I'm going to do.
I'm desperate. Her husband was on call that night and was not there. In fact, he came in later as we were praying. I talked with her briefly about the medication and the assistance she was getting and she had no complaints, no concern about that. She felt that they were doing all they could do. She said, what can we do?
What can we do? I said, what we can do is pray. Two or three of the men just got right on their knees, right there in the hospital room. We closed the door, we turned the lights down, and we began to pray. I had finished a time in prayer where I just pled with God to bring relief and, if it were his will, to bring full restoration. I remember she reached down on my shoulder and touched me and kind of shook me.
Another man began to pray and I reached over and took him by the knee and held tightly as if to say, wait a minute. She said, excuse me for interrupting, but she said, the pain is gone. She began to weep and several of us wept as well.
I wept out of gratitude. She said, I must tell all of you something. She sat up in bed. The pain was gone. I think she could have gotten up and walked out that night, gotten into her car.
The pain was gone. She said, I need to tell you about my life. She began to unfold a story of sin that had been a part of her lifestyle. It's not appropriate that I go into that, only to say that it was an incredible story of deception, that she had been living this lie. Our prayer and the sincerity of our lives around her brought her to such a burning awareness of her sin that she couldn't even let us finish. God heard her prayer of confession and of desire for repentance, and as he did, she stopped us in prayer. She was relieved from the hospital, by the way, the next day. She never returned, never had the pain again, and wrote me on two occasions to thank me again and again, though I deserved no thanks. All I did was do what I was instructed to do with a group of men who were black men, just like me, who counted on God to do his will. And in that case, it was related to sin.
See the words? Let's put her gender in here. If she has committed sins, they will be forgiven her, and they were, and the Lord raised her up and restored her. And to the amazement of those who had treated her and worked with her, even those in the physical therapy who had found that she could hardly move when they attempted to move her, she discovered that she was able not only to get back up, but she was jogging in less than a week, was back into full health. Remarkable account of God stepping in and bringing a healing from individuals who had no touch with such a gift in their lives. But she was unable to go, and so she called for our coming.
When we discovered that the proper oil had been applied to her, the proper medication, then it was appropriate that we pray and count on God. And in case you need the encouragement, look at the verse 16. Therefore, you confess your sins to one another.
She had failed to do that. Now, back in the 70s, this became in vogue in churches. It was always uneasy when people would stand up and would talk about how sad they were to have the mother-in-law they have, and the mother-in-law happened to be sitting four rows back in the same church, and how one wife would stand up and complain about a husband and the difficulty of living with him, and he sits there dissolving in embarrassment. That is not what we're talking about here. The confessing of sins must be done appropriately, in the appropriate place, with the appropriate number of people. This is not a public acknowledgement of every dirty, lustful thought you've ever had in the last two weeks of your life. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking in context of a person who is ill and an individual who knows that he is living or she is living a life or lifestyle that is wrong, and the need to bring that to light, to bring that out into the open, to confess to one another, those who are involved in the immediate circle of concern.
That's the context. It's amazing what we can do when we take a half verse, lift it and then use it. My favorite story is the guy who sat by the window and the wind blew the pages of the Bible and he did this little number.
He put his finger. Judas went and hanged himself. That was his verse for the day, and he let the wind blow again. He couldn't stop there, and he found this verse. It said, go and do thou likewise, and that didn't help, and he let the wind blow again. He found one more verse that said, whatsoever thou doest, do quickly.
If you follow that line of thinking, you're going to be the sickest person around. You're not going to last very long. Read your Bible intelligently. Take it verse by verse. Study the verbs. Study the adjectives.
Study how it's put together. Do good academic work in the biblical text, and you will be saved from the cults and from all kinds of isms and strange teachings that will run you aground spiritually. You furthermore will have your expectations leveled to a place of reality so that the God you love and serve will not have to do a miracle on a daily or weekly basis to keep your interest. Who do we think we are? We are recipients of his grace, mercy, and peace. We have no right to demand of him anything having been given life and the promise of an eternal home with him. That's good enough. That's much more than any of us deserves. As I read through this story and as I see the account unfold, I come up with several principles that I think are worth claiming even today.
Let me give you four of them, and then I'm through. Number one, confession of sin is healthy. Employ it.
Confession of sin is healthy. Employ it. Some of you have not said, I am wrong. In so long, your family would be shocked to hear those three words come out of your lips. Try it.
Every once in a while, just shock them real good. When you find that you were wrong, say it. When you have done something dumb, stupid, or embarrassing, or offensive, admit it.
Say it. Say it to God, and then find the person you've hurt and say it to that person. Confession of sin is healthy. Employ it. Second, praying for one another is essential.
Practice it. When someone says, will you pray for me, don't just glibly respond, oh yeah, sure. Then a week later, they say, thank you for praying.
Tell them you forgot, if you did. And better than that, write down the request. I have a little notepad on my desk in my study, and when someone talks about praying, I write a name down.
I just write the name down, because I won't remember that if I don't write that down. So praying for one another is essential. Let's practice it.
Let's practice it on a regular basis. Third, the use of medical assistance is imperative. Obey it.
The use of medical assistance is imperative. Obey it. I've been struggling with a terrible head cold, some kind of respiratory ailment, and it so happens I'm on an antibiotic right now, and I take it every six hours, and have my little alarm watch set so it goes off. And I'm obeying the instruction of the physician who writes it on the bottle. My wife would have difficulty praying for me if I said, I'm not going to take any antibiotic. I mean, what right do germs have to enter this heavenly head?
Good night. I've got news for me every right in the world. And because I've been invaded with the germs, I need assistance medically to counteract the germs. There's nothing miraculous about it. It's a science. And those who've studied the science and examined this germ know that this antibiotic will help, and in three days it's helped wonderfully. Is it a result of prayer?
Partially. Mainly it's a result of following and obeying the instructions of the physician. Number four, when healing comes from God, claim it. Praise Him for it. But don't give a person on this earth credit.
Don't pay one dime to a soul. Healing doesn't come because you pay for it, or stand in line for it, or come to some individual who claims they'd be able to do it. Healing comes because God sovereignly and mysteriously chose to say yes to you, while He usually says no to many others. Again, Dr. Coop writes, The faith healer may say that faith makes God act.
Why, if you follow that line of reasoning, God is in His heaven, but Bosworth rules the world. In Matthew 8, 2, and 3, where Jesus heals a leper, we read, Behold, a leper came and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Then Jesus put out his hand and touched him, saying, I am willing, be cleansed. And the leper departed, and slowly, over the course of the next several weeks, his symptoms began to disappear.
I'm sure you realize, says Dr. Coop, that this is not what the Bible says. I put in those terms because it conforms to a lot of, quote, miraculous healings, quote, today. The healing takes place next month, but what the Word of God says is this, I am willing, be cleansed, and immediately, his leprosy was cleansed. Now I know that all healing comes from God, but if we are to pursue this matter of faith healing so that I do not have any questions, that is what I want to see. I want to see a person with one leg suddenly, immediately have two.
In fact, I want to see a person cold, flat out dead, get up and walk. Now it is not that I want to see these miracles take place just to satisfy my own curiosity. I want to see them happen in such a way that there is no praise attributed to the faith healer.
And I want to see it done in a situation that is not a carnival. Now if all those conditions were in place, I suspect that a healing service would occur very much in private. Giving that great Reformed theologian from Princeton, B.B. Warfield, credit for his contribution to my thinking on this subject, let me summarize in the following way. There is no promise anywhere in the scriptures of miraculous healing for those who will claim it.
Anywhere. No facts exist that compel us to believe that such miraculous healing should be expected. Such miraculous healing is unnecessary because God is perfectly capable of healing people by natural means. The employment of such a method is contrary to the way God works in other modes of dealing with us. Miraculous healings of the type I have been describing would be contrary to the very purpose of miracle. If miracles were commonplace, they would soon lose their significance. By the way, God is in the process of healing me of my respiratory ailment.
It is not a miraculous healing, it's taking time, but the medicine is working, and I'm feeling a lot better than I did four days ago. And I thank him for his healing powers, for he works through the very wonderful use of proper medication. I'd like us to bow our heads, and before we conclude this meeting, I'd like you to present your particular need to God in prayer. Let's lay before the Lord that particular suffering, heartache, that affliction, that sickness, that need. I happen to know that in some of your lives there are desperate situations at home, and the case requires divine intervention, perhaps good legal counsel, perhaps helpful psychological assistance, but God must intervene.
Let's ask him for his will to be done, for his glory, and no one else. Father, we place before you with gratitude the things that we have discovered from your word. Remove from our minds anything that could have been said from the flesh. Take away all rancor, take away all sarcasm. Permanently etch, however, in the creases of our brain the truths that we need to remember, so that when sickness comes we do not run for some miracle, but we rest in the presence and work of God in our midst.
Thank you for your marvelous power, a power that would stun us if we could see a simple display of it at this moment. And quiet our hearts as we wait for you to work. In the dear name of Jesus Christ, whom we love with all our hearts, we pray.
Amen. at insideworld.org. Before we head into another September weekend, I'm eager to remind you that every Sunday morning, Inside for Living is privileged to present a live worship service from Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. That's where Chuck serves as senior pastor. The sermon that Chuck presents on Sunday mornings doesn't run parallel with our current series here on Inside for Living, so it's material you've never heard before. Plus, the live stream includes congregational singing and sacred music as well, so you get to participate in the entire worship service. For all the details, go to insight.org slash Sundays. And if you're looking for reading material to deepen your walk with God, today we're recommending a classic from Chuck titled Growing Deep in the Christian Life. Whether you're a new follower of Jesus or you've been a Christian for decades, Chuck's book will help you grasp the major theological doctrines that define our faith.
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The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer, inviting you to join us when Chuck Swindoll describes what to do when your recovery takes far longer than you wished. Monday on Insight for Living. The preceding message, A Biblical Case for Healing, was copyrighted in 1993 and 2003. And the sound recording was copyrighted in 2003 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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