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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Suffering vs. Faith

I've always had trouble understanding the point of this Bible verse:
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. - James 5:13–14 ESV
Today I read that, and suddenly it was crystal clear to me. These aren't actually specific instructions to follow. I mean, those are good things to do, but that's not a "how to" formula for those specific situations. What if you start suffering but you forget to immediately start praying? What if you're cheerful but you're in a library and can't just bust out your favorite Chris Tomlin song? What if you're sick but your cell phone battery is dead, and there are no church elders in shouting distance??

Those verses don't contain specific instructions that you must follow to the letter, like a recipe for baking a cake or a medical prescription to make warts go away. Those are examples of how a Christian might respond appropriately in a given situation. You might feel cheerful because you are thinking about what God has done, but you don't burst into song - instead you begin to pray and thank God for all He's done for you. You might feel sick when you're volunteering with your church youth group - not an "elder" in sight, but a dozen faith-filled teenagers pray for you instead. These are not precise procedures that must be followed. The specific instruction from this passage is this: no matter what happens to you, respond in faith. It's as simple as that!

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