Strong Ministry to the Weak, Part 1
Strong Ministry to the Weak, part 1
The challenges and tension of the passage:
Pastors and elders and congregation members, who have a depth of love and compassion, will practice a wonderful and uplifting ministry to weak, sinful, weary, and sick people.
Read James 5:13-18 in the context of James 1:2-4, 1:9, 1:12, 5:1-6, 5:7-11. The message is the same; God is compassionate and merciful to suffering Christians.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. (James 5:13 ESV)
Prayer and praise are two powerful responses to life, but too many Christians have stopped practicing both.
When you’re suffering, pray! When you’re experiencing hardship, facing trouble, or enduring affliction, you must pray. It is the first response, not a last resort.
The prayer may be as simple as: “Oh, God, help me! I want to focus and see well. I want to respond well. I want to learn well. I want to be more like Jesus as a result of my suffering.”
Prayer is a powerful tool in the aerosol of God given to us by his grace. If you’re going to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, able to stand against the onslaught of rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil, then you’re to take up God’s armor and pray.
Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Jesus Christ has made provision for us to be happy, full of joy, people with a song in our hearts.
Is anyone among you sick? To understand the fullness of James 5:13-18, we need to know about the words he has chosen to use.
The New Testament uses six words to communicate sickness.
- Sick/diseased (kakōs)
- Sick with fever (pyressō)
- Sickly (arrōstos)
- Afflicted with sickness (synechō)
- Feeble, weak, without strength, powerless, feebly sick (astheneō)
- Weary of soul/spirit, to focus on distress to the point of sickness (kamnō)
When James posed the question, “Is anyone among you sick,” he used the word astheneō (#5 above), which means to be feeble, weak, without strength, or feebly sick.
Notice how Jesus used the word in Matthew 25. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick (astheneō) and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-36 ESV) All of conditions describe someone who is very vulnerable in a weakened state. Someone weakened by lacking food, drink, clothing, or being a foreigner or in prison doesn’t necessarily mean that they are sick with a disease. Jesus used the word astheneō to describe people in need of grace and compassion.
“Weakness” is a good way to understand James’ word choice in James 5:14. Is anyone among you astheneō—weak, without strength, powerless, or feebly sick.
In verse 15, James uses the word kamnō, which translates as “sick,” but it clearly means “weary.” It is used only one other time in the NT. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary (kamnō) or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:3 ESV)
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. (13)
Is anyone among you (astheneō) weak, without strength, powerless, poor? Let him call for the elders. (14)
The prayer of faith will save the one who is (kamnō) weak, and the Lord will raise him up. (15)
James directs his message to three groups of people:
To the weak, the Lord gives the means to lift you (be raised up).
- Pray in your suffering.
- Too weak? Call the elders for prayer.
- Confess your sins to one another in the congregation.
To the pastors/elders, the Lord gives the opportunity and responsibility to minister restoratively.
- Be available to people (ready for the call—righteous, strong faith, compassionate).
- Pray over people, covering them in prayer.
- Minister as an anointing shepherd.
To the church, the Lord gives the ministry of reconciliation and restoration. (Next week’s study)
An in-depth study of the book of James.