Today’s Reading: James 5
Can you imagine what we would miss if we stopped short on verses in the Bible and just read half of them? What if we only quoted the second part of John 3:16: “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”? What makes it powerful is the first part: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son . . .”
To know that God loves me and that He gave His only Son for me gives me the ability to believe in a God of love.
Devotional author Brennan Manning so insightfully said: “The temptation of the age is to look good without being good.” While everything looks good on the outside, we have a war waging on the inside. And no one knows about it.
How can I get free? How can I be healed? I heard someone say once, “If you want to be forgiven, confess your sins to God. But if you want to be healed, confess your sins to each other.” James 5:16 is not only a powerful healing verse, but it is one of the most misquoted verses in the entire New Testament.
Let me give you the misquote first: “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” I have heard this verse all my life in the church during prayer meetings. The problem is that those who said it chopped it in half. And when they did, it didn’t quite work the way it’s supposed to. This verse is not a prayer meeting verse, it’s a healing verse.
Here is the actual: Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
Just saying part B makes me the subject of the statement that righteous people praying get things done. But that is not what James was saying. He is telling me that I am not the righteous man. I am the struggling man in this verse.
James was challenging the church to transparency and confession of our struggle. And here was the challenge: if we can connect transparency with a righteous praying person, then healing is close by.
James was really clear on who we are to be honest with. The person we pick to come clean with is not necessarily our buddy, or our BFF. It could be . . . only if they are a godly person who knows how to pray and get answers from God. For my healing and freedom, I don’t need you to know me, I need you to know God.
When James says, “Confess your faults one to another,” two things are happening. First, he is creating humility in you and me and keeping sin in the open so it does not grow. Sin incubates in darkness. Sin grows in secrecy. There is no healing in hiding. And second, who we confess to is huge. He says the person we confess to better be able to pray. Get a praying righteous person.
For freedom, I need someone who is walking with God, not someone with a counseling degree. I don’t care what your plaque or diploma says. The question on the floor is, “Are you a righteous person and are you a praying person?”
Here’s a challenge for you today: Do you have someone in your life who meets the criteria of the second part of this verse? Your healing is connected to this important relationship.
Look for people who pray—not simply those who golf or do what you do. It’s okay to find common denominators with friends. But friends don’t necessarily mean this is your James 5:16- part-B relationship. When you meet someone who has a prayer life, latch on to them and meet with them. I would ask them to pray for you.
The words of pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer are powerful as he speaks about confession of a struggle to a brother:
“A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.”
The mark of a healthy body is the ability to heal itself. The church is called the body of Christ. There are hurdles, struggles, and problems we all have that we can address and deal with when we have the right relationships in our lives. And James 5:16 tells us what our criteria must be for healing to come.
Let me date myself. I grew up with a television that started with a black screen and a dot that grew into the picture. We had a thing on top of the television set called rabbit ears, which was the antenna. There was no remote. To change the channels between the nine stations we got, the set had a dial, which we lost many times so we had to use pliers to turn the channels.
Boy, televisions have changed today. They are the size of a picture on your wall. And the clarity—they call it high def, 4K now. Every drop of sweat, the wrinkles in the skin, nothing is hidden. Just as high-definition (HD) television illuminates the blemishes and imperfections of those appearing on screen, living a high-definition life can expose both our strengths and weaknesses. And yet something liberates us when we go HD.
A revival started in the early church, because people went high def and confessed to one another: “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. . . . In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:18-20, NIV).
The honesty of the saved challenged those in the occult. And transparency and confession started a revival.
I’m too exhausted to pretend. It takes too much work to pretend to be something I’m not. I don’t have that kind of energy to be impressive. I just have enough energy to be real. Confession is vulnerability and transparency. It tells everyone, I’m on the team; I’m a fellow struggler and fighter just like you. It’s what makes us real. It allows us to tell others, “You have mistaken what the church really is. It’s not a museum or a hall of fame. It is a hospital with a lot of sick people getting better. And you are looking at one of them.”