Monday, October 17, 2016

Devotional: A Purpose for Suffering #7

James 5:14 Is any sick among you? 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:

Suffering allows others the privilege of ministering to our needs. James says the sick should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over him, attending to their spiritual needs.

There are those who would pray over a sick person and if the person does not get well, they say that the sick person did not have enough faith. This is so wrong. This does nothing for the faith of the sick person. In fact, it causes untold damage to their spiritual well-being as it lays blame for their illness on themselves and their supposed lack of faith.

God does not always give physical healing as a result of our prayers and faith. We see an example of this in the Apostle Paul. He prayed three times for God to remove his "thorn in the flesh". But God chose not to. Rather, prayer for the sick should be in humble submission to His will. It should be an act of yielding to God's will and prayer that the sick will respond in a godly fashion to their circumstances. It should be a request for healing if that is God's will for this person and if not, that God would reveal the purpose for the illness.

James says for the elders of the church to anoint the sick with oil. In the Jewish culture of the early church, pure olive oil was used as a healing agent. It was always carried when one traveled. It was applied to recent wounds and bruises with great results. (Albert Barnes Commentary) Anointing one with oil was not intended to be some sort of magical or miraculous incantation. Rather, it was the act of attending to the sick person's physical ailment. We see an example of this in the story of the Good Samaritan:

Luke 10:33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

When one is suffering or sick, we as Christians should seek to minister to that person's spiritual and physical well-being. In this day of modern medicine, anointing a person with oil is not a typical thing that is done anymore. However, we should seek to do something to help make them more comfortable and let them know in a practical way that we care about their physical well-being. Having the elders come and anoint the sick with oil and pray over them would be appropriate in that the touch of another can have a healing affect emotionally if not physically.

Are you suffering? Be willing to allow others to minister to your needs. This may be humbling for you to do. Think of it as an act of humility towards God in allowing Him to minister to you through them. So often when we are suffering, we say nothing because we don't want to be a bother, so no one knows we need anything. We are so self-sufficient and proud of our independence in our society, that we isolate ourselves from God-given help and encouragement from our friends and we deprive them of the privilege of ministering to others.

We need to all be alert to the needs of others and be willing to lend encouragement and practical help where needed. God planned it that we should bear one-another's burdens in this way.

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