Friday, December 19, 2014

Prayer, Healing & Restoration




Larry R Evans
Sabbath School Class Teacher

Introduction

Can you think of a better way of introducing this subject than by first reminding ourselves about the God who created us!  After all, we were created in His image (Gen. 1:26) and while that image has become blurred after generations of sin, we have been promised that restoration will come soon (1 Cor. 15:42-57).    The psalmist reminds us of the magnificence of our God.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.  Psalm 8:3-5 (NIV)
It is an honor to be in His presence and to be given such a place in His kingdom.  When we are in the midst of uncertainties,  suffering and anxiety it is easy to become nearsighted and forget that our God sees more than we do and has plans that exceed our limited perspective. 
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.” Isa. 55:8
By giving us the privilege of prayer God has invited us to enter into His domain.  We may have to go through all sorts of security measures to talk with the president of our country but with God we are asked to come as we are.  It is at this point that we begin our study of James 5.
Discussion Questions

1.            We should pray during times of trouble or suffering so that we might be delivered from the cause of our grief.  (James 5:10,13)  True or False?
2.            A person who is ill or troubled must have a spiritual desire to be healed/delivered before we pray for them? (James 5:14)  True or False?
3.            Prayer for healing may need to include praying for the healing of broken relationships. (James 5:16) True or False?
4.            The more in tune a person is with God the less sickness or trouble they will have to endure.  (James 5:10, 11, 17,18) True or False?
5.            The way to restore a person’s relationship with the Lord is by reminding them how they have hurt or offended you or their God. (James 5:19,20; Jn 8:43-45; 4:1-39; 8:1-11) True or False?





Into the Word

1.   We should pray during times of trouble or suffering so that we might be delivered from the cause of our grief.  (James 5:10,13)  True and  False

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. (James 5:10,11,13)
What do the words in verse 10 mean to you:  “as an example of patience in the face of suffering”?  Why do we need an example?  At times are to be an example to others?
Are Christians exempt from trouble? Jesus encouraged his disciples to face persecution boldly, ‘for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you’ (Matt. 5:12).  Why must we face our troubles, our hurts, our disappointments, our persecutions boldly?  Is there ever a time when we are not a witness to God’s grace?  Can that be so when we are hurting?  Does this suggest what we should include in our prayer requests?
It has been said that, “God is more interested in changing us than in changing our circumstances.”  Do you agree?  Why? 
2.   A person who is ill or troubled must have a spiritual desire to be healed/delivered before we pray for them? (James 5:14, Mark 6:12,13)  True and False
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” – James 5:14
In many ways James’s letter follows the pattern of a typical Greek letter but he puts a Christian twist to it. Normally Greek letters ended with a wish, by the gods, that the recipients would be in good health.  In James’ letter he reminds the Christians of the provision God has made for their healing.
By calling the elders of the church to come and pray an assumption is made that there is a spiritual desire on the part of the recipient.  We do find the following statement in the book, The Ministry of Healing, p. 228.
     To those who desire prayer for their restoration to health, it should be made plain that the violation of God's law, either natural or spiritual, is sin, and that in order for them to receive His blessing, sin must be confessed and forsaken.  MH 228
This verse also reminds us that we are not alone.  We should be able to count on others for support and prayer, especially when they are sick and suffering.  Sometimes our members confuse prayer for the sick with the “last rites” of the Catholic church.  Gestures of kindness can be interpreted as omens of death.  That should not be the case!  It is interesting how we think we avoid Catholicism
3.   Prayer for healing may need to include praying for the healing of broken relationships. (James 5:16) True
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16
Mutual concern for one another is an important antidote for our own discouragement and downfall.  Here the Greek word for healing  (iaomai) is not for bodily healing but healing of the soul—to be restored from a a state of sin and condemnation.  The cure is in personal confession  and prayerful concern.

When he speaks of “a righteous person” he isn’t referring to “super saints” but rather to those who are wholeheartedly committed to God and sincerely seeking to do his will.

The Christian’s most powerful resource is communion with God through prayer. The results are often greater than we thought were possible. Some people see prayer as a last resort to be tried when all else fails. This approach is backward. Prayer should come first. Because God’s power is infinitely greater than ours, it only makes sense to rely on it—especially because God encourages us to do so.

4.   The more in tune a person is with God the less sickness or trouble they will have to endure.  (James 5:10, 11, 17,18) False

Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. – James 5:10
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. – James 5:17-18
Verse 10 is linked to verses 7 and 8 that refer to enduring suffering with a purpose.  The thought is clear:  How we go through difficult times is an example to others.  We only have to pause long enough to think of Stephen’s words as he suffered from and died as a result of being stoned. (Acts 7:54-60).  His witness was recorded as being “full of the Holy Spirit”, confirming his faith that the risen Jesus was “standing at the right hand of God” and that he even had compassion for his persecutors, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

The fact that these prophets spoke in the name of the Lord is added to make clear that the suffering endured by them was a result not of wrongdoing, but specifically of their faithful adherence to the will of God.

Trouble and sickness come to all but how we respond can be a measure of our faith in God and His ultimate plan for us.

5.   The way to restore a person’s relationship with the Lord is by reminding them how they have hurt or offended you or their God. (James 5:19,20; Jn 8:43-45; 4:1-39; 8:1-11)  False

 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.—James 5:19,20
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. – Ecc 4:9,10
Throughout his letter James has addressed many problems such as sinful speech, disobedience, unconcern about others, worldliness, quarreling, arrogance.  But now he closes his letter not with rebukes but with an appeal to help those who have wandered from the truth in any of these ways.  In fact this is his purpose for writing in the first place. Those who have wandered away are the “sick ones” of the church family.

The Greek word here (planhqhvØ) suggests one who has missed his path and is hopelessly lost. “Planet” was taken from this Greek word to convey the idea that the luminaries were “wandering stars” (cf. Jude 13), not “fixed” like the rest.

In Reflection

James wrote as a concerned pastor and addressed his readers as “my brothers.”  He saw how divisiveness and falling away from the truth was leading to certain death.  While “sins” were a concern, the ultimate concern was what those “sins” were doing to both the individual and to the church.  While rebuking sins, James was also working to bring the wandering ones back to the church but he could not do it alone.  He invited others to reveal a loving and spiritual concern. Such is the compassionate counsel given by Ellen White:

If we wish to do good to souls, our success with these souls will be in proportion to their belief in our belief in, and appreciation of, them. Respect shown to the struggling human soul is the sure means through Christ Jesus of the restoration of the self-respect the man has lost. Our advancing ideas of what he may become are a help we cannot ourselves fully appreciate.--FE, 281

Friday, October 17, 2014

Enduring Temptation -- Is It a Matter of Exercising the Power Within?


“Enduring Temptation”

Does it depend on exercising the power within us?

October 18, 2014

Larry Evans

Introduction

“The Devil made me do it!” or did he?  This is an expression we sometimes say in jest when we give in to a temptation but is it really true? Is that always the case? Do we sometimes try to take ourselves off the hook by saying this?  What part do we have in being tempted and when does temptation become a sin?  Where do our own desires fit into the picture?

“A story tells of a man who always blamed Adam and Eve for sin.  Growing tired of hearing his complaints, a friend invited him to housesit while he went on vacation.  He left everything in the house at this disposal except a small box sitting in a corner.  That was off-limits, the friend said, and he shouldn’t open it.  The first man agreed to the terms.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t contain his curiosity or control his desire to see what the box contained.  Within a half hour of his friend’s departure he had opened the box.  When he did, a rat jumped out and disappeared.  The man spent the rest of the time in turmoil; he tried to locate the rat or get another one for the box, but couldn’t.  When his friend returned and saw what curiosity and desire had done, he admonished him to stop blaming Adam and Eve for sin, since he was just as guilty.  That’s how desire works.”  -- Bertram L. Melbourne in The Practical Christian, p. 37.

Reflective Questions

1.             To be tempted or not be tempted is a choice we make?  (James 1:14,15; Rom. 13:14) True or False?
2.             “The Devil made me do it,” explains how we are tempted.  (James 1:13-15; Gen 3:1-6) True or False?
3.             To meet each temptation successfully, we must “permit” God to intervene?  (James 1:16,17; Titus 3:5-7)  True or False?
4.             The control of our words begins by first listening to God’s words. (Ps 46:10; Isa 50:4-9) True or False?

Our Study Notes
1.             To be tempted or not to be tempted is a choice we make?  (James 1:14,15) True and False

As we begin our study about “temptation” lets remember how James begins his letter.  Here it is in the Message:

2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Through tests, challenges and/or temptations our faith experience will be exposed.  James is writing to encourage us.  We may want to ask “Why is this happening to me” but James is saying that even more important than “why” is “how” – “’How’ we respond is of even greater significance.”  I am reminded of what one author wrote:  We often pray that our circumstances will change but God is more interested in changing us than our circumstances.  So as we give study today to facing temptations that come to us, we need to keep in mind what James says the real outcome of meeting temptations and trials are.  Through these temptations or tests we are to become “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (Jas 1:4)

The Greek word for trials/temptations has two basic meanings: (1) The inner pull to sin (1 Tim. 6:9 – “harmful desires”) and (2) External afflictions or difficulties such as persecutions (1 Pet. 4:12 – fiery ordeal).  In some passages like Mat 26:41 (“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”) both meaning are included.

Now back to the question:  Is being tempted a choice we make or is it a consequence of being a product of being part of the human family?

Consider Romans 13:14
14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Or as the NKJV
14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

2.             “The Devil made me do it,” explains how we are tempted.  (James 1:13-15; Gen 3:1-6) True or False?

It is true sin originated with Satan.  The root of pulling away from God and His plan for us is certainly rooted in Satan’s own rebellion.  But the question is really this – Do we manufacture some of our own temptations?

Note what James says in 1:14,15

14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full–grown, gives birth to death.

Dragged away from what?  Verse 12 says that the Lord has a “crown of life” for those who “love Him.”  Would it be fair to say that at the root of all temptation is the pulling away from our love and allegiance to the Lord?

Consider Adam and Eve. They were placed in a garden where all that God had created for them surrounded them.  They had no needs.  They had everything except one thing – they were not God!  So Satan began his temptations there by challenging God and what He had said to them.  Eve listened and  the Bible says her temptation was three-fold:

1.             She saw that the fruit was good for food. [Did she need food!  What God had said was not good for her she concluded differently.]
2.             Eve found that her senses (sight) overrode God’s instructions:  the fruit was pleasing to the eye.
3.             Eve desired a wisdom that came from outside of God’s plan for her.  She chose a source of wisdom that was contrary to God’s. 

Eve’s choices progressively led her away from trusting in God and His word.

3.             To meet each temptation successfully, we must “permit” God to intervene?  (James 1:16,17; Titus 3:5-7)  True or False?

There is a popular preacher today who is blanketing the airways with advertisements about his books and sermons. “You have the power within you to overcome your circumstances.” Is the power within us our outside of us?  Does it really matter as long as I overcome? But this pastor isn’t the only one saying this.  Note the following quote:

“Now in Sahaja Yoga you have to know that you have the power within yourself. It is there, it exists there, and it is to be just awakened in some people. It takes time to be awakened, in thousands I have seen it takes no time, the only thing that I would suggest is to keep your mind open not to become obstinate about things.

Here is another:
You do have special powers - the only reason why you're not living the life you want is because you don't know how to use those special powers.
I call it the power within - and once you learn how to apply the awesome power that you have within yourself - you will be able to dramatically change or improve your life faster than you thought possible.—Karim Hajee, Creating Power

Rhonda Byrne writes:
“All good things are your birthright! You are the creator of you, and the law of attraction is your magnificent tool to create whatever you want in you life. Welcome to the magic of life, and the magnificence of You!” (The Law of Attraction, p. 41)

Joel Osteen
I want to talk to you about the power of I am. What follows these two words will determine what kind of life you will live.  I am blessed. I am slow. I am a terrible mother. The I am’s that come out of your mouth will determine either success or failure.  Whatever follows “I am” will always come looking for you.

In contrast to these motivational speakers we find the insightful words of Ellen White,
“If God is an essence pervading all nature, then He dwells in all men; and in order to attain holiness, man has only to develop the power within him.  These theories [pantheism, etc.] followed to their logical conclusion, . . . do away with the necessity for the atonement and make man his own savior. . . . Those who accept them are in great danger of being led finally to look upon the whole Bible as a fiction. . . .  (Faith I Live By, p.40)

These theories regarding God make His word of no effect, and those who accept them are in great danger of being led finally to look upon the whole Bible as a fiction. They may regard virtue as better than vice; but, having shut out God from His rightful position of sovereignty, they place their dependence upon human power, which, without God, is worthless. The unaided human will has no real power to resist and overcome evil. The defenses of the soul are broken down. Man has no barrier against sin. When once the restraints of God's word and His Spirit are rejected, we know not to what depths one may sink.  (Ministry of Healing, p. 429)

James 1:14-18

14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full–grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

The power to endure trials and to overcome temptation lies outside of ourselves.  It is true that the Holy Spirit will dwell in our hearts but our “hearts” or our “minds” must be informed by God’s word not by our sheer desire to think differently.  We submit to God’s objective Word and not to our subjective emotions.

The solution for temptation is to be found in a close relationship with the Father and a constant response to His Word. He does not promise a life without trials but He promises His presence with us as we meet trials and temptations. One must rest in the unchangeable Lord of light and rely on His life-giving “Word of truth” (cf. Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:15).
            There is no reason why one of God’s chosen firstfruits, or regenerated believers, has to yield to temptation. He must learn to resist its deadly force, or he can never grow into the spiritual maturity God desires of His children of light (Eph. 5:8; 1 Thes. 5:5).

            Ultimately the key to responding to trials and resisting temptation is be found in one’s reaction to God’s Word. Receptivity to the Word, responsiveness to the Word, and resignation to the Word are essential to spiritual growth. One must accept God’s Word, act on it, and abide by it.

4.             The control of our words begins by first listening to God’s words. (Ps 46:10; Isa 50:4-9) True or False?

James 1:21
 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Is it the word that saves us? Is it the word that controls our words?

James advises us to get rid of all that is wrong in our lives and “humbly accept” the salvation message we have received, because it alone can save us.  Hanging onto that which degrades us while trying to overcome that which we want to put out of our lives only makes the battle more difficult and even impossible.  The fight of faith is not so much “doing” as it is “submitting” or “surrendering” our wills to God.  It begins by “listening” to Him.

4 The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

5 The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. (Isa 50:4,5)
James 4:7,8

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double–minded.

Concluding Thoughts

While the Christian invites Christ to come into his/her heart, the power to overcome sin and the strength to meet the trials that will come are not “within” us.  Scripture consistently directs our attention to the sanctuary (Ex 25:8), to the sacrifice of Jesus (Rev. 12:11), to the dwelling place of God (Ps 121:1,2).  The “spiritualism” that confronted Adam and Even in the garden sought to displace God with an alternative.  Eve sought the desires within her heart, the wisdom within her mind, rather than God’s.  Such a course led not to prosperity but to heartache.  Such is the temptation today.

But there is good news!

The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist, he will be drawn to Jesus; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance for his sins, which have caused the sufferings of God’s dear Son. (Steps to Christ, p.27)

Overcomers, then, are those who do not “resist” God’s intervention into their lives.