Bring some Spirit-filled peace into your hectic schedule every weekday morning with this new Daily Devotional.
Start your day with God
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Day 39 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:14,15 NLT
'Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.'
Jesus was both a healer and a teacher. You cannot divide up his ministry. He ministered to the whole range of people’s needs – body, mind and spirit. When Jesus left this earth he commissioned the church to carry on with that ministry and here in James we see what that meant in practice. The church is called to minister to those who are sick and to pray for them knowing that God loves to make people better and also to forgive their sins.
In recent years the word “holistic” has become very popular to describe the way in which God works. In the power of his Spirit he wants us to be whole people, enjoying him and his world to the full. Many parts of the church have tended to focus on words and preaching and have marginalized the healing ministry. But that makes no sense if we are truly following in the footsteps of Jesus.
Premier Lifeline offers an amazing ministry to tens of thousands of people every year. When people ring up they speak with Christians about their needs which could be physical, mental or spiritual. In truth you can’t divide people up as neatly as that! If you have a cold it will definitely affect your mental and spiritual state, and if you are struggling to forgive someone it is quite likely that it will have physical effects.
Healing takes many forms and when we pray for healing we will never be entirely sure how God will answer. Whenever I pray for people I always tell them two things – firstly, that I am absolutely convinced of God’s ability to heal and secondly that I don’t know the way in which he will answer our prayer. In prayer we entrust ourselves into God’s loving, healing embrace.
QUESTION: For whom are you going to pray for healing today?
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that your desire is for us to be whole in body, mind and spirit. Help me both to receive and share your healing touch today. Amen.
Day 38 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:13 NLT
'Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises.'
I remember as a teenager hearing a well-known preacher telling the story of a young woman who had told him that she often didn’t feel like praying. His response was that prayer was not a glandular condition! Prayer was something that we need to do whatever our feelings. That’s precisely the point that James is making here. In short, it’s always the right time to pray – whether you are going through a good or a bad time.
God doesn’t want us to be people who simply say their prayers, as if we need to find the right magic words to say and then we can forget about God until the next time have to say them. That’s not what God wants. He wants a relationship with us within which we share fully the ups and downs of life.
I love the fact that the Bible doesn’t present us with a line of holy people, who always got it right and who loved sharing their lives with God. The Bible is almost the opposite of that. It tells us the story of women and men who struggled and often failed. And amidst it all we see how those frail and failed human beings discovered that God loved them and had a purpose for their lives.
God doesn’t want us to be religious people who say beautiful prayers and then shut him out, but people who share their whole lives with him and who live what might best be described as a life of prayer. Nothing is too small or too large to take to God in prayer. He is intimately involved in every moment and eager to share them with us. Whether we are driving the car, sitting at our desk, speaking to colleagues, chatting with neighbours, watching television, answering emails or playing sport he wants to be at the centre of our lives.
QUESTION: What steps could you take to share more of your life with God in prayer?
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that you love me so much that you want to share every aspect of life with me. Teach me more of what it means to live a life of prayer. Amen.
Day 37 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:12 NLT
'But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.'
James isn’t talking here about bad language but about the very common practice at the time of trying to strengthen a statement by taking an oath. Jews made a distinction between oaths made in the name of God which could never be broken, and other oaths which didn’t mention God which could be broken. James encourages his readers to make life much easier by simply telling the truth.
The Greeks held that the best guarantee of any statement was not an oath, but the character of the person who made it. Our words are the natural overflow of the lives that we live and so if we live with integrity, people will know that they can trust our words. If we always keep promises, then people will know that the next promise that we make can be relied upon.
Speaking the truth is the fundamental building block for every relationship. When relationships break down it is almost always accompanied by lies and deception. The only way to bring a relationship back on course is by learning to speak the truth. This will often be painful and difficult, but it is the only route to build a solid and strong relationship.
This also applies to our relationship with God. We need to be honest with him, not putting on a mask, but acknowledging the people that we really are. This can be difficult to do but when we remember that God perfectly loves us and is ready to forgive us for all our sins, we can come to him with complete honesty and total confidence.
In a world where the truth is often distorted or ignored, it is vital that we live truthfully before God and that we seek his strength to enable us to say yes, when we mean yes, and no when mean no. Oaths are totally unnecessary.
QUESTION: When do you find it difficult to tell the truth?
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that we can be totally truthful with you and know that you will always love us and forgive us. Help us to speak the truth in every situation, even when it is tough to do so. Amen.
Day 36 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:11 NLT
'We give great honour to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.'
We don’t know exactly what James’ readers were facing but clearly it was tough to be a Christian. They needed to persevere. Amidst all the temptations, distractions and persecution that they were facing they needed to hang in there for God.
Job is a classic illustration of this. Everything went catastrophically wrong for him. He lost his children, his possessions, and his health. He had the indignity of being struck with boils and his wife, seeing him sitting in the dust, scratching at his sores, exclaimed, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die” (2:9). But he didn’t. He put up not only with his suffering but also with his hopeless companions whose misguided thinking added another crushing layer to his agonies. However, he didn’t give up. He was confident of God and, in the end, God rewarded him generously.
There are many times in life when God calls us simply to endure. We would love him to fix our situation, and remove all our problems. But he often calls on us to endure and promises to accompany us and strengthen us as we do so. William Carey was the father of the modern missionary movement and he went to India in 1793. During his time there he faced a succession of problems and set backs – but he kept going. He once said to his nephew, “If after my removal any one should think it worth his while to write my life, I will give you a criterion by which you may judge its correctness. If he gives me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
Whatever you are facing today, God encourages you to keep plodding on.
QUESTION: What have you learnt from those tough situations which you have had to endure?
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that you will never leave or forsake me. Thank you that I can be sure that you will be right beside me whatever I have to face. Amen.
Day 35 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:9 NLT
'Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!'
The bible introduces us to lots of grumbling people. Most famously we hear the People of Israel having a whinge after God had miraculously led them out of slavery in Egypt. They had been there for 400 years and, at last, they had been set free by the mighty hand of God. The yoke of oppression had been broken and they were now able to enjoy the sweet taste of freedom. But almost immediately their response is to grumble because things weren’t working out in the way that they had hoped.
Nothing much has changed. Grumbling continues to consume huge amounts of time and energy in every part of society. You would hope that churches would be a glorious exception to this rule but, sadly, that wouldn’t be true. James is concerned about this and is severe in his words. Grumbling shouldn’t be taken lightly. Grumbling seriously damages the spiritual health of a church and God will judge it.
How should we respond to all of this? Billy Graham once observed, ”Grumbling and gratitude are, for the child of God, in conflict. Be grateful and you won’t grumble. Grumble and you won’t be grateful.” I find this helpful. We have a choice to make and God’s desire is that we should live our lives with gratitude. Gratitude to God for all that he has done for us and an attitude of gratitude towards the people around us. They aren’t perfect, but they are in different ways a blessing to us. Grumbling will only spoil our enjoyment of life and the quality of our relationships with other people. And, far more seriously, if we allow grumbling to take a foothold in our lives then it will ruin our relationship with God. Gratitude is God’s way for us.
QUESTION: What are you going to do when you are next tempted to grumble?
PRAYER: Lord God, forgive me when I am tempted to grumble, and by your Spirit nurture in me an attitude of gratitude. Amen.
Day 34 - Issue 35
READ: James 5:7,8 NLT
'Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.'
The idea of waiting is easy – until you have to do it! Waiting can be incredibly difficult and especially if you don’t know how long you are going to have to wait. Waiting for medical test results, waiting for a member of the family to make contact or waiting for someone to repay a debt. Any of those can sap your energy and leave you feeling disappointed and confused.
The challenge we have to face is that Christians are waiting people. We are all waiting for the Lord’s return, and no one can be sure when it is going to happen. The one fact that is definite is that he is going to return, because that is what he promised to do. In Acts 1:11, after Jesus’ ascension, his disciples were assured, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
I had relatives who were so sure of the Lord’s imminent return that they believed that it was inappropriate to store any food. The Lord might return in the next day or two and so it was irresponsible to keep supplies. That was taking it a bit far in my view, but God certainly does want to live with the daily awareness that this very day might be the day of Jesus’ return.
Israel is a very hot country but it also enjoys a considerable rainfall. There are two distinctive times of rain – the early rain which starts in October and the latter rain which falls in May. A farmer can wait for the rain with confidence, and in the same way we need to live our lives with confidence that history is in God’s times and that one day Jesus will definitely return, just as he promised.
QUESTION: Are you ready for Jesus to return today, and if he doesn’t are you willing to wait with patience?
PRAYER: Thank you Lord that history is in your hands. Help me to be ready for Jesus’ return, whenever it happens. Amen.