Frances Chan at Founder’s Week at Moody

This is the video I played on Saturday night at worship. 

I will also post it on my blog. Frances has written several books among them:

sick and healing

I recently received an email question:

In James 5:15. It says–the prayer of faith will save the sick [with anointing and prayers by the elders] but noticed it doesn’t say “healed”. Do you think it may mean salvation rather than healing?  Food for thought! 

I thought my best way to respond was to pull out the sermon I preached on that passage. It is below:


A minister said to a child: “So your mother says your prayers for you each night. What does she say?” The youngster replied, “Thank God he’s in bed.”[1]

Prayer is very important in our Christian life.  A man named William R. Newell said this about prayer: “kneeling is a good way to pray because it is uncomfortable. Daniel prayed on his knees.” Jim Elliot [who was killed as a missionary in Ecuador] said, “God is still on His throne, we’re still His footstool, and there’s only a knee’s distance between!” He also said, “That saint who advances on his knees never retreats.”[2

Many others have written on prayer. Why? I think that is obvious, prayer is our connection with God. I believe people write on prayer because prayer is so difficult for us, all of us, including pastors.  One reason I believe prayer is difficult is because it takes faith. We are having faith that our prayer is heard. Another thing about prayer is humility. It is humbling to ask for help and confess our sins to God. Of course another reason is time.

In James 5:13-18 we see James wrapping up his epistle. Here James writes about prayer. As we discuss this passage I hope you will be encouraged by James instructions on the power of prayer.

Read James 5:13-18

  1. In verse 13 James instructs us to pray in our troubles.
    1. Prayer is the subject of the next several verses
    2. Prayer is also the better use of our tongues. If you recall James has written about the tongue in several verses. Some of this is review, but allow me to remind you: 
      1.                                                    i.      in James 1:19: be slow to speak; James 1:26: anyone who thinks of himself as religious must keep a tight rein on his tongue. James 3:1-12 are about not using our words to curse people. In chapter  4:11-12 it says not to slander one another, then in verses 13-17 he writes about boasting and bragging. So, now James gives us some good instructions for the tongue; prayer and he will also mention praise.
    3. Now, what type of trouble is James talking about? It is easy to think that the trouble has something to do with illness. In fact, at first glance I thought the trouble had something to do with illness.  I thought that because in verse 14 James writes about sickness. But I am going to share a different thought on that verb translated “sickness” in a moment.
      1.                                                    i.      For now, trouble could likely mean persecution. Recall that in James 2:6 the rich were dragging the people into courts. We also know that James was the pastor of the Jerusalem church and we know there was persecution in Jerusalem. James himself was stoned to death in AD 62. Stephen was stoned prior to this letters writing. In Hebrews, which I think was written in or around Jerusalem; in chapter 13:3 there is a hint about persecution there. So, I think the trouble James is referring to is persecution.
    4. James says to pray.
      1.                                                    i.      What are you doing in your trouble? I urge you to pray. This is a topic which I have covered before, but it always needs repeating, pray.
      2.                                                  ii.      Francois Fenelon, a seventeenth-century Roman Catholic Frenchman, said this about prayer:
        1. Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability, Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.

If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subject of conversation. They do not weight their words, for there is nothing to be held back; neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God. [3]

  1. Now, still in this verse James writes about the opposite of trouble, happiness. If you are happy, sing songs of praise. Col 3: 16-17:
  2. Col 3:16-17: 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  3. Now, in verse 14 and 15 James tells us about communal prayer for illness.
    1. I said communal prayer because now you are to get more people involved in your prayer.
    2. James says, is anyone of you sick? You should call the elders of the church to pray over you and anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord. And in verse 15, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.
    3. This is a somewhat difficult passage for me to talk about. It is difficult because it would be easy to say if you have done this and you are not well, your faith is not strong enough. Look again: James says, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. The text continues to say: The Lord will raise you up; if you have sinned you will be forgiven.
    4. Now, what does sin have to do with the sickness?
      1.                                                    i.      We can now say that if you are not better after being prayed over and anointed by the elders, your faith is weak and your sickness may be because of sin.
    5. I know that I have opened a can of worms and I am going to get rid of the worms now. I am going to try to get those worms to catch fish or something productive.
    6. The dear man, who was my youth pastor in high school and a spiritual advisor now, lost his daughter to leukemia when she was around 16 or 17 years of age. He is and was a very godly man who spent lots of time in prayer and had great faith. But he was told by some that he had unconfessed sin and that is why his daughter was not healed.
      1.                                                    i.      I don’t believe that for a second. At least not in that case.
        1. Though I will talk about confession in a minute.
    7. The Greek verb translated “sick” can mean weak. It is quite likely that James is not writing about a physical ailment but a spiritual weakness and/or some physical weakness from the persecution. Think about it for a moment. These people are facing persecution. They are drained. It has been difficult to maintain the faith. Their faith has been challenged and maybe weakened.
    8. Now, James says call the elders. Now, “elders” does not mean “old people.” The term can mean elderly people. But elders are spiritual leaders in the church. In 1Tim 3 Paul wrote about elders. I encourage you to read that later on. Many churches and denominations still have elders today. The Christian and Missionary Alliance was the fastest growing denomination as of a few years ago and they have elders. What you need to know are the elders are the spiritual advisors, they are the spiritually mature. This could be an older person and many times it is; however, there are many older people who are not spiritually mature.
    9. The elders are to pray over the person and anoint him/her with oil. The verb translated “to anoint” literally means “to rub” or “smear” with oil. This could carry the idea of putting oil on wounds from persecution. At the same time this anointing could simply be symbolic as it was in the Old Testament.
      1.                                                    i.      Either way, it is quite likely that the sickness is not a literal physical illness but a weakened faith.
    10. The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. God will honor your request. This is especially true if we believe this is talking about a weakened faith from persecution.
    11. The text goes on to say that his sins will be forgiven. What is the sin? Where does this come from?
      1.                                                    i.      It is possible that the sin is a weakened faith.
      2.                                                  ii.      It is also possible that the sin is just an unnamed sin. Why is it forgiven? Do the elders forgive the sin? I don’t think so. I think we can know the sin is forgiven because the individual has come to the elders. Since he has come to the elders, that implies a contrite heart willing to confess sin.
        1. Suppose the person has an actual physical ailment? This passage says they will be healed in faith. You may be questioning your faith because you have not been healed. Remember that our prayers must always be about God’s will. We pray in Jesus’ name because we are praying in Jesus’ character or manner. Look at verse 14. At the end of the verse it says that the prayer and anointing are in the name of the Lord.
        2. In the Bible times, name meant character. Our prayers need to be in the character or person of Jesus. This must include Jesus’ will and desires. Our prayers must be a submission to His will.
          1. So, the prayer in faith will bring healing if that is in God’s will. The question is whether James is referring to spiritual healing or physical healing.
            1.                                                                                                                            i.      It seems to me to be about a spiritual weakness which needs a spiritual healing.
    12. Also, about elders: notice the idea of calling upon the spiritual advisors for support. The New Testament gives this type of instruction often. It was important for the church to be a community. You need to, I need to, we all need to be able to call for help spiritually; and that is what the next verse is about.  
  4. In verse 16 James shows that communal confession goes along with prayer.
    1. In Psalm 66:18 the Psalmist writes that if he had cherished sin in his heart the Lord would not hear his prayer.
    2. I don’t think you must always be concerned about some unconfessed sin that you don’t know about.
    3. What you must be careful of is repetitive sin. This is sin that you are going through and you cannot conquer. This is sin which you have given into time and time again. We should always confess our sins to God, but we must also confess them to each other.
      1.                                                    i.      This doesn’t mean giving your dirty laundry to the whole church. Who wants to be first we can have an open mic right now. No!
      2.                                                  ii.      This does mean having a prayer partner or a group of Christian friends that you can share your struggles with at a specific time and place. There is a time for public confession as well. Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think that is what James is writing about.
    4. We need to confess because in confession we clear our minds and hearts.
    5. We need to confess because in confession we can hear the person we confess to say that we are forgiven, or God forgives you. We need to hear that.
    6. We need to confess to everyone we have offended in our sin (as far as possible). In some cases that may be a large group of people.
    7. We need to confess so that we can be held accountable not to continue in that sin.
      1.                                                    i.      This means the person we confess to, or at least one of the people, should say, “You are forgiven, now how do we prevent you from falling into this sin again?”
      2.                                                  ii.      We are not meant to live the Christian life alone. Unchecked sin corrupts absolutely. Our sin is contagious, always. It is not secret. If you don’t believe me look how divorce affects children. Be sure your sin will find you out and it does hurt other people. (Numbers 32:23)
    8. This verse about confession and sin implies that the sickness may be actually weakened faith in the previous verse.
      1.                                                    i.      I know that some of you need to confess and I urge you to do that. Make it a point to confess the sin today.
      2.                                                  ii.       You may have to confess to your spouse that you have looked at pornography.
      3.                                                 iii.      You may have to confess to your children that you have treated them badly.
      4.                                                iv.      You may have to confess to your boss that you did something wrong.
      5.                                                  v.      You may have to confess to someone else.
        1. Don’t ignore the Spirit’s nudging about this. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus told the people that if they are about to worship God and they realize they have an unresolved issue with someone else, they must resolve that and then come back to worship.
        2. In confessing our sin we can truly be spiritually healed and fulfilled.
  5. In verses 17-18 James gives an example of the power of prayer:
    1. James 5:17-18: 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Recall that James was the half brother of Jesus and he was called James the just. It is said that he spent hours on his knees in prayer so much so that his knees were callous like a camel’s flesh. So it is only fitting that as he closes his epistle he writes on prayer.

God is right there ready and waiting on your prayers

I want you all to know that whether you are battling a physical ailment or a spiritual problem I am here to help you. More than that, I am willing and ready to have our church leaders pray over you. That could be in a special service or in our worship service.

E. Stanley Jones said of prayer: Prayer is surrender—- surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boat hook from a boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.[4]


Let’s pray now


[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 456.

[2] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 453 (cited from Elizabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty)

[3] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 451 (cited from Charles R. Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip)

[4] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 453 (quoted from E. Stanley Jones, a Song of Ascents)

Old Testament vs New

This discussion came up in Bethel:

In the Old Testament, the Israelites are God’s chosen people to carry out His purpose of redemption through Christ and to be a blessing to all.  Abraham was credited for his faith.   “If God is a loving God and loves everyone, what happens to those people in the Old Testament who are not His chosen ones?  If they just happen to be born into a foreign family and not a descendant of Abraham are they just doomed?  Is there no hope for them?”  This is perplexing because the New Testament teaches that all can come into the family of God through Christ, but the Old Testament paints a different picture.

I have a few thoughts on this, but first let me affirm that this is a very difficult question. This is quite perplexing and near impossible to understand. So, that leads to my first answer which relates to the sovereignty of God. God is in control of all things. People may wander and ask, “Is God in control of who has eternal life in Him?” This question could lead to that answer. Certainly, if the Israelites were God’s chosen people and one is raised and not an Israelite then how can they be saved? Below is a section of Romans 9:

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[b] In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”[c]

10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”[d] 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”[e]

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f]

But even that passage is showing that salvation is still about faith. Even for the Israelites it was about faith. If you read the first few chapters of Romans the Bible is saying that we are saved by faith and the law was given to show us that we must have faith. Romans 3:23 and 6:23 are important in this matter. So, even the Israelites were not given a free pass.

Galatians is a key letter in this discussion:

Gal 3:23-25

23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
(from New International Version)

In the first century there were Jewish people who thought that the Christians should live by the law. These people had a show down with Paul in the letter to the Galatians.

Okay, so we are saved by faith, not by works which would include keeping the whole law. (see also Eph 2:8-9) But I started this blog entry talking about God’s sovereignty. See the passage below:

Rom 8:28-30

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
(from New International Version)

I believe that there is no way for God to not be entirely and completely in control. God is God. But how do we reconcile our free will? I think that God is so awesome that He can bring together our freewill and His sovereign plan. So, God being outside of time, and knowing all things, knows who will receive, trust and commit to Him, given the opportunity. This is the individual’s freewill. Then, in our timeline, God makes sure that can happen. I don’t believe anyone is lost who wants to be found. The Bible say that if we seek God, we will find Him. (Deut 4:29) But we are still told to preach the Gospel to all nations as we are God’s instruments. Many times we pray that many others will come to know Christ, but we may be forgetting that God will answer your prayers with you sharing the Gospel. In the Old Testament God called Jonah to declare repentance to a pagan land. That was Old Testament mission. In the New Testament we see God communicate Judaism and then the Gospel to Cornelius. (Acts 10) It seems that God worked supernaturally in Cornelius’ heart. I have heard and read stories of Muslims in extremist countries who have a dream about the cross and a Savior. So, though we are God’s instruments, He is not limited to us. God may reveal Himself to someone and then send them to a missionary or a missionary to that person. God’s ways are higher than ours. (Isaiah 55) Some may have some basic understanding of the Gospel that is supernaturally revealed by the Holy Spirit even though they may not understand Jesus or the Gospel in a way that we would expect. Who knows, in the Old Testament time God may have revealed to a tribal people in southern Africa that they are a sinner in need of a Savior. The heart of the matter is that God is sovereign and we are saved by faith. Lastly, we are most accountable as we do know the Gospel. We are also accountable to follow the great commission.

A source: Easy Chairs, Hard Words by Douglas Wilson

I hope this helps more than confuses. It is a difficult topic to grasp.






This was a recent devotion which I read:

Unveiled Faces

16But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit—2 Corinthians 3:16-18

On fire, white hot, rocked to the core, gripped by His greatness, unbelievably contagious; these are all phrases describing one who has experienced a breakthrough, victory over sin, and  transforming growth. Great! The question is, “How do I get there?”

The answer lies in beholding God’s glory . . . with unveiled face. This is defined earlier in the passage as trusting in Him as Savior. When sin and self-reliance are put down and God is lifted up, God’s children with unveiled faces can be more than formed through raw human effort. They can be transformed by His glory pouring over them. This divine transformation (also known as sanctification), purifies us from one degree of glory to another

We may think, “Yeah, I believe in Jesus, but I still feel stagnant.” Here’s what we do:

Think of God’s glory as sunshine and get a “glory tan.” Bask in His glory with nothing veiling His impact. Give Him control over your life.  We say, “Great, I get that, and I have been trying to give Him control, but I am holding back or something.” That’s common. Here is a secret; there is one simple step to basking completely unveiled, allowing His glory to pour over you.Breathe. Spiritually breathe. It’s a Bill Bright term, and man, does it capture the essence of that thought. To spiritually breathe we must exhale and then inhale.

Exhaling is breathing out the junk, confessing and repenting of any known sin. Exhaling is getting it clean before God. Exhaling is completely removing the veil between us and God’s glory. It is essential to transformation. To seek any change without being unveiled before God’s glory is just fleshly behavior modification. Remember, God’s glory is where the divine power of change resides.

Inhaling is then claiming any promises of His character, of His person, of His relationship with us. Inhaling is setting your feet on the Rock, our Savior and standing firm. Do not be satisfied with one breath a day, week, or month. You are spiritually suffocating if you do.

So it’s time to start breathing. It’s time to start exhaling and inhaling regularly throughout the day. You will be basking in the radiant glory of the Almighty. You will be on fire! You will betransformed from one degree of glory to another! —Tim Harkness