James: Be Healed

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

James 5:13-15 (NLT): Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 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.


All of this week’s lessons from James about how to live come together in a special way at the end of his letter. It is easy to stereotype a giver of solemn advice like James as dour, but here we see he is a man full of hope, one who trusts fully in God’s willingness to heal us.

Are any of you suffering hardships? In any group, there are always some who suffer, for so many different reasons.

James begins with simple advice: Pray. Keep doing what you have been doing as a follower of Christ. Stay immersed in the connection you already have.

There is a flip side to suffering, though, and James never wants us to forget this. There are good times, too, those times when all is well, when joy prevails, when all seems right with the world. We find such times in moments involving babies and brides and other big, happy events. We find them in the simplest of moments, too, for example, sipping a cup of coffee in the quiet of the early morning on a back porch.

In those good times, his advice is pretty much the same: Pray. He specifically says to “sing praises,” but such a sound is nothing but a variation on prayer, our words blended with music that expresses the ineffable part of our joy.

With this encouragement toward constant prayer in mind, James asks, “Are any of you sick?” Suffering and sickness go hand in hand, don’t they? And he’s not specific about what he means by “sick.” In modern times, we know we can suffer from all sorts of sickness.

There is physical illness, of course. We can be mentally or emotionally ill, too. As Christians, we also know we can be spiritually ill. Our relationships can be quite sick, too. And of course, these can all overlap or intertwine—for example, mental or spiritual problems can lead to physical problems or relational problems.

I don’t know if James had all of these illnesses exactly in mind, but I know Christian communities have seen healing in all of these areas.

Our starting point is spiritual healing. It is guaranteed as we open ourselves to God through faith in Christ’s work. When we seek miracles—direct intervention by God in situations that seem otherwise hopeless—we have to first let God heal our relationships with him through our belief in Christ’s work on the cross.

Spiritual healing also is the greatest healing. It is permanent. It grants us eternity. All other forms of healing simply are signs that God is breaking into this sinful world to make his presence known.

Those other forms of healing are wonderful to receive, however. And as a church, we do see such healing occur. Bodies are restored, minds find peace and calm, and emotions become manageable. Even relationships are healed when people at odds for one reason or another mutually submit to God’s presence.

Never be afraid to seek healing. If you are in church, there is a community that will come alongside you in the process, formally or informally.

Lord, may we see healings that astonish us, and may we have the courage to testify to what we have experienced. Amen.

Means of Grace, Day 4

By Chuck Griffin
Editor, LifeTalk

Matthew 26:26-29 (NLT): As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.”


The taking of Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist, seems like a tame worship event to experienced Christians. Every now and then, though, I’ve gotten a reminder of how mysterious it is for the uninitiated.

While serving as an associate pastor in Lexington, Ky., I helped with communion on a regular basis. One Sunday, I carried the juice, trailing another pastor who offered the bread as people lined up at the prayer rail.

A lady was there with twin 4-year-old granddaughters, who apparently were new to church. She had dressed them in identical purple velvet dresses, the kind of dresses grandmothers tend to pick out for their granddaughters when showing them off to friends for the first time.

When the pastor ahead of me offered them the bread, saying, “The body of Christ, broken for you,” they looked startled and a bit perplexed. They could see it was bread, though, and took it.

Then I came along with cups of a red liquid, saying, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.” Twin Girl Number 1 took a step back. Twin Girl Number 2 formed a perfect “O” with her mouth as she inhaled to scream.

I quickly dropped to my knees, saying, “No, no, it’s okay, it’s just grape juice. See?” Number 2 didn’t scream, but both girls maintained their looks of horror as they walked away. I’ve since learned an alternate set of words to use with children.

I was reminded that encountering Christ’s sacrifice in the Lord’s Supper is a powerful moment, one not to be taken lightly. As adults, should our response be at least a little more like those girls? After all, communion should make us very mindful of a broken, bleeding body and our deep dependence on that suffering. It’s grape juice, but it’s not just grape juice.

I also took communion to residents of nursing homes in Kentucky, and had two thought-provoking experiences in those settings.

I had been an associate pastor for only a few weeks when the first moment of enlightenment occurred. I dutifully set out on my mission, my portable communion kit loaded with juice, thimble-sized cups, tiny squares of bread and a miniature plate.

All went smoothly until I reached one elderly lady whose mind had been described to me as “pretty far gone.” She was sitting up in her wheelchair, her head slumped to her chest. I spoke to her. No response. I set communion up on a table in front of her. No response.

I went through a simple liturgy, one employing words familiar to anyone raised Methodist. I then touched the bread and juice to her lips, which she slowly tried to taste with her tongue.

I packed up my kit, thinking, “Well, I guess that was a waste of time.”

Just as I turned to leave, her hand shot out, grabbing my forearm with surprising strength. I jumped like I had been bitten.

She looked up at me and slowly said three clear words: “I appreciate this.” She then slumped back into her previous position and remained unresponsive. I learned a lesson about sacraments; never assume nothing happened simply because I did not see anything happen.

Another key communion experience occurred late in my ministry in Kentucky. I took communion to Arthur and Edna, a husband and wife, both suffering from dementia. Edna had contracted the disease first. Arthur developed his disorder about a year later but declined more quickly.

By the time of my last visit, the two shared a nursing home room, but couldn’t say each other’s names, sleeping on separate mats. I went to Edna’s mat first. She seemed uninterested in my presence until I brought out the same little communion kit. She took communion eagerly.

When I went to Arthur’s mat, Edna sat up, her eyes following everything. Arthur also clearly wanted communion. I went through the brief liturgy again, giving him the juice and bread.

As I did so, I heard Edna’s voice saying softly, again and again, “Hallelujah. Hallelujah.” She was still saying it when I left in tears.

God’s grace, particularly as it is expressed in the bread-body and juice-blood of communion, has the power to sustain us in all the phases of our lives. Take what is offered so freely whenever you can, knowing God’s grace will remain with you even when all else of value has fled.

Lord, give us serious, life-long encounters with you. Amen.