INTRODUCTION / PASSAGE
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation church.
Let me tell you reason # 1,046 why I know God is real.
This message was planned 3 months ago.
We’re in the middle of a book series….Verse by verse.
It’s just simply been planned that we’d be on James 5:13-20 on November 6th for the last 3 months
And yet, based on all that’s happened in the last few weeks in our church, if I had to pick a passage to talk about on this important day, it probably would have been James 5:13-20.
God is in control… Firmly in control.
We are actually finishing the Letter of James today after spending 11 weeks on it in 2016.
James is going to close out his letter with an encouragement to his readers to pray…to pray and believe.
(James 5:13-20) – NIV
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 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. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 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.
17 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.18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
4 TYPES OF PRAYER
In the first 4 verses of our passage, James gives us 4 different examples of situations of when we should pray.
Starting in verse 13, he says, “Is anyone of you in trouble?”
A lot of translations say, “Are you suffering…having hardships?”
Which is more of the idea here…not, “Are you about to get grounded or thrown in jail?”
It’s: Is life hard for your right now?
The first thing you should do: Pray.
Take it to God.
Then he gives us the 2nd situation in which we should pray:
Has life made you happy lately?
Are you finally pregnant? Did you get a new job? Starting a new relationship?
The first thing you should do: Pray! Praise God.
Then there’s the third situation:
Are you sick?
The first thing you should do: Pray.
And actually, what he says, is that you should call the elders of the church have them pray for you.
Just like a wounded sheep would go to their shepherd, you should have your shepherd pray for you.
At Renovation, we don’t just call the “Church Board” our elders.
We don’t believe that fits the Biblical description of an elder.
An elder, in the Bible, is someone who spiritually cares for the sheep.
And so for us, that’s our House Leaders.
The people who oversee our House Groups
Are you really sick? In the hospital? Facing some serious?
First thing you should do: Call your elder, have them pray for you.
That’s a good, Biblical step.
James then tells us in verse 16 of a 4th situation in which we should pray: If we are struggling with something that is weighing us down spiritually, we need to “confess our sins to one another and pray for each other”
There are few things as powerful as confession, and yet I can scarcely think of anything else that so few people do.
I sometimes hear people say, “Why do those Catholics keep going to confession? Can’t they just talk to God?”
And yes, Biblically, God can forgive them Himself.
But confessing to another person can really free you from the heavy burden of hiding in the dark…of caring burdens on your own.
Now, if they had the passage completely right, the priest should really be opening the window and confessing his sins too…but halfway is better than no way, which is where most of us are. J
When you can look at another believer and say, “I’ve just got to tell someone…I’m constantly comparing myself to all of these other mothers.” Or “I just need to tell someone…every day when I come home from work, I need a drink…and then sometimes before bed…and I actually CAN’T go without. I need help”
The power of that release is like few things on earth.
And yet, I lament that so few Americans experience Christian community like this.
One of the things that I want you to see in James 5 today is that so many of these things that James is asking all Christians to do…REQUIRE…that you are firstly in Christian community.
You can’t have your elder pray for you…if you don’t have one…if you’re not in Christian community.
You can’t confess your sins to another Christian…if you just come to a church anonymously for months & months and years & years.
If you’re not in a House Group yet, get out your app and sign-up right now…or in the hallway on a way out.
We want to help you live out Biblical principles.
To be obedient to God and find LIFE!
James wants us to see that in every kind of situation…we should pray.
And yet…so often, prayer is solution number 15 on our list.
Are you suffering in your marriage right now?
Most of us try 14 other solutions first.
And finally, when we’ve exhausted everything else…3 months later…we think, “I guess I could pray about my marriage and ask God for help”
Are you sick?
What 10 drugs could you try first?
What essential oils could you try?
James is saying…guys…listen…not option #15…not even #2…the FIRST THING we should do…in all of these situations…is PRAY!
Where is prayer on the list for you?
When you do you bring God in for help?
WHEN YOU PRAY, PRAY LIKE ELIJAH
And for a lot of us, I think it’s buried as the 15th option, because we haven’t yet discovered the power and effectiveness of prayer.
We don’t pray, because we don’t deeply believe that it’s POSSIBLE that God would move through our prayers.
Which we’ll never figure out until we start actually doing it more often!
That’s what James gets at then in verses 17 & 18 when he talks about Elijah.
If I could sum up this entire passage in a sentence or two, it’s this:
In every situation you face, pray! And when you pray, pray like Elijah!
So what is this guy Elijah’s story? And what exactly is James talking about when he’s talking about Elijah and the rain?
Some of you may be somewhat familiar with that story while others have never heard of it before.
Here’s the story of Elijah, which can be found in 1 Kings 17-19
Elijah was a prophet of God who lived while the evil King Ahab & his wicked wife, Queen Jezebel, were in power.
And those two were leading the Lord’s people away God.
So Elijah shows up, prays, and tells Ahab that because he’s leading people away from God, it’s not going to rain for the next few years.
In our economy, drought is crippling.
In their agricultural economy, it’s disastrous.
King Ahab looks everywhere to find Elijah to kill him, but he can’t find him.
Finally, 3 years later, Elijah shows up and summons the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a challenge…in front of all the people of Israel.
He says, “You guys call on your “gods” (your idols), and I’ll call on the real God, and we’ll see whose God can light a bull on fire first”
This was not a PETA sponsored event.
But it’s like the ultimate scientific but spiritual experiment, and everyone thinks it’s a fantastic idea!
And of course the prophets of Baal & Asherah cry out to their “gods.”
They danced, and shouted, and even cut themselves, but, obviously nothing happens
Elijah, who’s my kind of guy, taunts them, “Try louder…maybe’s he’s deep in thought…or busy…or going to the bathroom.”
Finally, Elijah gathers all the people…prays to God…and bam, the bull lights on fire
And shortly thereafter, as the people announce they will turn back to God, it begins to rain.
James is saying, my friends, THAT’S how you need to pray. PRAY LIKE IT’S POSSIBLE! Like GOD is GOD!
But then he ads on, “Remember, Elijah was a human being…just like you…no different.”
Elijah is not in some class by himself when he prays for a multi-year drought.
It’s God that’s in a class by himself, and we all have access to that same God when we pray.
So…pray like THAT!
James says that the “prayers of the righteous are effective”
Not because the more holy deeds you do, the more God will pay attention to you…but because the closer you are to God, the more you will be able to pray for His will!
And Elijah knows what to pray for because He’s close to God and knows that’s what GOD wants him to pray for.
But the bottom line is: Pray like you’re talking to Elijah’s God…because you are.
And IF we believed that…we would pray a whole lot more often.
If we believed that, prayer wouldn’t be our 15th option, but always our first!
Pray like it’s possible!
A few years ago, we began to look at how fast our church was continuing to grow and decided it was time to begin to process of raising money for land.
Otherwise, we’d someday, not so long into the future, reach a point here at Northpoint where we’d be capped out…unable to reach more for Christ.
So about two years ago, we started something called Amplify, where we set out to raise money to purchase land.
Our big goal was to see $500,000 in pledges come in.
It felt impossible, but we threw up our hands, and God
moved. Not too hard for Him…if you ask!
We saw over $600,000 in pledges come in.
But over the last two years…finding land has been a difficult process.
Especially as prices continue to rise in a seller’s market.
We’ve been close a few times, but we hit roadblocks.
At one point a little over a year ago, we thought we knew where we might be, but then a developer decided they weren’t going to develop their land after all, and it became a dead end lead.
But this summer, we decided, it’s time to once again, like we did at the beginning of Amplify, throw our hands in the air, and say, “God we can’t do this, you have to do it”
So we had a week of prayer dedicated to this.
And we prayed…together…in our homes…at the same time every night.
And we gathered here for an evening of prayer.
And out of that, God has started to move.
And in the last month, an opportunity has come our way to finally put an offer on a piece of land.
A great piece of land.
This particular offer has been something our Land Team & our Church Board have been working on jointly over the past few weeks, and we will be submitting an offer on Tuesday morning.
It’s technically what’s called a “Letter of Intent to Purchase”
It gives the seller an opportunity to say, “Yeah, I’ll sell you my land at that price” or “No way” or “Let’s talk”
And if we both agree on terms, then we would enter into a formal purchase agreement phase over the next few months.
And during that phase…we would do our final due diligence on the soil and the parcel…
And one aspect of that, is our members would have to vote on the particular piece of land (we’ll show you it…you can walk it…touch it) to approve the final purchase…otherwise we can’t do it.
But none of that will happen unless the seller first says, “Yeah, I’ll sell it to you at that price…let’s start working it out”
And so, we need to pray.
Today. Tomorrow. Tuesday morning.
The reality is, in a seller’s market where land is going fast…in an expensive suburb… we honestly can’t afford most of the land in Blaine at its current selling price
So we need God to move.
If Elijah could ask God to make the rain stop for 3.5 years, do you think it’s too hard for God to find us land??
It is not!
And so we will ask Him.
And that’s why I needed to come to you today.
We can’t go into this situation hoping a well-written offer will do the trick.
We need to beg God to move.
All of us. Together. Today.
We need to pray like it’s possible!
Once again, we need to do what’s been working all along.
We need to throw up our hands and ask God to move.
Will you join us?
And we’re going to pray big prayers.
It reminds of a story the great John Newton (the man who wrote Amazing Grace used to tell)
He said a man once asked Alexander the Great to give him a huge sum of money in exchange for Alexander requesting to marry his daughter.
Alexander agreed, and told the man to request of his treasurer whatever he wanted.
So, the father of the bride went and asked the treasurer for an enormous amount.
The treasurer was startled and said he could not give out that kind of money without a direct order.
Going to Alexander, the treasurer argued that even a small fraction of the money requested would more than serve the purpose.
"No," replied Alexander, "let him have it all. I like that fellow. He does me honor. He treats me like a king and proves by what he asks that he believes me to be both rich and generous."
The question is: Do we believe God can do this or not?
I believe He’s going to do this.
I’ve been praying about this a long time.
Usually every day.
And sometimes I drive in my car praying, and I just say, “God…you’re just going to do it”
I just believe He’s going to do it.
I drive by McDonald’s and I think, “God you got McDonald’s land…you got Walmart land”
Surely you can do it for your people…it’s not too hard for you.
Whenever we sing “Lion & the Lamb,” and we sing, “Who can stop the Lord Almighty…”
I always want to yell from the back…NOBODY! That’s who…NOBODY!
God can do this.
But He wants His people to ask Him…so that we KNOW that HE did it.
God’s doing amazing things at our church right now!
I was talking to one of our leaders after our Family Fun Day outreach in which we saw 54 decisions for Christ.
And she said, “You know, I prayed for 50 people…I thought that seemed so high…but I did it”
And we both said, “Should’ve prayed for 60” J
God’s doing things we never thought possible here…even a year ago.
I meet people every month that are trying church for the first time…
Just met someone who introduced me to their daughter and said, “It’s her first time ever in a church”
One of the things that’s happening a lot right now, is we’re seeing people get saved…and then invite their friends…who also don’t know Jesus yet…and they’re coming back too.
God is on the move.
Let’s keep running with Him!
I love reading about outreaches, and I read the other day about Pastor Tony Evans who was doing a large outreach at the University of South Carolina Football Stadium
Thousands had gathered for the evening session, but news reports indicated a serious thunderstorm was on its way and was supposed to hit at the exact time the outreach was scheduled to begin
He said many pastors and leaders gathered for a time of prayer, and most prayed safe prayers like “keep us safe”
But one woman, named Linda, stood up and said, “Lord, thousands have gathered to hear the Good News about your Son. It would be a shame on your name for us to have all these unbelievers go without the gospel when you control the weather. In the name of Jesus Christ, address this storm!"
So ended the prayer meeting.
Everyone took their places under the dark, threatening sky.
The leader of the outreach told the people, "We'll go as long as we can." Umbrellas sprouted up among the crowd. A man sitting next to Linda opened his umbrella and offered to shield her as well. Linda refused.
Evans says he and his wife watched as the rain clouds came up to the stadium and then split in two. The storm rained on both sides of the stadium and came back together on the other side. All of those gathered for the crusade stayed dry.
Let’s pray like that.
Let’s pray like Elijah.
Let’s pray like we worship a God where this isn’t a problem.
Let’s pray like it’s possible!
And let’s pray like we believe that God really cares about this, because I believe HE DOES!
As Elijah is making his final plea to God to light the bull on fire, I want you to see what He says to God:
(1 Kings 18:37-39) – NIV
37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
Did you see that?
This is our heart!
That people would see God move and that would turn their hearts back to Him.
This is my prayer for Renovation Church.
I pray right now, “Jesus Christ…answer us…hear us…provide for us. Show us your glory so we can know…more than ever…that you are God”
“And not just us…the people around us.
“Continue your story here God…it’s not over. It’s just beginning.
“Amplify it. Make it louder. IN Jesus’ name”
What will move the hearts of the people in Blaine and beyond:
is not skill level of our musicians…
it’s not wise & persuasive words we utter from the stage…
it’s not the lights…none of that.
It’s not us.
When Elijah prayed, and GOD moved, then the people saw God!
And THAT moved them.
When people can look at our church and say, “Whoa! How did that happen? Who did that? God did? Whoa!”
When people can look at your life and say, “how come you’re always so joyful”
And you can say, “It’s God…I take my burdens to Him
When people can say, “I thought you were just out sick?
And you can say, “It’s God…he’s making me better”
When people can say, “I thought you hated me”
And you can say, “Well, I did. But I prayed about it…and I need to confess that I have a part in this too.”
When people can see God, He will move their hearts back to Him.
But NONE of that will happen unless we first audaciously ask Him to move, so let’s ask Him to move!
And so, here’s what we’re going to do.
We finished writing our offer a few days ago…it’s ready to submit…but I won’t go forward without a lot of prayer.
And so here’s what I’m going to boldly ask you to do.
So many of you have already so amazingly sacrificed your finances for Amplify for this.
Now I’m going to ask you to pray.
Will you pray and fast with me for 24 hours?
Will you fast (that’s to abstain from food…you can drink water) with me from after dinner tonight to right before you eat dinner tomorrow night?
If you’ve never fasted before, the Bible says that fasting is the most powerful form of prayer.
We do it 1 or 2 times a year here at Renovation...and God has moved mightily through it.
If you want to do it for the first time, I HIGHLY encourage you to pick up our “tips on Fasting” sheet in the hallway as you leave today.
Will you pray and fast with me for 24 hours, and then we will submit the offer on Tuesday morning?
The Bible speaks of prayer in paradox.
It tells us that we are to pray with audacious faith and plenty of humility.
That we are to boldly ask God to move for the glory of His name.
Even though this doesn’t seem like it’s possible, that we will absolutely pray like it’s possible!
And yet, we pray with humility.
Realizing that we may submit our offer on Tuesday, and the seller will say, in 10 seconds, “Um, no.”
We boldly ask for God to move, but we humbly acknowledge that we’re never 100% aware of exactly how He should.
But we trust that somehow, He will move.
Listen, if I have to come back next week, or in a few weeks and say, “It didn’t work out”…
Nobody waver. Nobody lose hope. Not even for a second.
Our God is going to move.
We’re going to boldly ask Him to move now, but if He chooses to wait, it’s because He’s got something better in store.
Because His plan is always the best plan.
But…we will not make the mistake of not asking Him to move.
All 400 of us or so are going to collectively BANG on the door of heaven, and ask that for the glory of His name…and for the salvation of hundreds…no thousands more in Blaine and beyond…Father move…now…in Jesus’ name.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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