What makes a sick person well?

James 5:15 says, “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well” – which means we can expect to be restored to perfect physical health every time we’re anointed for a sickness and an elder prays for us, right?

So why aren’t there huge line-ups of sick people at church asking for prayers by the elders? Because people AREN’T being restored back to perfect health every time an elder prays for them and anoints them with oil, are they? Clearly, then, being restored back to perfect physical health is not what makes a “sick person well.”

So what does make a sick person well? According to James it’s knowing our sins are forgiven (James 5:15), recognizing when sin has got the better of us and accepting we need help to deal with it (verse 16), and having someone get us back on track when we’ve wandered off it (verses 19-20). Forgiveness, admitting weakness, seeking help and getting it from God through the prayers of fellow Christians are all included in what makes a sick person well.

But “well” in what way? Since it’s not perfect physical health, what is it instead? According to James we are truly “well” when we are “mature and complete, not lacking anything,” James 1:4, which happens through a lifetime of circumstances that bring us to persevering faith in God, verses 2-4. We never give up on God, in other words, when life gets tough, as James explains in chapter 4:10-11 – “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed (or “well”) 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.”

“Blessed” people – or people who are really “well” – are those who hang onto God no matter how bad things get, in the understanding that God not only feels for what they’re going through, he’s also bringing about something wonderful at the end of it. And that’s what makes them well (James 1:12).

It’s when doubt creeps in (James 1:6) that all kinds of “sicknesses” creep in too. A person becomes “unstable in all he does,” James 1:8. He becomes frustrated, angry, impatient and jealous. He won’t listen. He becomes critical and quarrelsome, and he has no curb on his tongue. He forgets that “every good and perfect gift is from above,” James 1:17, and thinks instead that he knows best.

A person with sicknesses like that needs a prayer of faith to make him well. And if he seeks help through the prayers of fellow Christians, “the Lord will raise him up.”

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