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Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. (James 5:13)
Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. We may recall back in chapter 5 verse 10, James wrote, “As an example, brothers, of suffering and patience, take the prophets.” He may have had the prophets in mind here just three verses later. Recall too, that, Paul told Timothy, “you, be sober-minded in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:5) No affliction should discourage any Christian. If ever, we are discouraged, it is our irrational worldly thinking because we have set aside our biblical mindset, the mind of Christ. We need to know that it is the sin of Adam, which has brought us suffering, not God. We need to know that it is inherited sin, missing the mark of perfection, human weaknesses, being mentally bent toward evil, having a deceitful heart, having a natural desire toward wrong, and an imperfect world run by Satan that causes us any suffering. We need to know that in the end, God wins, so we win. (Rom. 8:28) We simply need to draw close to God, and the God of comfort will draw close to us. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; James 4:8.
Suppose we were to look to the faithful biblical persons and our primary example, Jesus Christ. In that case, we see that it is prayer, talking with the Father over the challenging decisions we must make, the difficulties that this life of imperfection throws at us, which gets us through the suffering. (Luke 6:12-13) The night before his death, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed with loud cries and tears to the Father. Peter informed his readers that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” (1 Pet. 3:12) The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12) No matter the circumstance, praying is always available, and we know that Jesus will entreat the Father on our behalf. Jesus tells us, “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27) Paul wrote, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16
Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. The word cheerful (εὐθυμέω euthumeō) now conveys the sense of having or showing good-spirited happiness after being encouraged. It refers to appropriate pleasure, to happiness, brought on by laughter, or causing laughter, as joyous delight. Generally, in the Scriptures (εὐθυμεῖ) be encouraged (Ac 27:22, 25); happy, cheerful (Jas 5:13), which has the sense of a mind that is free from trouble. The Greek word used here (εὐθυμεῖ) literally means, being well in mind, that is, to find happiness because of being free from trouble; to be cheerful.
The response to the one suffering is to pray. Here now, James expresses that the response to the cheerful one is that he should sing praise. At times, we are quick to pray in the midst of our sufferings but so slow to praise the Father when the outcome is good. In addition, at times, we are quick to pray for God to deliver us out of our situations but so slow to thank him when we are delivered. We see a great example of singing praises to God for the trials that he has brought them through in the writings of David in the Psalms. When David was close to being killed by Saul and God spared him, he writes,
Psalm 40:1-3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
1 I waited patiently for Jehovah;
and he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction,
out of the miry clay,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and trust in Jehovah.
The psalms are full of David’s praises to God for all the sufferings God had sustained him throughout the course of his life. To sing praises to God is a reflection of the gratitude of the heart for what God has done or gives, which creates the joy within the heart. Paul wrote, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Col. 3:15-17) Similar words were echoed by Paul, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 5:19-20
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