Bread – Reliance

May 8, 2013

Readings for Wednesday, May 8, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; James 5:13-18; Luke 12:22-31; Psalm 119:97-120


Who should we rely on? The first thought that comes to mind is ourselves. This is natural man speaking. One of the great “quotes” from the Bible which people have told me through the years is “God helps those who help themselves.” Of course, this is nowhere to be found in the Bible because the exact opposite is true – God helps those who cannot help themselves and know it. But the way of the world is not the way of the kingdom of God.

So the next thought is to rely upon God. And this is a good response, based upon the fact that, since God created the universe, time, and that ever has been, is, and will be, He can be relied upon; He is a strong foundation. In fact, we have to rely upon God for our salvation and, really, for all the blessings of this life and of life everlasting. Whatever we have is from God, so we radically rely upon Him whether we know it or not, whether we are grateful or not, and whether we worship Him or not.

There is a third option and it is implied in our reading from James today. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…” James 5:14

In other words, we can rely in times of need and trouble on other people.

Not just other people, though, but people of wisdom and faith who are God-called elders of the church. These are not just the titular heads of the church (those who hold titles such as bishops, priests, deacons, overseers, apostles, prophets, or elders), but the people whom God has called to discernment and wisdom and, through the Holy Spirit, empowered them to preach, teach, serve, and love. In other words, Christians who are sick can rely upon the elders.

Does this require faith on the part of the asker? No, but it does require the willingness to ask for help and to accept help when it comes. It requires us to recognize that, in our current state, we cannot help ourselves and, for whatever reason, we have little faith at that moment to rely upon God. It requires us to be willing to open ourselves up and to ask.

Why do we not actively use this third source of help? Why do we not rely upon the elders in our time of need?

I think I know the answer to question. It is because we are prideful. We are willing to rely upon ourselves. We are willing to rely upon God because that is a secret transaction between God and us. In other words, we will rely upon God because when He helps us, we can keep it a secret from others that we needed the help. But we are not willing to rely upon those who are God’s agents in the circumstances. We are not willing to reveal our weakness so that God through others can reveal His strength. By relying upon others, we have to tell them our story, we have to admit our weakness, we have to ask for help, and we have to accept that help.

Do you find today that your reliance upon yourself is misplaced or is not working and that your private reliance upon God is awaiting a response? Perhaps all these circumstances call you to a different place, one where you have to call upon the elders of the church for help.

And who are these elders? They are people who have learned not to rely upon themselves. They have learned that they have not earned their salvation or anything else for that matter – that it is all a gift of a sovereign God. They see the world through the lens of Christ. They carry the kingdom of God with them wherever they go, even though they live in the world. They serve and they love, not in their own might but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Some of them bear titles in the church and others are your next door neighbors. Some are old and some are not.

In other words, the elders are people who need help too in their time of sickness. They, however, have learned to call upon other elders for help in such times. They have learned to rely upon the body of Christ as the agents of Christ in the world.

Next time you are sick, spiritually or physically, when the self-medication is not enough, when reading a book is not enough, when private prayers are not enough, when all the communications between you and God are not enough, remember that God has provided another people-group upon which you can rely, His representatives on earth. Rely upon them and let them lift you up. After all, God has made them, God has saved them, God has empowered them, and God uses them for His good purpose. So, why not rely upon them?


© 2013 GBF

*Omitted reading is from the Apocrypha


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