Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16
Confession is God’s provision to clear obstacles that hinder our relationships with God and with others. Confession is not just for those who don’t mind admitting their faults. Confession is a command, given to every Christian. James advised that when we sin, it is important for us to confess not only to God, but also to our fellow Christians. There is a tremendous freedom that comes as we openly acknowledge the sinfulness of our actions to others.
If confession does not come out of repentance, it is merely admission, and not true confession. It is important to confess your sins specifically and not hide behind generalities. It is one thing to pray, “O Lord, forgive my sin.” It’s quite another to identify specifically in painful honesty. Whenever possible, confession ought to be made directly to those whom your sin has hurt. You are not to confess the sins of others but only your offenses. Confession is not a sign of weakness; it is evidence of your refusal to allow sin to remain in your life.
Significantly, James linked confession with prayer. Your prayers will be hindered if you hold on to unconfessed sin. When James promised that the “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” he did so in the context of confession. If you wish to have a powerful prayer life, you must regularly confess your sin. Only when there are no obstacles separating you from God and others will your prayers be effective. Pride will discourage you from admitting to others the sinfulness of your heart. A desire to please God will compel you to confess your sin and rid yourself of its oppressive burden.
Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
As you’ve no doubt discovered, becoming a Christian does not make your problems go away. But it does give you an Advocate to whom you can take every concern. The Christians Peter addressed were facing persecution. They did not know whom they could trust; a friend, a neighbor, or even a family member could betray them, resulting in suffering and even death. But Peter had walked with the risen Christ, and he had personally experienced the love that Jesus had for His followers. He knew that Christ was in control, capable of handling every trial and that He wanted to do so as an expression of His love.
Casting our cares is a choice. It means consciously handing over our anxiety to Christ and allowing Him to carry the weight of our problems. At times this is the most difficult part of trusting God! We don’t like turning over the responsibility for our problems. We have been taught that self-reliance is good and praiseworthy. We may even enjoy worrying. Yet if we are to be freed from the burden of our concerns, we must choose to cast them into the strong hands of our Father.
Peter does not distinguish between little cares and big cares. God does not differentiate between problems we should handle on our own and God-sized needs. He asks us to turn them all over to Him. One of our greatest errors is to assume we can deal with something ourselves, only to discover that we really can’t.
God sees you as His frail child, burdened with a load that surpasses your strength. He stands prepared to take your load and to carry it for you. Will you let Him?
In this episode Richard has a conversation with Karen Swallow Prior, Ph.D. She is a reader, writer and professor. She talks with Richard about her latest book, The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images, and Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis. Another one of her books mentioned on the podcast is On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books. She has authored and contributed to numerous other books. She has a monthly column for Religion News Service. Her writing has appeared at Christianity Today, New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, First Things, Vox, Think Christian, The Gospel Coalition, and various other places. She hosted the podcast Jane and Jesus. She is a Contributing Editor for Comment, a founding member of The Pelican Project, a Senior Fellow at the Trinity Forum, and a Senior Fellow at the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture. She and her husband live on a 100-year-old homestead in central Virginia with dogs, chickens, and lots of books. Connect with Karen on her website: www.karenswallowprior.com
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