"My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth . . . (James 5:19).
I have been preaching through the book of James for the past year and will come to the final two verses this Sunday. I have only done my preliminary study so far, but I was startled by the word 'wander'. In Greek πλανάω means "to proceed without a proper sense of direction, go astray, be misled, wander about aimlessly (BDAG)". Webster defines it this way, "to move about without a fixed course, aim, or goal, to go idly about, to follow a winding course, to go astray". For a word picture it is like a cork in the middle of the ocean. The cork simply goes with wind and tide ever closer to the bank. In the text the wanderer is aimlessly going through life and each day he is getting further away from the truth. Like the cork (if the water represents the truth) he is aimlessly getting more and more shallow.
The apostle Paul tells Timothy that the church of the living God is the "pillar and support of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). It strikes me today as I live in a town that has over 100 churches listed in the phone book that the little corner of the world that I live in is made up of wanderers. People wander in and out of church every day. The book we are studying in Sunday School (Life in the Father's House; Wayne Mack and Dave Swavely) stated that "53,000 people leave churches every week and never come back"! That is simply staggering to my heart and mind. I am perplexed, saddened, and grieved over the self-inflicted destruction of people who will throw away one church after another as they aimlessly wander further from God and closer to shallow worldliness.
It is heartbreaking to think that people who confess to be followers of Jesus Christ will wander from church to church and even complain about the churches they leave, but yet they will be unremittingly committed to the school-house, job, secular groups (Boy Scouts, Athletics, Chamber of Commerce, etc), and to personal hobbies. On the above listed groups they will encounter selfish people, mean people, disgruntled people, arrogant people, deceptive people, and even downright evil people. However, even with those type of people they will not wander away from these groups, but if something at church does not go their way they quickly wander on to something supposedly better down the road.
With all the wandering that goes on today I have a question. Why do people overwhelmingly wander from church to church, but do not wander away from the worldly institutions in the same way? Well to answer the question I must quote my grandmother (100 years old and will be 101 this month) when she told me, "John Randall, people do what they want to do". There is great revelation in this statement by my grandmother and it centers on the word 'want/desire'. When a person has 'want/desire' he will endure any difficulty for the sake of being a part of what he loves. When a person is simply doing something for the sake of conscience he will easily wander from one group to another because he has not the 'want/desire' for the truth. Any man who loves truth will be committed to the end to the local church. Why will he be committed? He will be committed because the church is the "pillar and support of the truth".
Do you want to stop your wandering ways? I recommend that you look to Jesus Christ as your true north on your spiritual compass. Jesus is the truth and there is no truth outside of Him. Jesus Christ has a bride and her name is church (Rev. 21:9). Find a church that preaches the Word, observes communion and baptism and invest your life there for the glory of God and for your own good. Give 100 percent to your local church until you die and trust that God will bless anyone who loves His bride.
Stop wandering around like a cork in the ocean and put your anchor down on biblical truth! Dear wanderer, if you continue wandering you will kill yourself with a multitude of sins. However, if you will cling steadfastly to Jesus Christ and demonstrate your love to Him by serving His bride you will find great favor in His eyes.