Prone to Wander

Bible Book: James  5 : 19-20
Subject: Backslidding; Wandering from God; Unfaithfulness

I have mentioned before how James was such a “direct preacher” (in your face) in presenting truth. However, I wish to begin with a more distance approach. Practical theologian, pastor at heart.

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Robert Robinson

“Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;

Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise:

Teach me some melodious sonnet,

Sung by flaming tongues above;

Praise the mount-I’m fixed upon it-

Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;

Hither by Thy help I’m come;

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,

Safely to arrive at home:

Jesus sought me when a stranger,

Wan-d’ring from the fold of God:

He, to rescue me from danger,

Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,

Bind my wan-d’ring heart to Thee:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.”

Robert Robinson, author of the hymn, ‘Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,’ lost the happy communion with the Savior he had once enjoyed, and in his declining years he wandered into the byways of sin. As a result, he became deeply troubled in spirit.

Hoping to relieve his mind, he decided to travel. In the course of his journeys, he became acquainted with a young woman on spiritual matters, and so she asked him what he thought of a hymn she had just been reading. To his astonishment he found it to be none other than his own composition. He tried to evade her question, but she continued to press him for a response. Suddenly he began to weep. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he said, ‘I am the man who wrote that hymn many years ago. I’d give anything to experience again the joy I knew then.’

Although greatly surprised, she reassured him that the ‘streams of mercy’ mentioned in his song still flowed. Mr. Robinson was deeply touched. Turning his ‘wandering heart’ to the Lord, he was restored to full fellowship. In verses 19-20 James is teaching us about the condition of those who drift away.” Jack Andrews

Text begs the Question: “Do I know any believers that are ‘walking at a guilty distance,’ they are ‘wandering and straying from the Lord,’ or they are ‘backslidden’?”

What approach do you take or recommend in order to see them restored?

i. Prayer

ii. Providential (place someone in their path)

iii. Plead

Do you see this as strictly a function of the Holy Spirit or should we become a part of the solution? Is there a time that prayer is no longer a substitute for the practice of seeking the restoration of the straying Christian or sinning Christian?

“Professor Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary, tells the story of a young man who, after straying far from the Lord, was finally brought back by the help of a friend who loved him unconditionally. When he was fully restored, Dr. Hendricks asked him what it felt like when he was straying from God.

The man answered, ‘It seemed like I was being pulled farther and farther out to sea, into deep water. And all my friends were standing on the shoreline hurling accusations at me about justice, condemnation, and sin.’ Then he added, ‘But there was one Christian brother who actually swam out to get me and he wouldn’t let me go. I fought him, but he withstood my fighting. He grasped me, put a life jacket around me, and managed to pull me to shore. By the grace of God he was the single reason I was restored – the man refused to let me go.”



“brethren, if anyone among you”

James writes as a passionate pastor who does not seek to condemn, but to encourage his flock. This serves as an encouraging appeal. It uses the language set forth in the spirit of love. Nineteen times James uses the word “brother” in his letter, which means “one who shares with another a mutual life.” The point is that it is possible for a true believer to leave the path.

This does not mean that a wandering, straying, fallen brother is no longer a Christian. Does not mean the relationship is broken; fellowship may be damaged.

“if” – speaks of a probable instance in the future. “If” is like a flashing yellow light; caution, caution, caution! Speaks of potential danger.


“wander from the truth” – err, slip away, to go astray. To move about aimlessly as though lost; get off course.

Matthew 18:12: "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?”

“goes astray” – word for planet. It depicts movement like that of a heavenly body which seems to wander across the sky. It is the idea of someone leaving something he or she once knew in an intimate way. It suggests a gradual moving from the will of God; spiritual decline.

1. Of Conduct 19c

“from the truth” – system of doctrine or a system of conduct. The action of straying is active, not passive.

A conscious decision to walk away. It’s the belief/behavior.

NOTE: You do not have to leave the church to leave the truth.

Proverbs 5:14

“I was on the verge of total ruin,

In the midst of the assembly and congregation."

To stray from truth is to fail to align their practice with their profession; speaks of a moral deviation. Thousands today change what they believe to accommodate their moral behavior.

“wanders from the truth” (wanders) – aorist tense means not habitual but one-time or occasional slip. When habitual, it is a good indication the person is not saved. Passive voice, indicates that wandering believers are led astray by some outside force; perhaps a person, a place, or a passion. Wandering happens subtly and deceptively.

“the truth” – the written Word and the Living Word

John 17:17: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”

John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”

2. Of Character 20

“the error of his way” – conduct rises from character; speaks of a character flaw; pattern of living

Unguarded Strength

Unprotected Heart

Unintentional Sin

Error is the noun form of the verb wanders



V19 “someone turns him back” - V20 “he who turns a sinner” – literally means to turn around; to bring back

“someone” – precious one who cares; it costs to care; cares, cost, counts, considerate, compassion, confronts

“turns him back” – convert; bring him back again, to turn around, turn back

In Luke 22:32, Jesus used the word concerning Simon Peter’s denial

“when you are converted” – meaning after Peter’s restoration.

One of the greatest problems of the church today is the large number of members that have strayed away.

One of the greatest needs of the church today is for large numbers of members that care for the strayed; (March 6th) is high attendance in Share Life Groups.


“let him know” – one thing you can be sure of; this is encouragement.

1. Saving

“will save a soul (life) from death” – it may be physical death as a severe chastisement for sin (Hebrews 12:11). A person continues in carnality and dies under divine discipline; however, a restorer comes along, that death doesn’t happen.

It may be that the straying one was turned around from the “death-like-condition” in which he was living. Many live a dead and useless life. A life of waste and emptiness.

2. Forgiving/Covering

“and cover a multitude of sins” – means to hide and is used in the O.T. sense of covered by God so they are remembered no more.


Galatians 6:1: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

In James 5:19-20, we have observed an action, now let’s observe an attitude.


We have to disarm our anger and allow God to deal with our impatient spirit. God helps us to remember our dependence on Him. He helps us realize our own limitations and frailties.


Controlled by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. One who helps another needs to have his heart so warm and molded with God’s heart that his voice actually represents the concern of God.