James Lesson 5

QUALITIES NEEDED IN TRIALS (JAMES 1:12-18)
BE DOERS, NOT HEARERS ONLY (JAMES 1:19-27)

Icebreaker Question:  Has any parent among you ever talked with your children and used words such as these, "To be successful in life, remember that you have two ears, two eyes and only one mouth."  Why did you advise them in this manner?

1.  James, once a skeptic of his half-brother's authenticity, totally changed after the crucifixion and resurrection.  At the time of his writing, and for the rest of his life, James was rock solid in his conviction that Jesus was the Son of God.  As a result, he died a martyr's death with those convictions, as did all of the apostles of Jesus, except John. 

Q2.  If we are not courageous in the midst of trials in our lives, particularly trials that test our faith, how strong is our faith?

2.  James knew that Jewish Christians, in the Jerusalem Church were facing, or surely would soon face, trials for their faith.  He also knew that the Jewish Christians were likely to be ridiculed by two camps.  First, there were the Roman government officials, already skeptical of the perceived Jewish zealots, and of the Jesus they loathed.  Secondly, they needed to be mindful of the Jewish officials, who did not buy into Jesus and His radical teachings.  With that in mind, it is not difficult to understand why James tells the Jerusalem Christians to "be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry".  But at the same time it is good advice for all Christians.

Q3.  Why does James advise using caution and speaking in a calm demeanor, in the face of testing and trials?  What does it show about the person speaking, and who does it witness to?  What should we be quick to hear?  (James 1:19)

3.  James then advises that Christians are to put away oral filth and the abundance of evil, and receive the implanted word.  (The picture here is that of shedding the old sinful life and putting on the new.)  What does the implanted word do?  In meditating on the idea of the implanted word, it strikes me that the Word is also referred to as "sharper than a two-edged sword".  (Hebrews 4:12)  The passage goes on to say that the word is living and active and has the penetrating power to judge the thoughts and attitudes of the hearer.  I encourage a deeper meditation on the power of both the written and the verbal word, which has the power to soothe the soul, while penetrating and convicting the heart of another person.

Q4.  Ask someone in the group to discuss how the word has ministered to them in times of trial.  Also ask how the word has encouraged them, or perhaps convicted them of some sin or habit that needed to be confessed and repented of.  

4.  In verses 22 through the end of Chapter 1, James delves into the scriptures and gives us a picture of what God expects of those who call themselves "His children".

a.  First of all, he assumes that we have renounced and put aside those vexing sins that have so strongly affected the purity of our walk with our Lord.  In essence, he is telling us that the evil of our past, which Satan tells us is "our right and entitlement" is standing in the way of giving 100% in our walk with the Master.  Each of us should ask ourselves, "Have I put to death my old life? or "Am I at the point where I have one foot on the pathway of God-honoring commitment and one still on the pathway of my desires?"  James is calling us to put both feet in.  As we do just that, God will release a clearer understanding of the word and it will become daily manna for our souls.  He wants us to go from two pathways going in opposite directions to all in the narrow pathway that leads to heaven.

Q5.  What does a 100% commitment look like?  James tells us it will "save our souls".  (James 1:21)

b.  Maybe you are saying, "I have already made the good confession of faith.  Hasn't that already led me to the salvation part?  James is not talking about salvation here.  He is talking about how to develop our day-by-day walk of faith, which will mature us as we go.  He goes on to describe some helpful indicators of what daily walking with Christ looks like.  He says:

(i)   Don't just talk about the word, act on it!  Do what it says, lest you deceive yourselves.  (James 1:22)

(ii)  Look intensely into the mirror and honestly ask yourself, "Am I doing, each and every day, what Christ wants me to do?"  Only when we take action, and begin doing what we learn from the scriptures, will the changes He wants to bring about in our lives begin to take root - new habits, new perspectives, new attitudes, new loves, new interests, etc.  (James 1:23, 24)

(iii) At the point of our salvation, we were like a hunk of stone.  James refers to the idea of God releasing us ("the perfect law of liberty").  Just as a sculptor chips away bits of stone to discover a beautiful new image hidden within, God frees us from the bondage of sin that has bound us.  As God, the sculptor, applies the principles of scripture to the believer's heart, we are freed from sin's bondage and released to grow and serve.  (James 1:25)

(iv)  We are to lay aside (or put away) the following:

1.  Religious rituals - going through the motions of worship, rather than going to church to grow and serve. (James 1:26)

2.  Uncontrolled or destructive speech.  When our speech is under control, it will result in proper speech flowing from a pure heart.

(v)   We are to reach out and share with those who are less fortunate, those who are lonely, and most importantly, those who can't begin to repay in anything but words of thanks and looks of appreciation.  For me, the greatest reward is just knowing that I have done something for someone in need, and seeing the look of appreciation on their faces.  By so doing, we demonstrate true sacrificial, Christian love.

Q6.  Close by asking the group to share the joy they have experienced, when serving someone who is unable to do or say much of anything to show their appreciation for what you were able to do for them.

 

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