Welcome back to our online Inductive Bible study on the Book of James, “Living a Life of Faith” by Angie K. Smith. We just completed Week One, and what an amazing week of study it has been! We have been having some incredible sharing time in our discussion groups this week.
So what do we know about James? First of all, James was Jewish, and he was one of Jesus’ brothers, son of Joseph and Mary. He was also the head of the Jerusalem church according to Acts. James wrote this letter to the Jews (the twelve tribes) who were believers in the Lord Jesus who had been dispersed from their homeland of Israel.
NOTE: These Jewish believers were probably dispersed during the persecution against the Jerusalem church in Acts 8. Or they could have been those scattered during the Babylonian sieges of Judah many years before. Those Jews then heard the gospel where they were and believed in Jesus.
James knew his readers well and the deep pain and suffering they were experiencing. He encouraged them to consider it joy when encountering various trials, because the testing of their faith produces endurance so they will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
James doesn’t say if trouble comes your way but when it does. We will no doubt experience pain and suffering on this side of heaven. We do not have to pretend to be happy about it when we face pain, because let’s face it, no one wants to be in pain. However, what James is telling us is to have a positive outlook and to consider it an opportunity for great joy because of what troubles can produce in our lives. We can turn our hardships into times of learning. God has much to show us through our times of pain and suffering, and it’s during these times that teach us perseverance and faith.
Angie Smith sums it up so perfectly, “If we never have anything to endure, we will never learn endurance; if we are never forced to persevere, we will never grow in maturity. It is in the trenches of hardship that we learn the most; it is in our brokenness that we grow in grace and wisdom. If I were capable of living a perfect life, I would expect perfection of those around me. If, though, I am forced to live a life of hardship, exposing my own inadequacies and need for a merciful God, those very hardships give me the opportunity to absorb grace from Him, which in turn makes me want to lavish it on others. Through this process, we are all given the opportunity to become more Christ-like as we give grace where it is not deserved.”
The book of James challenges us to see our trials with a new perspective, and to consider them joy. This is going to an ongoing theme throughout this study of James. Since we cannot change our circumstances, we can change our perspective on how we view our trials. Oh, how prevalent this message of hope and faith is to us today. I can hardly wait for us to share with one another what we discover in our study of James in the coming weeks.
BIBLE STUDY TIP: Read through the book of James in one sitting before beginning your homework. Write out James Chapter 1 in your journal or notebook.
DIGGING DEEPER: Mark the key word faith in James 1. Do an online word study on faith at https://www.blueletterbible.org/. A word study form is posted in files in the private Facebook chat room.
ASSIGNMENT FOR THE WEEK:
- Join a Small Group and fellowship with your fellow Bible students.
- Complete your study of Week Two, “A Tested and Triumphant Faith.”
- Pray before you begin your study. Ask your resident Teacher, the Holy Spirit, to open your heart to wisdom and understanding to learn His truths.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR WEEK ONE (answer in small groups or post a comment below:
- When James says, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” immediately after his request to consider trials as joy, he is not commanding that they now learn that the testing of faith does so. Rather, he is presuming that the persecuted Jewish Christians already understand through experience, that the testing of their faith brings about endurance; therefore, they can consider it joy when they encounter the trials that they do. (Page 5) Can you look back on your life and recognize ways in which you have learned to endure greater burdens as a result of previous suffering? In what ways have you seen your endurance grow?
- “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:4. What do you think this verse might be saying when it suggests that endurance will make us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing?
- “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5. When you personally ask for wisdom, what do you feel you are requesting of God?
- What might cause you to doubt God when you ask for wisdom?
- “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12. When the refining process is over, when all our enduring is done, we will come to an end beyond our most glorious dreams and receive the crown of life (Page 22). How might keeping your mind focused on the crown of life help you to persevere today?