Read an Excerpt
JAMES 1: 1 - 18
It begins as a sneaking suspicion when things don't go well. As troubles continue, a sense of doom or resignation can develop. "I must be doing it wrong," we think. "This is too hard. Surely God did not mean life to be such a struggle." James takes a different point of view. Life is indeed a struggle, he writes, and for a good purpose. Through difficulties we learn perseverance, the art of "hanging in there." Christian growth, as James sees it, is a process for which there are no shortcuts. It takes time for God to teach us how to be mature people.
1. What was the hardest year of your life? How did that year affect your character?
2. Read James 1: 1-18. In your own words, how would you define maturity (v. 4)?
3. What does James say is the role of trials in developing maturity?
4. If there are trials in your life that require special perseverance just now, what kind of maturity do you see potentially developing?
5. The Bible defines "wisdom" (v. 5) as skillful living--knowing how to conduct your life in a way that leads to good results. In what areas do you see people in our society showing a lack of wisdom?
6. What are the characteristics of a "double-minded" person (v. 8)?
Why would such a person have trouble becoming wise and mature?
7. Verses 9-11 imply that trials of life erase superficial distinctions between the rich and the poor. Why would that be true?
How does the illustration of a wildflower make that point?
8. Verse 12 refers to the "crown of life" that God will someday give those who love him. What do you understand this "crown of life" to be, and how can anticipating it help us to persevere during trials?
9. Sometimes people put the blame on God for their failings. How does James describe the true origin of temptation (vv. 13-15)?
10. Some people regard temptation itself as sin, but the Bible indicates that is not the case. How do we keep from crossing the line from temptation to sin?
Do not relate the experience aloud to others, but try to think of an occasion when you did not cross the line, or another when you did. What were the results in your life? In others' lives?
11. If we know God as the changeless "Father of the heavenly lights" (v. 17), how will that knowledge of his character affect the way we deal with trials and temptations?
12. Verse 18 says that God intends Christians to be "a kind of firstfruits," which is the first crop a farmer harvests. What does this image add to your idea of maturity?
Memory Verse Between
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
--James 1: 17-18
It is a good idea to "count your blessings," but we often apply that only in the most obvious sense. James encourages us to see God's blessing in periods of trial. During this week, draw up a list of various
S trials you have undergone in the course of your life. For each one, think about how you personally were affected. What aspects of your character were "completed" during that period?
Trials Character developed