James was written to encourage Christians who are suffering highlighting wisdom, faith, endurance and devotion to the needs of others. Jesus is revealed in James as the one who authenticates our faith.
James addresses how believers so easily reduce the battle of a lifetime to a self-centered joy ride. WHEN WE SURRENDER TO JESUS WE GO TO WAR! We are fighting an epic battle with eternal consequences and making excuses about why you can’t really contribute to what Jesus died for in the earth is simply unacceptable!
James 1:1-4 …Greetings. 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature... NIV
Our society tries to reduce Christianity to a self-serving religion and in doing so it has resulted in powerless, prayerless lives!
It’s easy to miss what God is trying to do in us when we are focused on what we want God to do for us! #destinyokc
James 2:14-19 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead…19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. NIV
We have reduced faith to mere belief, which really isn’t faith at all. If we do move beyond mere belief we then define faith as a tool we use to enhance our lives. Faith is a God-given resource to be a weapon in the hands of warriors used to change the world.
Your breakthrough awaits your ability to get beyond yourself! Job went through so much pain and anguish. If you read the story you’ll see that he did something very interesting right before he got his breakthrough. He shifted his attention away from himself. After everything that happens God responds in Job 38:3 simply telling Job to stop wallowing in his difficulty and “stand up like a man!” This is followed with verse after verse of how powerful God is and finally we see the key to Job’s breakthrough:
Job 42:10 And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. NKJV
Notice that when Job prayed for his friends his situation began to change. When we get our focus and attention off of ourselves and seek first God’s kingdom all the other things will be added to our lives. This is revealed in various places in Scripture and this is why this weeks’ action point is to rehearse, memorize and meditate on Isa 58.
Isa 58:6-11 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke…to share your food with the hungry and provide for the poor…8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear…9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I…if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. NIV
We are outrageously loving people who passionately pursue the Lord with irrationally giving lifestyles as we consistently submit to God’s desires and effectively disciple others to do the same.
We were never created to live lives that we could live without God’s help. A life we can live without him is not the life He’s called us to live.
Dreams are not born out of indifference, laziness or lack of ambition. Dreams are born out of a strong desire. God’s desires awaken our purpose producing meaningful lives.
Faith makes things possible not easy so stop asking for easy and get into the fighter’s frame of mind. Our society has tried to reduce Christianity to a self-serving religion. God size hole in your heart and believing in Jesus is all you need.
Aren’t you glad God doesn’t consult your budget to determine your dream. Don’t be surprised God asks you to do things than you can’t do without him. Stop consulting your budget to determine your level of faith. Stop consulting your circumstances to tell you what’s realistic.
DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR COMMUNITY GROUP LEADERS
OPENING DISCUSSION QUESTION:
1. Do you tend to plan far in advance, or are you more likely to just take each day as it comes?
One of the most common verses people reference when they need for God to give them wisdom is found in James:
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. NIV
2. How does the knowledge that life is short affect how you live day to day?
3. What do you believe are the differences between wisdom and knowledge?
Clearly James writes to awaken wisdom and to mobilize the church into action.
The dictionary explains belief as an opinion or judgment in which a person is fully persuaded.
Our beliefs are those things we are thoroughly convinced of. These are ideas and concepts we’ve gathered through information and experience. The more we gain knowledge and experience the more our beliefs will change over time.
How Is Faith Different?
The dictionary explains faith as complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
Faith is more substantial than merely making a decision to believe something. Faith includes our beliefs and hopes but becomes substance (Heb 11:1) or a substantial expression of our lives.
True faith requires action and if it doesn’t move us to do or say something then it really isn’t faith according to James:
James 2:17-18 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. NIV
4. If you could do something that would still be remembered in a hundred years, what would it be?
5. What do you believe are the differences between belief and faith?
6. What are some ways you can more readily demonstrate your faith this week as you care for the needs of others?
Conclude by praying for people those in your group can think of that they may encounter this week asking God to open their hearts to his love.
The author of this letter introduces himself as "James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ". Four men in the New Testament bore this name but the writer of this Epistle is usually identified with James who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. The letter is addressed to the "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad", and is the most Jewish in style and form of any of the New Testament books. It is not a treatise on Christian theology but rather a practical letter dealing with Christian ethics. James insists that works, not words, are the mark of a disciple.
The Message Bible Introduction:
When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business except, perhaps, business—and dishonest business at that. Insiders see it differently. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners.
Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It's similar with sinners outside the church.
So Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced, and dealt with.
The letter of James shows one of the church's early pastors skillfully going about his work of confronting, diagnosing, and dealing with areas of misbelief and misbehavior that had turned up in congregations committed to his care.
Wisdom is not primarily knowing the truth, although it certainly includes that; it is skill in living. For, what good is a truth if we don't know how to live it? What good is an intention if we can't sustain it?
According to church traditions, James carried the nickname “Old Camel Knees” because of thick calluses built up on his knees from many years of determined prayer. Prayer is always foundational to wisdom.
Chuck Swindoll on the book of James:
Who wrote the book?
While James did not specifically identify himself as to which “James” he was (James 1:1), the author is widely thought to be James the half-brother of Jesus. James was not a follower of Jesus during the Savior’s time on earth (Mark 3:21–35; John 7:5) but eventually became an apostle in the vein of Paul, as one who had seen and believed the Lord post-resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19). After witnessing the Lord’s resurrected body, James became one of the leaders of the church at Jerusalem. Peter singled him out among the other Christians there following Peter’s miraculous release from prison (Acts 12:17). James made the deciding speech at the Jerusalem Council (15:13–22), and Paul called James one of the pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9).
Where are we?
As one of the chief leaders in the church at Jerusalem, James wrote from that city prior to the meeting of the Jerusalem Council, which Luke recorded in Acts 15. At that council, James, along with Peter and Paul, affirmed the decision to take the gospel message to the Gentiles. This council met in AD 49, meaning James likely wrote his letter in AD 45–48. Such a significant event as the Jerusalem Council warranted comment from James, as he was writing to a Jewish Christian audience. But James made no mention of Gentile Christians at all, making an early date for the letter most likely. In fact, it was likely the first New Testament book written.
Why is James so important?
The book of James looks a bit like the Old Testament book of Proverbs dressed up in New Testament clothes. Its consistent focus on practical action in the life of faith is reminiscent of the Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament, encouraging God’s people to act like God’s people. The pages of James are filled with direct commands to pursue a life of holiness. He makes no excuses for those who do not measure up. In the mind of this early church leader, Christians evidence their faith by walking in certain ways and not others. For James, a faith that does not produce real life change is a faith that is worthless (James 2:17).
What's the big idea?
In the opening of his letter, James called himself a bond-servant of God, an appropriate name given the practical, servant-oriented emphasis of the book. Throughout the book, James contended that faith produces authentic deeds. In other words, if those who call themselves God’s people truly belong to Him, their lives will produce deeds or fruit. In language and themes that sound similar to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, James rails against the hypocritical believer who says one thing but does another.
For James, faith was no abstract proposition but had effects in the real world. James offered numerous practical examples to illustrate his point: faith endures in the midst of trials, calls on God for wisdom, bridles the tongue, sets aside wickedness, visits orphans and widows, and does not play favorites. He stressed that the life of faith is comprehensive, impacting every area of our lives and driving us to truly engage in the lives of other people in the world. While James recognized that even believers stumble (James 3:2), he also knew that faith should not coexist with people who roll their eyes at the less fortunate, ignore the plight of others, or curse those in their paths.
How do I apply this?
More than any other book in the New Testament, James places the spotlight on the necessity for believers to act in accordance with our faith. How well do your actions mirror the faith that you proclaim? This is a question that we all struggle to answer well. We would like to point to all the ways our faith and works overlap but too often see only gaps and crevices.
As you read the letter from James, focus on those areas that he mentioned: your actions during trials, your treatment of those less fortunate, the way you speak and relate to others, and the role that money plays in how you live your life. Allow James to encourage you to do good, according to the faith you proclaim.