Introduction: Let’s review our last two studies. James writes to
Jewish Christians who have fled their homes because of persecution.
James tells them that they should find joy in trials. Those who have
fled their homes were probably unable to take all of their wealth
with them. So, James next suggests that they should take pride in
“humble circumstances.” Joy and pride for those dealing with serious
problems. These are challenging teachings. If you could have joy and
pride in the midst of trouble, that would be wonderful! Let’s race
into our study of the Bible to see what challenging solution James
explains next!

  1. Crown of Life

    1. Read James 1:12. What is the reward at the end of all of
      this trouble? (“The crown of life!”)

      1. How do you get this crown? How do you acquire
        eternal life? James gives us two possibilities:

        1. Standing the test; or,

        2. Loving God. Do you think it is one, both, or

    2. Read Titus 3:4-7. What light does this shed on James
      1:12? (Titus says we are not saved “because of righteous
      things we have done.” That means that “standing the test”
      is not the correct answer if the “test” is some sort of
      work. Titus says we were saved “when the kindness and
      love of God our Savior appeared.” Loving the God who
      loved us first has to be a correct answer.)

      1. If you also like “standing the test” as a correct
        answer, what do you think constitutes the “test?”
        (The test of faith would work. Recall last week
        James wrote that “belief” is essential for receiving
        things from God. James 1:6-7.)

  2. Temptation

    1. Read James 1:13. Think again about the background of
      those to whom James is writing. Why would they be
      inclined to think that God was tempting them? (They are
      new converts to Christianity. Right after they convert,
      they have to flee. In their new home they are poor
      immigrants. Who is at fault for their current trials?
      (You can see where they would be tempted to blame God.
      This is a reason for James to have just written that God
      will give them a crown!)

    2. Read James 1:14. How are we tempted? (We know from the
      story of Eve ( Genesis 3:1-6)that Satan and our spouse can
      tempt us. But, this says that we tempt ourselves.)

      1. Does this mean that we have natural tendencies
        towards evil? (Yes!)

      2. Read Isaiah 64:6. What does this say about our
        works? (They are like filthy rags. Clearly, we have
        a problem.)

    3. Look again at James 1:14. How strong are these “self-temptations?” (Apparently strong enough for us to be
      “dragged away.”)

    4. Read James 1:15. Have you ever seen a big river and
      wondered where it started? Where does the sin that kills
      us start? (It starts with our own evil desire. It starts
      in our mind.)

      1. Does this seem right or wrong in your experience?
        How many times have you just “tripped” into sin? It
        was purely an accident. How many times is your sin a
        result of you giving great thought about it, or
        maybe thinking about some lesser form of the sin?

    5. Read Matthew 15:17-19. What does Jesus say is the source
      of sin? (The “heart.” When Jesus says, “heart” He means
      our thoughts, our desires. James and Jesus agree that sin
      has a predictable pattern. We first roll the idea around
      in our mind. After we think about it enough we begin to
      act on it. At some point the sin becomes “full-grown”
      ( James 1:15) and if we continue, kills us.)

    6. Read Romans 8:5-8. What should we do about our evil
      desires? (Don’t set your mind on those things.)

      1. What do you think “set your mind” means? Does it
        mean don’t think about the evil thing that creates
        trouble for you?

      2. Read Romans 7:7-11. What is the source of the
        covetous desire? (Sin and the command not to covet.)

      3. Think about this. If we let our minds dwell on some
        evil thing that is the path to sin. But, if we
        concentrate on the commandment that tells us not to
        do the evil thing, that produces an evil desire.
        What is the solution? (If my understanding is
        correct, we should avoid thinking about the sin, and
        avoid thinking about the commandment which tells you
        not to do the sin.)

    7. Read Romans 8:5 again. What is the solution to the battle
      of the mind? (Instead of concentrating on your sins –
      either the sin or the prohibition – think instead about
      what God has in mind for us. Focus on what you can do to
      advance the Kingdom of God.)

    8. Read James 1:16. Scan the context. What deception do you
      think James has in mind? (James just refuted the idea
      that God tempts us. The context suggests that we should
      not be deceived by the idea that God will tempt us.)

    9. Read James 1:17. What kind of gifts is James writing
      about? What does the context suggest? (The context
      suggests that we are still talking about temptation. If
      I’m correct, this bolsters the idea that we should not
      dwell on sin, we should not dwell on the commandment that
      causes us to want to sin, we should not dwell on our
      problems, instead we should dwell on the great blessings
      that God has given us and how we can advance God’s work.)

      1. Would my interpretation of this make any sense for
        people who have been driven from their homes and are
        now poor? (Can you see that James argument comes
        full circle? James says that joy and pride can be
        realized in such circumstances. Joy and pride are
        gifts. Dwell on God’s gifts.)

  3. Gift of Life

    1. Read James 1:18. Which birth is referred to here? (Read 1
      Peter 1:3-4. James is not talking about us being born, he
      is talking about us being saved.)

    2. Look again at James 1:18. How are we saved? (“Through the
      word of truth.”)

      1. What is the “word of truth?” ( John 1:1 tells us that
        Jesus is the “Word,” but I think that James means
        this more broadly – the teachings about Jesus.)

      2. Are “first-fruits” good? (Fausset’s tells us “The
        whole land’s produce was consecrated to God by the
        consecration of the first-fruits.” James encourages
        these early Christians by saying that they are
        special to God, they are the beginning of the
        harvest. Be encouraged!)

        1. What is the overall message to these persecuted
          Christians? (You are special. You are the
          first. Your trials bring you a mature attitude
          that allows joy. God did not bring these
          problems, God only gives you good gifts.)

  4. Wisdom in Action

    1. Read James 1:19-20. We discussed these verses in an
      earlier lesson and decided that this is advice that gives
      us greater emotional intelligence. Re-read James 1:13.
      What is the special issue for these early Christians?
      (They may think that because Jesus suffered and died, God
      was bringing them suffering, persecution and poverty.
      James essentially says “This is not true. God only brings
      good gifts. This is the work of Satan. Let this advice
      sink in. Think about it, rather than talking. Don’t be
      quick to get angry.”)

    2. Read James 1:21. James writes, “Which can save you.” Save
      us from what? (We learned earlier that we do not earn
      eternal life by our works. This must mean that accepting
      the word of God, getting rid of “all moral filth and the
      evil that is so prevalent,” saves us from trouble.)

      1. Why would James tell us to “humbly accept” the word
        of God? (James teaching seems so counter-intuitive.
        He tells them that persecution brings joy. We may
        think that “moral filth” brings joy, but in truth it
        brings trouble. James says that we should put aside
        our pride and accept the words that will give us joy
        and peace.)

    3. Friend, what about you? Are you willing to accept the
      words of James that seem contrary to the message of the
      world? Are you willing, beginning now, to give his advice
      a chance in your life?

  5. Next week: Being and Doing.