Lesson 2

The Perfecting of Our Faith

(James 1:2-11)
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Introduction: In Matthew 5:10-12 Jesus says those who are persecuted "because of righteousness" are blessed, and those who are insulted and defamed because of Jesus are blessed. Most people would call that a bad day at work! The Dali Lama, a Buddhist, has some interesting things to say about being mistreated by enemies. He says something like, "How many enemies do you have? How many people mistreat you? Consider this an unique opportunity to improve your character!" Jesus and James are pointing us on the path to heaven, the Dali Lama is not, but they all understand the relationship between problems and character development. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Persecution


    1. Read James 1:2-4. What do trials and testing do for us? (We discussed this last week. It makes us mature and complete - we have all the tools needed to be on the path to right living.)


    2. Read James 1:5. Wait a minute! If being mature and complete is the complete toolkit, why does James mention wisdom?


      1. Is wisdom the same as maturity? (Maturity can simply mean "old," and we all know some old people who are not wise.)


      2. Think about this for a little while. James says that tough times teach us perseverance and maturity. How is that different from wisdom?


      3. If wisdom is different, how does it relate to this issue of being persecuted? (A difficult experience can teach wisdom to deal with that kind of problem. But, it takes wisdom to realize this. James tells us things we don't like to hear - trials and testing do us some good. Then he says, if this doesn't make sense to you, ask God for wisdom.)


  2. Wisdom


    1. Look again at James 1:5. How do we acquire wisdom? (Ask God for it!)


      1. If you are honest, how many of your "persecutions" and "troubles" are your own fault? If you were wise in the beginning, would you have avoided these problems?


        1. Is this another aspect of wisdom - wisdom not only shows us the benefit of trials, but it will help us to avoid going through trials?


      2. In Matthew 5:10 Jesus says we are blessed when our troubles arise from doing right, from standing up for Jesus. James does not limit the source of the trouble, although he does refer to the "testing of your faith" ( James 1:3). Will trouble be an opportunity for learning regardless of the reason for it? (I think so.)


      3. How often do we teach our young people about wisdom? You can learn things the hard way or the easy way. If you create your own trouble you have the opportunity to learn. But, if you ask God for wisdom, you can learn without the pain. Is this something that we stress?


        1. Is some pain inevitable? (Jesus refers to pain that results from doing the right thing. Living in a sinful world opens us up to pain.)


    2. Look again at James 1:5. Why does the text refer to God not "finding fault?" Why mention this in the context of asking God for wisdom? (God will not say, "You've been too stupid in the past, or made too many mistakes, to deserve wisdom.")


      1. How is intelligence different than wisdom? Or, are they the same? (Wisdom can be called "emotional intelligence," and it is something that can be learned. You are born with a certain amount of native intelligence - and increasing it is difficult. But, your wisdom can greatly increase.)


    3. Read James 1:19-20. What wisdom lessons do we find here? (These are rules of emotional intelligence. Listen before you talk. Listen carefully. Think about what you are about to say and don't speak immediately when you are angry. The rule is that listening should be automatic. Speaking or getting angry should be carefully considered.)


      1. What does this have to do with trials? (If you follow this rule, the number of trials you face will greatly diminish.)


  3. Faith


    1. Read James 1:6-8. What is the context here - what is this person asking for? (Wisdom.)


      1. Is God's gift of wisdom guaranteed if we ask and believe? (Yes! James says that only doubting will keep us from having the gift.)


      2. What is the problem with doubting? (It allows our emotions to go all over the place. It makes us unstable. Worse, it denies us the gift of wisdom.)


    2. Look again at James 1:8. How serious is the problem of doubting God? (It makes us unstable in all that we do.)


    3. Do you know people like this? They have weak faith. They are always facing some sort of trial. The result is that their life is "blown and tossed" about. James says the cure is believing God.


  4. Pride


    1. Read James 1:9 and Proverbs 8:12-13. James just told us that if we ask God for wisdom, He will give it to us. Proverbs adds that wisdom hates pride. Now James tells us that those in "humble circumstances" should take pride. Is James confused?


      1. Are these "humble circumstance" people the ones who doubted and missed out on wisdom? (It is hard to believe that James actually means "pride." Instead, I think he is saying that if we live modestly because we are poor, there is no shame in that.)


    2. Read James 1:10. Let's try the Bruce Cameron paraphrase: "Those rich low-lives should be happy to know they will die soon." Do you think this reflects the general teaching of the Bible?


      1. Read Ecclesiastes 5:19 and Deuteronomy 28:12-13. What do these say about wealth? (They say that wealth, and the enjoyment of wealth, is a gift of God. It is a reward for obedience.)


      2. What do you think: is there a connection between being poor and being righteous?


    3. Read James 1:11. Here is a hint about wealth - the rich guy dies while he is still working! No wonder he is rich. Is James saying that rich people die more easily?


      1. I believe that the entire Bible is inspired by God. How should we understand James' nasty note about wealth when the Bible elsewhere says wealth is a blessing from God? (I don't think James is saying that poor people should be proud and rich people should expect to die soon - as if wealth caused death. Instead, James is saying that whether we are rich or poor, we are all subject to death. Human dignity exists for all as long as they have life. The rich man may still be rich ("he goes about his business"), but that does not keep him from dying just like the poor person.)


      2. Read Ecclesiastes 9:4. Would you rather be a lion or a dog? (A lion!)


        1. Would you rather be a live dog or a dead lion? (Solomon votes for the live dog. I think that is James' point - death is the great equalizer. The rich should not think they are superior, because they, too, will die.)


    4. Read Luke 8:14. This is part of Jesus' parable about the Kingdom of God being like a farmer planting seed. What is the caution here about wealth? (The rich can become preoccupied by their riches and pleasures and turn away from the gospel.)


    5. Read Proverbs 18:11. Is this true? (Yes. Money can protect you from many bad things.)


      1. What is the problem with that? (You depend on your money and not on God. When you rely on money more than God, money is your idol. You are fooled because you "imagine it an unscalable wall" - and it is not.)


    6. Consider what we have studied. We should prize persecution. We should take pride in "humble circumstances." The rich will die soon. Is there a theme here? (Yes, the common theme is to trust God. That is also the key to wisdom, trusting that God will give us understanding about the important things in life.)


    7. Friend, why not ask God for wisdom right now?


  5. Next week: Enduring Temptation.

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