MONTHLY ARCHIVES: August 2010
THINK ABOUT YOUR LAST bad day. Maybe it started when you got to school and one of your friends said something hurtful. Maybe someone you respected embarrassed you in front of everyone. Maybe everything that could go wrong did. And then, finally, tired of it all, you smarted off to your parents. When confronted about it, you said, “I just had a bad day.”
Does a bad day justify bad behavior? No. But, when we go through trials, it is easy to blame God, get mad at Him, or even justify sinful behavior simply because we’re going through a hard time.
Read James 1:12-15, focusing on verse 13.
What did James mean when he said, “Blessed is a man who endures trials”?
Why do we tend to blame God for bad things that happen?
According to these verses, does God ever tempt us to sin? Explain.
What is the promise in these verses for those who endure trials?
You’ve heard it a bunch over the past few week’s devotions: tough times will come your way. But today’s Scripture passage makes it clear that hard times never justify sinful behavior. In fact, trials never produce sinful behavior. It is our reaction to the trials that can lead us to sin. By blaming God, we are simply trying to justify our sinful actions.
God doesn’t tempt us. And while He doesn’t cause every trial that comes our way, He can use them as an opportunity for our growth.
THERE IS ONE QUALITY many people lack that keeps them from living life to the fullest: trust. We have lost trust in each other. Politicians are caught in lies. Athletes are cheating. Churches are full of hypocrites. Friends betray us. Parents disappoint us. Whom can you trust anymore?
Most of us will give the church answer: “You can always trust God!” But do you? When your life is crashing down around you, do you trust God?
Read Ephesians 1:15-19 and think hard about verse 17.
What did Paul say he was praying for in the Ephesians’ lives?
What does it mean to have a spirit of wisdom?
What does it mean to grow in knowledge of God?
Would you describe yourself as having a spirit of wisdom or growing in knowledge of God? Why or why not?
How easy is it to trust God when everything is going well?
How easy is it to trust God when everything is falling apart?
Why can you trust God even when you don’t understand what is happening?
Trust in God comes from having a relationship with Him. That was what Paul said he was praying for in today’s Scripture passage. He wanted the Ephesians to grow in their knowledge of and relationship with God. He wanted them to know the overwhelming power and wisdom that only God can give.
The more you know God and His character, the more you can trust Him. If you know God is good, then you can trust that He is going to do what is good for you. If you know God is sovereign, then you can trust that He is in complete control. Theologian Charles Spurgeon once said, “When you cannot trace God’s hand, trust His heart.”
Whom are you trusting today?
THERE ARE MANY THINGS IN LIFE that can only be learned through experience. For example, sailing. You can read books or watch videos on sailing. You can even practice tying the different types of nautical knots, but until you get on a boat and take it out on the water, you haven’t really learned how to sail.
Wisdom is like sailing; it can only be learned through experience. In other words, to pray for wisdom is to pray for a situation that will teach you wisdom. Which is exactly what trials are, according to James.
Read James 1:5-8, stopping to read verse 5 out loud.
What do these verses have to say about wisdom?
In what areas of your life do you need wisdom?
What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
How can wisdom help you through various trials?
Why is it important to make good decisions in the middle of a trial?
What does it mean to ask in faith without doubting?
How have you seen God’s work in your life stunted by your doubt that He could do anything about the problem?
Is wisdom all you need to face the trials that will come your way? No! In today’s passage, James said that if you need wisdom to ask God for it. Yet, there is one condition: when you ask for that wisdom, you must ask “in faith without doubting.” You need wisdom to manage the trials that come your way, but you must also have faith!
You must have faith that God will give you the wisdom you need, that He can help you in the midst of the trials, and that He will use the trial to help you grow spiritually. Though it is tough at times, you must have faith that you can endure any trial.
We don’t expect Jesus to have had those moments. Yet at first glance, that’s what today’s passage seems to be: Jesus being disrespectful to His earthly family. Just remember: first impressions aren’t always right!
Read Luke 8:19-21. Consider Jesus’ words in verse 21 carefully.
Who came to see Jesus when He was preaching to the crowd?
What was Jesus’ response?
According to verse 21, who did Jesus say were His mother and brothers? What does that mean?
What does it mean to both hear and do the Word?
Are you someone who only hears God’s Word or someone who both hears and takes action?
At first glance, Jesus’ response to His mother and brothers in today’s passage seems disrespectful and rude. While the words seem harsh—and maybe they seemed that way to Jesus’ family, too—they teach us something important about our Savior: He places extreme importance on hearing and doing the Word.
Jesus doesn’t just want followers who know all about Him and know every word of His teachings. That’s a good starting point, but Jesus wants followers who know Him, people who read Scripture and study His teachings in order to become more like Him. He wants followers who hear His words and put them into action. He doesn’t just want us to listen; He wants us to follow His example. So, what kind of follower are you?
RECENTLY I HEARD a student athlete complaining about his coach’s requirements to spend two hours a day in the weight room to prepare for football season. “I don’t have enough time in the day to do that,” he whined. “I know it helps me get ready for football and all, but really, who has the time to spend lifting weights every day?”
When was the last time you said the same kind of thing? Why is devoting yourself to something and taking the time and effort to do it right so important?
Read James 2:18-26. Pay attention to verse 22.
What comparison did James make in verses 18 and 19?
What did James say even the demons believe in verse 19? Why is that important?
James made an analogy of our faith and our deeds with what great Old Testament figure?
Verse 24 says a person is not justified by merely believing, but also by what?
What does it mean to say that Abraham’s faith was active together with his works? Does that describe your faith?
How is your faith spurring you to action? Examine your life for evidence of a faith.
It is easy to say we believe in something, but real belief involves action. James’ point is that faith is not passive. It calls for us to do something. You can say all you want about Christ, but if His good works aren’t present in your life, your beliefs are falling short. True faith is more than just having the right belief system. It is words put into actions. Examine your faith. Then, live it out. It may mean sharing your lunch, helping clean the Egypt, or refusing to copy someone else’s homework. Don’t let your faith just be words. Take action!