IT’S NOT JUST about you. When was the last time you said those words? Maybe it was to a friend, a character in a movie, or to yourself. Think about that situation. What prompted you to remind yourself (or someone else) that it wasn’t just about them?
Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. What stands out to you about verse 4?
According to these verses, why might times of trial not just be about you?
How can your trials and hard times help other people?
How have you seen this truth play out in your life or someone else’s life?
During your trials, do you look for ways to use them to help others?
Is it selfish to keep what you have learned from trials to yourself? Explain.
Are you willing to suffer so others will not have to? Why or why not?
If the goal of the Christian life is to become more like Christ (which it is), then we must also face trials. Jesus did. He endured various trials, temptations, and hard times, even the cross. Yet, it was for the benefit of others. Because of His willingness to endure those trials, we have salvation and forgiveness. We also have the assurance that because Jesus was here and faced tough times, He knows how we feel. He understands us.
A key point of Paul’s words in today’s passage is that the trials we face aren’t necessarily just about us. Instead, the things we learn can help us reach out to others and minister to them—all because of what we’ve learned during the tough times.
THINK ABOUT A TIME when you were wrong about someone. You thought that girl was shallow and stuck-up. Maybe you thought that guy was very mean because he kept getting you out in four-square. Whoever it was, at some later point you discovered that your assumption was wrong. That the idea you had about that person wasn’t actually built on truth.
Have you ever realized you’ve done the same thing to God? That you’ve chosen to believe things about Him or His character that in time proved to be false?
Read James 1:16-18 and contemplate verse 17.
Why do you think James wrote, “Don’t be deceived”?
What does verse 17 tell you about God’s character?
When have you doubted this truth about God? Why?
Why is it important to understand that all good things come from God?
What does it mean that there is no variation in God?
Does God provide us what we want or what He wills? Explain.
What do these verses teach you about God’s character?
James’ point is clear: God is good. It is His very nature, and God does not change. He has been good, is good, and will always be good. There is no variation or change in His goodness. Therefore, anything that is good begins with God and comes from God.
We also have to remember that life can hurt. And in the middle of that hurting, it’s easy to get some ideas about God that aren’t quite right, like the idea that He likes watching us suffer through life’s trials. The point is that trials aren’t necessarily good, but they can be used for good by a good God.
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!
Let’s really get to the heart of the matter: when was the last time you told someone you were a Christian? Was there evidence in your life to prove it?
Read James 2:14-17. Look closely at verse 14.
What question did James ask in verse 14?
What does that question mean? If he were asking you, how would you answer?
Read verses 15 and 16. What question was James asking in these verses?
How would you respond if you saw a person who was hungry?
What does it mean to say that faith without action is dead?
What is the relationship between faith and works, according to these verses?
Using James’ standard, would you describe your faith as alive or dead? Explain.
This passage in James explains that a faith without actions is a dead faith. James wasn’t saying that it’s your works or the good things you do that ensure your salvation. Salvation comes through your relationship with Jesus. As Paul said, salvation comes through Christ alone. James’ point is that we are saved by faith, but action flows from that faith.
If you’re a believer and your life doesn’t reflect obedience to Christ and involvement in His work, then you’re not fulfilling Jesus’ true purpose for your life. Telling someone “God loves you,” “God bless you,” or “I’ll pray for you” will not put food in their stomachs. The faith we profess means nothing if we don’t actually live it out.
God’s call on all our lives is to demonstrate His love by our actions—to the poor and needy and all those around us. Look around you. Where is a need? What can you do to help?
SHE DREAMED OF PLAYING the piano all her life. She bought the books and signed up for the lessons. For the first six months she did great. She practiced faithfully every day. But little by little, she stopped practicing. Eventually, she quit.
Think about a time when you wanted something, but eventually gave up on it. What did you learn?
Read James 1:22-25. Read verse 22 aloud.
What does James 1:22 say we do if we merely listen to the Word? Why is that important?
What analogy did James make in verses 23-24? What does that have to do with hearing God’s Word but not doing what it says?
What is the promise in verse 25?
Why is it not enough to simply know what Scripture says? Why is action so important?
The problem James was addressing was negligence. You can be negligent when you have responsibility but aren’t willing to put in the work to accomplish it.
It is equally not enough to simply say you believe in God’s laws. If you don’t actually obey them, your life says you don’t believe they’re valid. You can tell the whole world you love God, but if your life doesn’t demonstrate that love, then your words are worthless. Do you care for the widow, orphan, or neighbor down the street? This is the heart of God’s Word. Don’t just talk the talk; live your faith!
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL? Is there a person in your life whom you greatly admire or respect? Think about those people you would put at the top of your list of people you look up to. Perhaps it’s your counselor or another staff person. Why do you value them so highly? What qualities or characteristics do they possess that propel them to the top of your list?
Read Isaiah 66:1-2 and focus on verse 2b.
According to this passage, what belongs to God?
Who did God say made “all these things?”
Why is it important to recognize God as the Creator in control of this world?
What are some ways you recognize God as Creator? What are some things in your life you need to let Him have control over?
According to verse 2, what does God value in a person?
Think about your life. Would you make God’s list of people He looks favorably on based on these criteria? Why or why not?
What does it mean to be humble and submissive?
Do these words describe you? Explain.
Remember that list of people you look up to that you made earlier? Think about the characteristics and qualities you said you valued in those people. Now, understand from today’s Scripture passage that God also has qualities and characteristics He wants people to possess. And when we possess those characteristics, His Word says He looks upon us favorably. But what He values in us isn’t anything we can achieve through wealth, success, or popularity. God wants humility and submissiveness. God simply values a humble and broken spirit, a believer who isn’t proud but rather understands his or her limitations and allows God to work. God calls us to surrender to Him—to allow Him into our lives, give Him control, trust Him, and yield to Him, letting Him work in and through our lives. Are you the kind of person God desires you to be?
EVERY GOOD WESTERN MOVIE ends with a showdown. A showdown is when the hero of the story confronts his or her opponent to settle a serious conflict. In the movies, the hero always comes out victorious over his enemy and defeats evil.
We all have conflict in our lives. It’s called sin. Some people try to hide or run away from their troubles. Is that you? It’s time to stop running. It’s time for a showdown.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:2-28. What do verses 21 and 22 mean to you?
How did sin and death enter the world?
Who saves us from sin and death?
What can you learn about Jesus in these verses?
Why is Jesus’ resurrection so important to us? To you personally?
Have you asked Jesus to save you from the sin in your life? Explain.
What sins are you battling today?
What conflicts are in your life?
Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to understand how important Jesus’ resurrection was to their faith. Without it, he said their faith was worthless. Christianity is pointless if Jesus isn’t alive and at the right hand of God. It is His death and His resurrection that give us victory over sin.
Because Jesus was victorious over sin and death, you can be, too. You can have the freedom not to be restrained, bound, or trapped by your sin. Will you choose to follow Jesus who gave His life and rose again to give you life, or will you follow a world full of sin and death?
It’s up to you. It’s high noon. What is your choice?