Read James 2:5-7 and be challenged by verse 5.
According to these verses, what is the relationship between poverty and faith?
Do you think having a higher income decreases a person’s faith? Why or why not?
How does being poor or wealthy affect an individual’s faith?
Do you think people tend to trust God more when He gives them things? Why or why not?
What about you?
When we hear the word poor, we automatically think of money, but there are other ways to be poor—and many people in this world are spiritually poor. In this high-tech world, it’s hard to imagine there are still millions of people who have few or no opportunities to hear God’s Word or worship Him.
If someone hasn’t had a chance to ever hear about Jesus, we shouldn’t turn our backs and simply say, “It’s not my problem.” It is easy to find excuses to avoid sharing with others, but if we don’t, who will? Sometimes, that means going to another country. But perhaps more often, it’s as simple as walking across the street and helping a neighbor or sitting with one of the loners at lunch. It might be as easy as inviting a friend to come to camp with you this summer. If you’re a believer, reaching out to those who need Jesus is your problem.
YOU’RE WALKING DOWN THE HALL AT SCHOOL between classes and pass by two students laughing and speaking to each other in a language you don’t understand. What is the first thing that goes through your mind? Do you quickly assume they’re talking about you? Do you become angry? Do you smile and treat them with respect?
Read Deuteronomy 32:1-4 and check out the word picture of God in verse 4.
What words are used to describe God?
What does this say about God’s character?
What does it mean to say God is without prejudice?
What does that tell you about God’s view of prejudice in our lives?
What is your view of prejudice? Does it need to change? If so, how?
Do the words used to describe God’s character also describe your life? Explain. What needs to change so your attitude lines up with God’s?
In these verses, Moses was describing the character of God. He calls God “The Rock” and said His work is perfect, that God is just, righteous, and true. He even said that God is without prejudice. The point is that prejudice isn’t a part of God’s character. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a part of yours.
We live in a world that says racism and prejudice are wrong. And that’s true, they are. But you know why they are: because God is without prejudice. God loves all people, and the salvation He offers is for every last one of us. It’s easy to be uncomfortable or even dislike someone because he or she isn’t like you, but that’s not the kind of people believers are called to be. Our God loves all people and doesn’t judge us based on skin color, language, age, or disability. He just loves. Ask Him to help you see others with His eyes today. Then, let His point of view change yours.
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.
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!
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?