These small group studies of James contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
James 1:1-11 Inductive Online Bible Study Guide – Be Joyful in Trials
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James Bible Study Lesson
I. Greetings (1)
II. Persevere in trials (2-4)
III. Pray with faith (5-8)
IV. Be humble and content (9-11)
Only two real candidates have been proposed, James the brother of John, and James the oldest and half brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3). James, the brother of John was probably martyred too early to have written this book, leaving James, Jesus’ half brother as the author. He originally rejected Jesus as the Messiah, but evidently trusted in Him after seeing Jesus resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:7). He was an associate of the apostles and a key leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17, Galatians 2:12).
James was primarily directed towards Jewish believers who had been scattered, perhaps because of persecution under Herod Agrippa. As such, it is very Jewish in nature and contains frequent references to the Old Testament.
This epistle is mostly focused on practical Christian living as opposed to theoretical knowledge or doctrines. It focuses on day to day life, relationship, and applications in the world around us. It’s first aim seems to be to encourage the believers to live godly lives.
I. Greetings (1)
- Who is the author? What do you know about him?
- What is his relationship to God?
- Who are the recipients?
Mark 6:3 – Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
1 Corinthians 15:7 – Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Acts 12:17 – Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.
Galatians 2:12 – For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.
1. Who is James? – James is the half-brother of Jesus. He was the leader of the early New Testament church in Jerusalem. Also, he was one of the key people who made the decision at the Council of Jerusalem on how to solve the conflict between the Gentiles and the Jews.
The book is written primarily to a Jewish audience, hence it says “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.”
II. Persevere in trials (2-4)
- How would you define trials?
- What kinds of trials do you think the believing Jews of that day were facing?
- What can you learn from the use of the word “various”?
- What is the natural reaction to trials?
- How are believers supposed to react? Why are we to react like this?
- What is the purpose of trials? What are two possible reactions to trials?
- How do these test our faith?
- How does this produce endurance?
- How does endurance bring is to maturity and make us complete?
- What might be the difference between the faith/character of a believer never exposed to trials (if there were such a thing) and a believer who had
- faced many trials and passed the test?
- Share an example of a trial you have faced. What did you learn from it?
Matthew 5:10 – Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Acts 5:41 – The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
1 Peter 1:6-7 – In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Romans 5:3-4 – Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
1. Trials are good for us and are sent by God – They are meant to test our faith. They give us a chance to prove our love for God by action. Many times it is easy to say we love God and to be faithful to Him when things are going very easily. But what about when things become difficult? These are the times that require faith and show our true character. It is during challenging times that many people turn away from God. Instead we need to view trials as a chance for us to grow. Though trials are not easy, they are meant for our good.
Application: Think about a trial that you are facing. Spend some time in prayer and thank God for the good He is bringing about in your life through that trial.
2. Consider it pure joy – This is a mindset that James encourages his readers to have. Trials are certainly not enjoyable. But yet here we are commanded to be joyful even in the midst of trials. Why?
The reason is given in verse 3. Trials test our faith and develop perseverance. Though a person would not normally look at a trial and say “I am so happy my health is poor” or “I am so happy that I lost my job” a person could look at these situations and say “I know that God has my best interests at heart” or “I know that losing my job is an opportunity to rely on the Lord instead of my own understanding.”
Thus when we face trials we should always try to look at what lessons God wants to teach us in the middle of them. It is also possible that as long as we don’t learn the lessons, then the trial will continue until we do learn them. For example when I pray for patience, God might even answer this prayer by sending someone into my life who tests my patience. And this trial may continue until I have truly learned the lesson that God has for me.
My wife and I gave our first daughter the middle name Patience. We wanted her to be a patient person and so we thought that giving her this name would be a good reminder to her. But it seems that God wanted to use her to develop our patience. Of all of our babies she cried the most. She had serious colic. During the daytime when we weren’t holding her she would cry almost all the time. This continued for many months. We realized that God wanted to use her to teach us patience.
Trials are like this. At the time they are not enjoyable. But God uses them to teach us lessons and help us grow. We did learn to be more patient and even years later the lessons learned during those times stick with us and help us to joyfully endure other inconveniences.
Application: What are some practical ways you can have joy in the midst of a trial?
3. Whenever you face trials of many kinds – Trials come in all shapes and sizes. We are not only to have a good attitude in certain kinds of trials, specifically ones that are not so difficult or ones that are very short term. We are to have joy even in the midst of very difficult trials or trials that go on for a very long time.
Paul had a thorn in his flesh that he asked God to remove three times, but God did not remove it because His ways our higher than ours.
One of my close relatives has struggled with serious pain in her neck for many years. It seems to go on and on. It is extremely difficult to face chronic pain day after day, but she maintains a cheerful attitude and still does what she can to serve others. This is a great testimony to the rest of us.
Application: Is there someone you know that is facing a difficult trial? What can you do to encourage them and support them during this time?
4. So that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything – God does not take away trials from our lives because trials are beneficial for us. They bring us up to maturity.
Imagine a child who grows up in pampered surroundings. He gets everything he wants immediately. He never faces challenges because his parents step in and solve them for him. How will this child end up? He will grow up spoiled. Then when he leaves home and a real trial hits, he will have no idea what to do. He might go off the deep end.
The last emperor of China was a man named Pu Yi. He had servants who did everything for him. They brushed his teeth and tied his shoes. He lived an extremely spoiled existence. Partially because of this he grew up to be selfish and sadistic, caring nothing for others. When he became a man and faced trials, he had no moral character and no backbone. The result is he betrayed his people and his country. A few trials growing up could have really helped him.
Application: The Lord wants to bring us up to maturity slowly and surely. Write down one trial that you are facing. Then write down one area you think God wants you to grow in the midst of this trial.
III. Pray with faith (5-8)
- How does wisdom connect to the issue of trials just discussed?
- Who/what is the source of wisdom?
- What other places do people often turn to for wisdom?
- What kind of wisdom will we get from these sources?
- What is God’s attitude toward us and our prayers?
- What does the phrase “without reproach” mean here?
- Through what methods might God give us this wisdom?
- What condition do we need to fulfill?
- Explain the faith mentioned in verse 6. Faith in what? What exactly must we have faith in? What kind of doubts may this refer to?
- Does the answer of prayer then depend on your own faith level?
- Why is the term “double-minded” used in verse 8?
- Share an example of a time when you needed wisdom. What did you do?
Proverbs 3:5-7 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
John 15:7 – If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Mark 11:24 – I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.
Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
1. If anyone lacks wisdom (5) – True wisdom comes from God and not from ourselves. The world offers the appearance of wisdom, but only when looking at things through temporal eyes. God wants us to succeed and He wants us to follow His will by making the right decision. Therefore He will give us true wisdom from Him when we ask Him to. The problem is sometimes we don’t want it.
In fact we all lack wisdom quite often. The first test is to see if we will admit it or not. A prideful person seldom prays because he thinks that he can solve problems on his own and with his own logic. When we are humble, we realize that there are so many variables we don’t understand and can’t control. We will realize how little we actually know. And we will be motivated to turn to the Lord in prayer.
God will give generously and without finding fault. This phrase “without finding fault” is quite interesting. He seems to be saying that God won’t blame you for your lack of knowledge.
A child may ask his parents for help with his homework and that parent may blame the child for not knowing the answer already. Here we see that God will not do this. Rather He welcomes our questions and requests. He wants us to ask Him for help rather than going it alone.
2. He must believe and not doubt –
- Do we really believe God can and will answer our prayers?
- Do we really believe He is listening?
- Do we really believe He is all powerful and all good?
These are questions we must ask and solve before we approach God in prayer. We should then pray confidently, knowing that He hears every word we speak and will answer. His answer may not be exactly what we want or hope for, just as a parent does not always give his child the candy or ice cream he asks for, but His answer will be exactly what is good for us, exactly what we need.
This is not a magic formula for getting whatever you want in prayer. You cannot force God to do something against His will just by believing it. And in the end, we can only have this level of belief in things we are sure that is God’s will. From this verse, we can be sure it is God’s will to give us wisdom. So we can believe it completely and not doubt. Then He will give it to us.
IV. Be humble and content (9-11)
- Explain the term “brother of humble circumstances”.
- What does it mean “to glory in”?
- In what way is does a poor believer have a high position?
- In what way will the rich man be humiliated?
- Do these verses teach it is wrong to be rich? If not, what do they teach about riches?
- What do these verses tell us about the importance of earthly possessions?
- What can a poor person learn from this?
- How about a rich person?
- What can we learn about the meaning of life?
Proverbs 19:1 – Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.
Luke 1:52-53 – He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
2 Corinthians 6:10 – Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Matthew 5:3 – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 – This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
1 Timothy 6:17 – Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
1 Peter 1:24 – For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,
1. Verse 9 – Although a person’s economic position may be poor, his position in Christ is high (Galatians 3:28). He may be physically poor, but spiritually rich. Those who are poor in this world should not focus on their lack of material things. Rather they should focus on their abundant spiritual blessings.
2. Verses 10-11 – The rich person should realize that in the end he is just like the poor person. His riches will fade away. His life itself will be as short as many of the poor people around him. His riches and materials can not buy long life (or not eternal life anyway). And yet this person, if he trusts in Christ, can also be spiritually rich and full of blessings.
Application: If you have little, don’t focus on that, but set your mind on things above. If you have much, don’t focus on that either (though you should be thankful). Instead set your mind on things above and be thankful for your blessings in Christ.
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