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James 1:9-12 Discussion Guide


Note—As you work through the discussion guide, remember that you do not have to answer every question; pick and choose which questions work best for your group discussion.


Introduction:  Discuss what your greatest trials have been. It may not be a single major event. It might be a series of “smaller” things that add up.

Explain: When James writes of trials “testing” our faith, we must be careful to not think in terms of “pass/fail” but rather in terms of “growth.”

Question 1:  Can you name a time when you grew more in response to a “failure” than a “success.”

Read: Phil 4:12-13 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Question 2: Why would we need to learn contentment in “plenty?”

Explain: “Rich” and “poor” are relative terms. There is no absolute standard for what qualifies as being either rich or poor. These standards change based on time and circumstances. In reality, it is difficult to be content in whatever circumstances we are in. The human heart is a perpetual discontent machine. Unless Christ changes it.

Read: James 1:9-11 “9The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.”

Explain: James is not saying that poverty is good and wealth is bad. He is turning conventional wisdom on its head.

Question 3: What are this passage’s two surprising “plot” twists?

(1. The poor have a high position, and the rich have a low position. 2. They are to be “proud” of their positions)

Read: Jeremiah 9:23-24 “This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.”

Question 4:  What is the one legitimate human boast? Why is that “pride” good for wisdom?

Read: Is. 40:6 “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. Grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Psalm 49:16-17 Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.

Explain: The poor are to see their “high position” as their relationship with Christ, a richness that cannot be taken from them. The rich are to see their “low position” from the vantage point of their material possessions, all of which will be taken from them. The point is to see life as God gives it, rich or poor, as an opportunity to walk in wisdom. Whatever form trials take in our lives, we are to grow in faith through them.

Question 5: If you believe that you are neither rich nor poor, how does James’ main point apply to you?

(It is about a “heart account,” not a “bank account “…are we learning to respond to God in all our life circumstances?)

Read: 12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Explain: This is not referring to eternal security in Christ (or the lack of it). The true believer is eternally secure in their salvation. This is talking about what the Bible calls “rewards” or the final eternal outcome of what we have given our lives for.

Read: I Cor. 9:24-27 “24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Explain: Paul was secure in his salvation and was not comparing his life to others wrongly. His point was that he wanted to give his life fully for the final glory of God. He didn’t want to push others to live for Christ and fail to do the same himself.

In Revelation, the faithful ones who are in the presence of Christ lay their crowns down before the throne of God.

Question 6: From these passages, what is the highest reward for the Christian?

(A life lived for the glory of God)

Explain: It should matter to us whether our lives will count eternally for God’s glory. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes we become so fixated on our own wants and needs that we fail to have a heart moving toward his glory and the good of others.

Question 7:  Can you honestly say, “I do want my life to count in eternity for the glory of God. This is evidenced by the fact that I have learned to be content in all circumstances?”

Question 8:  If you look at this from a pass/fail perspective, we are all failing. If you look at this from a training perspective, how can this help us move into more growth?

Conclude: Pray for growth, not a pass/fail perspective.

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