Proper perspective about God amid trials, John Kwasi Fosu

Amazing Grace Baptist Church. Hamburg

Bible study material on James 1:16-18

Our previous study of James 1:9-15 focussed on developing proper perspective in trials and temptation. Today’s lesson continues that theme by studying James 1:16-18. In this passage, James orients the reader towards a proper perspective about God’s nature (James 1:16-18). James urges the believers in Christ not to be deceived about God’s nature and thus goes on to give some thoughts about God’s character.

The urge not to be deceived (James 1:16)
In James 1:16, James establishes a personal relationship with his audience by calling them brothers and sisters to precede his warning that they are not to be deceived. It is most probable that it is common to be deceived when we are in difficult times. The reason being that God’s true character and nature are not so obvious in trial circumstances neither do they tell us the truth about ourselves. James then goes on to tell us the truth about God in three (3) ways:

God gives true and perfect gifts (James 1:17)
To James, it is God’s nature to give good and perfect gifts to God’s children. In other words, since God is described as the father of heavenly light, darkness which is symbol of temptation doesn’t represent him.

God does not change (James 1:17)
James again describes God as someone who does not change. Since God does not change, we are to trust God even in difficult times. In a form of simile and in an antithetical parallel sense, God does not change like shifting shadows. Shadows change because they depend on light rays. But God doesn’t change, because God depends on none other than Godself. The idea of God not changing is described in Malachi 3:6. Thus, God is worthy of our trust at all times including our dark moments.

God chooses to give us birth though the word of truth (James 1:18)
Since James wrote to the believers in Christ who he describes as brothers and sisters, he continues to describe them as people whom God has chosen to give birth. This new birth was made possible through God’s word which is described as the word of truth. To James, therefore believers in Christ who he further describes as firstfruits of all God created are to see themselves as products of God’s (sovereign and loving) choice and the word of truth.

In today’s lesson, James advices us to develop proper perspective about God when going through difficult times. During trials, instead of blaming God and thereby falling into sin as deceptive tool of the enemy, James reminds us that God is the gracious heavenly father who bestows only good and perfect gifts. God does not change in nature. God uses even our darkest moments for our good by God’s sovereign choice and goodness (Romans 8:28). We are therefore to be thankful to God in all life’s circumstances.

1. Under what circumstance can a Christian be deceived about God’s nature?
2. Identify any four (4) good and perfect gifts in your life that you can attribute them to  be God’s provision.
3. How far do you agree to the statement that, “God does not change, but he changes in his ways?”
4. How can a person experience a new birth in Jesus?

Proper perspective on trials and temptations, by Rev. John Kwasi Fosu

Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg
Bible study material on James 1:9-15

Our studies on James 1:1-8 introduced us to some essential attitudes needed amid trials. Today’s lesson on James 1:9-16 purposes to emphasizes appropriate perspective needed in trials and temptation. To James, therefore, while trials and temptations are inevitable realities in our discipleship, our perspective towards it determines, to a large extent, the outcome of it.

Perspectives to life matters (James 1:9-11)
James 1:9-11 identifies James’ exhortation on what should be a healthy perspective in contrasting circumstances of life. That is either in times of poverty (humble)) or in rich circumstances. To James, having a proper and thus eternal perspective matters. The person in humble circumstance is to take pride in his/her high position through faith in God. On the other hand, the rich are to take pride in their low position when they have eternity as their perspective since, to James, worldly riches will not endure eternity. James, therefore, encourages us into maturity by dissuading us from false beliefs and ideas. Compared to having faith and being saved in Christ, the worldly things we desire and pursue in life are meaningless.

Perspective has to do with our mental view and picture of the world, circumstances and situations. It also relates to our view and understanding of God. Our perspectives influence our beliefs. That then leads to our attitudes and that further affect our actions. Perspective is also known as a worldview. In this light, our worldview determines our outcomes in trials.

Differentiate between trials and temptations (James 1:12-15)
On the one hand, James continues with his instruction on trials/tests by using the phrase, blessed is the. This is similar to the beginning of Jesus’ instruction called the beatitude. To James, persevering during trials makes us receive the crown of life. Thus, the outcome of testing times is positive thereby presupposing that it comes from God. On the other hand, James’ instruction on temptation has it that it comes from our own sinful desires, sin and evil. The result of full-grown temptation, that is when we fall into it, is death.

Our mental outlook of the world and circumstances possibly determines our character, maturity and how we solve problems. Having proper perspective makes our situations meaningful. It could, therefore, be deduced that proper perspective to temptation protects us from falling into it. James helps us to become aware of the fact that temptation has stages which are evil desires, sin and its final consequences which is death.

1. How does your perspective on life affect your beliefs and actions?
2. What is the difference between trials and temptation?
3. What is the ultimate outcome of trials when we persevere in it?
4. What are we not to say when tempted?

Essential Christian attitudes amid trials, by Rev. John Kwasi Fosu

Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg Bible study material on James 1:1-8

The general overview of the book of James has been introduced in our previous study. It was realized that the book was likely to be written by James, the half-brother of Jesus who was the leader of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:6-29). James purposes to demonstrate by means of many practical examples that Christian faith should result in a change of behaviour. In other words, true faith leads to godly living. Today’s lesson looks at James 1:1-8. Emphasis is placed on what the Christian is expected to do when faced with trials of every kind.

James- A life of service (James 1:1)
James 1:1 identifies the author of the book to be James. Early Church history has it that as a half brother of Jesus, James was a man of prayer whose knees developed large and thick calluses like the knees of a camel. Although James had a special relation to Jesus, he introduced himself as a bondservant of God and of Jesus. That title carries the sense of someone who is of permanent relation of service to another. James’ loyalty of service was to Jesus who he acknowledged as Lord.

Joy in trials (James 1:2)
James addresses the recipients of his letter to be a group of Jewish believers scattered abroad who are experiencing poverty, oppression and hardship of all kinds. In their circumstances, James expects them to consider it pure joy. To James, Christians are to expect trials as inevitable experiences because he uses the expression, “when and not if you fall into trials.” When in trails, therefore, they were to count it joy.

Joy is a deep sense of well-being that has to do with choosing to live above feelings of sorrow, tears, laughter, anger, pain without denying them. Joy then serves as a Christian response to life that depends on faith in God’s sovereignty. It pertains to inward delights in the goodness of God. Thus, to James, we are to rejoice when we experience trials in that it produces endurance.

Endurance amid trials (James 1:3-4)
James further urges that Christians are to have an attitude of endurance when faced with trials. Endurance relates to being active and not passive in waiting. It carries the picture of being under heavy load and resolving to be there without escape. This endurance then aims at making us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” To James, enduring trials is part of the process of being made perfect.

Asking for wisdom in trials (James 1:5-8)
To James, trial times are necessary periods to ask for God’s wisdom. This wisdom has to do with the ability to make wise decisions in the midst of trials. We need wisdom so that our trials will not overwhelm us. Wisdom also helps us to develop new perspectives during difficult times. Asking for wisdom, James assures us that we are to ask from God who gives freely without despising our request. Moreover, in our prayer for wisdom, faith and not doubting or double-mindedness should characterize our asking.

Loving God entails following God faithfully amid trials. In this light, James 1:1-8 has been studied in this lesson with the intention of identifying some essential Christian attitudes needed amid trials. Learning from the life of James, therefore, Christians are to see ourselves as servants of God thereby accepting the fact that experiencing trials form an essential part of our discipleship journey. Trials are therefore inevitable. Thus, to James, when we are faced with trials, we are to count it joy by depending on God’s sovereignty. Moreover, James reminds us that it is important to faithfully endure and ask for wisdom when we are going through trials.

Questions for application
1. What informs James to introduce himself as a servant or slave of God?
2. Do you see yourself as a servant of God? How far do you see yourself that way?
3. Trials are inevitable experiences in the Christian life. Why and how should it be so?
4. State and explain three things that Christians are to do when faced with trials.