Overview: Session One
Our first session of the video series covered James 1:1-12. We began with a few icebreaker questions which tied into an illustration that Francis Chan later shared in the video. Two of the questions were:
“What’s the best food you prepare?” and “What are the ingredients?”
The author of the book of James is…surprise, JAMES! Other places in scripture tell us that he was the half-brother of Jesus, another son of Mary and Joseph. In this letter, however, he only introduces himself as a servant of God. We don’t know exactly why he does this, but perhaps he humbly wants to set himself apart from God and gladly be known as his servant only.
James is writing to Jewish believers that have scattered across the known world because of heavy persecution in Jerusalem. He wants to encourage them in their suffering by reminding them that their lives are not outside of God’s control. In fact, God allows these types of trials into our lives for a reason. James tells his readers to rejoice in their suffering because the testing of their faith produces “steadfastness” and they will be complete in Jesus Christ, lacking in nothing (1:2-4).
What a completely different perspective on trials than the world has! Often we do everything we can to avoid suffering, but the fact is that we live in a sinful, broken world, and everyone will experience deep pain and loss at some point in their life. In those moments, for those of us who have faith in God, we can ask him for wisdom in navigating these stormy seas, because God is wise and loves to give wisdom to his children when they ask. But we must ask with faith, not doubtfully, otherwise we are compared to “a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (1:6).
When we begin to understand that God is trying to make us more like Christ for eternity, our suffering in this life begins to take on more meaning. Even if we can’t understand everything perfectly, we can trust that the pieces of our lives are like ingredients in a cake. Remember the questions about cooking and ingredients? Well think about some of the ingredients of a cake, like eggs and flour…who enjoys raw eggs or flour by themselves? Probably no one. They are not desirable things. But when they are mixed together, along with butter and sugar, and then placed in an oven to be baked, the end result is absolutely delicious! As Christians, in a similar way, the end result of our life experiences will be something more glorious and worth praising God than we could ever have imagined!
Another illustration that Francis Chan used was that of a silversmith. Someone with this occupation would be very familiar with the concept of “testing.” His job was to continually put precious metals through extreme heat and remove impurities. He would do this again and again until he could see his reflection clearly in the metal. God is doing the same thing with us, allowing us to experience difficult circumstances so that he can remove impurities in our lives and see his reflection in us. As we are “heated up” we become more like him.
Join us again this Friday as we look at James 1:13-18!
Live It Out
Francis Chan provided us with the following suggestions for applying this week’s teaching to our daily lives. Pray with your parents or a close friend and pick one or two of these things to do this week!
*These action steps are included in a printed handout that is provided to students each week to take home and share with parents.*
- Conversation: Some of us complain a lot. What if we followed James and started considering our troubles “pure joy”? Who could you contact this week – by email, phone, text, or in person – and instead of complaining, tell them about the way God is helping you grow?
- Journaling: Write about your struggles. Don’t hold back. Complain all you want. But then go back to your journal the next day and jot some notes in the margins about how God might be making you “mature and complete.”
- Memorization: Learn James 1:2-3, and maybe verse 4. This will be powerful support to you in your toughest times.
- Prayer: Consider others you know who are going through difficulties. Ask God to help them grow.
- Influence: Have you seen spiritual growth in someone else who has gone through trials? Tell them so.