Sundays | 9am & 10:30am | The Woodlands, TX

Attitude Matters: James 1:1-4

Introduction to the Book of James
John Witte

This week begins a verse-by-verse study of the Book of James that will take us through the summer. The book’s subject is testing, and the book’s theme is the proper response or behaviors needed when going through the trials that test us. We call this study Attitude Matters and will refer to that tagline often. This is an excellent opportunity to personalize it for your group as well! Challenge everyone to think creatively about ways they can adapt it as a Small Group and build action items from it. Look for service opportunities.

Ask your group if anyone has ever studied James before. If so, did they take notes? Comparing what they got out of the study then versus now would be interesting. Many times, our perspective changes over time. Perspective is a great teacher.

There are over 50 imperatives in James’ 108 verses. This abundance of commands clarifies that James is intentional about action and living. James is the coach dusting us off, encouraging us, and then pushing us back into the game.

Sermon Summary
We all have trials in life, and some seasons are especially hard. Almost all of us can remember a hard time in our past when circumstances were challenging. Some group members might be in that season right now. Everyone’s daily life is filled with minor problems like a traffic jam or an irritable boss, but occasionally we get hijacked by something catastrophic – and often without warning.

When big problems strike, we struggle to make sense of it. Sometimes our circumstances seem cruel or unfair, and it’s easy to blame God. We ask, “What good can come from this?”

James opened his letter with the surprising charge to “count it all joy.” What a shocking greeting! Then as now, most people readily agreed with the Stoics that trials could make us tough - but joyful? That’s a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? Not at all! James said the steadfastness that results from trials makes us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” We are being shaped into the image of Jesus.

Read aloud James 1:1–4
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”—James 1:1-4 (ESV)
Group Discussion Questions
Watch the video clip above.

  1. Allow the group to discuss their strongest impressions. What resonates most in your current circumstances? Why?
  2. “Count it all joy” was surprising advice regarding handling life’s trials. Is there a difference between joy and happiness?
  3. The word “happiness” is related to “happenstance,” which is circumstantial. We are happy when good things happen. How is joy bigger than circumstances?
  4. Read 1 Peter 4:12-13, Galatians 3:3, and Colossians 1:28. How do these passages compare to our text in James?
  5. We learned in the sermon that our trials are like the firing process for making pottery. Why must our faith be tested? What is the total effect?
  6. Describe a time when trials had a positive effect on your character. What did you learn? How did it shape you?

“When a Christian is tested, it shows something real is happening.”—N.T. Wright, from “Early Christian Letters for Everyone: James, Peter, John, and Judah”

“To choose joy is to see all existence as a gift, which is why the practice of joy is inseparable from the practice of gratitude. Gratitude gives birth to joy because gratitude teaches us to receive life as a gift at the moment we’re in, regardless of what lies ahead.”—Tish Harrison Warren, from “Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep”

“It is the truly converted life in which God has become the center of all. There, gratitude is joy, and joy is gratitude, and everything becomes a surprising sign of God’s presence.”—Henri Nouwen, from “A Letter of Consolation”

Ask the group if they have any prayer requests and write them down. Allow everyone a chance to pray and then close by praying for each person you took note of. It’s ok to read from your notes while praying, and the more specifics you say out loud (especially people’s names), the better.

Follow Up!
After your meeting, be sure to text or call your group members. Ask them how things are going for them and how you can pray for them. As always, if you think they need to be contacted by a pastor, let me know. I’m here for you and am praying for you daily.
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