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Attitude Matters: James 1:5-11

The Wise Endure
John Witte

In Preaching to People in Pain, Matthew Kim said, “Next time you are at a social gathering, try greeting someone with “How are you suffering today?” instead of the proverbial “How are you doing today?” The person, now in utter shock or sheer confusion, will probably not know how to respond. They’ll think they misheard you. Our culture is so pain-averse and pain-sensitive that any modicum of pain and suffering can render Christians helpless and hopeless. Simply put, we have forgotten that there is a God who is sovereign and who knows what he is doing. He is a God who permits pain. We, human beings, have a tough time making sense of this mystery.”

Sermon Summary
Trials come to each of us. Our human nature tells us to avoid them, so James’ counsel to “count it all joy” is counterintuitive. According to James, the trials themselves indicate God is at work in shaping our lives because trials produce steadfastness – an essential requirement on our journey to completeness. This week’s lesson teaches that steadfastness is all about endurance and that endurance requires an eternal perspective.

Endurance, by its very nature, is challenging. When the going gets tough, the easiest thing to do is walk away. Good parents, coaches, and teachers spend a lot of time encouraging kids not to quit. Unfortunately, the “quitter-gene” stays with us into adolescence and adulthood, and many people quit their jobs, marriages, and even their churches when trials set upon them. The inability to endure is a real problem because, as James made clear, we’ll never reach our full potential as a person without endurance. To use his words, we’ll never become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. When that happens, everyone connected to you loses out. Your spouse, children, siblings, aging parents, friends, colleagues, and the broader community you live in will never fully benefit from being in a relationship with you. Without endurance, you never grow into the mature person God intended.

It’s all about perspective. The eyes and ears we had in the womb weren’t much good to us then, but their development was essential for the next phase of our life after birth. Likewise, our development in this world only anticipates who we will be in the next, and the Bible says God is actively shaping us for that. God uses our current circumstances regardless of whether we are rich or poor, healthy or sick, free or slave.

If all of this seems difficult to understand, that’s because it is. James encourages us to seek God’s wisdom and promises he will never tire of giving it to us. Our challenge is to accept it without debating Him for another answer we would prefer. With that attitude, we get nothing. James’ point was you’ve got to settle the debate. You can’t keep being double-minded. The person who can’t settle this most fundamental point can’t endure because they can never see trials as a reason to rejoice. Attitude Matters.


Read aloud James 1:5-11
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also, will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.—James 1:5-11 (ESV)

Group Discussion Questions with Video
Most of all, the people in your group are likely experiencing trials that might be small or large. Leave plenty of margin in your discussions to allow people to express their struggles.

Watch the video clip at as a group:
  1. Discuss the three-stage analogy as a group. Like the physical senses developed before our birth, our spiritual senses are developed for eternity. In what ways might God develop us in this life for the next?
  2. In Triumph Through Trials, Dave Anderson said, “God develops the spiritual senses: spiritual ears to hear His still, small voice; spiritual eyes to see His handiwork; spiritual taste buds to taste that His Word is good; spiritual touch to be sensitive to the needs of others, and a spiritual sense of smell to appreciate the sweet aroma of suffering for His cause.” How have the trials of your life shaped you spiritually thus far?
  3. Wisdom is needed to cope with trials and to build endurance. Why does James emphasize asking for wisdom with faith (vv. 5–8)?
  4. What does it mean that God gives wisdom to people “without reproach”?
  5. How is this different from our common understanding of what God is like?
  6. When have you experienced receiving the wisdom that you asked for? Was God’s answer to that prayer surprising in any way?
  7. How can a wrong view of God result in doubt?
  8. Who does James describe as “double-minded” in James 1:8, and what does it mean?
  9. Discuss the group’s interpretation of James 1:9-11. If everyone in the group was asked to go to one side of the room or the other – one for the rich and one for the poor, which side would they choose?
  10. How much money does it take to make someone rich?
  11. From a slum to an exclusive community, every neighborhood has someone considered wealthy and someone deemed to be poor. This perspective comes from comparing ourselves to each other. What does James 1:9-11 challenge us to do? Now Read John 15:16-17. How does that shape your perspective?
  12. Exodus 16 tells how God provided manna to feed the people on their journey through the wilderness to the promised land. Even though it was a miracle of God’s provision, they got tired of it. Have someone read Numbers 11:4-6. Discuss ways we are like that ourselves. Sociologists describe something called the “Scarcity Principle.” Those who complain the most are not those who have nothing but those for whom God has provided something. That something becomes what we scorn. We want something different.
  13. Have different people read the following passages aloud: 1 Peter 1:6-7, Romans 5:1-5, and Philippians 3:7-9.Comparing these to our current passage in James, what is the consistent theme?

Pray
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. 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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