Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 23 - James 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is James 1. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • Read James 1:2 again. If you read it quickly, you might have overlooked a very innocent, but important word.  Do you see it? It's the word "whenever." James said "whenever you face trials," not "if you face trials." Being a Christian doesn't mean everything is perfect and rosy.  We are all going to face difficult times and situations. No one is exempt. However, James gives us a different way to approach these problems: he says we should consider them pure joy. Wow. Easier said than done, right? James is not asking us to ignore reality, but to instead view reality as a test that creates perseverance and growth. If you understand that God is in control, and this life is just a preamble, then earthly comfort means nothing compared to growth in faith. 
  • Have you ever wished you were wiser? God says in verse 5 to just ask. There are a few times in scripture where God specifically says he will give us what we ask for, and this is one of those times. However, the key to wisdom is asking God and not doubting that he will answer.  
  • We learn in verses 13-18 that temptation never comes from God, but instead, from our own evil desires. Although temptation isn't a sin, acting on that temptation is, and it ultimately leads to death. James is not referring to a physical death, but instead to death of the heart and the soul. The word death literally means "to be separated." Our sin separates us from God. We are tempted only because we think we need something that we don't.  God gives us "every good and perfect gift" we need.
  • Our culture encourages us to "speak our minds" whenever we want and however we want. But God says to be careful what we speak and reminds us that anger gets us nowhere.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • The only way to grow in Christ Jesus is through tests of perseverance, which result in maturity.
  • The scriptures remind us again in verses 9-11 that wealth and riches aren't something that we can keep.  They will fade away.  You can't take it with you when you die.
  • We have no one to blame but ourselves for our temptations, and God can give us the strength to overcome them. God gives us all we need.
  • Every day this post has a "Now What" section, encouraging you to apply the day's reading to your life. Verses 19-26 shows why.  It's not enough to just read God's Word. We must do what it says or our faith is worthless. If we read the Bible but don't do it, we have deceived ourselves. "Now What" is the most important, but, often most ignored part.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What trials are you currently dealing with? How have you viewed them? Can you consider them pure joy? Ask God to help you have a long-term, God-centered perspective on them. What might God be trying to show you through this trial? How can you grow from this difficulty?
  • Are you facing a situation in which you could really use wisdom from the Lord? Ask him today and do not doubt that he hears you and will answer.
  • It's so easy to get caught up in making money for that new car or new house. But God reminds us that it's all fleeting.  So, if you can't take it with you, what good could you use it for here on earth, right now?
  • What is a recurring temptation in your life? Do you see how it might be unhealthy?  Could God meet the need that you have? Ask God to help you see your temptations from this perspective.
  • If you have been reading the Bible daily, but not taking the time to do what it says, change that today.