My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
(James 1:19, NIV)
Another one of those verses that is easy to understand what James is calling us to do … it is just much harder to actually do it.
How well do you listen? Why would listening be a challenge for people?
Publilius Syrus is quoted as saying: “I often regret that I have spoken; never that I have been silent.” When have you found this to be true in your own life?
Why do we become angry and what things can we do to NOT react in anger? What things help you be slower in angry?
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:7–10, NIV)
“This section talks about the expectations we have for our obedience. We are to serve for the Lord without reward for correct behavior. We are to do right because it is right, not for some benefit.”
The image of a servant such as this may seem foreign to us, yet what expectations do we have of the people who serve us?
What are some ways you have acted simply because it was the right thing to do, not because it was because you were getting something for it?
Why is it so easy for us to assume we deserve something for simply doing what we ought?
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4, NIV)
In the darkest of days, you have reason NOT to fear.
Think of times in your life that you would describe as a “dark valley.” How do you think you reacted to those times: fear or comfort?
Why do we assume that evil can harm us? How do we reconcile the psalmist’s comment that we have no reason to fear evil with the reality that evil can and does cause us pain and hurt?
How does a life of faith, full of the comfort of knowing God is with you, look like in practical terms? In other words, how would I know this person when I saw him or her?
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1–11, NIV)
“It forms me. I think and act more like Christ when this scripture is on my heart.”
In what ways do you find yourself doing things out of “selfish ambition?” Why do you think it is so easy for people to do this?
What are ways you remind yourself to look to the interests of others, rather than your own interests? What suggestions would you have for someone trying to live this way?
How does Jesus’ giving himself for you help you better seek humility in your own life?
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Romans 5:1–9, NIV)
We have been justified by faith and the result is we can have peace!
Think about times in your life when you have attempted to live perfect a perfect life, without any mess-ups. How much peace did you feel during these times?
In the midst of trying times, what–or who–gives you hope?
How does it make you feel to know that someone died for you when you were most powerless? What sort of response does this make you want to have?
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
(Psalm 19:1–14, NIV)
In a time when we cannot meet together and lose some of the encouragement we might get from being face-to-face, it is nice to remember that we still have opportunity to spend time in God’s word, receiving instruction and encouragement from him.
Remember a time when you were overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s creation. In what ways did this help you see God better? In what ways did this beauty help proclaim the works of God’s hands?
How has the word of God proven to be right, perfect, refreshing, etc.?
What are some ways can you spend time in God’s word more and encourage others to do the same?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37–39, NIV)
What things have you being trying to win on your own terms and with your own power? Have you allowed God to fight those battles for you?
What are some things in your life that seem to conquer you more than you conquer them? What are you doing to try overcome those things?
Why do we think that life, death, angels, demons, etc. conquer us versus thinking the other way around?
How does knowing that whatever you can think of that might be stronger or more powerful than you comes nowhere close to the power of God’s love? How can you demonstrate this confidence to someone today?