James and Jude
Splashes of Joy
My husband has written me many love notes over the past 20 years. Some are in cards I save. Some are even on scraps of paper tucked somewhere unexpected. Some in recent days have been in the form of email or a quick text on my phone. They make me feel good. They make me amazed that he could love me in spite of me. They make me long to live up to such compliments of beauty or character. They are unexpected bits of joy in my day.
A love letter is really what we’ve been studying in James. And it’s the best kind of love letter. Its encouraging, thought-provoking, convicting, and ultimately points us toward a closer relationship with the truest love of our lives, Jesus Christ. What better splash of joy in a day than that?
I. DAY ONE
A. When someone uses the phrase “above all,” it makes a reader take notice. Read James 5:12 to find out what’s so important to this transformed half-brother of the Lord Jesus.
1. What does James tell us not to do and why is avoiding this so significant?
2. In Matthew 5:33-37 how does Jesus expand this idea?
B. Let’s look at oaths in the Old Testament.
1. Some oaths or covenants are from God to man.
a. Read: Deuteronomy 9:5, 29:10-15; Psalm 105:8-9.
b. How can we know these promises were or will be kept?
2. Some oaths are from man to God, and can be in the form of a vow. If vows–or solemn promises before God—aren’t paid or completed, it’s as sin to that person.
a. Read: Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21; I Samuel 1:11; Ecclesiastes 5:4-7.
b. Taking in the above Scriptures, how often do you think vows should be made?
c. What warning do you see for believers who make grand plans—a type of vow—that fail and then make excuses for not following through?
C. If oaths and vows, when used correctly, are presented in Scripture as positive, James is obviously urging us to keep them special and rare, away from casual speech which would make a vow vulgar and unholy.
1. So, what is James telling us about our everyday speech in James 5:12?
2. When “yes” doesn’t change no matter the circumstance, and “no” is definite, come what may, what does that tell you about the person speaking?
II. DAY TWO
A. Glibly speaking oaths and flippantly taking vows, just to add emphasis, shows a lack of integrity in our speech. James not only wants us to be honest in what we say, he also wants us to be honest in our responses to life’s circumstances. Read James 5:13-14.
1. James pairs together suffering and cheerfulness. What should the response be to each condition?
2. King David was a man who was transparent with his emotions. They were real and they were appropriate.
a. Read Psalm 39. What phrases in this prayer show David’s depth of suffering and sorrow?
b. Read I Chronicles 16:8-14, 23-34. Why is David so happy and what phrases in the passage reveal praise?
c. From King David’s example, how can you be more forthright in expressing your emotions?
B. James 5:14 now shifts to the idea that the first, honest response to sickness should be prayer—not despair, not anger, yet not pretending it’s of no consequence. The second step, according to James, is “anointing him with oil.”
1. James is practical as well as prayerful. Read Luke 10:30-34. Jesus here uses the same word for oil as James
a. For what purpose did the Good Samaritan use oil?
b. Re-read James 2:18, 20 along with James 5:14. One commentator noted that James is telling us not only to get elders to pray but also to get the best medical help available.1
c. I also like what another commentator said. Since the emphasis is on faithful prayer and oil, which is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit—by Whom the healing was to come—the “faith of the sufferer would be strengthened by the use of the familiar remedy … and he would be reminded of the cleansing and healing power of the Spirit of God.”2
2. Rounding out the honest response to sickness, James 5:14 ends with the phrase “in the name of the Lord.”
a. What does this phrase mean to you?
b. How can you help someone today who is sick or suffering?
III. DAY THREE
A. James continues the idea of the power of prayer, both for physical as well as spiritual well being. Read James 5:15-16.
1. What will restore a sick person to wholeness?
2. Who will raise up the one who is sick?
3. Is James saying a person will be healed every time faithful prayer is given? Read II Corinthians 12:7-10 which is a familiar passage about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”
a. How many times did Paul pray and what must have been God’s answer each time?
b. What in the passage makes you think that he offered these prayers in faith?
B. Even though only God can forgive sins, James still tells us to confess to “one another.” Confession is healing. It heals the relationship between us and our Father. It heals wounds between fellow believers. It opens the door, allowing others to help and assist in the healing process. It can take you out of situations that could lead to death. Confession can heal the past.
1. Along with James 5:16, read Psalm 32:5; 38:18; Romans 10:9; I John 1:9. What do you learn about confession from these verses?
2. From Luke 10:9, what should be the focus in healing?
3. When Jesus healed Lazarus, he had a specific purpose in mind.
a. Read John 11:15, 40, and 42 from that story.
b. How can you match Jesus’ view of confession, sickness and healing in your daily life this week?
IV. DAY FOUR
A. Yesterday’s reading in James 5:16 ended with, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” That phrase has been put on plaques, bookmarks, cards and even coffee mugs, yet do we really understand what it means? Do we really believe it? James did. And today he gives us an example to help us become effective prayer warriors and, in turn, accomplishing much in the process.
1. Elijah’s story in I Kings is a fascinating record of God’s power over evil. Read James 5:17-18 and skim through I Kings 17 and 18.
a. How does James describe Elijah and how does he describe Elijah’s prayer life?
b. From I Kings 17-18 how, specifically, did God use Elijah for His purposes?
B. James paralleled what Jesus taught. For some insights into Jesus’ teaching on and connection to Elijah, read Luke 1:17; 4:25-26; 9:7-8; 9:30-33.
1. In Luke 1:17, the angel coming to the parents of John the Baptist talked about him being a “forerunner” of the Messiah who would have the “spirit and power of Elijah.”
a. What was the forerunner going to do?
b. What does Luke 1:16 add to John the Baptist’s resume?
2. If Elijah has the same nature as ours, how can you demonstrate the “spirit and power of Elijah” this week?
V. DAY FIVE
A. Throughout our study, James has brought us back to relationships between believers. He ends his letter and this section on prayer by focusing on how we can help one another to the fullest.
1. Read James 5:19-20 along with I Peter 4:8.
a. From these verses, how can we love one another?
b. How does this combine with what we studied on effective prayer (Days Three and Four)?
B. The word “soul” James uses in verse 20 can mean life, breath, a living being, the moral understanding within a person or the part of humans that—unlike the physical body—never dies.3
1. Jesus uses the same word in Matthew 16:25-26; Luke 12:22-23; and John 15:13.
a. How does the way Jesus speaks about life mesh with what James longs for his readers to be like?
b. How do these verses help you to understand–and ultimately act—on living the way James is talking about at the end of his letter?
James loved the believers he was writing to. More than that, he loved the brother who became his Lord, and longed for fellow believers to have all their identity, purpose and eternal joy wrapped up in Him–Jesus, the One who is Love. James is a book worth reading again and again, just like a tenderly saved card or note. I hope you will.
[Author’s note: I’m using the New American Standard Bible for the study on James unless otherwise noted.]
1. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible With J. Vernon McGee, vol. 5 (Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 1983), 668.
2. Charles R. Erdman, The General Epistles (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 1919), 60.
3. “Dictionary and Word Search for psychē (Strong’s 5590).” (Blue Letter Bible: 1996-2010) 12 Jul 2010.
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