community group discussion guide


James 1:2-4, 9-18

April 26-27, 2024

Friday 7:30 pm, Saturday 3:30 pm & 7 pm

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How does trouble or affliction help us? It might seem cold or even ruthless to believe that suffering is beneficial for us. But in the passage we’ll look at today, James exhorts Christians to embrace their afflictions and respond well in the midst of trials for a purpose that is worthwhile and everlasting. As we delve into the paradox of finding joy in our trials, let’s reflect what this means for us personally, consider how we can be encouraged in our faith, and care for others who are facing various hardships.

opening question

Have you ever questioned God’s love and goodness towards you? Why?

read James 1:2-4, 9-18 (NIV)

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Take a few moments to reflect on the Scripture. Share some insights, questions, or points that strike you. Then read the following.

the refiner of our faith

As human beings, we do not naturally experience or would want to respond with joy in times of trials and hardships. The experience or even the presence of joy doesn’t seem realistic or even fitting in our suffering. And yet, James commands Christians to consider their trials a “pure joy” (v. 2). The literal translation is “consider it all joy,” and it’s important to clarify what James means and doesn’t mean by “all joy.” James isn’t suggesting that Christians who face trials should have no response other than joy exclusively. But rather, he’s making the point that trials should be an occasion for genuine rejoicing.

James explains that trials of various kinds involve a testing of faith (v. 3). Here, think of the metaphor of silver and gold being refined. They are precious metals that are put in the fire so that the impurities can be removed and a higher level of purity can be attained. Similarly, God intends for hardships in life to refine the believer’s faith. The suffering that believers face then are a means of “testing” by which their faith becomes refined and perfected. Accordingly, although God tests the believer’s faith in order to strengthen their faith, God does not ever tempt the believer to sin (v. 13). In every trial and affliction we face, there is an enticement to sin, which comes from our own sinful natures (and not from God).

But from God comes every good and perfect gift for his children (v. 17). In other words, God is the source of everything that is truly good, which reflects his unchanging and unchangeable character. And James further points to the remarkable good gift of the spiritual “new birth” that Christians receive from God (v. 18).

  1. Think of the trials that you have experienced in the past. How has a particular trial brought you closer to, or pushed you further away from God? How did it affect your faith?
  1. Are we supposed to deny our feelings when we “count it all joy” in the midst of trials (v. 2)? Is it sin to feel sorrow or grief, or have attitudes other than joy in a trial? If not, how do these feelings fit in with God’s call for joy?
  1. Being dragged away by the all-powerful lure of our own evil desire (v. 14) emphasizes the individual responsibility for sin (as opposed to blame-shifting). What encouragement do Christians have to take ownership of their own actions?
  1. What does the phrase, “with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” mean in verse 17? Why is this important when dealing with God’s goodness?
  1. What is the greatest “good” we have from God (v. 18)? How does this gift help us to persevere through trials and tests?

group application

  1. Are you currently suffering right now? Take time as a group to pray specifically for the individuals who share their current trials.
  1. Do you have friends or family that are suffering right now? How can you encourage them this week? What can you do specifically to demonstrate your care for them?

invitation to pray

Would you join us in praying for Redeemer West Side as we search for our next senior pastor? 

You can use the following meditative prayer guide to reflect on God’s living word and to intercede on behalf of our church. It will be updated monthly with new Scripture and prayer requests.

Note: If your group is short on time, you can start with the 3rd reading.

Tips for small groups:

  • Four volunteers can be the scripture readers.
  • The facilitator can read the silent reflection questions aloud and keep time (30–60 seconds).
  • During the prayer times after the 2nd and 3rd readings, we encourage you to use the style of conversational prayer, which emphasizes listening and uses short prayers that build upon one another. Review the Conversational Prayer Guide together before you begin.

meditative prayer

Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.”

1st Reading: Read the Scripture aloud twice.
  • Silent reflection: What words or phrases stand out to you?
  • Share with the group: Take turns saying those words or phrases aloud.

2nd Reading: Read the Scripture aloud.
  • Silent reflections (30–60 seconds each): What might God be inviting your to right now?
  • Pray conversationally in response to reflection

3rd Reading: Read the Scripture aloud.
  • Silent reflections (30–60 seconds each):Based on these verses, how can you confidently and expectantly intercede on behalf of Redeemer West Side?
  • Pray conversationally about these topics: 
    • This transition period of our church
    • Pastors, staff, lay leaders, congregants
    • The pastor search committee and the candidate interview and discernment process during the month of April
    • Redeemer’s future as part of God’s continued movement in the City

© 2024 Redeemer Presbyterian Church West Side

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

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