Pressure. It's everywhere.

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1 8 PRESSURE POINTS

2 Pressure. It's everywhere. ] Coaches and players are under pressure: Win or else! ] Business leaders face the pressure to make a profit. ] Teenagers feel the pressure to follow their peers. ] Young adults endure the pressure of juggling school and work, launching their careers, and forging meaningful relationships. ] Doctors prescribe medication like never before to help stressed people deal with the pressure of life. Pressure is nothing new. James, the half brother of Jesus, wrote to Jewish Christians in the first century who faced intense pressure. They had been dispersed because of persecution, and they faced increasing pressure to let faith live only in their heads instead of being lived out in their lives. They faced the pressure to wilt in times of trial and the pressure to compromise when facing temptation. They faced the pressure to cave in to prejudicial preference when welcoming people into their gatherings and to let their tongues wag out of control. They faced the pressure to demand their own way and the pressure to retaliate when mistreated. James beckoned these first believers to let the pressure push them deeper in their journey with Jesus. And James invites you to open your life to the truth of God s Word and learn how to deal positively with the pressure points of life. Pressure doesn t have to dismantle your faith. Let pressure lead you to experience the presence and power of God like never before. Chip Henderson The six-week study Pressure Points was developed and written by Dr. Chip Henderson, Senior Pastor at Pinelake Church in Brandon, Mississippi. Chip is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and has been married for 21 years to Christy. They have three children. He is an avid hunter, runner, and triathlete. Chip is the co-creator of the L3 Journal and the author of the young adult study Samson: A Life Well Wasted (LifeWay). Chip s hope is that as you engage in this study, you will avoid the pressures that mess up our lives. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 9

3 10 SESSION 1

4 The Point Joyful trust in God will see you through all trials. The Bible Meets Life No one lives a problem-free life. You have surely heard the phrase, When life gives you a lemon, just make lemonade. But that s a whole lot easier said than done. Thankfully, the Bible is full of people who were dealt hard hands in life, but through faith and perseverance to God, they set good examples for us and found a way to make sweet lemonade. Joseph, Ruth, Hannah, and David are a few. These people found triumph in God, and so can you and your group members. The Passage James 1:1-4 The Setting The Book of James is a letter (an epistle), and James, the brother of Jesus, is clearly identified as the author in the greeting. Epistles were often used as a means of spurring the recipients to change a behavior or a belief in response to the authority and guidance of the sender. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 11

5 What does the Bible say? Key Words Slave (v. 1) This humble title signifies ownership by, absolute obligation to, and readiness to obey a master. Trials (v. 2) Trials are difficulties and afflictions that can strengthen our faith and prove its genuineness. Mature and complete (v. 4) Mature or perfect may refer to relative maturity as compared with immaturity (Ephesians 4:13) or to final perfection in the coming age (1 Corinthians 13:10). Complete refers to entire or whole, with no unsoundness whatsoever. James 1:1-4 (HCSB) 1 James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the 12 tribes in the Dispersion. Greetings. 2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. 12 SESSION 1

6 THE POINT Joyful trust in God will see you through all trials. GET INTO THE STUDY GUIDE: As you begin your group study, invite group members to turn their attention to the introductory picture on page 9 of the Personal Study Guide (PSG). SAY: All of us have felt the squeeze of various kinds of pressures in our lifetimes maybe even some this past week. 5 minutes TIP: Use name tags if possible; they jump-start the building of relationships. Notes DISCUSS: Invite group members to discuss the question at the bottom of page 9 of the PSG: What pressures squeeze the joy out of life? Allow time for each person to respond (a response now will encourage them to respond to other questions later in the study). GUIDE: Call attention to The Point on page 10 of the PSG: Joyful trust in God will see you through all trials. Explain this is the key idea that will drive our discussion (it appears at the top of each lesson page). No matter the difficulty you are facing or have faced, joy is possible because of who God is and what He is doing in you through every situation and circumstance. SUMMARIZE: The Bible Meets Life section on page 10 of the PSG shares that trials are a fact of life, but the Bible gives us great examples of men and women who overcame them. James 1 provides a game plan for finding joy amidst life s messes. PRAY: Transition into the Bible study by pausing to thank God for His Word, and to ask Him to provide guidance and understanding to embrace joyful trust in Him in all trials. Post Enhancement #1 to invite others to your study. Display Enhancement #2 and #3 to communicate the study and session topic. Cut out Enhancement #6 and distribute to your group. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 13

7 20 minutes STUDY THE BIBLE James 1:1-2 Notes 1 James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion. Greetings. 2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, READ: Ask a group member to read James 1:1-2 on page 11 of the PSG. SUMMARIZE: Page 12 explains two things we know about trials: they are often unexpected and they surround us. While they come in all shapes and sizes, four types of trials are listed: temptation, sickness, persecution, and trouble. DISCUSS: Question 2 on page 12 of the PSG: What s your first reaction when a trial comes your way fear, frustration, anger, doubt, faith, or hope? SUMMARIZE: While joy is usually not our initial response, it can be our ultimate attitude. Page 13 explains that we are commanded to consider it a great joy (v. 2). SAY: Joy might not be your first or second response to difficulties, but God desires for us to choose joy in the middle of trials. We can make a deliberate choice to refuse to respond emotionally, and choose to respond faithfully instead. DISCUSS: Question 3 on page 13 of the PSG: What can we do to place our focus on God instead of on our troubles? DO: Direct group members to complete the activity on page 13 of the PSG. Afterwards, allow time for group members to share their insights. Here Comes the Trial: You ve just gotten a rejection letter from the dream job you ve been praying for and working toward. (Ask group members to write their responses to the following statements on page 13 in the PSG.) 1. Choosing to place trust in God could benefit me by: 2. Choosing to place trust in God could benefit my circle of friends and family by: 3. Choosing to place trust in God could benefit others by: 14 SESSION 1

8 THE POINT Joyful trust in God will see you through all trials. James 1:1-2 Commentary Who was James? He was one of Jesus biological brothers (Matthew 13:55; Galatians 1:19), though he did not believe in Jesus during His earthly ministry (John 7:3-5). After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7), then he believed. Later, James wrote the letter we are now studying. By the time of the council described in Acts 15, James seems to have been the recognized leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13-21). He was known as James the Just because of his reputation for piety, purity, and steadfastness in obedience to God. He died as a martyr in A.D. 62. James began his letter by identifying himself as a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. James had gone from saying, Jesus is merely the brother I grew up with in Nazareth, to saying, He is the Lord Jesus Christ and I am his willing slave. Jesus resurrection spoke powerfully to James. James wrote to the twelve tribes dispersed or scattered abroad. These were Jewish believers who gathered in house churches in cities and towns throughout the first-century world. James probably called them the twelve tribes to signify they were the renewed Israel, enjoying and expecting fulfillment of God s promises in Christ. James and these believers knew about trials. As with every generation since, first-century believers faced many hardships. Trials translates a Greek word that, depending on its context, can refer either to hardships that test us or to inner urges and enticements to sin. In James 1:13, the verb form of the word refers to enticement to sin. In James 1:2 the word refers to hardships that test us. What trials pressured James and his fellow believers? Many had probably lived through the early persecution of the church in Jerusalem and beyond (Acts 6:8 8:4; 9:1-2). Many knew first hand about humble circumstances socially and financially (James 1:9). Some experienced oppression and mistreatment in the courts by powerful people (2:6). They were familiar with sickness (5:14) and any number of other afflictions. Sometime after he wrote his letter, James himself was to endure faithfully the trial of martyrdom. James instructed his fellow believers to consider it a great joy when they went through various trials. James gave a command at this point. He did more than suggest joy he commanded it. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 15

9 5 minutes STUDY THE BIBLE James 1:3 Notes 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. READ: Ask a group member to read James 1:3 on page 11 of the PSG. GUIDE: Draw attention to the principle found in the first paragraph on page 14 in the PSG: Trials aren t a test of your personal strength or wisdom; they test your faith in God to see you through. SUMMARIZE: Recap the first and second paragraphs on page 14 of the PSG emphasizing that trials and testing have an end goal endurance. SAY: Endurance is necessary because of what it produces. Endurance is also necessary because trials can be relentless coming one after another. Enduring teaches us that no matter what we face, God can be trusted because He is at work. GUIDE: Focus group members attention on the four statements at the bottom of page 14. Ask four members of the group to read one each. 1. In our fallen world, pain and difficulty are realities of life. 2. You have a faith worth developing and refining in God s eyes. 3. God has a plan to strengthen and prepare you. 4. You have the assurance of the presence of God. When He refines us, He never abandons us. GUIDE: Help your group to see that one way to have an attitude of joy during any trial is to focus on what God will do during and after the trial. DISCUSS: Question 4 on page 14 of the PSG: During your most recent trial, how did you see God walking with you? Be sensitive to the responses of your group members, as recent trials may be revealed. Be ready to share a personal story of your own if group members are slow to respond. TRANSITION: In the next verse, we will see how God is at work, using trials and endurance in our lives. 16 SESSION 1

10 THE POINT Joyful trust in God will see you through all trials. James 1:3 Commentary We have a definite reason for joy in our trials: the testing of your faith produces endurance. The hardships we all face are not meaningless. They evaluate our faith. The testing process purifies and strengthens its object. Metal workers use fiery furnaces to refine and shape metal. The goal is for the metal to meet the required standard of purity and strength for its intended use. Without the furnace, the metal will be neither strong nor proven; it will be unfit for use. Our faith is the metal undergoing the testing process when we face trials. Faith is trust in God. It is confidence in and dependence upon Him. In part, the wisdom He gives (James 1:5) is wisdom to trust and yield to His loving heart, knowing that He uses every difficulty to refine His people based on His goal for them (Romans 8:28-30). In 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, Paul described a great trial he experienced and what he learned in it. He did not name the trial explicitly as persecution or threats or some critical illness that nearly took his life. It may have been any of these things or something else. Whatever the trial was, it was severe. Paul wrote that he was under great pressure, overwhelmed beyond what he could endure in his own strength. He felt the sentence of death as he went through the trial. Paul then explained that the trial came upon him so that he would not depend upon himself, but upon God who even raises the dead. Remember that Paul was an apostle, a man of faith who preached and taught about faith. Still, God took Paul through a terribly difficult trial so he could learn more fully and experientially to depend upon God s strength and power rather than his own. We have been speaking of faith as trust in God. We need to add that it is active trust in God. Faith expresses itself actively in deeds of obedience (James 2:18-26). Trials supply difficult opportunities to obey. Without such difficulties our faith would be soft and weak. With them, we are strengthened for further obedience. This brings us to the matter of the endurance the testing of faith produces. Endurance is a necessity of true Christian faith. If we are true believers, we endure to the end (Matthew 24:13). We do not believe for a while, then stop; trust for a while, then turn away; obey for a while, then go our own easier way. The very word endurance makes us think long-term. We know we do not go through a single trial or a couple of trials then declare, OK, I have made it. Our next verse points us to the great goal at the end of a long process. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 17

11 10 minutes STUDY THE BIBLE James 1:4 Notes 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. READ: Ask a group member to read James 1:4 on page 11 of the PSG. SAY: We can benefit from remembering the past faithfulness of God in our lives to remind us what He has done and count on His steadfastness for our future. DISCUSS: Question 5 on page 15 of the PSG: How have you been encouraged by the endurance of others during trials? SUMMARIZE: Recap the paragraphs on page 15 of the PSG: ] Endurance takes time to build up. ] We can choose to run from the work of endurance, or we can choose to embrace it and reap the benefits. ] Ultimately, God is working in us to make us, and our faith, mature. GUIDE: Feel free to add your own personal story or insights. You may have more experiences than your group members where you can look back and clearly identify how God worked in your life. It s easier to trust God when we see how He has worked on behalf of ourselves or others. SUMMARIZE: Help group members grasp the three benefits of lasting endurance mentioned at the bottom of page 15. While trials are not enjoyable, God can use them to make us more like His Son. 1. Perfect Having reached its end; complete, mature. 2. Complete Fully developed; running at full capacity with nothing unused. 3. Lacking nothing Nothing left out or left behind; fully equipped and prepared. 18 SESSION 1

12 THE POINT Joyful trust in God will see you through all trials. James 1:4 Commentary In writing and sending his letter, James was one believer coming alongside others to encourage them to continue steadfastly in faith for the long haul. After receiving James letter, the believers surely read it aloud during their gatherings. In fact, they probably did so over and over in gathering after gathering. Then they probably talked about the trials testing them and encouraged one another to endure. God often gives wisdom (James 1:5-8) through fellow believers. His wisdom includes insight and understanding that equip us to think and act rightly in our trials. By His wisdom we discern whether to wait or act, whether to be silent or speak, and what to say when it is time to speak. Many times it is in talking with one another that we come to see practically how to endure faithfully in trials. We can also help one another stay focused upon the goal of our trials. According to James, the culmination or end goal of the endurance process is for the believer to be mature and complete. What type of maturity or perfection is in view here? Is it maturity in faith we are able to realize in this life? Or, is it perfection that will only come beyond the present age? Mature translates teleios. James used teleios elsewhere of God s good and perfect gift (James 1:17), the perfect law of liberty (v. 25), and the perfection of not stumbling at all in what a person says (3:2). In each case, absolute rather than partial perfection was James meaning. Thus, in the second portion of James 1:4, James probably intended to lift his readers eyes toward the full maturity of our Christian faith that is God s ultimate goal for us. Therefore, in James 1:2-4 earthly progress toward maturity and final perfection are set before us as one great process with a definite completion. Steadily, progressively, God works to refine us through the testing in this life. Finally, fully, He will bring the work to a glorious end. James 1:9-12 teaches us to endure present trials with a view toward the final state awaiting us. If we are impoverished now, we can rejoice we are really exalted with Christ Jesus (1:9) and awaiting the disclosure of our high position when God gives us the crown of life in the end (v. 12). By faith we press toward the goal. God finally will complete His work in us when Christ comes and transforms us into the likeness of His own glorious body (see Philippians 1:6; 3:14-21). BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 19

13 5 minutes LIVE LIVE IT OUT SAY: So what does God want you to do when trials come your way? Notes GUIDE: Lead group members to consider the responses to the Bible study listed on page 16 of the PSG. ] Choose a joyful attitude. Determine where you will place your focus in the midst of trials on God or on the trial you face. ] Be obedient in the small (and big) things God has called you to do. During trials, don t abandon commitments and practices that honor God. Determine to follow His leadership even when the future is unclear. ] Encourage someone else who is in the midst of a trial. God can use your experience to strengthen another person s faith. Wrap It Up READ: Read the last paragraph of the Live It Out section on page 16 of the PSG: Today, choose joy. God is working in every circumstance, both good and bad to bring about the development of His character and power in you so that you may be perfect, complete, and useful for His glory. Despite life s circumstances, God gives us the capability to turn sour into sweet. Now go make lemonade. 20 SESSION 1

14 My group's prayer requests LEADING A GROUP JUST FOR WOMEN, MEN, SINGLES, OR COLLEGIATES? Get customized discussion questions & ideas at BibleStudiesforLife.com/blog BibleStudiesforLife.com/blog.. Why Ask Why? What To Do When Life's Answers Just Aren't Enough The question is everywhere. We stand in line at the DMV, and we ask, Why did every person on the planet need a new license today? Someone close to us faces illness, and we ask God, Why would such a kind person suffer so much? Life forces us to consider reality as it exists, and we ask Why? To continue reading Why Ask Why? from Collegiate magazine, visit BibleStudiesforLife.com/articles. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE 21

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