One of the great challenges we all face is applying the biblical truth we hear and read about in our daily living. James, the little brother of Jesus, saw these challenges and wrote specifically to address these things.
In five short chapters – which will likely take you approximately 20 minutes to read – we have more than just information, instruction, and encouragement. James masterfully displays the need for Jesus in every area of life and explains how legitimate faith will produce good works.
This letter was written to a Jewish population that was scattered across the Mediterranean region as a result of persecution. While penned centuries ago, it is relevant, helpful, and ever timely for each of us as we are seeking to help people find and follow Jesus.
As we study, listen, and apply this letter, we’ll together notice the supremacy of Christ, the power of truth, and we’ll be stunned by God’s careful attention to every detail in life.
May this resource and the sermons that follow be a blessing to you and a constant encouragement to your life with God and his people.
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The Letter of James is direct, hard-hitting, and succinct. We may be surprised to know that the writer, James, the little brother of Jesus, wasn’t always so courageous and so clear. Before he was bold he was a wimpy kid. His writings look up to his big brother, but earlier in life he looked down on him. James, received lots of grace for those earlier years and, in his later years, records the lessons he learned from his big brother, Jesus.
James is one of the most practical books in the Bible, tackling real-life issues and struggles that all of us face: temptation, self-control, work, anger, poverty, favoritism and more. One can’t help but see Jesus as James instructs disciples with truth that’s formed from both Proverbs and the Sermon on the Mount. No longer do we have a wimpy kid, but thankfully we still have his words.
Week 1 – Just Like Jesus (James 1:1)
James is one of the most practical books in the Bible, tackling real-life issues and struggles that all of us face: temptation, self-control, work, anger, poverty, favoritism and more. James didn’t start there though. He started as a little brother who mocked his big brother. He was ashamed of Jesus. Years later, with a tender heart and a bold conviction, he releases a treatise of faith, works, and following Jesus. The person who caused these changes in James is still transforming people today. James grew up to want to be like his big brother and his words are a plea to you and me to be just like Jesus.
Week 2 – Suffer Like Jesus (James 1:2-12)
“Life is hard, but we’re not home yet.” This phrase, often heard, provides reality and comfort for those of us who suffer. James reminds us early in his letter to remember that God meets us in the midst of pain to bring us closer to him through our trials and suffering. Remembering to suffer like Jesus gives us hope in hardship and joy in the midst of difficulty. God uses everything for His glory and our joy, so whether we need help, wisdom, endurance, or strength, God is near and ready to meet needs and supply grace!
Week 3 – Think Like Jesus (James 1:13-18)
Temptation, desire, sin, and death. Far from wimpy, James wades into the deeps as he begins to dismantle common excuses for sin and the willingness to blame God for our failures. Turning from sinfulness and death we fix our eyes on the kindness, goodness, and benevolence of God. We’re reminded that while we change, God does not. If we want to understand how to fight sin, trust God, and even understand life, we must think like Jesus.
Week 4 – Walk Like Jesus (James 1:19-27)
James explains what it really means to be a doer of the word, setting aside pride and humbly meditating on Biblical truths, until they begin to transform us. Doing what he heard wasn’t always the case for James, but as he saw Jesus live out his words, he was convicted, moved, and transformed. Here James leads us not just to think about the words of his big brother, but literally to walk like Jesus.
Week 5 – Love Like Jesus (James 2:1-13)
When we realize that we’re rescued people, we can accept others in their brokenness. James expounds on God’s impartiality and ability to rescue. Further, he encourages us to reflect Jesus’ character by meeting the needs of hurting people around us. James knew our tendencies well and he writes to ensure that we see people through God’s eyes and that we love like Jesus. Quoting his big brother reinforces the truth of the Sermon on the Mount, while at the same time reminding us of the generous grace we’ve been given.
Week 6 – Work Like Jesus (James 2:14-26)
Faith, works, and salvation… What a conversation James starts, then punctuates with “faith apart from works is dead.” Certainly, we are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that remains alone. James grew up in the shadow of a brother who always did what he said, demonstrated his beliefs, and never failed to embody the commands of the Bible. For James, it was never a question of where salvation started, but always a concern for what it produced. James learned to live life and work like Jesus from watching his big brother have works that perfectly pictured his faith.
Week 7 – Speak Like Jesus (James 3:1-12)
A controlled tongue equals a surrendered heart. James teaches us the power our words possess, how they’re a reflection of what’s in our hearts, and how we can experience real heart change. Thinking long about salt ponds, fresh water, figs, olives, and grapes leads James to challenge us to not simply think, but to actually speak like Jesus.
Week 8 – Listen Like Jesus (James 3:13-18)
Wisdom should characterize your life if you’re a follower of Jesus. James unpacks why we should want wisdom, what it really is, and how we can actually acquire it. As we learn about wisdom we begin to realize James isn’t encouraging us to work harder to be wiser; rather, we’re to listen like Jesus to the words of Scripture as we seek to walk out our faith.
Week 9 – Fight Like Jesus (James 4:1-12)
We serve a personal, passionate, jealous God. James examines our common misconceptions about “worldliness” which is really all about marginalizing God while showing what can happen when we actually give all of ourselves to Him. From worldliness, we learn about repentance. In repentance we agree with God about our sin, grieve over it, decide to leave it, and flee to Jesus to cleanse it. We’re to love God and flee from sin. James establishes a clear plan for all who follow God to resist sin and fight like Jesus.
Week 10 – Trust Like Jesus (James 4:13-17)
Are you willing to let God interrupt your plans? James explains how truly dependent we are on God and His grace for all of life. Not a day goes by that we aren’t totally dependent on God for all things. It’s here that we’re instructed to trust God through it all. Our life, our todays, and our tomorrows are all wrapped up in the sovereignty of God; James points us to his older brother who shows a level of dependence and rest that demands each of us to trust like Jesus.
Week 11 – Compassionate Like Jesus (James 5:1-12)
“Life is hard, but we’re not home yet.” Here in the final chapter of his letter, James teaches us how we should respond to injustice as Christians, valuing what God values, fighting urgently on behalf of the vulnerable, and repenting of materialism and indifference. A healthy dose of waiting is in store as God sets all things right. Our hope is not found in the immediacy of relief, but in living a life that’s compassionate like Jesus.
Week 12 – Complete Like Jesus (James 5:13-20)
James, while closing his letter, reminds us what it means to be the church. He discusses how we can find wholeness in our spiritual, emotional, and physical lives, growing in our relationships with God and in our relationships within the church. The final word from this formerly wimpy kid is to be complete like Jesus, knowing God, loving each other, and sending the Gospel to the nations!