Sunday, January 15, 2017

Trials, Endurance, and the James Bible Study

I'm not sure when I started writing the Bible study on James, but I began preparing to write it months ago. I read through James so many times that I started to memorize the words from the repetition. 

Finally, I actively memorized it because it was easier to have the words in my head. I didn't memorize it all, because there was writing to do, but I have a good start and I'm not quitting yet.

A pastor friend told me you're not ready to preach a sermon on a passage of Scripture until you've been through it forty times. It turns out you're not ready to write until you've been through it that many times, either.

I was up again this morning well before 4 am. I've been up that early for so long, trying to squeeze more writing time out of the day, that it's become a habit.

Writing this was hard. I worked eighty-plus hours a week, because the work of being a missionary doesn't stop while you're writing. I wept from conviction every day, despaired of getting through, cried over how hard the writing was, begged people to pray because I didn't think I could finish. 

God helped me. I made it to the end. Yesterday, when I wrote the last section, Praying Like a Prophet, I wept as I typed. I stood in my kitchen and cried like a baby. And typed.

When I typed the period at the end of the last sentence, I put my face in my hands and wept from pure joy. As I did, the words of James drifted through my head. "let endurance have its perfect result..."

I don't know that endurance has produced a perfect result in the Bible study, but it has done some serious refining in me. This was a kind of trial for me, and I counted it as joy while I did it, but I know it's a joy now.

This isn't the kind of trial most of us will have, but it was still hard, because trials are always hard. It seemed impossible to get through. Agonizing. Gut-wrenching. Intense soul-searching. Like all trials. 

I persevered and made it through.

And you can, too. No matter what you're facing, you take one step at a time, cry your way through if necessary, and keep going. You depend on God, who is the only One who can help, and you just keep going.

When you persevere, it produces endurance and refinement. It makes you more like Jesus, and that's the goal. You ask for wisdom and, in your desperation, you don't doubt, because what good would that be? You ask and receive, and it strengthens your faith.

Everything James wrote about how to live like his Big Brother is true. He grew up with Jesus. He knew him in a way few did. 

His words are not suggestions. They are rubber-meets-the-road truth about how the life of a disciple is to be lived. 

THIS is how our lives are supposed to look. Strong. Humble. Wise. Patient. Slow to anger. Generous. Respectful of all. In constant communication with our Lord. Demonstrating our faith with our good works. Bold. Brave. Kind.

Being a disciple of Christ is exciting, and hard, and gut-wrenching good. It's worth it.

If you put your whole heart and soul into this study, I believe you'll take a giant step toward being the disciple you were saved to be. I don't think you'll ever want to go back to the status quo.

I hope not.

So here it is. The refining fire that burned out so much sin in my heart. I hope it does the same for you.

Because I've completed the writing ahead of time with James, I'm giving you the entire file at the beginning. (and I'll be going through it with you as a participant.) The link below gives you view-only access to a dropbox file for the PDF. (That means you can download it, but you can't change my PDF.)

Don't forget about the Lessons in Discipleship closed Facebook page. If you're not my friend, friend me and ask to be added to the group. That's the place for discussion and questions.

When you click on the link, it will take you to the file. There's a download button at the upper right corner of the screen. If you click on it, it should download the file to your computer. Just check your downloads and you can open it as often as you want. 

There are links to click on in the James document that will take you directly to the reference mentioned in the text.

Here's the link to the study:

James/More than Enough: Living a Life Worth Living

As before, this book is free. If God leads, here's a link to make a small (tax-deductible) donation to cover some of the cost of producing it. You don't have to make a donation. It's free, no matter what. 

Click here if you feel led to make a donation. 

ps - the photo is of my granddaddy's rose. I have a cutting that's grown and endured for so many years that it's become a symbol of endurance to me.
#studyJames #Biblestudy