1. What are you looking forward to the most?
2. What are you dreading the most?
3. What role, good and bad, can anticipation play in a person’s life?
Anticipation can wear a person down if what they are anticipating is bad. But a person without something to look forward to lacks hope.
However, there is one future event believers can be absolutely certain of—Jesus’ return. Today, we will study what James said about living our lives in anticipation of that glorious day.
To set the stage for our first passage we need to read James 5:1-6.
(Give a short lecture on the content of these verses.)
Patience! Read James 5:7-9
1. What reasons do believers have to be patient? (God is with us! Jesus is coming for us! We’ve read the back of the Book and we win! Suffering will be a thing of the past!)
2. What does it look like to live our lives as though the Lord is near? (Constant expectation, but working all the while because the time is short. We talk about the “signs of the times” for Jesus to return and it seems each generation can point to some events in their lifetime that point to Jesus’ imminent return. Read 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 2 Peter 3:8. Because 2000 years has passed should not cause us to lose heart.)
3. What keeps believers from living as though the Lord’s coming is near?
4. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the greatest, how does the return of Christ impact your daily life? (To be honest, my own number would be low. My anticipation of going to meet Him in death is higher.)
5. What impact should the promised return of Jesus have on a believer? (We should live holy lives, trying to share the gospel.)
6. What impact should the promised return of Jesus have on an unbeliever? (Very little, unless they have had the gospel shared with them and know about Jesus’ expected return.)
(Write “Suffering,” “Cheerful,” “Sick,” and “Sinful” on the board or a large sheet of paper.)
Before we read the next passage about prayer, in which of these situations are you most likely to pray? Which is the least?
Prayer! Read James 5:13-18
James presented three scenarios in verses 13-14. For all three of them, the response is the same: “He should pray.” Whether someone is suffering, cheerful, or sick, he should pray.
1. Why should prayer be our first course of action, rather than our last?
2. Why might a person fail to start with prayer?
3. What does who a person turns to first reveal about that person’s beliefs?
The emphasis for at least two out of four of these categories is not individual, private prayer, but inviting other people to pray for you. This can be hard in our culture, with our emphasis on independence. We tend to think of a personal relationship with Jesus as private. But all through the Book of James, the emphasis has been on obedience. In 108 verses, James gave 52 imperatives. So we have to take the imperative to have other people pray for us and with us seriously.
4. Why might a group place little emphasis upon confession of sin to one another? (Public confession of sin should be of sin that was committed in public, or has been brought to the public’s attention. We need to have an “accountability partner” who we trust deeply. Our confession to that person is to help hold us accountable in that area of our life.)
5. How are sin and sickness related? (Sickness may be discipline for a specific sin. However, not all sickness is related to a person’s specific sins. All sickness is a result of the original sin. Sickness and death are part of living in a fallen world.)
6. When have you seen God glorified through someone’s healing?
7. What about when a sickness wasn’t healed? (We live in a fallen world, and our bodies are dying. God will sometimes choose to give us a foretaste of the healing that all believers will experience in heaven.)
Ultimately, the prayer of a righteous person will be a prayer for God to be glorified. The most important healing a person can experience is spiritual healing.
8. What encouragement can we find in verses 17-18? (In 1 Kings 17-18, Elijah prayed successfully for fire to come down from heaven, for drought, and for rain. However, 1 Kings 19 records how, right after Elijah successfully called down fire from heaven, he was so scared of King Ahab that he ran for his life and then “prayed that he might die.” James reminded his readers that Elijah was human, just like us. In remembering both Elijah’s humanity and the power of Elijah’s prayer life, we are encouraged in our own ability to cause change through prayer. However, if we aren’t fully utilizing this power, we should be convicted to pray like we mean it.)
Isn’t it fitting that James ended his imperative-filled letter with instructions on how believers can help one another obey all these commands.
Protecting! Read James 5:19-20
1. What are two results of being used to turn a straying brother or sister back to God? (“save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.” In this verse “death” is physical death not spiritual death.)
2. What role does prayer play in this situation?
3. How is it impacted by an anticipation of Christ’s return? (A consideration of Christ’s imminent return adds urgency!)
Read Prov. 10:12 and 1 Pet. 4:8.
While Jesus is the only one who can atone for sins, God uses the loving confrontation of faithful believers to turn the unfaithful to Himself.
4. What is the connection between loving a brother or sister in Christ and turning them from sin?
5. How might the return of a straying believer cover a multitude of sins?
6. What fears might hold us back from pursuing someone who is wandering from the truth? (James reminded believers they have the same power as Elijah. Verse 20 refers to the straying believer described in verse 19. This verse does not mean Christians can lose their salvation. “Death” in verse 20 means physical death.)
7. How can we overcome these? (Read 1 Pet. 4:7-11.)
Summarize and Challenge!
The passages we studied in today’s session dealt with both Christ coming in His glory and our ultimate glorification as redeemed, sanctified, forgiven children of God.
1. What are some ways we can strengthen our group’s ministry to others through prayer?
2. How can we more effectively pray for others in our group?
3. How can our class involve others in prayer and ministry to those who voice a prayer need?
Call for prayer request, write them down and provide the class with a written copy, either by email, message, or mail.
Pray for the needs mentioned.