You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Hannibal Books (July 7, 2009)
Anne Fortenberry was born in the southern U.S. and lived in Gulfport, MS, during her childhood. She has served for the past 10 years as a Southern Baptist missionary. She has also been a university lecturer and division chair, a health-care consultant, and registered nurse. She holds a doctor of nursing science degree from the Louisiana State University Medical Center School of Nursing, a master of science from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a bachelor of science from Mississippi College. She and her husband, Archie, are parents of three grown children.
Listen to her interview HERE.
List Price: $15.95
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Hannibal Books (July 7, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
By Anne Fortenberry
WEEK 1: TESTS OF FAITH
Day 1-- When Troubles Come
Day 2 -- A Doubtful Mind
Day 3 -- Responding to Temptations
Day 4 -- Listen Twice, Speak Once
Day 5 -- CHARACTERISTICS OF FAITH, Characteristic 1: Faith Obeys the Word
This week initiates the beginning of our daily Bible Study on the Book of James. We are in for some pretty heavy material even this first week, so make sure you are prayed up, have God’s Word open, and are ready to proceed with some real introspection. As you see, chapter one covers a wide variety of topics; however, some topics will be discussed in more detail as we progress through the chapters. Just looking over the topics makes me either cringe or laugh because I have ‘been there and done that.’ As believers, we know that our Heavenly Father walks with us wherever we go and we have the assurance that things always work out for our good as painful as some things might be. By the way, a sense of humor really helps to get us through most anything. Reckon I’ve rambled enough. So pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, get into your favorite study chair, and let’s begin. I am so happy that you are in this study with me as we explore His truths together.
Day 1 -- When Troubles Come
Today’s Focus: James 1:2-4, 12; Matthew 8:25-27; 9:35-38;
1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:12-16; 5:10; Psalms 3:3-5; 56:3: 66:10-12
In our introductory session together we established that James was the half brother of Jesus and that this book was one of the earliest letters written, possibly even preceding the four gospels. We also know that after Stephen was martyred, persecution increased scattering the Jewish believers throughout the Roman World. Consequently, because these believers did not have the support of the established church, they were besieged with problems testing their faith; evidently they had succumbed to impatience, bitterness, materialism, disunity and spiritual apathy. Hmmm, sounds like today, doesn’t it? Anyway, James, a prominent leader of the early church, felt the responsibility to warn as well as encourage these believers in their faith struggles. Wow…don’t we need the same warnings and encouragement today? I know I do!
James does not waste any time and immediately after his greeting in verse one, he delves into the topic of experiencing trials. The Greek word for trials is peirasmos pronounced pi-ras-mos and means adversity, troubles, experiences of evil, and putting to proof by experiment. It is interesting to me that trials can be viewed as an experiment which in actuality is an assessment of who we are and how we hold up under the stress of troubles. Hmmm, does that mean trials build our character? Of course it does. Let’s see what God’s Word says...
♥ Read Psalms 66:10-12. In reflecting back over some trials or troubles you have experienced, how did you feel when it was all over and you moved on? _____________
According to Psalms, when we experience trials, we are purified like silver melted in a crucible. Trials test our faith, build our character, and give us an opportunity for growth. Maybe we should consider trials to be a gift from God because after the experience we are better people. But, sometimes when we go through trials, we feel really abandoned. You know dear friend, so did King David. However, when David felt abandoned he always told God about it. What do you have in common with King David? How do you differ? Do you tell God what you really think and feel? Do you truly recognize who is listening to your prayers? If you open your heart and are totally honest with your Heavenly Father, your understanding of Him will grow. Read further…
♥ Read Psalms 3:3-5. What assurance can you gain from these verses? ___________
David firmly believed God protected him when he slept and when he was awake. He had the assurance when everything went wrong, God was there for him. David knew God was his shield, and he could overcome all fears by trusting in God for protection. What about you? When troubles come, can you trust God for protection? Can you say, “What time I am afraid I will trust in thee” (Psalms 56:3)? If not, why not? Let’s see what Jesus does…
♥ Read Matthew 8:25-27. What did the disciples witness in these verses? __________
Wow…Jesus even controls the forces of nature. Folks, do you realize who Jesus really is? Do you comprehend who God really is? Do you realize that He can control the storms that you encounter in your life? Whether your storms are from nature or from the troubles you face, He has the power to control them. Jesus is willing to help, but first we must ask! That means we must pray first for His help. Hope and confidence in our Heavenly Father far outweigh our fears and troubles. Believe it or not, trials will make us stronger and prepare us for the future. What makes the difference? Do I really have to be joyful in my troubles?
♥ Read James 1:2. When you read this verse, how did you respond?______________ ______________________________________________________________________
Note that James does not say ‘if’ trials or troubles come, instead he says, ‘when’ trials or troubles come to let them be an opportunity for joy. Also, notice that he uses the plural not the singular form for troubles which is an indication that we will experience not just one trial but perhaps several as we walk through our life. Now I have to admit, I did not always understand what it meant to be joyful when troubles come. Through the years, I have come to realize that it is not necessary for me to pretend to be happy about facing pain. However, it is important to have a positive outlook when trials come and to consider it an opportunity for joy because of what can be produced in my life.
♥ Let’s compare James 1:2-4 with 1 Peter 1:6-7. As you read these verses, what major similarities and differences can you identify in these verses?
Both James and Peter tell us that our faith will be tested and to consider it joy when that happens as it will make us strong. However, James says it is for our endurance to have a chance to grow which will make our character strong and ready for anything. The Greek word for endurance is hupomone pronounced hoop-om-on-ay and means cheerful waiting, patience, withstanding, and persevering. Peter says trials will make us strong and purify us like gold which will bring us praise, glory, and honor when Jesus comes. In the refining process of gold the impurities are burned away making the gold beautiful and shiny. So whether it is for endurance or purification, trials will definitely affect our lives.
As you know, we will face trials when we let our light shine into the darkness. Thus we should accept troubles as part of the refining process that burns away our impurities and prepares us to meet Jesus. Trials teach us patience and help us grow into the kind of people God wants to use for His glory. However, we have a choice, don’t we? We can turn tough times or trials into opportunities for learning perseverance and that will help us grow into godly people; or we can grumble, criticize, and feel sorry for ourselves. Whatever our choice, trials will come. If you think about it, they are a lot easier to handle if we turn them over to our Heavenly Father and allow Him to walk with us through them. What is your choice?
♥ Think of a situation where you have been unpleasant and complained about your troubles? What was the result? ___________________________________________
♥ Now think of a time when you have been joyful in your troubles? What was the result? _____________________________________________________________
♥ Did you notice any difference in the way you responded in the above situations? ____ ♥ What made you results different? _________________________________________
Sometimes we do not know the depth of our character until we see how we react under pressure. Can we still be kind to folks that mistreat us? What about people who are prejudiced against us, or lie about us, or treat us unjustly? I believe with all my heart that God wants to mature each of us. So, instead of complaining about our struggles, let’s see them as opportunities for growth. Let’s thank Him for His promise to walk with us and carry us in His arms through the rough times. Let’s ask Him to help solve our problems and to give us the strength to endure them. Then, wait, be patient, and believe He will help.
♥ Read James 1:12. What does God promise to do if people patiently endure testing? ______________________________________________________________________
God promises not only to bless us but to give us the crown of life, our reward of eternal life…WOW, we will be there in heaven with the living God forever! Peter tells us not to be surprised at the trials we are going through. Instead, be happy because these trials make us partners with Jesus in His suffering. Just think, afterward we will have the joy of sharing His glory when it is displayed to the entire world. Peter further tells us to be happy when we are insulted for being Christians as there is NO shame involved in His name. He also tells us the Holy Spirit will come upon us (1Peter 4:12-16 NLT).
One of my favorite verses is 1 Peter 5:10 which reads, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (NAS). Now what do these four words mean?
♥ Think about it…how would you define the following words?
To me this verse is God’s promise to us when we suffer trials or troubles. The God of all creation, our Heavenly Father, promises to restore us completely, to support us unconditionally, to give us His power, and to place us on a permanent foundation. WOW! Isn’t that awesome? Keep in mind and be encouraged because our greatest lessons in life come out of the pain we experience. Why? Rick Warren has said that troubles make us focus more on God, build our character, draw us closer to others in fellowship, provide us with a ministry, and give us a testimony to share. But, as believers, we have a greater responsibility…
♥ Read Matthew 9:35-38. What did Jesus encounter in every place he went? ________
Every where Jesus traveled He encountered people with problems so great they did not know where to go for help. Thus, He told His disciples He needed workers who would know how to deal with the problems of other people. Folks, that’s you and me! Do you realize that every trial you endure will help you to comfort another person who is dealing with a similar problem? As believers, we are commissioned to help others with their troubles, to comfort them, show them the way, encourage them, and give them hope.
When troubles come, how have you decided to react? A faith that works considers it all joy when trials are encountered because we know the testing of our faith produces endurance. We may not be ‘happy’ that a trial has occurred, but we can certainly be joyful in knowing that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, will be with us through all of our trials and troubles. We have a choice. What’s your choice? Let’s count it all joy!
Day 2 -- A Doubtful Mind
Today’s Focus: James 1:5-8; Mark 11:23-24; Genesis 3:1-6;
Matthew 11:4-6; 14:28-31; 21:21-22
What does it mean to have a doubtful mind? The Greek work for
doubting is diakrino pronounced dee-ak-ree-no and means to
withdraw from, to hesitate, or to separate thoroughly. In today’s
language it may mean to be ‘wishy washy’ or to have a lack of faith. So what does faith mean? The Greek word for faith is pistis pronounced pis’-tis and means assurance, belief, persuasion, and/or system of religious truth. Obviously, these two words form a dichotomy and have opposite meanings. With these definitions in mind, let’s see what James says to the scattered Jewish believers.
♥ Read James 1:5-8. After reading these verses, can you relate to the analogy used to describe a doubtful mind? Please give an example.____________________________
In verse six, James uses the analogy that a doubtful mind is as unsettled as the waves of the sea driven and tossed about by the wind. Can you picture that in your mind? Close your eyes for a moment and try to picture yourself standing in the water on a beach and waves from the sea are splashing against your body. How are you feeling? Are you rocking to and fro from the force? Are you loosing your balance? Are you feeling any apprehension? What do the waves look like to you? Are they gigantic or small in nature? Well, if you have as vivid of an imagination as I do, I’m not getting into that water if the waves are really big…in fact, I prefer to stand on the shore and watch instead of being in the middle of them. Ouch! If we are believers, are we supposed to watch from a distance and not get our feet wet? Hmmm, is that what a doubtful mind is like?
A doubtful mind is not completely convinced that God’s way is the best way. This type of mind treats God’s Word like any ordinary piece of advice. Instead of obeying all of God’s Word, this type of mind retains the option to disobey if it doesn’t agree. It vacillates between following God’s way and the desires of their own heart. Doubt has left this person as unsettled as the waves of the sea. James says that this type of person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord because they waver back and forth in everything they do. Who or what causes doubt?
♥ Read Genesis 3:1-6. Who or what caused Eve’s doubt? ______________________
♥ In what way can you relate to Eve? ________________________________________
From these verses we know it was Satan that caused Eve to have doubts about God’s goodness. He made Eve forget all that God had given her; instead, he made her focus on the one thing she was not supposed to have. Isn’t that how we also get into trouble? Rather than counting God’s blessings, we focus on what we do not have. Read further…
♥ Read Matthew 11:4-6. How did Jesus handle John’s doubt? ___________________
As John sat in prison doubts began to plague him as to whether Jesus was really the Messiah. Jesus answered John’s doubts by pointing to the evidence… His miracles, healings, and preaching. Folks, sometimes we can only see and understand from our own human perspective rather than God’s perspective. If our doubts lead to questions and those questions lead to answers, then doubt has done some good. Questioning can help sort out our beliefs and strengthen our faith. However, questioning can make us vulnerable as doubt can cause us to sin; which harms faith. Satan knows that once we begin to question, it is easier to make us do what he wants. Actually we can let doubt deepen our faith or divide it. But, be careful my friend, as a divided mind only causes problems. We cannot be self-centered and God-centered at the same time.
♥ Read Mark 11:23-24. What two things are required if we have faith? ________________________________ ________________________________
Several times in scripture we hear Jesus say, “O you of little faith.” Those words make me feel so sad because we know that all things are possible with God. Dear precious folks, if we have the faith He requires of us, then we must really believe and not doubt in our hearts. WOW…He says we can pray for anything, and if we believe, we will have it. I could go on and on about prayer, but James covers it at length during our last week of study. Just know prayer is truly one of my favorite topics as my life is a testimony to the power of prayer.
You probably have read the story many times of Jesus walking on the water, but let’s focus for a minute on Peter (Matthew 14:22-33). Remember Peter’s reaction when he saw Jesus coming…Let’s discuss what happened:
♥ Read Matthew 14:28-31 and answer the following questions:
♥ What did Peter desire to do?_____________________________________________
♥ What happened to Peter when he was able to carry out his desire? ______________
♥ What did Jesus say to Peter in this situation? ______________________________
♥ Think about these verses, have you ever gotten ‘out of the boat’ to take a step of faith? Explain.__________________________________________________________
Bible scholars have often criticized Peter and given him a hard time because he doubted. But we must give Peter credit for the fact that he was the only disciple who actually got out of the boat. Oh, we can speculate as to why Peter wanted to walk on the water in the first place. We can also see that when Peter allowed fear to overcome him, he began to sink and Jesus rebuked him for doubting Him…but, who did Peter call on when he began to sink? And who immediately reached out and grabbed him? Think about it!
How decisive are you? Do you rely on God? Do you totally trust Him? Or, are you straddling the fence? Do your actions reflect your words? Are you letting doubt deepen your faith or destroy it? Are you depending on the Holy Spirit for guidance? Are you seeking mature Christian companions? Are you reading and studying God’s Word? To have a faith that works and removes doubts, we must do these things!
At one time or the other, we will all have doubts, especially if we focus on the waves that difficult circumstances produce around us, and then we too may sink. However, if we maintain our faith when situations are difficult and focus on the power of Jesus instead of our own inadequacies, we may soar like the eagle. Jesus said “I assure you, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May God lift you up and throw you into the sea,’ and it will happen” (Matthew 21:21-22). WOW… Go away doubt, I want faith! What about you?
Through his devices of doubt, distrust, discouragement, and deception, Satan tries at every turn to prevent or steal your harvest and keep you from reaching greater fruitfulness. Bruce Wilkinson
Here is my review of this engaging Bible study:
First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Anne Fortenberry and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Faith That Works: A Topical Study on the Book of James" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.
It is so very difficult to really review a Bible study workbook when you haven’t completed the study. Such is the case with Anne Fortenberry’s “Faith That Works”. I only received this workbook 12 days prior to the review being due, and I have learned from experience that some studies can really “Wow” you near the end. So far, I am not only enjoying this nine-week topical Bible study on the New Testament epistle of James, I am also learning.
“Faith That Works” is arranged in a five-day homework format. This is an ideal design for personal study or for study with a group. The author’s commentary is laced with questions designed to make the reader think about the Bible reading. I see this as a good choice for your small group to learn more about living out loud from the New Testament proverbs!