the group statement
This is something that all of our groups read EVERY time they meet! Guardrails help us have the most helpful and safe discussion possible each time we meet.
Don’t skip it, don’t rush past it. It’s the consistency that reinforces the safety needed for people to share openly and move toward vulnerability.
When we gather as a group, these are some ways we ensure the best group discussion:
We make the circle safe by staying honest and transparent - leave the masks at the door.
We keep it inside the circle. Each person’s story is theirs alone to share.
We look to the Bible for wisdom and truth, and work together to let it shape how we see the world.
We don’t try to fix each other in front of each other or give unsolicited advice. We lovingly save hard conversations for private moments.
We respect each others’ time by starting and ending when we say we will.
We believe that in Jesus Christ, there is hope for everyone.
Life Hacks is all about taking the wisdom that we find in the book of James and applying it to our everyday lives. James was Jesus’ half-brother, and it wasn’t until Jesus’ death and resurrection that James believed that He was really God in the flesh - so it makes sense that we would listen to what he has to say!
Jen started the series how James starts out - talking about trials of many kinds. Speaking to groups of people that were being heavily persecuted and even martyred for following Jesus, James said that somehow, by the power of God, we can actually call those trials pure joy. But it takes a big change in perspective to do that well!
How to use this discussion guide!
These questions are not a checklist!
Don’t be worried about finishing them all or going in order. The questions are starting points that should help you guide the most natural discussion about the message and everyone’s lives.
The best way to guide a natural discussion is to know your way around before you start. Read through the questions so you know what you’ve got in your arsenal during the discussion.
But don’t stop there - the best prep you can do is to have personal responses to the questions before you start. Then you’ll be ready to lead the way or wisely jump around in the guide to keep the flow natural.
Connect with each other
Do we HAVE to…?
There are plenty of voices in the world trying to tell us that trials are avoidable - that if we do the right things, avoid the right people, and believe a little harder, we’ll be able to sidestep the pain of the world and get off scot-free.
Which side do you normally fall on - do you try hard to manage your life so that nothing bad happens, or expect that if something bad CAN happen, it WILL happen?
How has that affected your view of God during trials?
Connect with the Message
Jen said that no matter what we believe or what we do, we all have real and significant trials
What’s a defining trial that has marked your life recently, or something that you’re going through right now?
past vs present
It’s a big step for people to talk about their past - the hurts, the mistakes, and the regret. But it’s a HUGE step to talk about the unfinished issues of their present.
You can’t push this - people get there in their own time, and there’s no rushing it. The only thing you can do as a facilitator and leader is go there yourself. When you lead with vulnerability, it sets the tone for everyone else and proves that it’s a safe place to go.
So consider appropriately sharing a present struggle, if you’ve got one that’s relevant. Don’t ask for advice, don’t aim to bum everyone out - just share. And know that you’re paving the way for someone to be heard, known, accepted, and loved later on.
Opportunity to grow
Read James 1:2-4 for context
Jen said that we all want to grow, but we try to avoid the things that grow us. God doesn’t like our pain, but he doesn’t waste it.
What have you learned about God in the middle of a trial that you couldn’t have learned any other way?
Jen reminded us that we all have another option besides growing in a trial - it’s NOT growing. What does choosing to grow in the midst of a trial look like practically? What can we do to take the growth path?
Opportunity for God to show up
Read John 11:1-44 for context (it’s long!)
Jesus allowed his friend Lazarus to die so that he could show up in a big way. But showing up didn’t just mean bringing Lazarus back to life. Showing up meant taking the time first to stop and weep alongside his friends.
What does this story tell us about Jesus and how he relates to us?
In your own trials, which Jesus do you find yourself focusing on or looking for? Which one do you miss?
the 4-day late Jesus
the weeping Jesus
the raising-from-the-dead Jesus
Opportunity to go all in
Read James 1:6-8 for context
James tells us that when we have faith, but hold onto our inward reservations, we are like a ship being tossed mercilessly by the waves. He is NOT saying we can’t have doubts - we don’t have to be pillars of faith to be faithful. But we can’t have God’s peace in the midst of a storm when we keep holding onto the things we trusted before - because sometimes what we thought was a life raft is actually an anchor.
What is your relationship with doubt personally? What are the signs that you’re holding onto your doubts and not asking God to help you with your unbelief?
What other things do you trust to give you peace besides God? What does it actually look like to trust God completely?
guided (and honest) self-assessment
A great group discussion helps people explore what’s going on under the surface of their own lives. It can help them find the beliefs behind their actions, the fears behind their insecurities, or the pain behind the mask.
Great facilitation is like guided, honest, self-assessment - you can’t tell someone what what YOU think is going on in their heads, because then it won’t be theirs to own. But you can help someone uncover what is really going on so that they can figure it out themselves.
And what’s the best way to guide someone’s self-assessment? QUESTIONS. GREAT questions. Pay attention to what you hear and ask them to fill in gaps that don’t make sense. Ask them why they believe something or where an idea came from. Don’t be antagonistic - but be genuinely curious and in the process, help them understand themselves more.
Read James 1:9-12 for context
Trials are an opportunity to take an inventory on what matters most in our life and focus in on those things, instead of what’s fleeting and unimportant.
What do James’ words about wealth and beauty tell us about what he would say is most important in life?
Jen encouraged us to ask ourselves, “Does the way I schedule my life reflect [what matters most]?” If someone looked at how you spend your time and attention, what would they say is most important to you?
What’s the most practical step you can take toward scheduling what matters most this week?
read/pray/do is part of your discussion!
Later in chapter 1 of James, he says that when we listen to the truth of God and do nothing about it, it’s the same as looking at a mirror and then immediately forgetting what we look like.
Lots of the questions are geared toward very practical applications of the content - but the READ/PRAY/DO section is designed to encourage the discipline of engaging with the Bible regularly, developing a life of personal prayer, and taking bold steps toward becoming more like Jesus.
READ. PRAY. DO.
Read along during the series!
James’ letter is one of the most jam-packed 5 chapters of wisdom in the entire Bible. It’s full of big concepts about how God created the world and how we can live in it best. During this series, we’re going to work through this dense and important book in several different ways!
THIS WEEK, watch the overview video below and then read it through in one sitting (it’s only a 15 minute read!). Put your phone away, don’t take notes, don’t stop to think or apply. Just read the whole letter as one big message. Reading it this way helps us get the big picture so we can better understand the individual pieces later on.
STRETCH GOAL: Do this another time on a different day! See how different things stand out!
Pray this prayer on your own, or use it to kickstart your own personal prayer time.
(adapted from Psalm 119:65-77)
Father, You have been so good to me - better than I could ever deserve. I believe in your commands, that you are truth itself - now teach me good judgment and knowledge. I wander so often and so far - but I want to closely follow your path. You are good and do only good; teach me to be like you. I want to find joy in your way, not obey out of obligation or fear. Help me learn from my suffering - let it teach me to trust your wisdom. You made me; you created me. Now give me the courage to follow your commands so that I can have hope for change and peace in the storm.
Make a Wisdom Board
This letter from James is FULL of one-liners and powerful statements about how we can live wisely in a broken world. In the book of Deuteronomy, in the Old Testament, the people of Israel received God’s commandments for the first time - and this is what he said to them:
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
So that’s kind of what we’re going to do! As you read through the book of James and listen to the messages in this series and different things stand out to you, write them down in little, memorable phrases. Keep them on the same page and put them up somewhere visible in your house. Keep coming back to them and start noticing just how often they’re VERY relevant to your everyday life.
Example from James 1:19: quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger