Through Jesus’ power, disciples are patient in affliction, having lives shaped by prayer. James writes to Christ-followers who had become discouraged by persecution—so discouraged, in fact, that some had begun to question whether continuing in Christ was worth it. In his letter James encourages disciples to endure until the end, just as Jesus had patiently endured the torments of the cross for us. Jesus was unique in the way He suffered to secure our forgiveness and give us new life, but He reminds us that in our struggles against the obstacles of life, we are never alone. A key to having this patient endurance is to develop a powerful prayer life, as we take note of those who followed God and were examples for us. These righteous persons of faith prayed intensely to God in the midst of their weaknesses and adversities, and God heard their prayers. Followers of Jesus are marked by their daily exercise of patience in the midst of challenges as well as their commitment to prayer, talking with their Heavenly Father in the confidence that He hears and answers our prayers for Christ’s sake. How have you experienced times of adversity drawing you deeper into prayer? How has your experience of God’s care, understanding, and presence been shaped in those times? How does our patient endurance in times of challenge provide a testimony to others about Jesus’ power to sustain and deliver us?
At the heart of being Christian, there is this core concept of following Jesus. The disciple follows his or her master, imitating the master and learning along the way. The church is in the disciple-making business, connecting people to Jesus and leading them in the process of walking in His ways. This discipleship process is never completed for any of us in this life—we are continually learning and growing as we follow Jesus until He brings us to our heavenly home.
• What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus, a Christ-follower?
• What are the core marks of those who follow Jesus faithfully? What does being a disciple look like?
• How are disciples shaped and formed as they continue to walk with Jesus?
And we always remember that God’s design is not to make us out to be “cookie-cutter Christians”—rather, discipleship is a process, a life-long learning adventure. It is, at its core, the art of following Jesus every day, knowing that Jesus has promised to be with us always, expecting that we will “bear much fruit” as we remain in Him and He remains in us.