To understand the Epistle of James you need to understand Motocross racing.
Hub and Spokes
The Apostle Paul wrote in a fairly straight line, point-to-point. It is pretty easy to create an outline for his letters. James, on the other hand, wrote in a style that is more like the hub and spokes on a motorcycle wheel. Verses 2–4 provide the hub:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4, NASB)
In these verses we are introduced to the “hub” of this letter: various trials. The remainder of the letter is an exploration of different kinds of trials. The outline of James is simple to understand if you remember that everything in the letter is related to the hub: various trials.
Bumps or Jumps
The second aspect of motocross that you need to understand is the layout of the track. A motocross course consists of a dirt path with many carefully constructed mounds of dirt. Each rider encounters these dirt mounds as they try to race around the course faster than the other riders.
When the riders encounter a dirt mound they have to make a choice. If they completely ignore the “speed bump” and continue at full speed, then they may crash into the dirt and flip their bike. If they stop and refuse to cross the obstacle, they will lose the race. They may choose to slow down and safely ride over the bump, but that will greatly reduce their speed.
A mature rider knows how to use the bumps as a jump. Experts actually speed-up just as they reach the mound. This allows them to jump over one, two, or even three obstacles. By knowing how to jump the bumps, riders not only avoid flipping their bikes, they can gain ground on their competition.
In his letter, James describes various obstacles that we may face in our lives. He describes the challenge, and he provides insight into how to correctly maneuver over life’s dirt mounds.
Here are a few examples of challenges we may face, all of which all start with the word “if” or present a question:
James 1:5 – if any of you lacks wisdom
James 1:26 – if anyone thinks himself to be religious
James 2:2 – if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes
James 2:15 – if a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food
James 3:14 – if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart
James 5:13 – Is anyone among you suffering?
James 5:14 – Is anyone among you sick?
By studying this guide from James we are able to prepare for obstacles we will encounter in our life. We can prepare for bumps in the road and turn them into jumps.