I always like to know a little something about an author before I sit down and open up his or her book. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing a sneak peek interview with my good friend and colleague, Courtney Doctor about her new book, Steadfast: A Devotional Bible Study on the Book of James. This Bible study corresponds to the plenary sessions for the upcoming TGC Women’s Conference in June 2020 and is available free with registration through December 31. It’s also an excellent Bible study on the book of James even if you’re unable to attend the conference. It’s currently available for purchase, and you can find group discount rates at the TGC Store. James has so much to teach us, and I highly recommend this study!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I currently live in St. Louis, Missouri, with my husband, Craig, and our “old-man” German Shepherd, Fritz. We moved here in 2010 to go to Covenant Seminary together and stayed after we graduated in 2013. We have four adult children, two daughters-in-law, and four little grandsons! I love my family, coffee, horses, good books, and time with friends. One of my greatest joys in life is studying and teaching God’s Word in the local church and wherever else he may send me.
Why did you write Steadfast?
Every two years The Gospel Coalition hosts a conference for women. The main teaching sessions at the conferences always center around a book of the Bible. The 2020 conference will focus on the book of James. So we thought it would be helpful to have a Bible study to offer the women attending the conference as either a way to prepare before they come or as a way to continue studying after they go home. It is designed in such a way that the videos of the keynote teaching sessions can accompany the study if a church would like teaching videos. But you don’t have to attend the conference to use the study! We already know of several churches that will be using the study for their spring women’s Bible studies. My hope is that Steadfast provides a rich and reliable study on the book of James and the Lord would use it to cause us all to be more faithful doers of his Word.
Steadfast is a Bible study on the book of James. Can you tell us about the format?
I’m really excited about the format! I think it will both help us in our understanding of James as well as solidify good Bible study skills. Each chapter is broken down into five days worth of work. Day 1 is always observation. We’ll spend time just reading the text and asking good questions about what we see. Day 2 will be spent interpreting the text and thinking about what it means. Day 3 will send us into the whole counsel of God’s Word as we seek to understand how other Scriptures—both Old and New Testament—help us interpret James. On Day 4 we’ll pay attention to what this passage teaches us about how we are to respond. And Day 5 is a short reflection on some aspect of that week’s passage. We’ve included a memory verse for each week and small-group discussion questions at the end of each chapter.
How do you hope readers will respond as a result of doing the study?
James is extremely practical. He meets us in the routine moments of our day. He meets us in our suffering, our illness, and our poverty. He confronts us in our speech, our wealth, and our pride. He instructs us when we lack the wisdom to know what to do next. James speaks into these real, daily struggles by offering short commands (more than half of the 108 verses in the letter are commands!) on how a Christian should live.
Our response as we read, study, and apply the book of James should be two-fold. First, as we look honestly in the mirror James holds up, we’re to ask ourselves if we are only hearers of God’s Word or if we are, in fact, doers of it (1:22). We’re to ask questions such as: Is my life characterized by living works of faith? Do my actions, words, and works reflect what I profess to believe? Do I do the good I know I should be doing? Am I humble? Do I love others the way I should? Am I steadfast in prayer?
As the answers to those questions become clear, we realize we don’t (and can’t) do all the Lord requires us to do. We try to obey and repeatedly fail. We strive to live up to the standards James has set out and consistently fall short. As we try and fail, however, we become increasingly aware of our need for Jesus—the One who was perfectly obedient in every way.
Therefore, our second response should be to rest in the finished and complete work of Christ—the One whose genuine faith, perfect obedience, and steadfastness through trials has earned our salvation. He is the One who was perfectly steadfast under trials (1:12); he is the One who perfectly kept the whole law (2:10); he is the One who has pure religion (1:27); he is the One who perfectly submitted himself to God (4:7); and he is the One who humbled himself and whom God exalted (4:10). Studying James should make us long for and love the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ: that we belong—body, mind, and soul—to our faithful Savior and then respond with obedience born out of gratitude and love.
How has writing this book affected your own life?
In writing this study, I have become even more convinced and convicted that care of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, and the vulnerable is a defining mark of a follower of Jesus. In the first chapter of his letter, James exhorts us to be doers and not just hearers of God’s Word (1:22). Just five verses later he says that true religion is to take care of the orphan and widow (1:27). And these two things cannot be separated; my obedience to God in how I care for the orphan and the widow is of great importance.
For a sneak peak, here are some quotes:
“Our merciful acts to others reveal that we’ve been the grateful recipients of a greater mercy.”
“True faith results in works of obedience, the pursuit of holiness, the cultivation of Christ’s likeness, and acts of mercy.”
“Humbling ourselves helps us see our sin more accurately, and seeing our sin more accurately humbles us.”
“Often, we want to know God’s hidden will for the future, while we walk contrary to his revealed will in the present.”
“God is not limited by our limited faith.”
Here’s what others are saying:
I can’t wait to use this study of James with a group of women from my church! Courtney has put together well-worded questions that will help us think deeply about the text as well as keen insights and challenging applications.
— NANCY GUTHRIE, author and Bible teacher
Steadfast is an exceptional study that’s easy to follow and allows for a deep dive into the book of James. Courtney Doctor not only guides us in our understanding of the text, she’s written short prayers for every day as well as prompts to memorize Scripture. As we learn to ask the hard questions about our walk with the Lord and obedience to Christ, she reminds us that our steadfastness rests on his. I highly recommend Steadfast for personal or group study.
— TRILLIA NEWBELL, author of the study If God Is for Us, Sacred Endurance, and God’s Very Good Idea.
Courtney Doctor’s devotional Bible study on James has a theological depth, personal winsomeness, and practical value that sets it apart from ordinary devotional studies. Many of us know Courtney Doctor as a teacher who is both warm and deep. Those who study with her will see that those traits also manifest themselves in this God-honoring, disciple-making book.
— DAN DORIANI, professor of theology and VP of Covenant Theological Seminary
James compares hearing God’s Word and not acting on it to looking in a mirror and forgetting what we have seen. Courtney Doctor’s Steadfast devotional forced me to keep looking back at the text and not to forget or be unmoved by it. I saw new things in familiar texts and was changed. I recommend it highly.
— REBECCA McLAUGHLIN, author of Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion
If you had an afternoon to do whatever you’d like, where would we find you?
It depends on the weather. If it’s nice outside, I would love to be on a walk with a friend. If it’s rainy or cold, then I’d love nothing more than to be wrapped up in a blanket reading a good book, with a cup of coffee in my hand. But my dream afternoon, regardless of the weather, would always be spent on the back of a horse!
Courtney Doctor (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is coordinator of women’s training and content for The Gospel Coalition. She is a Bible teacher, conference and retreat speaker, and author of Steadfast: A Devotional Bible Study on the Book of James and From Garden to Glory: A Bible Study on the Bible’s Story. She also serves on the advisory board of Covenant College. Courtney and her husband, Craig, have two sons, two daughters, two daughters-in-law, and four amazing grandsons. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.