“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Whether we see it or not we’re all living lives where we’re fighting a running battle with the devil. Everyday we face booby traps, and surprise attacks designed to either lead us into new paths of fallenness or to reinforce a fallen condition we’ve long inhabited.
In our focus text, James presents the solution for our vulnerability, submission to God. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
It’s a simple equation James presents to us for achieving spiritual victory over the Devil. Submit to God, draw near to him, and the Devil will flee when you resist him.
Many times when this passage has been used in sermons on the advantages of a relationship with God, or how to overcome Satan’s attacks, the message that’s sent is that all that’s needed for spiritual strength is to stay close to God. If we keep our relationship with God near and dear the Devil doesn’t have a chance.
But James doesn’t just tell us to have a close spiritual proximity to God. He begins this part of his letter by saying we need to submit to God. Then in the next few verses he unpacks what drawing near to God in submission means.
“Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
What James is saying is that if you want strength over temptation, and power over the Devil, you need to come close to God in a spirit of submission and repentance. In our hearts we need to mourn and regret our fallenness. Satan’s doesn’t just present us with random temptations. He’s been coming to us and tempting us with the sinful garbage our hearts yearn for. It’s to our own desires that we’ve been falling.
Victory over the Devil and temptation is achieved only when in repentance and submission we humbly present ourselves to God. With anything less and we’re still the sitting ducks we’ve always been and the devil won’t run and we will fall. But listen to the promise James gives to us when we come to Christ as he tells us to, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”