Resisting Our Enemy
Read James Chapter
Jas 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.
What sometimes seems to be a simple, easy to understand verse can turn out to be very complex when we try to apply it to our lives. Verse 7 is often quoted within the Christian community as though it were the final answer to our battles with temptation. Yet, when we attempt to apply that verse to our particular situation, we are baffled as to why we do not see immediate relief. The reason why we have this kind of trouble is that we do not weigh the verse against the truth from other scriptures, and we do not take into account the other thoughts from this passage. For example, the Sons of Sceva would argue that resisting the devil isn’t as simple as this verse might indicate. They were “resisting the devil” in the following passage:
Ac 19:13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 └ One day┘ the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
We also must remember that Jesus fought a life-long battle with Satan. Our enemy did all he could to prevent Christ from fulfilling His purpose on earth. There may have been a few moments of rest from the battle against him, such as when Satan left Christ after the forty days of temptation in the wilderness, but His moment of respite was only temporary. His battle against Satan continued right up until the moment He died on the cross. If the devil hounded Christ in that way, we can expect no less.
So, what does this verse mean? It obviously does not mean that in one moment of resisting Satan, our battle is over for that moment, or for the remainder of our lives. Here are some thoughts:
1. We must remember that there is a difference between Satan and temptation. We are not facing the devil every time we are facing temptation. In fact, sometimes we purposefully and willingly run headlong into temptation. Why would our enemy flee from us if we are chasing him? Temptation will never flee from our lives, even when we are running away from it. There are no biblical promises that we will never again have to face them, in this life.
2. We forget the first part of verse 7. Submission to God must be the first step in overcoming the devil. We want him to leave us alone, but sometimes we also want God to leave us alone. There is no way that we can battle the devil before we submit to God.
3. We are asked to develop within ourselves the attitudes of the heart which are clearly presented in verses 8-10. Further, we must activate the things suggested in those verses. Perhaps these attitudes and actions are a part of our submission to God, and this is only a further explanation to the previous thought. Or maybe not. Perhaps these attitudes of the heart and those actions are evidences of our submission; things we work on as a result of our submission. Either way, the devil will have a more difficult time convincing us to do his bidding if we are progressing in these areas of our lives.
4. Our definition of “resisting the devil” may be a shallow one. For example, what lengths do we go to in order to avoid Internet porn? What giant steps do we take to insure that we don’t open that web site on our computer? Just how hard do we resist the devil? Would we be willing to open the computer only while a trusted friend was in the room with us? At what point does our measure of “resisting” meet God’s standards?
Because God said, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” then we know it is true. But it is much more complicated than we would like it to be. Most of the lessons we learn as we mature in the faith will come about through trial and error. We will learn how to resist our enemy, but it won’t come easy and it won’t happen instantaneously. We will learn something new each time we battle him, and over the course of our lifetimes we will become battle-tested warriors for the Kingdom.
Prayer: Lord, we so very much want our battles to be easy. We want simple answers, where all we have to do is say a few words, or snap our fingers, or make a half-hearted attempt at spiritual warfare. We have found out that’s not to be. Help us, Father, and strengthen us for our encounters with the devil, and with temptation. And Lord, this battle sure isn’t fun!