“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Many believers often quote this passage from James 4:7 to those who are struggling. They encourage others to, “resist the devil.” For if you, “resist the devil,” the result will have to be that, “he will flee from you.”
On the surface this sounds wonderful; however, I believe these well meaning believers have taken this passage out of context far too often. First of all, note only the last part of verse 7 was quoted. The first thing we are called to do is, “Submit ourselves to God.” The only way we can truly, “resist the devil” is by “submitting ourselves to God.”
Many of the problems we face today can be solved not by resisting the devil, but rather by submitting to God. James asks in James 4:1, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” The problem is we find ourselves on a physical or fleshly level instead of a spiritual plain. The passage continues by stating we kill, covet, quarrel, and fight all because we want things which we do not have.
We, as Christians, have become too friendly with the world. James continues in verse four, “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” The choice is ours. Are we friends of the world or friends of God? Sadly, our focus is often on earthly pleasures and desires. Even in our prayer life, we do not submit to God, but rather, “ask with wrong motives.” In James 4:3 we read, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
The key to resisting the devil is found only in submitting to God. Believers in Christ, have the spirit of the living God inside them. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 we read, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” See also James 4:5.
It is only when we submit to God and have the power and spirit of God living inside us that we are able to resist the devil. In James 4:10 we read, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” This can only be done when we come near to God and purify our hearts. Light and darkness cannot dwell together. We are called to not be a double-minded people, but are to, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” See James 4:8.