“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, AV)
Flip Wilson was a comedian in the 1970’s and hosted a television show titled, “The Flip Wilson Show.” In the show he introduced a character named Geraldine Jones. He played the part of Geraldine, a woman who was somewhat of a wild character and had a boyfriend named Killer. Geraldine would allude to some mischievous activity in which she participated and then say, “The devil made me do it!” This became a catch phrase for Geraldine and also a popular phrase recited by many TV watchers.
Many people today as always, while not saying these words, kind of live by the phrase, “The devil made me do it.” Sometimes the attitude is expressed in different words like, “I just can’t help myself,” or “I can’t break this habit. I tried and just can’t.” Some, even jokingly state, “The devil made me do it,” not truly understanding the gravity of their actions and that statement.
In the context of dealing with worldliness and our dealing with the devil’s instituted world system, James tells his readers and us that there is no reason for succumbing to “The devil made me do it” philosophy of life. He gives a clear formula for escaping the subtle lure of the devil’s evil schemes. We do not have to be bound by bad habits. We do not have to succumb to fleshly temptations. We can live above all of this because God’s grace is sufficient.
In the previous devotion, we saw that God desires to give abundant grace. His grace is sufficient to meet every need we have. It is sufficient to give us the strength to overcome temptation. Yet, it requires humility. The proud person is prone to stumble and fall into the devil’s evil snare. Yet the humble person will receive grace to overcome.
Here in this verse, we see two key steps to overcoming the devil and living the victorious life. First, we must submit or subordinate ourselves to God. This basically means to surrender our own control to the control of God for our lives. This is the main problem that people have when it come to the struggle with the flesh. Proud people will not surrender to another’s control or ways. Yet, who knows better regarding how to negotiate life, you or God? Our problem is that we want to sit on the throne as king of our own life and refuse to surrender to the lordship of Christ. Until we can take this step, we will have no victory.
Once we have submitted ourselves to God, we must take the second step, which is to resist the devil and the trap of his world system. We must resist, meaning to set ourselves against and oppose the devil’s temptations. It is a strenuous work. The writer of Hebrews indicates this by stating, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4, ESV). It will require prayer, sacrifice, steadfastness in the word and in our faith. A solid biblical community with openness and accountability will help. The believer must take responsibility for this work!
Moreover, James does not tell us how long we will have to resist the devil. He just tells us to resist and gives us this promise. If we submit to God and resist, the devil will flee from us. Perhaps you are dealing with severe temptations or bad habits today. You want to have victory, but cannot break through. Do not live by the rule of “The devil made me do it.” Humble yourself and submit to God. Strenuously resist the devil and he will flee from you. Moreover, keep on resisting even when you feel tired of so doing. For we are in a lifelong spiritual conflict.