Faith that Works #8
A Plan for Life, part 1

Monday, August 19, 2019

I am pretty sure I have shared this before but it fits well with this week’s study:

 

Back in our days of being the youth pastor in St Louis Park, we routinely had a Sr. Bible Quiz team, a team made up of junior and senior high school students that would study a book or books of the New Testament and then participate in “Quiz Meets.” At these meets, teams would compete with their knowledge of the material. We had a tremendous run: we made it to the National Finals every year over a 4 to 5-year period.

For much of that time (and for a few years leading up to that run), our coach was always pushing the students to study and to develop study patterns and plans. He would regularly tell the quizzers at practices: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” encouraging them to develop a personal study plan for quizzing. This plan worked well with school work and any extra-curricular activities they may be a part of as well.

 

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. That statement has proven to be true in so many areas of our lives. Friends, we must plan for the future and not just the future on this planet but for eternity as well.

 

In our passage for today, (as we continue our study through James and the series, “Faith That Works”),  we will be considering “A Plan for Life” – one that includes God, not just our own dreams and desires. Let’s look together at James chapter 4, where we’ll begin in verse 13.   

James 4:13-17 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” ESV.

There was an officer in the navy who had always dreamed of commanding a battleship. He finally achieved that dream and was given commission of the newest and proudest ship in the fleet.

 

One stormy night, as the ship plowed through the seas, the captain was on duty on the bridge when off to the port-side he spotted a strange light rapidly closing in on his vessel. Immediately he ordered the signalman to flash the message to the unidentified craft, “Alter your course ten degrees to the south.”  

 

Only a moment had passed before the reply came: “Alter your course ten degrees to the north.”

 

Determined that his ship would take a backseat to no other, the captain snapped out the order to be sent: “Alter course ten degrees – I am the CAPTAIN!”

 

The response beamed back, “Alter your course ten degrees – I am Seaman Third Class Jones.”

 

Enraged, the captain grabbed the signal light with his own hands and fired off: “Alter course, I am a battleship.”

 

The reply came back. “Alter your course, I am a lighthouse.”   

Friends, no matter how big or important any of us think we are, God’s Word stands firm and it is an unchanging, unmovable beacon. All other courses must be altered to God and His Word.   

 

Continued tomorrow

Faith that Works #8
A Plan for Life, part 2

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

While it is true that “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” it is also true that “If you plan, but leave God out of your plans, you still plan to fail.” Even though both of these statements are true, and despite human frailty and the uncertainty of this life, we humans still tend to ignore God and walk upon this earth as though our future is totally in our own hands, of our own making. The reality, however, is this: If we want to succeed in this life, and enjoy the next, we must always put God first in all that we do.

 

James tells us that
 

Self-Sufficiency is Planning without God

James 4:13 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit…’”

Come Now

I’ll be quick to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with making plans. We should and we must plan and prepare for the future. In fact, we should never fail to take the time to plan.

 

There is a passage in Romans 12 that, at first, I struggled with, but then I realized that the Apostle Paul was helping the Church in Rome to understand their need for planning with God’s help. Look with me at Romans 12:10-18 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” NIV. 

The truth of the matter is this: None of the things that Paul touches on in this passage can be accomplished, or done well, without some advanced planning that purposely includes the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Planning before we act is not what our Scripture passage in James is specifically talking about. James is, however, warning us not to plan without God’s involvement. In saying, “Come now,” as he begins this segment of verses, James is making a pointed call for attention that indicates the seriousness of what will follow. 

 

Continued tomorrow

Faith that Works #8
A Plan for Life, part 3

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Yet, despite the warning of the Bible (and the Bible gives warning after warning) , most people plan and live their lives without thought of God, without even whimsically stopping to consider what HE may think or desire concerning their lives. They simply plan as if their own wills and desires control the full destiny of their lives. 

Make God Your First Priority

Professor Lowell of Harvard University was speaking, many years ago, to a gathering on Columbus Day. He said that there were three profound things about Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America: First, when he left Spain he didn’t know where he was going. Second, when he arrived in the New World he didn’t know where he was. And, third, when he returned to Spain to report to Ferdinand, he didn’t know where he had been. “And, he did it all on borrowed money!”

Friends, every time we make plans without asking God for guidance, we are asking for trouble. Every time we attempt to do something without first bathing it in prayer, we are flirting with disaster. I like to call it “doing my will in God’s Name.” All too often we walk out ahead of God, instead of following His leading and waiting for His timing. Then, when it all falls apart, we blame it on Him. If we want the blessings of God, we have to stay within the Will and timing of God. James also tells us.
 

Self-Sufficiency is a Failure to Recognize the Uncertainty of Life

James 4:14 “… yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  

You Do Not Know What Will Happen

There is a problem with these well-made plans – no one can know what will happen tomorrow, to say nothing of a year into the future.  Listen to how the Proverbs says it – Proverbs 27:1 “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” ESV.

There are two reasons why tomorrow is uncertain. First, our minds and nature are limited. We just cannot know the future. No matter what we may plan or think, we do not know what will happen tomorrow; we are completely in the dark. We do not know about tomorrow. In fact, we do not know what will happen one hour from now. The point is this: we forget and ignore our nature — who we are, how limited we really are, how uncertain life (with all its happenings and events) really is. 

Second, our lives are, at most, only a vapor that appears for a brief time and then vanishes away. Not only is our knowledge limited, but our very lives are uncertain. We may not even be here tomorrow, or next week or next year. Life is short, no matter how long we live (simply put, in light of eternity, life is very short). We shouldn’t be deceived into thinking we have plenty of time left to live for Christ, to enjoy our loved ones, or to do what we know we should. 

 

Continued tomorrow

Faith that Works #8
A Plan for Life, part 4

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Today is the day to live for God! Then, no matter when our lives end, we will have fulfilled God’s plans for us. 

Life is Uncertain

One person said it this way: “The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to really begin it.” One of the beauties about seeking God first in our life, is that while we may not know what tomorrow holds, God does. We may not know what will happen next week, but God does. We don’t know how long we will be here on this planet, but God does. If we want a future that is certain then we must put our lives in God’s hands and depend on Him for everything. 

 

James also tells us...

Self-Sufficiency is Failure to Acknowledge God

James 4:15 “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”  

If the Lord Wills

James says we should say, “If the Lord wills, we will…” For a believer to leave God out of his or her plans is an arrogant assumption of self-sufficiency. I believe it is nothing more than a tacit, subtle declaration of independence from God. Friends, we must make sure our plans include the clause, “if the Lord wants.” We are to plan, but at the same time, we are to recognize God’s higher Will, His Divine sovereignty and His timing.

 

This means far more than simply saying, “If God wills,” whenever we speak about future plans - for that also can become a meaningless phrase to make ourselves feel good. It really must mean we are planning with God, as we make our plans. Our plans should be evaluated by God’s standards and goals, and they should be prayed over with time spent listening for God’s advice. That is the type of planning that pleases God. 

Is It God’s Will?

One day, a man stopped to talk to a farmer who was putting up a new building. He asked the farmer what the building was going to be for. The farmer replied, “Well, if I can rent it, it’s a rustic cabin. If I can’t rent it, it’s a cow shed.”

Look at Proverbs 19:21 (The Message): “We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails.” And then Proverbs 3:6 tells us this, in the NLT, “Seek His Will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” We must acknowledge that God is Sovereign. We must acknowledge that HE holds everything in His hands. We must acknowledge that without Him we can do nothing.

The fourth thing that James tells us is that:


Self-Sufficiency is Boasting

James 4:16 “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” 

Boasting

James says, “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” The word translated here as “boast” (alazoniais) means an empty bragger, a boaster. That is, it is a person who boasts about something they think they have, but really don’t have.

Any person who goes through life without God is just like this. They live and plan, thinking they control their own life and future. Their life is one big boast of self-sufficiency, and it is wrong, totally wrong. Instead of focusing on God’s Will in our plans, we arrogantly boast as though we can somehow control our own destiny. Such boasting, James says, is evil because it takes no thought or consideration of God or His Will. 

Boasting is simply Pride with a different coat on.

Two Texans were trying to impress each other with the size of their ranches. One asked the other, ‘What’s the name of your ranch?’ He replied, ‘The Rocking R, ABC, Flying W Circle C, Bar U, Staple Four, Box D, Rolling M, Rainbow’s End, Silver Spur Ranch.’ The questioner was much impressed and exclaimed, ‘Whew!’ ‘That’s sure some name! How many head of cattle do you run?’ The rancher answered, ‘Not many. Very few survive the branding.’” 

 

Continued tomorrow

Faith that Works #8
A Plan for Life, part 5

Friday, August 23, 2019

Psalm 52:1-7 “Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? 2 Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit. 3 You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. 4 You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! 5 Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; He will uproot you from the land of the living. 6 The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at him, saying, 7 ‘Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!’” NIV.

To make plans, leaving God out of the equation is pride, AND, no matter how you slice it, dice it or couch it, pride is sin. Over in 1 Corinthians 10:12, the Apostle Paul warned the Corinthian Church, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” 

Then James gets to the very heart of the matter when he says... 
 

Self-Sufficiency is Sin

To Him it is Sin

In James 4:17, James says “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for them it is sin.” This is a striking definition of sin: to know that we should do something and to refuse, or simply neglect, to do it, is sin. Although this statement may apply to any number of situations, James intended it to refer to the immediately preceding context – that of planning without consulting God.

It is like James is saying to us, “Now that I have pointed the matter out to you, you have no excuse.” Knowing what should be done obligates a person to do it. It seems to me that we most often tend to limit sins, to specific acts – acts of “doing wrong.” But James tells us that sin, is also not doing what is right. 

Let’s think about it this way: It is a sin to lie; it can also be a sin to know the truth and not tell it. It is a sin to speak evil of someone; it is also a sin to avoid that person when you know they need your friendship. It is a sin to disobey God; it is also a sin to act without seeking His guidance.

Doing the Right Thing

Elizabeth Elliot tells of two adventurers who stopped by to see her, all loaded with equipment for their hike and adventure in and through the rain forest east of the Andes. They sought no advice, just a few phrases to converse with the indigenous Indians.

 

She writes: “Sometimes we come to God as the two adventurers came to me – confident and, (we think), well-informed and well equipped.  But has it occurred to us that with all our accumulation of stuff, something is missing?” 

She suggests that we often ask God for too little. We know “what we need” – a yes or no answer, please, to a simple question. Or perhaps a road sign. Something quick and easy to point the way. What we really ought to have is the Guide Himself. Maps, road signs, a few useful phrases are things, but infinitely better is someone who has been there before and knows the way.

To make a decision without seeking God’s Will is sin. To fail to seek God’s Will because you’re afraid His answer will be, “No,” is sin. To know that God’s answer is no and do it anyway is sin. The wages of sin is death!

         Self-sufficiency is planning without God (VS13).
         Self-sufficiency is failure to recognize the uncertainty of life (VS 14).
         Self-sufficiency is failure to acknowledge God (VS 15).
         Self-sufficiency is boasting, bragging, and arrogance (VS 16).
         Self-sufficiency is sin (VS 17).

The next time you need to make a decision what will you do?  Will you seek God’s Will? Or will you run with your own will? 

 

Continued next week

Faith that Works #7
The Keys to Victorious Living, part 1

Monday, August 12, 2019

Here we go jumping headlong into the seventh week of this larger study through the Book of James. As I’ve mentioned before I both like and dislike the book of James. There are some incredibly deep and powerful teachings in this short letter, and at the same time, there are those points he makes (as he writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), that when I read them it feels like he is kicking me in the shins or stomping on my toes. Of course, that is the conviction of the Spirit trying to do a refining work in my life - and I know that, but even after all these years it still seems hard to embrace it. Do you ever feel that way too?

James 4:1-10 “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the Spirit that He has made to dwell in us?” 6 But He gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double–minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you” ESV.

General Dwight Eisenhower once said, “There are no victories at discount prices.” And the truth of the matter is that in order to have victories in our lives, we have to be willing to do what it takes to obtain them. If we want to live a victorious Christian life, we must willing to fully submit to God.

James gives us three secrets to victorious living. First...
 

Pray According to God’s Will

Let’s look again at the first three verses of this chapter, James 4:1-3 “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”  

 

Continued tomorrow

Faith that Works #7
Keys to Victorious Living, part 2

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Because You Ask Amiss

James asks, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1). What he is referring to here is fighting without weapons, as in conflicts among friends or family members. These conflicts have nothing to do with quarrels or arguments with people who still live in the pagan world; these are quarrels within the church, among believers. The word “fights” refers to battles with weapons, an armed conflict. It was used figuratively to indicate the struggle between powers, both earthly and spiritual.

 

Obviously, disagreements will occur in every church. But when they happen, are we wise enough to understand why? Do we know their source? Fights and quarrels are being caused not by some external source, but by the people’s own evil desires. When everyone seeks his or her own pleasure, the only possible results are strife, hatred, and division. 

The phrase, “… your passions are at war within you,” suggests a raging battle fought between the desire to do good and the desire to do evil within the individual believers -which is not at all unlike what the Apostle Paul described in Romans 7:15-24, when he said, “why do I do what I don’t want to do and cannot do what I want to do?”

In James 4:2, James gets to the real heart of the matter: “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.” The craving described here becomes so strong that the people begin to scheme and kill to get what their hearts desire.

 

Now, in this passage the word “kill” can and should be taken as a figure of speech for bitter hatred. Instead of rethinking their desires, the people being described by James resort to jealousy, fights, quarrels, and even worse, murder in their hearts. 

In summary, James’s message is: The reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. In other words, “You don’t have what you desire because you don’t desire God.” To this point, in particular, Jesus Himself said, “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and HIS righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

James says that even when you do ask, you do not receive because “you ask wrongly – with the wrong motives.” The word “wrongly,” here, pertains to being incorrect or inaccurate, with the possible implication of also being reprehensible. People should not be surprised when their prayers go unanswered - because their whole motive is often wrong: they were going to spend what they received on their own pleasures. 

Furthermore, our prayers may, at times, not get answered because what we are seeking is our will and not God’s Will. Listen to how the Apostle John taught this principal in I John 5:14-15, (here it is from the NIV): “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His Will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of Him.”  Do you hear the conditions in these verses? “If” and “according to His Will” describe the conditions of God hearing and ultimately answering our prayers. (This piece right here can be a message or series of messages all in itself but that is for another time.)

God’s Will Must Always Come First

Do not hastily attribute things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions or revelations to be from God. They may be from Him. But they may also be from nature. Or they may also be from the Devil.  

 

Continued tomorrow

Faith that Works #7
The Keys to Victorious Living, part 3

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

We always get ourselves into trouble when we seek our own will over God’s. Seeking our own will always lead to quarrels, strife, heartache, financial trouble, jealousy, bitterness and hatred.

There is a saying (that I’ll have to admit drives me crazy because it is bad teaching and wrong theology) that says, “When God closes the door, look for a window.” Listen, I’ll tell you as clearly as I can here: When God bolts the door, don’t try to get in through the window. That is nothing more than a sign that you are determined to get where God has already said He doesn’t want you. And when you go searching for a window to climb through, you are also (in effect) saying, “I know better than You do, God,” or worse, you may be saying, “I’m my own god.” The Will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.

 

The truth of the matter is that if it’s not God’s Will, you really shouldn’t want it anyway! If we will honestly seek for, and pursue, God’s Will, it always leads us in the right direction, at the right time, in the right way.
 

Love God More Than the World

James 4:4-5 “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the Spirit that He has made to dwell in us?”

Friendship with the World

James wants to shock these people into reality when he says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” The shocking words “adulterous people” graphically describes the spiritual unfaithfulness of the people and intends to jar them into facing their true spiritual condition. In using such a radical description, James is doing exactly what God did with Israel in the book of Hosea, when He instructs Hosea to marry the prostitute, Gomer, as an illustration of the people’s unfaithfulness to Him.

 

These believers to whom James was writing were trying to love God and have an affair with the world at the very same time. (At some level, I believe James was writing this, to many, in the 21st Century Church.) The problem is that some people try and live in two worlds. They want to be a Christian and live according to the ways of the world too. But it just will not and cannot work, because friendship with this world, as James says here, very clearly and pointedly, makes a person an enemy of God. 

For believers, the world and God are two distinct objects of affection, because they are also opposition to one another. The world is the system of evil under Satan’s control and all of that is opposed to God. To be friendly with the world, then, is to adopt its values and desires. We just cannot live in two worlds. We cannot have one foot in the Kingdom of God and the other one in the kingdom of this world.  

 

Continued tomorrow

Faith that Works #7
The Keys to Victorious Living, part 4

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Listen to the Apostle John, as he writes letters to the churches he had planted: 1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” NLT.

And the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church this, in 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 (The Message): “Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God Himself put it this way: “I’ll live in them, move into them; I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people. So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good,” says God. “Don’t link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for Myself.”

In James 4:5, James writes, “… do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the Spirit that He has made to dwell in us?” Just so we are on the same page of thought here – The word “Spirit” here is referring to the Holy Spirit. James is saying that God, who caused His Holy Spirit to live within the believer, is jealous for their friendship. We must remember what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthian Church concerning this, in I Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” ESV.

And in giving the 10 Commandments, God Himself says to His people, (Exodus 20:5): “… for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” Friends, God will not accept second place in you - to anyone or anything else. 

Love God Above All Else

Two friends went camping out in the woods. They woke up the first morning out and were standing by their tent having their first cup of coffee for the day when they suddenly spotted a grizzly bear heading for them at full speed. Quickly, the one man reached down and grabbed his tennis shoes and started putting them on. The other man looked at him laughing and said, ‘What are you doing? Do you think you can outrun that grizzly bear?’ And the first man said, ‘Nope, and I don’t need to. All I need to do is to outrun you!’ With friends like that who needs enemies, right?

 

Do you ever wonder if God feels the way that friend (about to be outrun) does - when He sees sin in our lives, or how little priority we give Him in our lives, or when we love the world more than Him? In Colossians 1:18, we read, “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything” NASB. 

 

Jesus has got to have first place in our lives, Not second place, not third place, not fourth place. If He is not first place, then there is something seriously wrong in our spiritual lives. Unless Jesus is first in our lives, we will never have victory! I’ve heard it said, in many places at many times: If Jesus isn’t Lord of all then He isn’t Lord at all!
 

Humble Yourself Before God

Let’s look again at James 4:6-10, “But He gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double–minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you”   

 

Continued tomorrow

Faith that Works #7
The Keys to Victorious Living, part 5

Friday, August 16, 2019

God Gives Grace to the Humble

In James 4:6, James says “But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, God (resists) opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Aren’t you glad God gives more grace? Grace is a far greater benefit than all the goods that the world can give to us, because God gives genuine happiness that this the world cannot begin to duplicate.

James shows us that God sets Himself against the proud because pride makes us self-centered and leads us to conclude that we deserve all we can see, touch, or imagine. Pride creates greedy appetites for far more than we need. Pride can subtly cause us to no longer see our sins or our need for forgiveness. On the other hand, humility opens the way for God’s grace to flow into our lives. Thus, God shows favor to the humble. 

 

Humility is not weakness; instead, it is the only place that believers gain the courage needed in order to face all their temptations and sins with God’s strength. As we humble ourselves, recognizing our need for Him, God gives us more grace, bringing us to realize that this world’s seductive attractions are only cheap substitutes for what God has to offer. The reality is, God says, that It is our choice. We can humble ourselves and receive God’s grace, or we can continue in our pride and self-sufficiency and experience His anger.

A part of humbling ourselves before God is to rely on His strength and not our own. In verse 7, James says “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” That word translated here as “submit” is a military term meaning: “to be subordinated” or “to render obedience.” And the word translated as “resist” (antistçte) means to, “take a stand against.” Take a stand against the devil, and he will flee. What a great and powerful promise! However, we must make certain that we do not separate the two. Submit to God first and then resist the devil. If you attempt to resist the devil without first submitting to God, the devil will swat you like a fly! 

How do we submit to God? James tells us in verse 8, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double–minded.” We can draw close to God, and God will draw close to us. 

 

Look at the end of verse 8 – after urging us to draw near to God, James tells us how: wash your hands - meaning to purify our actions and change our external behavior. The way we live, the way we speak, what we think - it all matters to God. As we draw near to God, we will become aware of habits and actions in our lives that are not pleasing to Him. Washing our hands pictures the removal of these things from the way we live.

Submit to God

The truth is this: The closer we draw to God and humbly submit to His authority in our lives, the closer He comes to us. And furthermore, the closer He comes to us, the more abundant His power is in our lives. Once His abundant power is at work in our lives, the devil doesn’t stand a chance.

Psalm 145:18 “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” Friends: The devil is no match for a child of God who is submitted and humble. So, if we truly want to live a victorious Christian life, we must submit to God – by praying according to His Will, loving Him above all else and humbling ourselves before Him

Who are you submitted to today?  

 

Continued next week