James 4:7-8 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you…”
In these verses James issues three commands—submit, resist, and draw near. It seems to me that the first command is the main command and that the other two help us understand how to do it.
In other words, the primary thing James is commending here is that we fully surrender our lives to God. So many of the problems we face in this life are owing to the fact that we refuse to submit to Christ. If we would only bow our will to his will, if we would only live by his Word rather than the wisdom of the world or of ourselves, most of our difficulties would evaporate. As Jesus said of himself in John 8:29, “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” This way of life keeps us from so many unnecessary troubles.
The question is, though, how do we submit to God? James says two things: first, resist the devil. Don’t listen to him. Don’t follow him. Don’t give into him. Don’t do the things that he does. In order to submit to God we must refuse to submit to others, primarily the devil himself.
Second, draw near to God. Put him first. Read his Word. Listen to what he has to say. Talk to him. Draw upon him. Receive his grace and walk in his ways.
If we will dare to obey these things—submit by resisting and drawing near—God promises us that the devil will flee from us and that he himself will draw near to us. These are stunning promises, and they’re true. May God grant us the grace this day to hear and receive his Word from James.