Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
James 4:7 gives us some great advice. When the enemy is after us, there is a sure-fire way to make him leave, run-away even! God’s powerful solution to this problem involves submission and resistance. Yet, the power comes not from our action of submitting or resisting, but in whom we are submitting to or resisting. This verse makes it clear that our power comes from submitting to God while resisting the devil. This process gets murky in real life. Sometimes I am actually resisting the wrong enemy, and it can have disastrous results!
We know God allows trials in our lives to make us grow, and growth requires change. Change is hard–sometimes excruciatingly hard. Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a pressing trial that also highlights your need for growth in a painful area of your life? Lately I find myself in that place.
The trial in and of itself is painful, but the growth needed in my life is even more painful.
How can You ask this of me, God?
I CAN’T forgive them!
I know my heart is in the wrong place, but I don’t even want to WANT to change right now, let alone actually do it!
When I resist God’s work in my life, I’m actually making Him the enemy, and I fail to resist the true enemy.
This is important for me to discern because resisting the true enemy while submitting to God is the only true source of power in dealing with him.
It reminds me a little bit of the I-can’t-do-my-hair-right tantrums that often explode out of my daughter on school mornings. The stress of getting ready on time, wanting to look just right, and not doing it successfully cause a flood of impatience and anger. When I try to offer suggestions or help, inevitably this reaction becomes focused on me. She resists my help, rebuffs my suggestions, all while still needing me for a situation she cannot resolve on her own. My ability to help her is severely limited when she is resisting my efforts.
I am not the enemy! I remind her often. I understand you are frustrated, but I am the one who wants to help you. Fight against losing your patience, not against your mama!
We have a clear picture of this in Acts 9 as well: …Saul still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…came near Damascus, and suddenly a bright light shone around him from heaven.
Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”… he said, “Who are You, Lord? Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads”
He, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Saul (who later became Paul) thought he was fighting the right enemy, but he was resisting Jesus the whole time! God was gracious when he confronted Saul, telling him He knew it was hard for him to kick against the “goads” (a painful way to prod an oxen).
I find it true in my own life that it is more difficult and painful to resist what God is trying to do, than to embrace it and surrender to it. The grace He meets us with is all-consuming once we decide to move forward in obedience. We find strength, courage, and power to do what we are called to do.
Is there an area of your life where God has pinpointed the need for growth, but you are resisting it?
Maybe you feel overwhelmed, afraid, discouraged. Does it seem impossible for growth or change to happen in this area?
It has been a powerful shift for me when I am able see when I am actually struggling with surrender to what the Holy Spirit wants to do in me. When God reveals that I am striving against Him, the way to change it is simple.
I need to acknowledge the truth of what He revealed, confess my resistance to Him, and choose to submit to His authority. The immediate relief and peace that I have experienced is powerful! God is not my enemy! He is my Helper!
God has been showing me that I need to grow in being “cunning as a serpent, but harmless as a dove.” I have never quite understood that verse. It is contrary to my nature, and so I found myself resisting–hard. However, the trial I have been facing require me to think outside of my normal thought patterns, and the pain I feel alerts me to my need for growth. I felt it was an impossible thing for me to change, and yet when I finally surrendered to God in that area I realized it was my “way out, so that I may bear it.” My load became immensely lighter as I submitted to God in it.
What if God is asking something that is too difficult? What if growth is needed that seems impossible?
All the more reason why resisting Him will only keep me stuck. He often puts us in impossible situations, and wants to do the impossible on our behalf. If we are resisting Him, we are limiting Him.
The “way out” provided for us to bear our trials is found when we resist the correct enemy.
Who are you resisting today?