"Submit to God, resist the Devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
James 4:7-8

Most of us know this verse well enough; but do we really know it?

I was pleasantly enlightened by God today as I was reading in First Kings Chapter 20. I discovered an example of the above verse played out in the Old Testament. I’ll admit that it isn’t the ideal example for this verse, but it does show the beautiful truths that this verse tries to portray. Let me do a quick run down for you to see what I saw.

Reading in 1 Kings 20.

In this chapter we see a war between two kings: king Ben-Hadad of Syria and king Ahab of Israel. It is important to know that king Ahab was not a God fearing king even though he was the king of God’s people. Infact he did evil in the sight of the Lord more than any other king before Him (1 Kings 16:30).

In this chapter Ben-Hadad is besieging Israel. It seems his armies are doing a good job because when he sends word to Ahab, to surrender all his silver, gold, wives and children, he disgracefully obliges. It seems Israel had been defeated and the terms of treaty was that Ahab give Ben-Hadad what he wanted.

As we read on, we see the haughtiness of Ben-Hadad as he intensifies his demands of Ahab. Ben-Hadad saw how quickly and submissively Ahab had responded to his first request, so this time he asks for more. However, this time, Ahab rejects his second request. As you can imagine Ben-Hadad wasn't impressed and declared all out war against Israel claiming victory before the war had even begun.

Soon after Ahab chose to resist Ben-Hadad, a prophet came to Ahab telling him that God would give him the victory over his enemy. Ahab, obviously out of options, submits to the orders of God and thus gains victory over his enemy, causing them to flee for their lives, as God had previously declared. Although Abah was not a God fearing man, his fear of his enemy caused him to submit to God.

The sad part about this story is that Ahab never drew near to God. As you read on in chapter 20 you see that God gives Ahab victory over Ben-Hadad a second time, causing Ahab to eventually spare Ben-Hadad's live and made a treaty with Him. This angered God, as God had ordained Abah to destroy Ben-Hadad and his army, and God cursed Ahab and his posterity.


Here are the key points that I noticed in this story:

1. Ahab did not fear God nor did he consult God in his dealings as king over God’s people

2. Ahab, after being attacked by his enemy, quickly submits to the enemies requests

3. Ahab’s brisk submission to the enemy gave Ben-Hadad an opportunity to request further submission from Ahab

4. Ahab’s refusal to submit further to Ben-Hadad caused a heightened attack from the enemy

5. Ahab’s poor predicament caused God to intercede and Ahab submits to God’s authority (albeit reluctantly)

6. Through Ahab’s submission, Israel defeated their enemy and Ben-Hadad fled from them

I can see those scenarios played out in my life (and probably in yours too):

1. I often go about my business without consulting God

2. Because I’m not in tune with God as much as I should be I often find myself giving into the enemy when he attacks

3. I don’t see it at the time, but that initial submission gives the devil a foothold for further submission

4. When I do finally see that I’m under attack from the enemy, I try to resist, only to find that I’ve now got a war on my hands

5. God usually sits in the background waiting for me to realise that I need His help

6. When I do finally submit to God, He stands with me and fights for me

So what do we learn from this story and how do we apply this to our lives?

To begin with, don't think that you can live your life in opposition to God and then expect Him to run to your rescue the moment you get yourself cornered by the enemy. It is true that God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), but we must first be sure that our humility is genuine and life changing. We can't just humble ourselves when we need God's help, knowing only too well that we will return to our proud and independent life after He saves us. Remember, God knows your heart even better than you do. <

I have spent many months reciting that verse (James 4:7-8) to myself trying to believe that the Devil will run if I resist him, only to find that he didn't. So what does that say to me? Is God a liar? Absolutely not! It tells me that I am deceived. It tells me that I don't quite understand what it means to submit to God and/or resist the enemy! In my case it was both.

I have learned a couple of things in the recent week about what it really means to submit to God and to resist the Devil.

Here’s what I have learnt:

1. Submission to God is ACTIVE not PASSIVE

2. Submission to God and Resistance to the enemy go hand in hand


Submission is ACTIVE

I have literally spent hours in prayer to God trying with all my might to submit myself to Him and His will. I've recited lines like "Lord I want to be in your will, help me to submit to you" or "I give this trial to you, I don't want anything but you." They were all heart felt prayers on my knees with tears streaming down my face but my trial never lifted or eased; in fact it only seemed to intensify.

I'm not sure when or how, but I'm supposing that my other prayers for wisdom finally opened my eyes. You see, I wanted to submit to God but really didn't know how to do that, or perhaps I did know but it was all too hard to put into practice.

Let’s have a quick lesson about the difference between active and passive submission…

= Accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance

A prisoner who is in shackles and is forced to kneel and bow before the king is under passive submission. He has no real choice and can’t actively resist the orders.

= disposed to take action or effectuate change

A free-man who sees the king coming down the street and willingly runs and bows before him, asking of how he can be of service, is an example of active submission. This man had a choice and chose to act on it by honoring his king.

When James tells us to “submit to God” he is not forcing us to let God rule in our lives, nor is he telling us to sit back and wait for God to intervene. In fact, James is telling us to be like the free-man and willingly take guidance and instruction from God.   

To be actively submissive to God means that you agree with Him and you activate your will in that agreement. It took me a while to realise that submitting to God meant that I had to actively move in a certain direction: i.e. agree with His written Word and put it into action. Sitting down in prayer telling God that I submit did nothing at all. God wanted to see me submit my will to His. He wanted me to acknowledge that His Word is truth and then take that Word and claim it. When the Devil tried to tell me that my trial would never end and that it was all too much for me, God wanted me to know His character and His truths and choose to agree with Him.

Resistance = Submission

The other important thing I learned is that I am not able to resist the Devil without submitting to God. I can tell Satan that he’s a liar until I’m blue in the face, but that’s no skin off his nose unless I tell him by what authority I can say that!

If I am going to try to resist the Devil, I need to know what his attacks look like. We know that whatever is not of faith is sin, so that’s always a good place to start. If Satan is telling me that my trial is all too much for me, how do I know that’s not true? I know this by knowing and believing the Word of God. God says that He will not allow us to be trialed beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). Faith tells me that what God say’s is true even though I may feel otherwise. Sin, on the other hand, rejects God’s Word and clings to how things feel.

Hopefully you can see how resisting the enemy requires submission to God and His Word and vice versa.


God’s word tells us that if we submit to, and draw near to, God and resist the enemy that He will draw near to us. Drawing near to God requires some action on our part. Drawing near to God is done but acknowledging Him and agreeing with Him. Submission then follows suit with more action, i.e. standing on the Word of God in resistance to the lies of the enemy. Resistance and submission both take faith.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
(Hebrews 11:6)