James 4:7 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.
James is writing to a community of Christians under pressure. They’re being attacked in many ways, to the point that some are leaving the church. James is trying to encourage them, to stem the tide of departures. In these verses he names an important truth: the struggle is fundamentally a spiritual battle.
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
What I find interesting is HOW the apostle says the people are to resist the devil. Rather than thinking long and hard about the devil, his schemes and temptations, James is telling them to do something which may seem counter-intuitive. Don’t focus on the devil, focus on the Lord.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
I spent a number of years ministering in some very difficult places, the sorts of places you tell your children to avoid because they’re dangerous; places where drugs and violence and death are a common occurrence. Simply put, there tends to be a lot of demonic activity. All you have to do is walk the streets on foot and open your eyes to see it. In places like this evil doesn’t even bother to hide, but leaves clues everywhere – broken liquor bottles, used syringes, used condoms, broken people laying about. It’s the flotsam and jetsam of death.
Being someone from the suburbs I had no idea what I was getting into by following the Lord’s lead into such places, but the Lord provided important assistance. I was introduced to some charismatic Christians who tend to minister in such places far more than mainline Christians (like us Lutherans). The simple principal my Pentecostal friends taught me was “worship is warfare”. In other words, when doing spiritual warfare one doesn’t overly focus on the demonic presence in our midst, but instead one focuses on the presence of God.
Psalm 145:18 “The Lord is near to all who call on him…”
As God draws near, evil will flee. It must. Evil cannot remain in the presence of a holy God. And so we learned that the first thing to do when arriving in a particularly dark part of the city – is to worship. As we sing praises to the Lord, calling on his holy name, the Lord is near and the spiritual atmosphere changes. I’m not suggesting that the Lord was not present before we arrived, I’m only saying there is an intensity of the Lord’s presence that results from worship.
The change in spiritual atmosphere is quite noticeable.
There was far less hostility and anger present. People who were previously disruptive either left the area altogether or became agreeable and cooperative. There were times when worship exposed the presence of demonic activity among the people to the point we could then cast them out in Jesus’ name. It was quite remarkable.
But you don’t have to go to strange places to apply this principal. Wherever you sense opposition to the people and things of God, don’t worry about what the devil may or may not be doing. Instead draw near to the Lord in worship. Sing a hymn or song of faith, even a verse or two can make a difference. Humble yourself before the Lord and he will draw near to you.
Lord let it be so. Amen.