Be Humble and Submit to God
By Heather Rodriguez
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10
Read: James 4
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for your ultimate example of humility when you died on the cross. I confess my sin of pride to you. Please humble my heart so that I may be obedient to your will. Thank you for your promise that when we submit ourselves to you, you will come near to us. Please use your truths to transform us in to women who love with our whole hearts.
We have a nickname for my husband: The Knower of Most. And it is a true representation of him; he is knowledgeable about most things. He is also one of the humblest people I know. He could easily allow his pride to puff him up so that his ego ruled his decisions, yet he doesn’t because he is a humble man who seeks for God to have the Glory.
As we look today at James Chapter 4, we will talk a lot about humbleness and our pride that often gets in the way of God moving in our lives. Let’s get started with James 4:1-6.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? It is interesting that the Bible tells us that they come from your desires that battle within you. You want something and don’t get it. I have a memory of my daughter at age three screaming and thrashing about the ground at a park because she didn’t get what she wanted. Someone told her “no” and she didn’t like it. Think about the last fight or quarrel you had with someone. What caused it? Was it because you didn’t get what you wanted? Often when I am frustrated with God, my discontent comes from not getting what I expected or asked for. James 4:3 reminds us to always check our motives. So often, my motives get me in trouble. God is always working to transform our hearts. Our outward behavior means nothing if we are not transformed from the inside. Checking our motives allows us to seek God first and ask what His will is for this situation. I know what my selfish will wants, but is that best? God’s will is always best. Yet we must ask with a humble heart, seeking God’s best even if it doesn’t align with our perception of best.
James goes on to say in verse 4: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” So we may find ourselves thinking, “Can’t I be a friend to the world and still love God?” Our pride allows us to think that we can have it both ways. The Bible clearly says we cannot. Take a quick look at Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
It is so hard not to conform to this world or have friendship with the world when we live in society that encourages us to “selfie” our lives, to be proud of our accomplishments, and to flaunt the things we have. But having prideful children does not interest God. Actually, He says that we are His enemy when we allow our desire to be friends with the world. This statement does not mean that we are not to socialize with the world. But it does mean that we do not gain our identity, value and direction from the world. We must seek those solely from the Lord.
James 4:6 stopped me in my tracks when I first read it: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” God OPPOSES the proud. Wow, that is a strong statement. He is not just saying He does agree with the proud or it would be better if we weren’t proud. The verse reads: “God opposes the proud.” That means that God is against the proud. I don’t want to ever oppose God – to be against God. But His Word clearly says that He opposes us when we are proud. For someone like me, that is a sobering thought. I often deal with pride. I like to be in control; I think that I always know best. My go-to sin is pride. Yikes! Yet, verse 6 continues: “[He] gives grace to the humble.” Grace is what I crave, but it all starts with humility.
James 4:7-9 gives us several tools that are helpful in following after God, humbling our hearts and avoiding friendship with the world.
- Submit yourself to God. Acknowledge that God is God and you are not. Confessing that God is sovereign, and He knows what is best for you is hard when we want it our way. Submitting to God means we allow Him to direct our lives, not our own desires.
- Resist the Devil. Satan is alive and well in our society. I don’t want to ever be an enemy to God. We must humble ourselves and resist with all our might the temptations that pull us away from focusing on Jesus. When we resist the devil, incredible things happen…God promises that the devil will flee from us. Not just mosey away. He will flee – as in high-tail it out of our lives. God has already won the spiritual battle. With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can resist the evil desires around us and the devil will flee.
- Come near to God and He will come near to you. If you are feeling distant from God, it is likely that you are the one who turned your back on the Lord. He desires for us to be near Him. He desires for us to communicate with Him through prayer and meditation. He wants us to study and pray His word so that He can teach and shape our hearts. This verse invites us to come near to God and He promises to come near to you.
These first three steps: submitting ourselves to God, resisting the devil and coming near to God are also referenced in 1 Peter 5:6-9: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
- Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. As we seek after the Lord, we must turn from our sin. Instead of seeking to meet our own desires, we desire to live a pure life – one that is free from own sinful ways. As humans we will never be sinless on earth, yet we should seek to follow after God, allow Him to mold and shape us to be more like Jesus every day.
- Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning. This sounds like odd wisdom when we first read it, but think about this: When your child does something wrong, and she come to you and says, “Sorry,” but it’s accompanied with a sarcastic tone and an eye roll, do you think she is truly sorry? In contrast, when she comes to you with tears in her eyes and says, “Mom, I am so sorry that I did that. I know it hurt you and Dad. I will do my best not to make that choice again. Please forgive me.” Which is more sincere? Our sin separates us from God. This grieves the Lord because He wants to be in relationship with us. He desires intimacy with us. When we grieve and mourn over our sin and the broken relationship which results from our sin, our hearts are changed. We are able to accept God’s grace differently. That relationship is restored.
- Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up. Are we lifting ourselves up like the world encourages us to do or are we humbling ourselves, seeking the Lord’s will and allowing Him to lift us up to bring Him glory?
Of these six items, which is most difficult for you to do?
What one thing can you do to improve your response to God?
James 4:11 – 12 continues on to speak about how we should treat others. Do we slander fellow believers? Slander is a strong word; it means to make a false statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone. Have you ever talked about someone in a manner that would cause others to gain a bad opinion of someone? I know I have when I was trying to “win” someone to my side of an argument or when I tried to make myself look better than someone else. James tells us that there is only one lawgiver and judge…and I am not Him. God doesn’t need my help judging others.
What God asks me to do is found in Matthew:
Matthew 22:37-39: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Do you encourage people with your words or tear them down?
Remember last week we read about the power of the tongue. How do you use your tongue to love God and love your neighbor?
Our final section of James, James 4:13-17, we are cautioned about boasting about tomorrow, saying we will do this or that. Truly we do not know what tomorrow will bring. But our focus must be on Jesus, not the plans we make for the future. Of course, God wants us to have wisdom and prepare for the future, but when our focus is on Jesus, He leads those plans. He directs our paths. Life is so very short. James 14 says that we are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Our life on earth, no matter how long, is short in light of eternity. We must focus on eternity, our relationship with Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
James 4:15: “If it is the Lord’s will, we will and do this or that.” Is this your attitude? If not, what is holding you back from letting go of that control?
The very last verse in our reading this week, James 4:17, hit me hard and really made me think. It reads: If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
Most of the time, I feel like I know what sin is, and I try my best to avoid it. But how often does God ask me to do something and I fail to follow-through? How many times has He nudged me and I didn’t move? Essentially, I said, “Nope, I really don’t want to do that, Lord.” Did I just say “no” to the Lord? Yes, I did. It reminds me of when Jonah said “no” to God…that didn’t work out so well for him. It is easy to think that sin is doing wrong; it is harder to remember that not doing right is also sin.
Big Truth: When we submit to the authority and sovereignty of God, when we relinquish control and the desire to have it all together, our hearts are transformed. God then has room to guide us and make us more like Him. When people see me submitting to the Lord, resisting the temptations of the world and coming near to the One True God, they will see Jesus through me.
Action Plan This Week
Have you checked your motives lately – in your words, prayers, deeds?
Journal your prayers to God this week and ask Him to purify your heart and mind and to reveal any wrong motives.
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