Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
I have frequently heard folks quote (and I am embarrassed to say many times when I heard it quoted it was me that was speaking) the second half of this verse but ignore the first half. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Clearly that is not true unless you add the first half – Submit yourself to God.
While resisting the devil is a positive thing, it only draws upon my strength. I may resist a temptation for a period of time – there is a power of man’s soul that is amazing in its resilience and durability – but each of us have a breaking point. Eventually our own inner strength will falter, weaken and fail. That is why it is vital we start by submitting, coming under, the power and authority of God if we expect to have authority over temptation.
Victory over starts with coming under.
One of the reasons Alcoholics Anonymous has seen so many lives transformed is because it acknowledges the need for a power beyond ourselves to defeat temptation and the devil.
Are you struggling with anger, jealousy, dealing with greed or a temptation to steal, fighting immoral thoughts, trying to free yourself from an illicit relationship or other mental bondage. The first step to final victory is not just to “buck it up” and get over it. The first step is to come humbly to God, submit yourself to Him, recognizing your own inability to win this battle alone. (If you could have won it you would have won it by now. You need outside help.) Submit yourself to His will. Come under His authority which also puts you under His power and draw upon His strength for resisting the devil.
It is amazing how, when we come under his authority (and stay there) we get a new perspective on everything. The situation we were angry over isn’t nearly as bad as we thought it was when we think of the injustice done to Him. The pull of greed or illicit “love” (lust in disguise) seems so weak and foolish when its darkness is exposed to the light of truth.
As an old chorus says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face … and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.