7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us. ”
― A.W. Tozer
Life shows up in many facets and arrays. Life deals us some very challenging dilemmas to fight through, but God knows all about them. He has assured me that everything I trust into His hands will be for my good if I would just repent, surrender and remember what He has brought me through as an addict , a fornicator,a greedy person and yes a prideful individual. God has seen me through death and my sinful anxiety and dark thoughts with this very scripture always burning within my spirit. I quoted this scripture behind a many prison walls and laying face up in a hospital bed not knowing if tomorrow was coming to claim my life or give me another chance to serve Him with honor.
In the annals of US advertising history, one of the most efficient slogans ever is the California milk producers’ two-word question, “Got milk?” With that phrase, the group captured almost everyone’s attention. In surveys, the slogan was recognized by more than 90 percent of the people polled.
If “Got milk?” is so good at reminding people to drink “cow juice,” perhaps we can create some two-word slogans to remind ourselves to live more godly lives. Let’s turn to James 4 and try it. This passage gives four specific guidelines.
1. Give in! Verse 7 tells us to submit to God. Our sovereign God loves us, so why not let Him run the show? Submission helps us resist the devil. 2. Get close! Verse 8 reminds us of the value of drawing near to God. It’s up to us to close the gap between us and God. 3. Clean up!Verse 8 also reminds us to make sure our hearts are clean. That happens through confessing our sins to God. 4. Get down! James says we need to be humble before God (v.10). That includes viewing our sin as something to weep over.
Give in! Get close! Clean up! Get down! These pairs of words may not look as good on a T-shirt as “Got milk?” But they sure will look good on us.
Lord, help me live a godly life Of faith and love and purity So those who watch my life will see Reflections of Your work in me. —Sper
While serving my country in a hostile land I saw God answer my prayers. Held against my will after being in pursuit of the ”mad dog of the Middle East” in 1987, Muammar el-Qaddafi and his family I prayed for a blessing to make it home. I saw God work while serving several prison terms on level four yards and being the focus of antagonism due to the color of my skin, I’ve seen God work in my life when death was not just a scene, but a smell, I’ve seen God heal and work when I lost my kids and I wanted to give up on Him.
As I have reflected over the events of the past few days and months and years of my life I was drawn to the first chapter of James. In the first 13 verses we are given some understanding of the purpose of trials that come our way.
No one has suffered more than our Father in heaven. No one has paid more dearly for the allowance of sin into the world. No one has so continuously grieved over the pain of a race gone bad. No one has suffered like the One who paid for our sin in the crucified body of His own Son. No one has suffered more than the One who, when He stretched out His arms and died, showed us how much He loved us. It is this God who, in drawing us to Himself, asks us to trust Him when we are suffering and when our own loved ones cry out in our presence ( 1 Peter 2:21; 3:18; 4:1 ).
The apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord to take away an unidentified source of suffering. But the Lord declined saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” “Therefore,” said Paul, “most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul learned that he would rather be with Christ in suffering than without Christ in good health and pleasant circumstances.
Natural disasters. Terrorist acts. Injustice. Incurable disease. All these experiences point to suffering, and can cause people to question the love and goodness of a God who would let such things occur. In this publication, we seek to consider who God is, and why we can trust Him even when life hurts—and we don’t know why.
Loving parents long to protect their children from unnecessary pain. But wise parents know the danger of over-protection. They know that the freedom to choose is at the heart of what it means to be human, and that a world without choice would be worse than a world without pain. Worse yet would be a world populated by people who could make wrong choices without feeling any pain. No one is more dangerous than the liar, thief, or killer who doesn’t feel the harm he is doing to himself and to others (Genesis 2:15-17).
We hate pain, especially in those we love. Yet without discomfort, the sick wouldn’t go to a doctor. Worn-out bodies would get no rest. Criminals wouldn’t fear the law. Children would laugh at correction. Without pangs of conscience, the daily dissatisfaction of boredom, or the empty longing for significance, people who are made to find satisfaction in an eternal Father would settle for far less. The example of Solomon, lured by pleasure and taught by his pain, shows us that even the wisest among us tend to drift from good and from God until arrested by the resulting pain of their own shortsighted choices (Ecclesiastes 1-12; Psalms 78:34-35; Romans 3:10-18).
Suffering often occurs at the hand of others. But it has a way of revealing what is in our own hearts. Capacities for love, mercy, anger, envy, and pride can lie dormant until awakened by circumstances. Strength and weakness of heart is found not when everything is going our way but when flames of suffering and temptation test the mettle of our character. As gold and silver are refined by fire, and as coal needs time and pressure to become a diamond, the human heart is revealed and developed by enduring the pressure and heat of time and circumstance. Strength of character is shown not when all is well with our world but in the presence of human pain and suffering (Job 42:1-17; Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-5; 1 Peter 1:6-8).
If death is the end of everything, then a life filled with suffering isn’t fair. But if the end of this life brings us to the threshold of eternity, then the most fortunate people in the universe are those who discover, through suffering, that this life is not all we have to live for. Those who find themselves and their eternal God through suffering have not wasted their pain. They have let their poverty, grief, and hunger drive them to the Lord of eternity. They are the ones who will discover to their own unending joy why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:1-12; Romans 8:18-19).
Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path.
Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it. You feel numb. Perhaps the worst part is that you remember when you actually felt something and the contrast between then and now makes the pain worse.
So many things about your life are difficult right now. Things you used to take for granted—a good night’s sleep, having goals, looking forward to the future—now seem beyond your reach. Your relationships are also affected. The people who love you are looking for some emotional response from you, but you do not have one to give.
Does it help to know that you are not alone? These days depression affects as much as 25 percent of the population. Although it has always been a human problem, no one really knows why. But what Christians do know is that God is not silent when we suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children have been able to find hope and a reason to endure. For example, take 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV):
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Come to God with your suffering
You can start to experience the inward renewal that the apostle Paul experienced when you come to God with your suffering. God seems far away when we suffer. You believe that He exists, but it seems as if He is too busy with everything else, or He just doesn’t care. After all, God is powerful enough to end your suffering, but He hasn’t.
If you start there, you’ll reach a dead end pretty quickly. God hasn’t promised to explain everything about what He does and what He allows. Instead, He encourages us to start with Jesus. Jesus is God the Son, and He is certainly loved by his heavenly Father. Yet Jesus also went through more suffering than anyone who ever lived!
Here we see that love and suffering can co-exist. And when you start reading the Bible and encounter people like Job, Jeremiah, and the apostle Paul, you get a sense that suffering is actually the well-worn path for God’s favorites. This doesn’t answer the question, Why are you doing this to me? But it cushions the blow when you know that God understands. You aren’t alone. If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.
God speaks to you in the Bible
Keep your heart open to the fact that the Bible has much to say to you when you are depressed. Here are a few suggestions of Bible passages you can read. Read one each day and let it fill your mind as you go about your life.
Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
Use the Psalms to help you find words to talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 88 and Psalm 86 your personal prayers to God.
Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies. (Romans 5:6-8, 1 John 4:9,10)
Don’t think your case is unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you and they will tell you that God did not fail them.
Remember your purpose for living. (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6)
Learn about persevering and enduring. (Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4).
Try one step at a time Granted, it seems impossible. How can someone live without feelings? Without them you have no drive,nomotivation. Could you imagine walking without any feeling in your legs? It would be impossible.Or would it? Perhaps you could walk if you practiced in front of a large mirror and watched your legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical, but it could be done.People have learned to walk in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.As you walk, you will find that it is necessary to remember to use every resource you have ever learned about persevering through hardship. It will involve lots of moment by moment choices: 1) take one minute at a time, 2) read one short Bible passage, 3) try to care about someone else, 4) ask someone how they are doing, and so on.You will need to do this with your relationships, too. When you have no feelings, how to love must be redefined. Love, for you, must become an active commitment to patience and kindness.
Consider what accompanies your depressionAs you put one foot in front of the other, don’t forget that depression doesn’t exempt you from the other problems that plague human beings. Some depressed people have a hard time seeing the other things that creep in—things like anger, fear, and an unforgiving spirit. Look carefully to see if your depression is associated with things like these:
Do you have negative, critical, or complaining thoughts? These can point to anger. Are you holding something against another person?
Do you want to stay in bed all day? Are there parts of your life you want to avoid?
Do you find that things you once did easily now strike terror in your heart? What is at the root of your fear?
Do you feel like you have committed a sin that is beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness? Remember that the apostle Paul was a murderer. And remember: God is not like other people—He doesn’t give us the cold shoulder when we ask for forgiveness.
Do you struggle with shame? Shame is different from guilt. When you are guilty you feel dirty because of what you did; but with shame you feel dirty because of what somebody did to you. Forgiveness for your sins is not the answer here because you are not the one who was wrong. But the cross of Christ is still the answer. Jesus’ blood not only washes us clean from the guilt of our own sins, but also washes away the shame we experience when others sin against us.
Do you experience low self-worth? Low self-worth points in many directions. Instead of trying to raise your view of yourself, come at it from a completely different angle. Start with Christ and His love for you. Let that define you and then share that love with others.
Will it ever be over?
Will you always struggle with depression? That is like asking, “Will suffering ever be over?” Although we will have hardships in this world, depression rarely keeps a permanent grip on anyone. When we add to that the hope, purpose, power, and comfort we find in Christ, depressed people can usually anticipate a ray of hope or a lifting of their spirits.
Most people don’t enjoy life; they just endure it.
• They think that life must be perfect for them to be happy.
• So they are always looking for a change for the better. If I could just change my situation life would be great. If I could just get rid of all my problems, life would be fine.
• But there’s no such thing as a problem free life.
If you’re going to learn to be happy, joyful, you must learn to be joyful in the situation, in the problems, in the very experiences of life.
• “Happiness” comes from the root word that we get “happening”, from the circumstances.
• Joy is internal. Happiness is external. You have a happy time at Disneyland, you leave and you lose your happiness. Joy can be constant.
• How do you have joy in spite of what is going on in your life?
We are going to learn from Paul. From this passage (that he wrote to believers in Philippi), he seemed positive and happy with his lot, despite being locked up in prison and facing an uncertain future.
• The last 4 years of Paul’s life were miserable. He spent 2 years in prison in Caesarea, and then he was put on a ship to go to Rome to appear before Nero (known for his cruelty against Christians).
• On the way he’s shipwrecked, stranded on an island, bitten by a poisonous snake, survived the winter there, continued on to Rome and spent another 2 years in prison awaiting trial to be executed.
• During this 2 year period in Rome he is chained to a guard for 24 hours a day. He has absolutely no privacy. Every four hours he gets a new guard.
Yet in spite of all of these situations, Paul says in Phil. 1:18b “…I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”
• What’s Paul’s secret? How does he stay so positive in prison, riding above his troubles, and being joyful in spite of the fact that everything has not turned out the way he planned it.
• His words here reveal FOUR ESSENTIALS for a joyful life:
(1) I NEED A PERSPECTIVE TO LIVE FROM
Every one has problems. When you step in today, you just brought them in here with you.
• Your problems are not so important as how you are looking at those problems.
• The way you look at that problem is much more important than the problem.
• Your perspective makes the difference.
1:12 “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
• I can see the best even in the worst. I can see God at work in the problems even when they don’t go my way. If you really believe God is sovereign, you’ve got to believe this.
• This is almost an identical echo of Joseph’s words to his brothers, who sold him to Egypt.
• Gen 50:19-20 Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
1:13 “As a result it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”
• Paul had always wanted to go to Rome. He meant to have a crusade.
• Instead, God put him in prison where he would write the New Testament. He was chained to the palace guard – the elite troops of the Roman Empire. He was able to influence lives from within the palace.
• And outside, things were moving. 1:14 “Because of my chains most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”
Amazing, everything that is considered bad (from the human perspective) and turned out to be good (in God’s perspective)!
• This is the attitude we must adopt. This is the perspective you need to live from, if you are going to have joy in your life.
• Roman 8:28 sums up this principle: “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him…”
• LESSON: God has a purpose behind every one of my problems. Get this and let joy fills your heart.
A mother was doing embroidering and her little boy comes by her side. He looked up from the floor and asked what she was doing. She informed him that she was making a beautiful flower. “It looked like a mess to me,” he said. Looking from the underside, that what you’d see. Everything looked so jumbled up with loose thread here and there.
The mom says, “Son, go a play for a while, and when I’m finished, I will let you see it from my side.”
Finally the boy saw it – from the right side – and he saw a beautiful flower by a sunset. He could not believe it, because from underneath it looked so messy.
God has a design. We cannot fully see everything in its beauty from this side of heaven. But one day we will, when we see it from His perspective.
(2) I NEED A PRIORITY TO LIVE BY
When things get tough, I need to be clear what is really important and what is not.
I want to distinguish the trivial from the significant.
• It’s like the famous Bible commentator Matthew Henry, who said after he was robbed, “Thank God, though they took my money, they did not take my life!”
• You can live your life bored down by trivial matters (usually the problems), or be driven by the significant things of life (the matters of great priority).
• Either you decide what’s important in your life or you let other people decide what’s important.
• If you don’t choose your priorities, you’ll go around putting out one fire after another, living your life simply from problem to problem, to problem and not choosing what’s important.
Look at 1:15-17. Paul says there are “competitors” outside criticizing him and attacking his ministry.
• They are doing it out of envy and rivalry, out of selfish ambition, wanting to stir up trouble for me.
• If you want something to steal your joy quicker than anything else, just listen to all the criticism people are throwing up against you.
1:18 “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
Paul says he is not going to let anyone steal his joy; not circumstances nor critics.
• He said their motives may be wrong, their style may be wrong, but if the message is getting out, so what?
• 1:18 “But what does it matter?” This is the only question in this whole book. It is a question of priority. We do not want to major on the minor. Some things are just not worth quarrelling about or losing sleep over. There’ll be differences but so let them be.
• Paul had set his priorities clear, and will not let criticisms or rivalry steal his joy.
Learn this, don’t let petty things ruin your day and rob you of joy. It’s not worth it. Don’t have to lose sleep over them.
• Differences will always exist. LESSON: Don’t major on the minor things of life. Let them go.
• Focus on what really counts. Know what is important.
(3) I NEED A POWER TO LIVE ON
I need strength to make it and to keep on going.
• Problems can wear you out, and drain you completely. One crisis after another can really cripple you, if you have no outside help.
• You need a fresh power supply.
1:19-20 “I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body…”
Paul says I have two things that give me strength and kept me going in this harsh environment: (1) The prayers of the people; and (2) the help of the Holy Spirit.
He says he eagerly expect and hope that he will have sufficient courage to face the challenges.
• Circle the words “expect and hope”. That’s where he has placed his expectation and hope – in God!
• You can’t live without hope. But you can pin your hope in people or circumstances. Both will change. We need God’s help.
During the American Revolution, when the Army had experienced several setbacks, a farmer who lived near the battlefield approached General Washington’s camp unheard. Suddenly his ears caught an earnest voice raised in agonizing prayer. On coming nearer he saw it was the great General, down on his knees in the snow, his cheeks wet with tears. He was asking God for assistance and guidance.
The farmer crept away and returned home. He said to his family, “It’s going to be all right. We are going to win!”
“What makes you think so?” his wife asked.
“Well,” said the farmer, “I heard General Washington pray such passionate prayer I have never heard before. And God will surely hear and answer that kind of praying.”
The farmer was right! It happened because man is willing to put his hope in God.
• Paul says later in Phil 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
• LESSON: Pray and pin your hope in God!
To sum up so far, we need (1) to see things from God’s perspective, (2) major on the important things in life, and not let the trivial things rob us of joy and focus, and (3) lean on God’s strength through prayers. And finally:
(4) I NEED A PURPOSE TO LIVE FOR
1:21 “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
• This is Paul’s purpose of living. He lives to preach the Gospel. This goal provides him the fulfillment of life. He is a happy man because he is fully satisfied with what he is doing.
• You may be able to take away his freedom, his privacy, his comfort, his fellowship with Christians, or everything else, but you cannot take away the joy of doing God’s will.
• Not even the joy of ‘leaving this world and my number one partner and returning home to be with the Lord.
To die is a gain. It’s a blessing. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (v.23). That’s the ultimate fulfillment for every Christian.
Phil 1:22-26 “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.”
Even if he stays, it would be for the sake of the believers – for your progress and joy.
• This is Paul’s purpose of living. It is for the sake of others.
• The best use of your life is to invest it in something that will outlast it. How? Invest in His church, the Body of Christ. The things you do for one another, for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, will be remembered.
The director of the Institute of Child Behavior Research, Bernard Rimland, did a study about happiness.
Each person involved in the study was asked to list 10 people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or unselfish, using the following definition of selfishness – a stable tendency to devote one’s time and resources to one’s own interests and welfare – an unwillingness to inconvenience one’s self for others.
In categorizing the results, Rimland found that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those “whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness… are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy.” The research concludes, “The happiest people are those who help others.”
This is the secret of joy – J O Y – Jesus first, Others second and Yourself third.
• The reason why there is so much unhappiness and discouragement in our society is because we’ve reversed that order to me first, others second and God last (or not even recognized).
• It is a preoccupation with self. What’s best for me? What will make me happy? The ME generation.
• No wonder there is little joy in our society today, but many heartaches and pain.
When you learn to have a greater purpose in your life than just yourself, you will experience joy more than you ever imagine.
There is no such thing as problem-free living.
• When you live by these biblical principles, then problems just aren’t as significant. So what if things haven’t worked out as I’ve planned, God has a purpose that is bigger than my problems.
• God wants you to enjoy the rest of your life. But we need to do it His way.
(1) Are you looking at the problem from God’s viewpoint or just your own? God has a purpose behind every problem. You need to pray, “Lord, help me to see this problem from Your viewpoint.”
(2) You need a priority to live by. Have you settled the issue of what is really important in your life? Ask God for the wisdom to distinguish what is significant and what is not. Focus on what is important.
(3) You need a power to live on. Have you been trying to solve your own problems? God says, relax. You are carrying a burden that was never intended for you to carry. Come to God and give it all to Him, and ask Him to recharge you – physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
(4) You need a purpose to live for. Everybody wants to live a long time, but why? Life is not judged by its duration. We want to invest in things significant and eternal. Whose lives have you invested in and whose lives do you want to invest in, in the coming days?