It’s Time to Submit to God

Photo taken by Blake Wisz

Day 23 | Today’s passage: James 4:7-10 | Historical context of James

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

I remember scribbling on my Bible as a kid. I would highlight verses and commandments that I liked, those that I thought were softer on the ears and easier to obey. My Bible ended up pretty clean, since there were many hard truths that I struggled to accept and live out and hence, chose to ignore.

After all, why should I love my neighbour like how I love myself (Mark 12:31) when I could just focus on loving myself? Why should I be the first to keep showing forgiveness (Matthew 18:22) to those around me when they were the ones who were mean to me? Why should I live peaceably (Romans 12:18) when I could stand up for myself and pick a fight with whomever got in my way?

It was a tough struggle.

Let’s face it, submission to God—be it to His Word or His Person—is easier said than done. It takes a great deal out of us to put aside our pride and the rights we think we deserve, and to humble ourselves in obedience before God. Recognizing His sovereignty and trusting in the never-failing character of God can be scary, especially when it dawns on you that doing so means giving up control over the situation you’re in. The world and our flesh constantly tempt us with lies, telling us that there is more joy and pleasure when we retain control and make decisions that pander to our own selfish desires and pride.

However, James exhorts us to submit to God in humility (v. 7). I’m thankful that James doesn’t just leave us with a command without much explanation on how to obey it. Instead, he provides us with a step-by-step process, and sums it up with the same theme of humble submission in verse 10.

Earlier on, James highlighted the consequences of our friendship with the world (4:4) Now, he reminds us that submission, which is shown through obedience to God, is intentional. It requires a complete change in heart—a resolution to love God instead of the world. It challenges us to put aside what we want, and to consider and act on what God wants instead.

We are told to take a two-pronged approach in submission—to “resist the devil” (v. 7b), and to “come near to God” (v. 8a). Resisting suggests a deliberate, persistent and active rejection. It’s almost like engaging in military combat against the devil, enduring his taunts and lies, and ultimately rising above the temptation.

Turning away from the devil, we run in the opposite direction towards God. This could be done through prayer and reading His word. Coming close to God requires us to wash our hands and purify our hearts (v. 8b). And we are to do so with a clear focus and a firm resolve—that we are no longer allowing our hearts to waver and return to our prior state of sinfulness.

These actions symbolize both an inward and outward effort we make to be right with God. It is an instruction to clean up our inner being (thoughts) as well as our external being (deeds). In fact, our sinful selves are so dirty and detestable before God that we are told to “grieve, mourn and wail” (v. 9). Hence, choosing to turn to God in confession and repentance is precious, because that’s when sanctification occurs.

Doing all the above might sound difficult and tiring, but James goes on to assure us of the reward we will receive. When we approach God with clean hands and a cleansed heart, we don’t just receive praises or compliments. Instead, we receive the greatest gift of all—God Himself—when He draws near to us (v. 8).

Personally, keeping my eyes on this magnificent reward motivates me to come to God daily in obedience and repentance as I make the choice to submit to Him in my life.

May it do the same for you as well.

—Constance Goh, Singapore

Questions for reflection

1. Is there a particular sin/habit that you struggle to abandon in submission to God?

2. What practical steps can you take to draw near to God?

Hand-lettering by Rachel Tu

Constance is an avid reader and a Milo addict. If she is not found with a book, she is probably watching Korean dramas or jamming on her guitar to some Coldplay tunes. She enjoys the company of children and hopes to work among them in the future. As someone who believes that hardship on this earth is nothing compared to the future glory in heaven, she takes pride in being able to work hard for God.

Read 30-day James Devotional

A Quick Summary Of James 1:16-27

How has your reading of James been this week? What have you learned? Here’s a quick reminder of this week’s key truths.

(Once again, do note that no devotions will be sent over the weekend.)

Is Knowing the Same As Doing?

Day 8 | Today’s passage: James 1:22-25 | Historical context of James

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

We often say (or hear) that we want to know God’s will for our lives.
But how often do we think about doing God’s will? Is knowing the same as doing?
We’d be deceiving ourselves if we thought so. There’s a bridge that needs to be crossed between these two points and it’s called: obedience.

God’s will is not hidden from us. His perfect law is revealed in the Scriptures that millions of people own today and can access from around the globe. He speaks to us and urges us to heed this law. But how often do we walk away from it, satisfied with the new insights we’ve gleaned from our study of the Bible, but fail to make any tangible changes to our lives?

I was once in a serious, long-term relationship with a guy whose faith stood at odds with mine. There was a chasm between our views of God, which I dismissed as inconsequential. Over the years, however, God sent numerous people to confront me about it. I also personally received His Word from 2 Corinthians 6:14 on several occasions; it says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

Though it was clear from His Word that this relationship was putting my relationship with Jesus at risk, I didn’t want to listen. I questioned God’s wisdom and refused to obey.

My response then was like that of the man James described in verse 23: he looked at himself in the mirror and saw all his imperfections, but walked away without making a single effort to change anything about himself.

In the end, I suffered the consequences of insisting on doing what I wanted. I couldn’t pray, read the bible, go to church, or even talk about God to him. There was also a constant tug-of-war when it came to deciding where to go for spiritual needs. We ended up fighting often about God and even my call to the mission field. While I eventually ended that relationship, I carry the scars that resulted out of it.

The Word of God acts like a mirror to our true selves. It reflects what we look like from the inside. It reveals to us the true condition of our hearts, and tells us what we need to do to realign it to God’s heart. It doesn’t matter how much we’ve heard or understood; what matters is that we obey what we’ve heard.

The second person James describes in verse 25 not only listens to and understands God’s word, but also lives it out. This person sees his spiritual imperfections in the light of God’s word, and as a result, takes actual practical steps to obey God’s word. He keeps listening and doing continuously. And in doing so, he is blessed.

James says that we are to be doers of the word and not hearers only.
Let us examine our own lives and act on the truths that we hear (vv. 22-25).

—Kezia Lewis, Philippines

Questions for reflection

1. What is God’s Word telling you to do? Are you doing it?

2. What holds you back or hinders you from doing what God’s Word says?

Hand-lettering by Sonya Lao

Kezia resides with her husband, Jason, in Krabi, Thailand where she serves alongside him in the ministry under Sowers International and teaches English at a local Thai school. She and her sister were named by her mom (who has not read the Bible before that) after two of Job’s new daughters (Job 42:14). She sees that as God telling her she is “His daughter.” She loves to call God as Father for He is that to her. She feels particularly calm when it rains and loves to be near any body of water.

Read 30-day James Devotional

It’s Not All About Us, Ladies

I recently found myself grumpy and tired after a day of taking care of sick kids, cleaning the house, and doing laundry. My sweet husband Andrew knew it had been a long day and I thought that maybe, just maybe, he would surprise me with flowers, a sweet note, or something, anything, to make me smile.

Well, he didn’t, and that was my tipping point. I had a massive pity party—after all, it had been quite a while since he had done anything romantic for me. I became lost in my own thoughts. Flowers, undivided attention, a handwritten note, a date, a back rub, chocolate—something simple. That’s all women want; is this such a big ask?

That’s when I stopped myself. “Woah. Hold on just a minute, Stacy. How long has it been since you’ve done any of this for him?”

My selfishness immediately repulsed me, but the very real frustration lingered. I knew I was missing the mark, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on how to sort out all of this in a God-honoring way.

So, I opened my Bible. As I began to read, the first verse I came across was Philippians 2:3, which encourages believers to humbly count others as better than ourselves—that is, to not look out for our own interests first but for the interests of others.

Instead of thinking about how long it had been since my husband romanced me, Philippians tells me that I should be asking how long it has been since I had not only romanced him, but considered his very well-being above my own. This, as 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us, is a mark of true love, which is not self-seeking. This means I need to take simple but active steps to show my consideration and love for Andrew as part of our everyday lives.

As wives, we need to learn what speaks love to our husbands; striving to love them sacrificially through their languages of love. Romance for him may come in the form of planning a scavenger hunt, eating out at a new place, planning get-togethers with his friends, lighting candles after the kids go to sleep, making him coffee in the morning, writing him surprise notes, or even what my husband and I just began doing—putting down our phones at night so we are together with undivided attention.

Now, I know we wives are sinners, who are also married to sinners; we have husbands who are selfish, and some are simply very hard to love. As I considered this matter further, though, God opened my eyes to what romancing our spouse should be founded on: obedience and sacrifice to our Savior. That was the bigger picture to be seen here.

When loving our husband sacrificially seems impossible, may we remember the example we have in Christ—the One who, even having lived perfectly, died a brutal death to make it possible for us to spend eternity with Him. That is true sacrifice, and this is the way in which we have been loved by our maker. Believers are called to follow the example of their King—the One who emptied Himself for His glory and our good, being obedient to the point of dying upon a cross.

These are not easy words to even type, for I fall so short. My selfishness is enslaving. Yet, we must try for the sake of following the call of Christ to live a life giving of ourselves for others—and in this instance, our husbands. Even if we are never thanked or acknowledged, serving can be done with joy because ultimately we are not serving our husbands; we are serving and being obedient to our Savior.