Devotional Week 4: God Opposes the Proud and Gives Grace to the Humble

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QUESTION: What does it mean to submit yourself to God?
READ
: James 4:1–10

MEMORY VERSE: “Submit yourselves, then to God.” (James 4:7a)

Marriage is the most sacred and serious covenant two people can make with each other. We acknowledge its seriousness in traditional marriage vows, “…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance.” Yet, what happens when someone breaks this covenant and adultery is involved? This is the picture that James wants in our mind when he writes, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4)?

A consistent theme in Scripture is that of God as the faithful husband and Israel—His people—as the faithless bride. It is the entire basis for the book of Hosea. The question that continues to come up though, is what husband is so patient as to put up with a rival for his wife’s love? Just as a wife destroys the love of her husband when she sleeps with an adulterer, so a Christian immediately incurs the hostility of God—who has nothing in common with the world—when we chase after friendship with the world.

James is clear that it is not possible to please both the world and God at the same time. And yet, we still desire the things of the world.

James gives us a picture of people who use prayer to try to receive something from God that they desire more than Him. He calls these people adulteresses because God is like a jealous husband who is to be our delight. If we pray as a means of getting something from Him; that we want more than Him, we are like a wife who asks her husband for money to visit her lover. This is unthinkable in a human relationship, yet we do it with God.

God is either our first and greatest love or He is our enemy. If we find our most satisfying relationships with anyone other than God, we make Him our enemy. Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). James leaves no doubt that their desires are not for God. They are looking for the gifts of God, and this is why they do not receive them. If God were their desire, they would have what they want, and they would not be fighting, quarreling, and committing murder. This is a bleak picture and we should take it as a warning. How often do we use the very life and gifts God has given us to pursue other lovers? It may be money or freedom or good standing in the community. We take these good things and turn them into our greatest hopes and desires, thereby making God our enemy.

But there is hope.

While God requires a singular kind of love from us, He also gives a singular kind of grace. Though it is extremely difficult to do what God requires, He gives us the strength for this very purpose. He gives us the ability to fulfill His commands. This is why James can write, “But He gives more grace. Therefore, it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:6–8a).

The grace given to the humble is that they are loved by God. John tells us, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:15–16). This, in fact, is His gift to us—that we love Him or, rather, that we return His love. God acted first on our behalf through Jesus. He loved us when we were still hostile to Him, and He will increase His gifts in us if we will only empty ourselves completely for Him—if we depend on Him alone. How do we do this?

We must learn, relearn, and remember our Savior’s love and sacrifice for the wicked, the rebellious, the hard-hearted—people like us. And when we see Jesus’ sacrificial love for us, we not only see what love looks like, but we also find the strength and power to love as He loves. When we humble ourselves before God, recognizing our complete dependence on Him, we will be exalted.

QUESTION: What gifts of God have you elevated above Him? How can you begin to reorder the things you love?
QUESTION: What habits or practices have you put in place to help you remember God’s love for you?

DISCIPLINE PRACTICE: Serving

One way we can imitate the love of God is by laying down our lives for others. Instead of fighting and quarreling, we are to be peacemakers. So what can you do today to serve another person? How can you intentionally lay down your own needs and desires to reflect God’s love? Take time to ask God to show you opportunities to have the mind of Christ and humble yourself in service of others. Perhaps it is a simple act for a family member or a neighbor. Maybe it is financially related. Big or small, take time today to love as you have been loved.

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