James 4: 6-8
‘God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble’.
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you’
I’ve always loved the last part of that verse. The promise that as we draw near to God, he will draw near to us. It’s such an incredible reality of our relationship with God – a God who wants to be in relationship with us, who wants to be close to us, who created us to live that way. The tangible, earth-shanking, comfort bringing, hope restoring presence of God is what he wants us to engage with, and is our deepest need. I know for me there have been times when God’s presence has felt so far away but the bible promises that there is nowhere we can flee from his presence – how does that work?! My musings on this passage have helped me to see that the problem is never with God’s presence but is based on our heart state as we approach God.
I had never recognised the link between verse 6 and verse 8 in this passage. In fact I had no idea they were together! But I am realising that the issue of pride and humility have huge impact on our ‘drawing near’ experiences.
The problem is that in our broken sinful state we neither deserve nor can earn the right to be in God’s presence. He is holy, he is perfect, and we are most certainly not! The only way we can have access to God is though grace – the saving grace that envelopes us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, his all-encompassing love which takes our breath away in the light of what we actually deserve, mercy which says ‘I can go free’ even though I am guilty as sin. Literally. And a million more unfathomable, eternity sized murmurs of grace which I often miss as I am surrounded by them so constantly.
If grace is the key and this verse highlights that it is given to the humble, we need to seek humility in every way we can – whether it’s in our attitude to God or to other people. God resists the proud because the proud resist his grace. Pride says I can earn my way in, that my way is the best way, it doesn’t recognise its need for grace and the fact that by its nature it is given to the undeserving. Humility on the other hand recognises that grace will never deal with me on the basis of anything I can bring to the table, either good or bad, but only on the basis of who Jesus is and what he has done. The humble access grace, and grace opens up access to God.
So we need to be diligent in dealing with pride. I came across a list of indicators of pride in the ‘Freedom in Christ’ course and thought it may help to have them written down to go through in your own time. Let God’s Spirit speak to your heart as you read these and then ask him to show you how best to humbly combat prideful attitudes which so easily sneak in.
Indicators of pride:
- Having a stronger desire to do my own will rather than God’s
- Leaning too much on my own understanding and experience rather than seeking God’s guidance
- Relying on my own strengths and abilities instead of depending on the power of the Holy Spirit
- Being more concerned about controlling others than developing self-control
- Being too busy doing ‘important’ things to take time to do the little things for others
- Having a tendency to think I have no needs
- Finding it hard to admit I am wrong
- Being more concerned about pleasing people than pleasing God
- Being concerned about getting the credit I feel I deserve
- Thinking I am more humble, spiritual, religious or devoted than others
The verse says to submit – hand anything you feel is an issue to God. Submit and let him work in you. Resist the devil – don’t let him lie to you, he doesn’t want you to succeed! And then the invitation to draw near and that God will draw near to you. Today, tomorrow, every day, draw near to him in whatever way you like – through songs, prayer, reflection, dance (not my favourite I have to admit!) – whatever helps you to be close to God and then just wait and see what he will do!
The new song we’re singing at church at the moment is based on my reflections on this passage – specifically our need for God’s presence. If it would help you, use this as a tool to help you draw near: