“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
In my last (written) post, Becoming | 1 | Submit To God, I started to describe the process of becoming the person we were uniquely created to be in Christ. The story of Gideon in Judges chapter 6 gives us a worked example of the first part of that process. The continuation of his story in Judges chapter 7 gives us a worked example of the second part of that process.
I believe that the devil is a real person, an angel created by God who has chosen to rebel against God and seeks to destroy his good creation; who leads a destructive rebellion that will ultimately be overwhelmed by God’s goodness. But I also take the instruction to ‘resist the devil’ as a call to resist evil, whether that evil is directly attributable to the devil or the consequence of the fault-line between relationship with God and rebellion against him that runs through each one of us. In other words, to resist those things that contribute to our coming undone, our falling apart, as opposed to our becoming our true selves.
In resisting the particular manifestation of evil that Gideon is called to face – the Midianite army – the first thing that he learns is that we do not resist in our own strength (7:1-3). Though we are called to resist, and passivity is not an option, both the possibility of resisting and the victory it results in are of God. Twenty-two thousand men who had not submitted their fear to God turn back. Others show they have not submitted their strength to God, by staying fight-alert when told to drink, and are sent home.
The next thing Gideon learns is that we resist the devil as part of a community, not alone (7:7). Although he has been created to be a ‘mighty warrior,’ this is not “God and me against the world!” A mighty warrior is not a gung-ho loner, but one who inspires others, who is supported by others.
The next thing we learn is that we resist the devil still afraid – but with that fear submitted to God (7:9-15). Gideon has already submitted his fear (6:36-40). And now God says, “If you are afraid, walk into the enemy camp”…and that is what Gideon does. God doesn’t say, “Now that you are no longer afraid, walk into the enemy camp.” Gideon does not say, “Thanks for the offer, God, but I’m no longer afraid so I don’t need to go down into the enemy camp.” Gideon is afraid, but because he has submitted his fear to God, he can act with bravery and courage. If you are not afraid, you can be neither brave nor courageous. Decorated soldiers will tell you that. The person who feels no fear is a reckless danger to self and allies. Likewise, the person whose fear overwhelms them is a danger to self and allies. Courage is fear overcome; and God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
The next thing we learn is that there are times when resisting the devil requires of us that we use our initiative (7:17). Gideon says to his army, “Watch me…Follow my lead.” God hasn’t dictated a plan to him, but has chosen Gideon for the task, and will back his actions.
The next thing we learn is that there are times when resisting the devil simply requires of us that we stand firm, hold our ground (7:21). Not fleeing from the scene, running away from the circumstances. And that is increasingly possible as we learn the accumulative lessons of submitting to God and resisting the devil.
The final thing we learn is that there are times when resisting the devil requires of us that we fight with God; and times when it involves calling to others to join in where we have seen a particular breakthrough (7:23-25). When the devil flees from us, it is not just a personal matter, nor a trivial event. Others will enjoy the benefits of God’s victory in our lives, over the struggles we face: especially where they have played a part in securing the new freedom; and where they play an ongoing part in recalling the struggle and living out the consequences of our ongoing becoming our true selves…
What circumstances do I face right now, that are threatening to overwhelm me?
What aspect of who I am today do I need to submit to God today?
Who is standing with me as I resist the devil? Who should I be asking to stand with me?