But what does it mean to resist the devil, and why will resistance cause the devil to flee?
To resist means to withstand, strive against, or oppose in some manner. Resistance can be a defensive maneuver on our part, such as resisting or withstanding the temptation to sin. Or it can be an action we take to use the only offensive weapon in the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18), the “sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.”
Using the Scriptures to expose Satan’s lies and temptations is the most effective way to strive against and defeat them.
It is important to read the whole verse: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Resisting the devil must be accompanied by submitting to God. A disobedient or unsubmissive believer will not see victory.
The apostle John records Jesus saying about Satan, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). As Christians, we have full life when we are aware of the reality of the presence of evil. As we struggle to stand firm in our faith, we must realize that the enemies we are up against are not merely human ideas, but real forces that come from the powers of darkness. The Bible says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
What do the “world-forces of this darkness” look like? It’s possible to become so enmeshed in the unusual language that our minds become absorbed with the stuff of fantasy movies! But the language describes a harsh reality of toxic thinking and addictive thought patterns. This is the moral riptide through which we struggle for survival.
Here’s a clip from a Pyschology Today report on the problems of contemporary thinking:
- Impulsivity with difficulty delaying gratification.
- Prioritizing seeking pleasure.
- Feeling unique, translating into non-conformity.
- Weakened sense of societal goals.
- High stress level.
- Fear of exposure.
- Victimized mentality, blaming everyone else for negative feelings and consequences.
These are entrenched positions, -strongholds- which can only be cast down by submission and resistance.
And what does resistance look like? In the terms of the language of James 4:7: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Why will resistance cause the devil to flee? Because he knows he cannot have victory over us if we are prepared to do battle against him. As mentioned before, the Bible assures us that we need only “Put on the full armor of God” to be fully protected from evil and to actively resist it.
There is nothing more frightening to Satan than a believer who is fully equipped with spiritual armor, beginning with the “helmet of salvation,” which protects our minds, and the “breastplate of righteousness,” which protects our hearts because it is the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Only a believer wears these because only those who have received God’s forgiveness by grace through faith have eternal salvation and the righteousness of Christ imputed to them.
Once fitted with the helmet and breastplate (literally, “chest protector”), we are then to take up other defensive weapons with which to battle Satan: truth, the readiness to proclaim the gospel, and the faith that shields us from all the “flaming arrows of the evil one”
The final piece of armor is prayer.
- We pray for strength to resist evil and to actively battle against it.
- We pray for wisdom in the conflict,
- and most of all, we remain steadfast in our prayers, both for the ability to resist the devil and also for other believers who struggle in the same battle.
“When the church, the body of Christ, stands united against evil, fully equipped with the armor of God, we present a formidable foe to the evil one and we will see God get the glory for the victory.” Victory in Spiritual Warfare by Tony Evans