James 4:4, 7-8a Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. . . 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.
You cannot be everyone’s friend, or keep everyone happy. There is no compromise, there is only the choice over what to put first. The problem is that too often we put "now" first, that is our immediate desire and need. Its: I want, I need, but with a lack of patience; so that: I want it NOW! And I need it NOW! And as soon as we start living for the here and now, it is easy to loose sight of the hereafter. And even if we remember the hereafter, a little voice it telling us, don’t worry about that, you can always get to that latter.
In a very real way, our text says nothing new, nothing we have not heard before. "You cannot serve 2 masters,… you cannot serve God and mammon…." "Choose this day whom you will serve,…" Somehow we have thought we could delay the day of decision, and common sense misleads us, for it says to us, first make the money, and then in your spare time, you can do what God wants. In telling us, that in effect, God helps those who help themselves, it says, you don’t need to make a choice, you can choose both, you can have it all. You can have your cake and eat it too.
And we can have it all, most of the time, but the answer is not the obvious, nor is it what the world promotes, for the answer to having it all, is God comes first. When God comes first, God provides everything necessary. When God comes first, we will have the things that last, because those are the things which God gives us. When God comes first, not only do we receive the bread for this day, but we are give the bread that lasts forever, and the water of life. When God comes first, we are given salvation, redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and the power to overcome temptation.
But from time to time, when God comes first, the world will fight against you, and there will be temptation, turmoil, trials and trouble. And sometimes, in the face of such obstacles, we loose heart, and begin to think that maybe there is a compromise, maybe we could be friends with the world, and the argument in our minds begins to run along the lines of, God is love, and God knows our weakness, so if we need it God will forgive us, and God should understand that we just couldn’t stand in the face of such opposition.
And by ourselves we cannot stand in the face of such opposition, but then, God never called us to stand by ourselves, but God gathered us together into the church just as he called us to faith. God never called us to stand alone, for in every temptation, trouble or trial, we are never alone, God is always there, able to uphold and sustain us, and by his grace to enable us to overcome any and every obstacle, it we trust in him and rely on him.
If you cannot be everyone’s friend, then the one thing that everyone knows is that no one wants to go to Hell, no one wants to stand before God in judgment as an enemy of God. So the only real question that remains is, how is one a friend of God? What do you have to do? And here is where our text says perhaps the thing which is hardest for us to hear: "Submit yourselves therefore to God." Submit means first of all, to forget all about what I want, and ask what does God want, and what is God calling me to do today. Our notion of freedom says we shouldn’t have to submit, but it is that same notion of freedom that also says that we do not have to obey, but it does not tell us that those who break the law become criminals and fugitives who have no freedom for they are ever and always running.
"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."
Its so simple, repentance is just turning from sin, the world and the devil, and turning to God. It’s the beginning of faith, the beginning of salvation, the beginning of following our Savior. And when we turn to God, we find a power which causes the devil to flee. When we turn from sin, we find a God who has all along be waiting to accept us as his dear children, and he draws us nearer still to protect us, to guard us, and to keep us in true faith unto everlasting life, all for Jesus sake.