Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:7-10)
Do you notice the sequence there? Many times, Christians rely on only a single part of those instructions: they think they can resist the devil and he is just going to flee from them. But I can assure you, both from personal experience and observation, that if we do not begin by first humbly submitting ourselves to God, old Satan is not going anywhere! In fact, he'll just step up the battle!
These verses contain ten separate instructions for Christians. In the original Greek text, these were worded as imperatives, calling for immediate action, to root out the underlying sin of pride. To have victory, so that the devil will flee from us, we have to do just as these verses say. We have to first submit ourselves to God. Only then we are in a position to resist the devil. If we do not first submit ourselves to God, we are going to fail in our attempts to resist the devil.
Then, after we have resisted the devil, we need to be sure we draw nigh to God, so that we do not become puffed up in self pride, as if we had resisted him in our own poor power. We must understand fully and without a doubt, just exactly where our power comes from. When we draw near to God, the Bible promises that He will draw near to us.
Next we are told to wash our hands and purify our hearts. Psalm 24 tells us that it is those with clean hands and pure hearts that can enter the sanctuary of the Lord, and will receive blessings and righteousness from the Lord:
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that has clean hands, and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalm 24:3-5)
James then said we are to grieve, mourn, and wail, turning our laughter to mourning and our joy to gloom. In other words, we are to repent: to be sincerely sorry for our sinful thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We cannot hide iniquity in our hearts and expect to have victory in our lives. It is only when we faithfully obey God's word that we will have the power to resist the devil.