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Under the Mighty Hand of God
By David A. DePra
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 5:6-11)
Do you think that the scripture says in vain, The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy? But he gives more grace. Wherefore he says, God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble. 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)
It is amazing how clear the Bible is about our need to continually submit ourselves to God. And it is clear as to the blessings of doing so, as opposed to the consequences of not doing so. We have no excuse for being ignorant about such a fundamental principle.
If you read the two above passages, you will notice that they essentially say the same thing. Not only does submission to God guarantee us Godís will Ė every time Ė but the refusal to submit to Him means that God Himself is against us. Not only that, but our refusal to submit to God leaves us vulnerable to Satan.
This is serious business. And the above passages are NOT written to unbelievers Ė although there is an application. They are primarily written to Christians. That is why James says, "Do you think that the scripture says in vain, that the Spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy?" Unbelievers donít yet have the Spirit. And Peter writes, "the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." "Brethren," are fellow-CHRISTIANS.
Submit to God
You will notice that in both passages, the admonition is to, "submit to God." This is important to emphasize because sometimes Christians think they are supposed to submit to circumstances, or submit to people. No. We are to submit to GOD in the midst of circumstances, and submit to people as long as it equals submission to God. If we donít understand this, we are liable to find ourselves RESIGNING in situations where we ought to be RESISTING.
One particular mentality among Christians is what might be called, "fatalism." Some Christians assume that if something happens, it must be Godís will. Well, there is SOME Truth to this Ė in that God is in charge, and must allow things to happen. But the notion that whatever God allows must be His specific will is utter nonsense. The fact is, God allows plenty in this world that is not His specific will. He allows it because it falls within a greater purpose Ė not the least of which is that God has afforded man, within Godís own sovereignty, a free will to sin and disobey Him.
If the fatalistic notion were true -- that if something happens, it must be Godís will Ė then it would INDEED mean that we should resign and accept, without resistance, EVERYTHING that happens. Sure. For once I say that ALL that happens is Godís will, then I would have to surrender to it in order to be IN Godís will!
But this is not Biblical, or sane in a moral universe. The Truth is, God allows plenty to happen that is NOT ultimately His will so that we might resist it! God wants us to be instruments through which His will can become executed and lived out.
This is easily proven from the above passages. With regards to Satan, they say, "Resist Satan, steadfast in the faith," and, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." But wait. God could have kept the Devil away to begin with! But He does not. Yet, having allowed the Devil access to us, He tells us to resist Him!
This is not a game God is playing with us. It is all unto a great purpose: "That the same afflictions might be accomplished in you that are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you."
So again, what this means is this: Submit to God. Surrender to God. We are not to surrender to circumstances. We are to submit to God in the midst of circumstances, and sometimes that means to RESIST circumstances, not RESIGN to them.
The same Truth holds with regards to people who might otherwise have authority over us. There is NO "principle of authority" which states that we must submit to authority Ė because all the time, every time, this equals submission to God! My goodness, what heresy! What danger! God simply tells us that if we will submit to Him in EVERY relationship, that this will result in us having no trouble submitting to authority Ė if doing so equals submission to God. And it will give us the wisdom to know when and where we ought to RESIST, because it is NOT the will of God.
Do you see what this means? It means that there are going to be times when submission to God equals RESISTANCE to circumstances, and even RESISTANCE to what an authority demands. We must obey God, rather than man.
The fact is, all the submission in the world to authority, to circumstances, to anything you might want to name, will do us no good Ė indeed, can do us great harm Ė if the motivation behind it is not submission to God Himself. If we submit ourselves first to God, in a vertical, one-on-one relationship, we will KNOW when to submit to, or resist, those things and relationships which are allowed into our lives.
The Proud and the Humble
The above passages define for us what GOD means by, "the proud," and, "the humble."
The proud are defined by the fact that they do not submit to God. The automatic result of not submitting to God is that you are against God, and thus, God is against you. That is why James says that, "God RESISTS the proud." They are against God. So He is against them.
What we see here is that PRIDE doesnít just mean I think highly of myself. It means I want my own way Ė as opposed to Godís way. And God doesnít leave any room for middle ground. Either I want the will of God or I want my will. Period. The proud want their own will.
The "humble," on the other hand, are those who put aside their will and submit themselves to God.
Notice that the, "humble," donít necessarily KNOW the will of God. But they submit themselves, in faith, to God Himself. The result is simple: They not only get the will of God, they find God Himself.
If you want the will of God, submit to God. If you want God Himself, surrender to Him. Pretty easy to figure out, isnít it? God is not going to hunt you down and paste His will on you. If He needs to do that, the fact He needs to do it proves you arenít submitted. Otherwise, you would have been seeking HIM in the first place.
God resists those who want their own will. He gives grace to those who want His will. Therefore, God says, submit yourself to God. Resist all that is outside of Godís will. And in due time, the result will be victory. You will have Godís will, and will have found a deeper relationship with God Himself.
Incidentally, to "humble" myself never means to, "beat myself up." No. Thatís just another form of pride. Again, I humble myself by submitting to God. He will convict me of any sin.
The passage from I Peter does not say that GOD is going to humble US.
Neither does the one from James. No.
We must humble ourselves. How?
By submitting to God. THAT
is what God says He accepts as an act of humility.
I Peter says WHERE to humble ourselves: ďUnder the mighty hand of God.Ē Now, this is quite a picture. Hold out your hand, palm down. Pretend that it is the, ďmighty hand of God.Ē Now read that statement again: ĒHumble yourself under the mighty hand of God.Ē Do you see that if you do that, that it means you are protected? That you are, ďunderĒ whatever God Ė by His mighty hand would do? That you are UNDER the most powerful hand possible?
Often we think of, ďsubmissionĒ as something negative Ė almost like
an imposition upon us that will rob us of our rights.
But it is NOT. Peter does
not say, ďHumble yourselves under the clenched FIST of God!!!!!Ē
No. Submitting to God is
always to our benefit, because we are submitting to the One who loves us and
knows best. Submission under the
mighty hand of God means we are IN HIS WILL, and under His care.
There is something else here, too. If
I am UNDER Godís hand, then nothing gets through to me that has not first been
to Him. Nothing can get by Godís
hand! Thus, what we are talking
about here is nothing short of falling into the hands of the Living God.
The reason Peter gives us for coming under Godís hand is that GOD might exalt us in due time. We must submit and wait for Him to do that work in us. Plus, Peter says, we ought to submit to God, because He cares for us.
The phrase, ďmighty handĒ is most often used in the Bible to
reference Godís deliverance of Israel from Egypt.
Always it speaks of God doing some wonderful work for His people.
So we cannot lose by coming under Godís mighty hand.
By doing so we release Him to BE mighty on our behalf.
Resist the Devil
The above passages indicate that God is not going to resist the Devil for us. We must resist him. Get that. WE must. Thus, what we have here is the possibility that God will allow Satan access to us, for the specific purpose that WE might resist him, and grow stronger in faith.
This, of course, is Godís use of the Devil. We find that perfectly illustrated in the book of Job. Likewise, Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen thy brethren. "(Luke 22:31-32)
Notice Jesus makes no promise that, despite knowing ahead of time that this is going to happen, that He intends to spare Peter this "sifting." Rather, Jesus promises that He will, "pray that Peterís faith fail not." So we see that it is Godís will that such trials be allowed in our lives, so that we might grow by RESISTING Satan.
Now the question is: HOW do we resist? Simple. By submitting to God. There is NO other way to resist Satan. You cannot resist Satan by simply turning and fighting Satan! Are you nuts? Do you think you are a match for him? No. The only way to resist Satan is by running for cover to the One who has already won all victory over him, Jesus Christ.
That is, of course, the whole point, isnít it? It is why God allows Satan loose to begin with: To give us the chance to grow. This is why Psalms is able to say, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shall you restrain." (Ps. 76:10) God allows only that which He intends to use. The rest He doesnít allow.
When Peter talks of the Devil being, "as a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour," he is referring to the fact that the Devil, as a predator, goes around looking for weakness. He will go after weak people, but also after weaknesses in US. Right now, the Devil knows your weak points. And he has a calculated plan as to how to try to play on those weak points in a way that will tempt you to give up your faith. THAT is always his approach: Your faith.
Now, there is, in this, good news and bad news. The bad news is that none of this is fun. But the good news is that God has a reason for allowing Satan to go after our weak points. Do you see what it is? So that by RESISTING him those weak point might become strong! Sure. This is Godís way of turning Satan into an unwitting vehicle for His own purposes.
Donít misunderstand. This is REAL. You and I CAN, and sometimes DO, fail to resist Satan. There is no guarantee that we WILL resist Satan by turning to God. Thatís right. God puts that choice into OUR hands. WE must do that. And if we refuse to submit to God, we are going to be open prey for Satan at some point. For Satan, "as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour."
Letís also be clear as to HOW Satan works. It is not so much that he tempts us into immoral sin, although Iím sure heíd be happy if we go into that sort of thing. But what Satan generally does is feed us with things like fear, condemnation, or pride. Lots of FEELINGS, based on suggestions of fear or lies. Strong ones, too. Satan wants us to begin doubting God, or feeling we donít need God.
A trial of FAITH is exactly what it says: It tries our faith in God! A trial of faith is when Satan, using circumstances and our lack of understanding, begins to suggest that Godís isnít faithful. And we have to stand against this by faith, no matter what!
Right there is where the battle is WON or LOST: FAITH. The issue is not the circumstance or trial. The issue is whether we will resist the Devil and submit to God, by faith. All spiritual warfare boils down to that one simple choice: Faith. Will I believe or not? Will I surrender myself or not?
Now, someone is liable to say, "Well, submitting to God is easy. But in my case, I donít even know where He is. In fact, I donít seem to be getting any results from my submission. I just seem to be getting more trials."
This is normal. Indeed, when circumstances paint the face of God as being indifferent, or even cruel, and then your emotions rise up, and your faith is tested to the limit, it is precisely at this time that Satan is working. ALL of that is his attempt to get you to lose faith. The only solution is to submit to God Ė and keep doing it no matter what.
Paul writes as to how to do this:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Eph 6:10-18)
Here Paul likens faith to a STAND upon the faithfulness of God. He tells us not to allow Satan, or anything else, to MOVE us from that stand. "And having done all, to stand," means I will die if necessary, rather than move from my faith in God. If we take such a stand, we will eventually see the victory of God.
"To stand, "as we saw before, is to stand IN GOD. This is THE issue. How this works itself out in whether to resist or submit to circumstances, is something which will eventually become clear, as we continual to submit ourselves to God.
Many Christians are troubled by the fact that often their trials of life are the consequences for their own sin Ė perhaps even sin which has been thoroughly repented of. We may come to think that because we are to blame for these consequences that there is no point in asking God to remove them, or redeem them. But this is simply not true.
When the Bible says, "Submit to God," there is nothing excepted. So if we have baggage which is the result of past sins, we can also bring this to God Ė and submit it to Him. The best way is to say to God, "I sinned against You and now I have these consequences. I submit to You in them. I ask you to either remove them, or keep them Ė according to YOUR will. But either way, I submit to You."
Notice that there is no cry here of injustice or unfairness. If you sowed sin, you will reap a bad crop. But once we repent of the sin we sowed Ė and nothing applies if we donít do that Ė then we can bring the bad crop we have reaped out of it and ask God for His will regarding it. Such a submission gives God the freedom to redeem out of our consequences something for His glory, and our benefit. God may, if He deems it best, remove the consequences. Or He may not. But if He doesnít, the consequences are now in His hands to turn into what He pleases.
One example might be an illegitimate child. The sin which produced the child must be repented of. But you still have a child Ė whom God loves. God will not change history and take the life of the child, just because you are sorry. Rather, God would want to do something in the life of the child to His glory and your benefit. God wants to take our wreckage and build out of it something good.
The point here is this: We can always come back to God. We can bring back to the altar of surrender even that which we have reaped through unbelief. God will take us right where we are, right as we are, and begin over again. That is redemption.
This is illustrated in the life of Abraham in the book of Genesis. When God promised Abraham a son, out of faith and commitment to God, Abraham built an altar. It was a symbol of his submission to Godís will and purpose:
And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there built he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. (Gen 12:7)
Not long after Abraham built this altar, a famine came to the land, and Abraham inexplicably, instead of turning to God, went down to Egypt. Out of fear for his life, and more importantly, in an attempt to "protect" Godís promise to him, he lied to Pharaoh and said that Sarah was his sister. Pharaoh, operating under this lie, took Sarah into his house. But God brought plagues upon him because he had unwittingly taken into his house Abrahamís wife. Abraham ended up getting kicked out of Egypt.
Abraham eventually realized he had strayed out of faith in God. But he also knew that though he had been false, God remained true. Abraham brought himself BACK to the altar he had built.
And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai; Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD. (Gen 13:1-4)
Here we see repentance. Abraham did not try to fix himself before coming to God. No. He came so God could fix him Ė and doing so WAS repentance. It WAS submission to God. In other words, part of what it means to submit oneself under the mighty hand of God is to bring myself there when I donít deserve the right to come. It means to come there with all of my sin and unbelief. Indeed, if I wonít come then, when will I come? When I think I am worthy?
We need to understand that coming to God, "just as I am" is not an option. It is the ONLY way we can come! What? Are we to come, "just as we ARENíT?" The reality is, if I am not coming to God, "just as I am," I need not bother coming at all. For in that case, Iím not really coming and submitting to God. I playing a game.
"Humbling myself under the mighty hand of God," means that no matter what has happened, I turn and submit to God. I do not come on the basis of anything about me, but only because I trust in His faithfulness.
In Due Time
We are given a promise if we will humble ourselves under the hand of God. The Bible says, "That He may exalt you in due time," and, "He shall lift you up." You will notice that in both cases GOD does this. Sure. For now we are in His hands. From the moment we submit to God, He has, "material," to work with. Once His purpose is accomplished in us, He will lift us up, for such a release will no longer do us harm.
God will not exalt someone who is proud. Not only are they out of His will, but exalting someone who is proud would be destructive to them. They are ALREADY exalted in their own eyes. For God to affirm this would make it worse.
The requirement for being lifted up by God is to humble yourself before Him. Of course, this is not mere exercise. It is not a game, or a, "deal we make" with God. It has to be real, and God knows whether it is real Ė in our hearts. Humility before God is the doorway through which we must pass if we expect to emerge in His will Ė and receive blessing from Him.
It is when I get to the point where I am willing to receive only that which God is willing to give Ė no more and no less Ė THEN God will give it to me. That is submission to God, and if it is real, I can then be trusted with the will of God. I wonít make it my own.
You will notice, if you go back and read our two passages, that the tone of both is that God is in total control of our circumstances. Peter says, "But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, will make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you." Doesnít that sound as if God knows exactly what He is doing? And that HE is the One who decides when the trial is over?
Herein, we see that once we submit to God, that HE is the doorkeeper of our trial. HE will decide when to let us out Ė or keep us in: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and HE shall lift you up." We humble ourselves by submitting to God. He does any lifting up.
A funny thing about God, "exalting," or, "lifting up" a person: HE ends up getting the glory. Why? Because the person being lifted up is already humbled. THAT IS WHY he is being lifted up! Such a thing wonít hurt that person. Plus, God gives His glory to no one. And we should be grateful He doesnít.
Submitting to God, in and of itself, IS obedience. But once we submit, there may be other things to obey which are merely the OUTWORKING of the obedience of faith and submission. For instance, is there any moral issue that I know I need to begin obeying? Is there any other principle of scripture that I have been violating? These things are practicalities. They are part of what it means to submit myself to God.
Perhaps I am unclear as to what God would require of me. Well, in that case, if I am REALLY submitting myself to God, I am going to seek His will through prayer, study, fasting, and unbending dedication. I will be unconditionally committed to the will of God Ė even if I donít quite know what that is right now. The reason? Iím unconditionally committed to God Himself. There is no debate here. Iím submitted to God.
Of course, all of this really speaks of having a Godly fear or REVERENCE. I can hardly say that I reverence God unless I submit to Him. Pride means I put myself before God and will not submit to Him. But in reality, unless I revere God, and His Word, I am far from the place where I am submitting, and far from the place where God is able to do His will in my life.
Thus says the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things has mine hand made, and all those things have been, says the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word. (Is. 66:1-2)
God is telling us that we cannot, "pay Him off," by offering Him a house or some other item. No. God wants US. He says that if we will come to Him in submission, and with reverence, then we will have His attention.
It is so important to realize the difference between coming to God RELIGIOUSLY, and coming to Him with REVERENCE. Often, to come "religiously" means to come saying what we think God wants to hear Ė to try to "prove" to Him we are ok. Yuk. Coming with reverence, however, means that we truly come with an unconditionally surrendered heart. We tell God to do, "whatever it takes" Ė and that is fine with us. We say, "Thy will be done, on earth, as it is heaven." And I would suggest that Godís will is done in heaven completely and without compromise.
It is amazing how some folks, on the one hand, tell God they want His will. But on the other hand, wonít obey Godís will. It is almost like they are saying, "Well, God, I want Your will. But only as long as it is MY will." This is obvious NOT submitting to God. It will get us no where with Him.
If, once again, we read our two passages, we find that in them are practical steps of obedience which we can take and apply to our situation. James says, "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." And Peter, throughout the entirety of his first epistle, leading up to our passage, gives practical points of obedience to his readers. If we want to submit to God, we need to take those things seriously.
The Mighty Hand of God
We are to humble ourselves under the MIGHTY hand of God. Why? So that, in due time, HE might exalt us! And God promises us that this will involve a process which will bring us face to face with the efforts of the enemy of our soul. Yet in the end, the victory is assured, no matter how long it takes, if we will believe.
Do we really believe that, "God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble?" If so, it ought to at least tell us the folly of trying to live OUTSIDE of Godís will. Do we really want God to be against us? Hopefully not. Yet He will be if we insist.
God has better hopes for us. He says that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. He says that if we will humble ourselves under His mighty hand, that there is nothing in all of creation that can touch us, defeat us, or steal from us. Jesus won all victory, and wants to share it with us. *
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