So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet.
(James 4:7-10 The Message)
James encounters some of this same "pull" in his own life and is frank in explaining the source. He reminds us we have a way of cheating ourselves. How? By cheating on God! Whenever we think we can pursue our own way, demanding our own rights, satisfying our own desires, we are cheating on God. Only one person can be in control at a time - it is either him or us! We all have a tendency to "flirt" with the stuff we find appealing to us, don't we? Now, don't get me wrong here - I am not referring to the idea of just "toying with the idea" of sinning. I am referring to a seldom used meaning of this word - the idea of flinging ourselves hither and yon - almost darting here and then there. It is a course marked by uncertainty and a lack of steadiness.
The majority of our "pull" issue is related to our inability to just stick with something long enough for it to have an effect on us! Think about it - how difficult is it to make it to the gym every day of the week? We pay for the membership, buy the workout gear, and even set the alarm. In the moment of decision...at what point do we "over-ride" the pull to stay in bed? It takes some consistent effort to "heed the alarm", rising to the occasion, and getting ourselves to our destination - right? The same is true with sin - we have all the right stuff to "get in shape", but obedience begins with "heeding the alarm"!
Look again at our passage - yell a loud NO to the devil and say a quiet YES to God. The contrast is evident, is it not - the devil needs to be "firmly" put in his place, while God just needs to be "given" his place! I wonder how many times we get this confused? Whenever we quietly put off the devil, we are really not putting him in HIS place! We have been given many "alarms" through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives - alarms which ring loudly. Until we begin to listen to them, we will never be stirred into action!
I don't think any part of scripture is "haphazardly" written. Each word carries a meaning and significance to the one who will embrace it. James tells us to quit playing the field. What? I am a believer - my life is established in the faith - how could I be playing the field? I think we might be interpreting this to mean we "embrace" more than one set of values - some are good (Godly), while others are not so honorable (ungodly and selfish). Nope - playing the field is a "sports" term. It has the idea of being in the place of competition. When we are playing the field, we are allowing a competition to take place between God and the devil - between our desires and what we know God desires for us.
James makes it clear - this is not a competition! At the point we decided to stop "dabbling" with being in relationship with God, the devil gets wise to the fact. He wants nothing more than to keep us on the field in competition. He knows if he can do this, he may just get in a few good kicks. As long as we allow the competition to continue, we will get "kicked in the shins" more than we care to imagine! The only way to end the competition is to walk off the field! We don't beat the devil - he is already defeated! We just need to walk in the declared victory! Don't be duped into believing his lies of having to do "battle" with him! The battle has been done! (P.S. We won!!!)