"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." (James 4:7-8a)
To me, there is such imagery in these verses. I picture them in my mind as a fierce tug-of-war, with both God and the devil pulling for my attention, hoping to elicit a response. But by submitting to God, does resistance to Satan automatically "kick-in?" Or, conversely, if I resist the devil, can I then consider myself submitted to God? I don't want to be guilty of complicating something fairly straight-forward, but a few added thoughts might prove to be helpful.
Submission to God acknowledges His will for my life and accepts whatever He chooses to bring within that sphere. And, certainly, resisting the devil would fall within that category. But it is possible (actually probable) to be in the center of God's will, fulfilling His purpose, and yet find myself under constant attack from Satan. In that case, more extreme action will need to be taken. The operative word here is “resistance,” and the verse promises it will be successful ("...he will flee from you").
This is an ongoing process, however. As situations and decisions arise, we will be given the option of submitting to the will of God; likewise, we will be continually faced with having to resist the devil. ("And when the devil had ended all his temptation, he departed from him for a season" [Luke 4:13] ). Some Christians never seem to master this balancing act. For instance, there are those who show great resolve when tempted by Satan; but who, unfortunately, seem to apply that same resistance whenever God asks something of them. And, if we are not careful, we may end up reversing these two strategies: resisting God and submitting to the devil.
Finally, look now at the wonderful promise in verse eight. God pledges that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. And there is a verse in Zechariah that seems to mirror this: "Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you" (1:3b). In other words, every step I take toward God, He matches me, step for step. And, by the way, He’s got a bigger stride!