I’ll always remember, I was about four or five, going out to play tennis with my parents. One of the most frustrating days of my life. No matter how hard I hit the ball I could never get it over the net and I couldn’t understand why.
Years later I found out, my parents had me using a badminton racket. Real sweet. You ever try playing tennis with a badminton racket? It doesn’t work.
If you are going to excel at tennis, you need the right equipment. You can work on your form, you can watch all sorts of videos, you can sit down with Andre Agassi, you can learn at the best tennis camps, but I guarantee you, no matter how hard you try, you are not going to be all that good at tennis if you are using a badminton racket.
It’s that simple.
The fact is, many people are frustrated in their attempts to change because of something just as simple. I mean, they try and try to change, they read books, they watch videos, they go to counselors, they talk to their friends, they watch Oprah Winfrey, they listen to Dr. Phil, they work and work at changing, but everything stays the same. The reason is simple: they haven’t dealt with the most basic issue.
You could say they are playing tennis with the wrong racket.
They are proud.
And James explains, “God is opposed to the proud…”
You can’t change if God doesn’t help you, and God promises that He will not help you if you are proud. That's the bottom line. God doesn’t give His grace to everyone. In fact there is a type of person He actively resists, that He opposes. And that’s the person who is proud.
James chooses to quote Proverbs 3:34, but he had lots of options, because God makes it clear time and time again, He hates pride. One old saint calls pride the mother of hell. This sin is odious to God. Proverbs 16:5 says “the proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.” The Psalmist promises, “…haughty eyes God will abase…” (Ps.18:27) “No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure…” (Ps.101:5) And David explains, “Though the Lord is exalted, yet he regards the lowly; but the haughty He knows from afar.” (Ps.138:6)
Until you and I deal with this root issue, this issue of pride, we won’t be able to deal with anything else. Pride will destroy us.
Do you think you can have real peace with others if Almighty God is against you? Do you think you can change in a way that honors God if God sets Himself up in opposition to you? Of course not! God hates high looks and He never fails to bring them down.
That’s the warning.
Here’s the promise. God is a giving God, and He is willing to help, but take note, James says He only “gives grace to the humble.”
If the first part of this verse is quite a warning, this second statement is quite a promise. God promises to help the humble.
Do you hear that?
James says He gives grace to the humble. That’s a fact.
Really he’s just echoing one of the primary themes of both the Old and New Testaments. Over and over again, we read of how God delights in stooping down and helping those who abase themselves before Him.
Listen to some of the wonderful promises of Scripture.
“The Lord is near to those who are brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps.34:18)
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Ps.51:17)
“For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Is.57:17)
If it’s comforting to receive help from other people when you are confused, how much better to be promised help from God. Imagine what it would be like to have the most intelligent, most learned, most wise human being in all of history as your helper throughout life. Suppose he would be available to you in every situation and every circumstance. Suppose you could run every decision you made by him. You’d have such hope.
You believer, have something better than that. There’s no reason for despair. James says, God promises to help the humble.
That’s the theme of James 4:6-10.
That’s how James begins verse 6, and that’s how he ends in verse 10.
If you humble yourself before God He will give you grace, and if you humble yourself before God, He will exalt you.
What more could you ask for? God helping you and God honoring you. And it’s a promise, if you are humble.
Now these two verses are the bookends. Everything between, explains them. So if you are you looking for one key principle that will help you become a person of peace, that will help you live a life full of joy, a life that is blessed, a life that pleases God, here it is:
Humble yourself before God.
The first step to getting things right is getting things right with God.