With Submission - James 4:4-17

(I realize our focal passage doesn’t start until verse 6 but I felt like we need to start back at verse 4.)


Write the word SUBMISSION on the board or a large sheet of paper. Ask the class the following questions.

1.      What words or phrases do you associate with “submission?” (Give up; Yield; Surrender; acceptance; consent; compliance; etc.)

(Write the responses on the board. There may be both negative and positive words and phrases.)

2.      Why do you think “submission” is such an emotionally-charged word?

3.      Is submission a good thing or a bad thing? (I just read this week a statement by President Reagan. “Peace is America’s highest aspiration. We will fight for it, we will sacrifice for it, but we will never surrender for it.”)

4.      How can submission in the right circumstances be advantageous to the one submitting? (In a sense we all submit under some circumstances: to our mate; our boss; and ultimately to our Lord.)

Draw a slash between the first two syllables of the word SUBMISSION, so it reads SUB/MISSION.

Explain: When you break the word down, you see that “submission” simply means placing one goal or purpose (mission) underneath (sub) another.

Submission to God means placing our own desires beneath God’s desires. James 4 shows us why that is so difficult as well as how to do it!


Through Desire! Read James 4:4-5


1.      In what sense were the Christians James was writing to “adulteresses?” (They were “two-timing” God! They were trying to hold on to the world and God at the same time.)

2.      How did James describe what “friendship with the world” is in relationship to God?

The Christian who wants to hang on to the worldly lifestyle is, in fact the enemy of God!

3.      How would you describe the lifestyle of a Christian who wants to hold on to the world and God at the same time? (No matter how hard one tries you can’t live in both worlds! See Matt. 6:24)

4.      In what sense does the Holy Spirit, Who lives in us, “yearn jealously”? (See Deut. 6:15 and Ex. 34:14.)


Our passions and selfish desires are always at odds with God’s will and desire, which is why verse 6 is so important.

Class, count the number of direct commands as we read these verses.

Through Humility! Read James 4:6-10


1.      Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is recorded in Matt. 4:1-11. How did Jesus resist the devil when He was tempted?

2.      How have you resisted the devil’s temptations with the Word of God?

3.      What is the relationship between being humble and being able to resist the devil?

4.      Can a person do one without the other? (“Pride goes before a great fall!” It is only as we humbly yield our will to God that we can defeat Satan’s temptations!)

5.      How do attitudes of pride and humility impact spiritual disciplines, like prayer, quiet time and Bible study? (Pride says we can do things on our own and prevents us from depending on prayer, quiet time, and Bible study for growth. Humility recognizes that we have responsibilities to protect ourselves from sin and to seek God’s help.)

In verses 9-10, James was not suggesting that Christians must go around being miserable all the time. That would contradict what he taught in James 1:2 about trials producing joy. The key to understanding these verses is realizing that James was addressing sinners. Our misery, mourning, and weeping are related to our grieving over our sin the way God does. When we humbly deal with our sin, God will exalt us!


Through Grace! Read James 4:11-12


1.      How does the gospel make us humble? (We remember that, as believers, our sins were severe enough to warrant death. We are unable to overcome sin on our own and unable to save ourselves from our deserved punishment. When we mourn over our own sinful state, we more likely will be slow to judge others who struggle with obedience.)

2.      Read Gal. 6:1. How does this verse help us understand these two verses in James? (We are not to turn a blind eye to a fellow believer’s sin, but don’t use their struggle as an opportunity to be prideful and slander them.)

We don’t talk about people whose lives are better than ours. We always want to pick someone who, in our opinion is worse than us!

3.      Who is the only One able to judge?


Now James talks about God and why we are to surrender to His sovereign plan.


Through Submission! Read James 4:13-16


Have class members read: Prov. 3:5-6; 16:1-4; 19:20-21; 21:5.


1.      Was James telling us not to make plans? (No)

2.      If not, how are we to make plans? (Submit to God by asking Him what plans I should make, and then follow His direction.)

3.      How does a posture of submission help us balance thoughtful planning with uncertainty in the future? (We are to be good stewards of our resources, while maintaining a humble attitude that acknowledges God is in control.)

As believers, we must submit our own will to His. God’s plans are the best plans. He knows the future!

4.      What do these verses say about leaving a legacy? (We likely won’t be remembered for long here on earth, no matter the legacy we work to build up. However, as unknown and fleeting as our time on earth is, we know our eternal future and, therefore, focus on storing eternal treasures. See Matt. 6)


Through Obedience! Read James 4:17


Living life outside of the will of God is the ultimate expression of arrogance. It turns the believer into a judge and purveyor of truth to others, when that is really God’s role. It plans a life that is not promised to be there tomorrow. Obedience is a key attitude that believers must embrace.

1.      Do you believe what I just read is true?

2.      Which of the attitudes mentioned in today’s lesson is the most difficult to sustain?

3.      How have you found pride to be an obstacle to doing the good you know you ought to do?

God reveals His will to us, and when we respond with delayed obedience, we are actually responding in disobedience. We arrogantly think we can find the right time to obey, but we need to humbly submit to God’s direction and His timing.


Summarize and Challenge!


What has God been calling you to give up or to take up?

Is there an area where you have been delaying in obedience?


We are called to humbly submit to God’s will. This includes resisting sin and submitting to God’s plans and direction.


What is the first step you need to take to obey God today?

Write that down, and plan to follow through this week.

Be encouraged that when you come near to God, “he will draw near to you”!