“Resist the devil and he will flee from you”, says James 4:7. What does that mean? How do we get the victory over the devil, the one who comes to “kill, steal and destroy” (John 10:10)? We know he wants to kill the soul of every human so that we cannot spend eternity in heaven with our Creator. He does this by crushing the body with sickness and discouragement. He uses worry, fear and oppression to torment the mind. He literally hates humankind to the point he will use all tools at his disposal to create misery, despair and doubt. The Bible says he “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Should we avoid him at all costs? Should we cross the street and pass by on the other side, as we would a sleeping dog? Should we ignore and hope he goes away? It is interesting that 1 Peter 5:9 also says we should “resist him, standing firm in the faith.” This is the second time we are told to “resist”, so that is a great place to begin to look at how to defeat the devil.
The Greek word for “resist” in both the James and 1 Peter passages above is anthistemi. Strong’s definition (#468) is “to resist, oppose, rebel, withstand-stand up against, stand your ground.” This is not a passive resistance-it is very much an active resistance. This is not a sit-in or a protest march where we might carry signs with clever and catchy phrases. The level of resistance called for in this definition requires one to be much more active. It must be intense enough to cause the devil to flee.
As I struggled to find the word to adequately define the level of resistance necessary to overcome the devil, I heard the Lord say the word “defiant”. Defiant means “boldly resistant or challenging”. Defiance means “1. a daring or bold resistance to authority or to any opposing force; 2. an open disregard or contempt; or 3. a challenge to meet in combat or in a contest.” For purposes of this article, we can disregard the meaning involving resistance to (proper) authority, because Christians are admonished to “submit…to every authority instituted among men…whether to the king….or to governors…” -1 Peter 2:13-14 (Certain deletions for emphasis). We will focus therefore on that part of the meaning concerning resistance to any opposing force.
The movie “Unbroken” tells the true story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic distance runner in 1936 who was captured by the Japanese in WWII and sent to a POW camp in Tokyo. The officer in charge of the camp decided to try to break Zamperini. Because he was famous world-wide as an athlete, if the Japanese could brutalize Zamperini enough to coerce and record anti-American statements from him, it would prove to be valuable propaganda for the war. He was treated inhumanely and beaten, but he would not cooperate with anti-American statements in return for leniency. He defied his captors. His unbroken spirit and his faith in God ultimately brought disgrace upon the commanding officer of the camp. Louie was released from the camp when Tokyo was bombed at the end of the war. He returned home, married, and had two children. In 1988, Louie ran a leg of the Olympic Torch relay for the winter games in Japan. He sought out and forgave all the prison guards. Only the commanding officer refused to meet with him. Louie was totally and finally victorious in a situation designed to crush and destroy him. He refused to submit or bow to the enemy. At great cost he resisted and stood his ground. He was defiant. Paul recognized God’s power to sustain in times of defiance and said “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4: 8, 9)
Various forms of the word “defy” appear several times in the story of David and Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17, Goliath had first challenged Israel with these words in v. 10-“This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” Goliath was a powerful nine ft. tall giant. He had boasted that if any man could defeat him, the Philistines would become their slaves, but if he defeated that man, the Israelites would become the slaves of the Philistines. According to v. 11, “all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” In verse 24, after Goliath had shouted his usual defiance, the Bible says “When the Israelites saw the man [Goliath], they all ran from him in great fear.” [Emphasis mine.]
This troubled David greatly. God and His people were being insulted. He asked King Saul’s permission to fight the giant. Though David was only a boy pitted against a seasoned warrior giant, Saul granted permission. David defied Goliath when he accepted his challenge in combat. He rushed into action. In verses 45 and 46, we read “David said to the Philistine, You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.” David accepted the challenge, defied all odds, and did exactly what he said he would do. The war propaganda being put forth by the giant, intended to belittle and shame the Israelites, came to a sudden end. With God’s help, David stood up, put up, and the enemy came down. Not only was the giant killed, but the army of Israel routed the Philistines and won a great victory that day.
Moses defied Pharaoh and the Egyptian army at the crossing of the Red Sea. Pressed between the Red Sea and the advancing army and chariots of Egypt, Moses told the Israelites the Lord would deliver them, and the army they saw today they would never see again (Exodus 14:13). His bold stance and prediction defied logic. There appeared to be only two possible outcomes: drown in the Red Sea, or be crushed by the greatest army in the world at that time. There was no way out. Moses told the people to disregard the army. In verse 13, “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” Further disregard is shown in verse 14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Moses did not challenge the Egyptian army to a contest; he boldly predicted there would be no contest. He dared the army to continue to advance believing that if they did so, they advanced at their own great peril. His actions depicted defiance at its highest level.
Make no mistake. God is the Deliverer, and the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:57 “Thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” There are also other tools we are told to use to defeat the devil and his works, such as prayer and fasting. At the same time, we cannot discount the attitude of defiance when battling the devil. When we defy the devil we are actively expressing and living a Godly attitude that says by faith:
- You cannot beat me, because I cannot lose.
- You cannot win, because I cannot be defeated.
- Your boasting is noise in the wind; I boast in the Lord.
- My Lord Jesus Christ will hand me the victory over you.
- You might bend me, but I will not break.
- You might bruise my heel, but I will crush your head.
- You might seem to overwhelm, but nothing is bigger or more powerful than my God.
- If you persist in these continued attacks against me, you do so at your own great peril.
- You better back off while you still can.
- My (Daddy) God can whip you and your whole army of demons.
Shake your fist and declare these things. Resist the devil and he will flee. Be defiant.