6 Practices of Humility to Receive Greater Grace

written by Tommy Austin, Student Pastor (October 9, 2022)

This past Sunday evening, I had the privilege to preach through James 4:1-12. In this passage, James confronts the believers about fighting within the church. Apparently, those to whom James is writing have gone to great extremes to have their ungodly desires find a place among the people of God. James is writing to help promote peace within the church.

What is his solution?

The grace of God acquired through humility.

James teaches this point from Proverbs 3:34, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

From this truth, James provides the church with 6 practices that they can do to grow in humility. This humility will position the believers in such a way to receive greater and greater deposits of God’s grace.

But should I only desire greater grace in times of conflict? Not at all! I should always desire an abundance of God’s grace. Therefore, I have come to see that these practices have a general benefit in the life of a believer. Grace is necessary to live a faithful Christian life.

So let’s look at the 6 practices that James gives us to grow in humility from James 4:7-12.


1. Submit to God

The first command given in this list is: submit to God. This point is fairly basic. At the heart of all sin is a lack of trust and submission to God. Adam and Eve knew the commands of God and chose to rebel. Therefore, submission to God says, “God, I will lay down what I think is best and trust what you think is best.” Put simply, submission says, “God, I will believe and do what you say at all costs.” 

Honestly, this is very easy for Christians to say. We sing these words all the time. “I surrender all.” But submission to God is more than a statement of allegiance in a moment of emotional ecstasy.  Submission looks as much like action as it does belief. Submission looks like daily obedience to the Word of God.

When I say that I surrender my life to God, I am telling God that I will surrender my living to Him. While for some this might look like missionary adventures on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, for most this means obedience to God’s word in the ordinary everyday events of life.

But to be honest, what makes us think that we will be obedient to God in the extraordinary, if we are not obedient to Him in the ordinary.

This is also true in situations of conflict. If we are not surrendering ourselves to the Lord in the everyday happenings of life, chances are, we will not think to submit to the Lord when the heat of conflict turns to 10.

Therefore, let us practices humility by submitting ourselves to God as He has revealed Himself in His word.


2. Resist the Devil

James’ next command is: Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. This command makes two assumptions. Those assumptions are 1) there is a devil and 2) he is at work in your life. This should be a sobering reality. There is an enemy in your life that is trying to make you fall.

So, what is he doing? I think his name helps us understand this: he is accusing.

Have you ever been in a disagreement with someone and terrible thoughts about them come into your mind? Thoughts like, “They are not looking out for my best interest.” Or, “If they only knew what I know then they would agree with me.” Or even, “All they care about is being right. They don’t actually care about me.” These are all words from the accuser, the devil. He is helping you think the worst of people within your community. Yet, there is something interesting about all these accusations, they are all assumptions. These accusations are focused on what the other person is thinking. Yet, there is one thing we cannot do: read someone else’s mind.

Therefore, James is calling us to resist these assumptive accusations about others. After this, he promises that the devil will flee. When we are not giving in to his accusations of others, he will seek someone else. Matthew Henry writes of this verse, “Resolution shuts and bolts the door against temptation.”


3. Draw Near to God

At the beginning of verse 8 James writes:

[8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. – James 4:8 CBS

What does this command actually mean? How do we draw near to God? It’s not like we can grab ahold of Him and pull him close, right? So, what is James saying.

Well, first, we need to understand that we are ultimately brought near to God through faith in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us through his life, death, and resurrection. We were separated from God and heading for an eternity in hell because of our rebellion. Yet, Jesus has made a way for us to draw near to God through faith. Therefore, if faith in Jesus is how we draw near to God initially, it is also going to be the fuel by which we draw near to God continually.

Truly I cannot think of a purer expression of our faith in God than prayer. In prayer, I am reaching out to the Lord through adoration, thanksgiving, requests, intercession, and confession. In prayer, I am connecting with God at a deeply spiritual level. In prayer, I am bringing requests to God in whom I trust can work in my situation in ways that I could never imagine.

I mean think about the purity of our faith in prayer. I am talking to someone that I believe has ultimate power but I cannot see him.

And this command comes with a promise as well. If we draw near to God in prayer, he will draw near to us. I love what Kent Hughes says when commenting on this verse. He says, “The soul-tingling truth here is, if you go after God, he will go after you…. Inch toward God, and he will step toward you. Step toward God, and he will sprint toward you. Sprint toward God, and he will fly toward you.”

While prayer is an opportunity to bring our requests to God. It is also much more.  It is a spiritual place where we come to meet God and he draws near to meet us as well. Prayer is a small, pure step of faith toward our Maker, and His giant step downward meeting us where we are.


4. Repent of Ungodly Desires and Tactics

At the end of verse 8, James writes, “[8b] Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. - Jas 4:8 CSB.

Before we dive into what the text says, I want us to see the order of verse 8. First, James commands us to draw near to God. Then, he commands to repent. This is another beautiful reminder that God does not ask that we clean ourselves of our sin before we come to Him. He asks that we come to Him and then He will give us the ability to be cleanse.

Now looking at this verse, I find it interesting that James addresses both the hands and the heart. In verses 1-3 of this chapter, James teaches that fighting with in the church comes when people combine the tactics of the world with ungodly desires. In this verse, James addresses both the tactics and the desires.

Here, James is commanding us to cleanse our hands from the use of the ungodly tactics of the world (e.g. gossip, slander, fighting, verbal abuse). James is calling us to wash our hands of these sinful practices that we are trying to use to achieve our desired end.

On top of that, James also commands us to purify our double-minded hearts from the ungodly passions and pleasures that are at the source of all fighting. Here, James tells us that people who use ungodly tactics for ungodly desires have a double-mind.

The word translated double-minded is only used in the book of James. Once here and once in chapter 1 verse 8. James hints in James 1:8 that double-mindedness relates to the doubt of God’s wisdom and generosity.

Imagine a person who literally has two brains. One brain is telling them to trust God. It says, “Do what God says. He knows what is best.” While the other brain is saying, “Don’t trust God. What he says seems crazy. He can’t expect that of you! Do it the way that seems best to you.”

In this verse, James commands us to purify ourselves of this untrusting internal voice. He calls us to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He challenges us to single-mindedly trust what Jesus says, because Jesus truly does know what is best.


5. Mourn Over the Impact of Sin

In verse 9, James writes,

[9] Be miserable and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. - Jas 4:9 CSB

We are not going to spend much time on this practice, but I want us to notice how James calls us to respond to sin within the church. He doesn’t say repent and then move on like nothing happened. No! He says repent and mourn over the impact that sin has had on your church body.

Sin hurts people. Sin has collateral damage. These realities must not be brushed by too quickly. Sin has an impact, and it is not good. Many times, sin breaks trust. Sin causes people to leave. Sometimes, sin within the church even causes people to leave the faith.

Therefore, we must mourn and weep over our sin. This respects the people that our sin has harmed. It also helps us understand how seriously God takes sin.


6. Don’t Criticize One Another

In verse 11 and 12, James says,

[11] Don't criticize one another, brothers and sisters. Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. [12] There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?  - Jas 4:11-12 CSB

This is a pretty simple command to understand. We are not to criticize people to their face or behind their back. Here James compares criticism with defaming and judging. Therefore, this command is not about giving someone pointers for improvement. We are speaking about the act of tearing down someone to their face or through whispers of gossip and slander behind their back.

If we do this, we are pretending to be God. James says that “Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge…

What is James saying in this? James highlights the fact that defaming someone is prohibited in the law of God. On top of this, it is also not consistent with the royal law to love your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, when we defame others and tear them down, directly to their face or indirectly through gossip, we are elevating ourselves above the law of God. We are saying that I do not need to obey God’s law, so that I can tell others what I know about this person. In that moment, we have elevated ourselves above the person we are defaming. We have also elevated ourselves above the law of God. In doing this, we are pretending that we are God.

And James’ response: stop it.



In verse 10, I believe James provides the most critical point in this entire list. He writes, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” The wisdom in this verse seems counter-intuitive. Humility doesn’t appear to be a key mark of exaltation. Yet, we see throughout the New Testament that God desires to use the weak and humble. Therefore, if you desire to see an abundance of grace in your life, apply these 6 practices of humility and see what our great God will do.

Remember, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.