It was Monday, but very different than the rest of my Mondays at work. We had spent the weekend at a men’s retreat and were basking in the afterglow. Monday morning had arrived too early, I arrived at my office late, and only completed a few routine items before lunch.
I walked a couple of blocks to the salad bar restaurant with the twenty foot long buffet. Grabbing a tray, plate, and soup bowl, I fell in line behind two well-dressed men having a rather animated conversation. They were obviously Christians and were joyfully praising God and sharing. As they found a table in a corner, I was drawn to them and selected a nearby table.
After the two men sat down and blessed their food, their conversation suddenly changed. The joyful praise turned into an intense, serious discussion. Not wanting to hear their conversation I tried to ignore them and focused on eating, but something strange happened.
It had to be a God thing. What followed was not possible in the natural. My chair was about ten feet away from their table - behind and slightly to to my right. One man was facing toward me, while the other had his back to me. I could not hear any of what the man facing me was saying, but I heard very clearly the words of the man with his back to me. This is not natural.
It became clear that these men were both pastors, and the one whose back was to me was seeking advice from the man facing me. Hearing only one side of the conversation was strange but revealing. To this day, I remember the exact words spoken by the man with his back to me.
The first thing I heard was, “The problem with my church is that the members do not submit to me as their pastor.”
Later I heard, “The trouble with my family is that my wife does not submit to me as her husband.”
Almost immediately, I sensed a different voice speaking to me - It was the Holy Spirit, “This man is not submitted to Me.”
Basically, I am a shy person. Confrontation is not my bag, but on this day, I was ready to go over and tell this man, “You are having these problems because you are not submitted to God.”
Fresh from a weekend of fellow-shipping with Jesus and other spirit filled believers, I could be bold. But, the Lord saved me from total embarrassment with His next words, “Sit still, this is a lesson for you.”
That incident was not the end of the lesson. It was the beginning of six months of testing that began that very evening. After gaining a new insight, I wanted to give it away. At a home group meeting that night, a lady began to complain about her financial problems. This was not the first time. She had been having financial issues for years. Armed with my noon time revelation, I told her, “You are having financial problems because you have not submitted your finances to God.”
The woman’s face turned purple with anger and my wife gave me a look that indicated I had committed the unpardonable sin. My statement may have been accurate but that was not the way or place to say it. The meeting ended abruptly. It was a tense and quiet ride home that night – the lady was our neighbor and riding with us.
There were several more opportunities to give away my new insight and each time it failed to receive its intended respect. Then one day, it hit me. Slamming the car dashboard with my right hand, I shouted, “I get it!” The lesson God had been trying to teach me was now clear. The enemy of our soul is able to attack us in the areas of our lives that we have not totally submitted to God. It is as if we are under God’s umbrella of protection as long as He has control of our lives. But when we tell God that we would rather be in charge, He may back away and say, “Okay, go for it.” That is where we get in trouble.
Submission is a difficult concept for most people in our society today. The word itself evokes images
of abuse and the sense of becoming a doormat. Yet both the Old and New Testaments tell us there will be great benefits when we submit to God. The word translated in the New Testament as “submission” means to place or arrange under. It is like products that are arranged on a display table or an army deployed to go into battle. It is also used to accept someone’s admonition or advice. In our lives we often submit to our boss, the government, our spouse, pastor, or spiritual authority. We may also submit to our possessions, pride, and sin.
But the Bible instructs us to submit to God. Jesus Himself submitted to the Father. He did not do it from weakness but from strength. Our submission must be as Jesus modeled.
Submission is not becoming a doormat. Submission is more like an elevator. An elevator lifts things up. As we submit to God, we elevate Him. When we submit to our spouse we elevate him or her to a higher position. The purpose of submission is elevation or exaltation. As we submit to God, we exalt Him.
We can be obedient in giving our time, presence, and resources to the church without being in submission. Scripture calls us to give to the work of the Lord. Therefore giving is obedience, but joyful giving and giving cheerfully is submission.