I have had this topic swirling in my head for a few weeks and I think we are going to go for it today. This is not a fun topic to study. I’m sure as soon as you read this word, some of you will get offended and want to run. I get it. This word has been abused and manipulative by people. But. Just because there have been bad examples or demands of this thing, doesn’t mean that we get to avoid the topic altogether…
Are you ready?
I’m ducking from your glares. I can feel them from here!
The definition of submit is, “to yield to governance or authority,” (Merriam-Webster).
I am an exceptionally strong-willed lady. My parents were always telling me to stop being so bossy when I was growing up. My poor husband has also gotten extremely familiar with my “leadership qualities.” Poor guy! Submission is definitely not one of the characteristics that comes to mind when you think of me. Feisty and opinionated – yes, submitted – not so much. This is an area where I need to grow so I am writing this in the middle of my own submission journey.
Submission is hard, y’all. We have sinful, selfish natures that want their own way. We buy into the idea that we know what is best and that somehow it’s our job to share that information with the world. However, the nature of anything worth doing, is that is takes hard work. It isn’t supposed to be easy to grow or advance the kingdom of God. It requires discipline. God designed submission to kill our flesh and make us more like Jesus.
Now, I want to say some things before we get too far… some of you know me and others of you don’t. I just want to make sure that none of this comes off as being manipulative since we are pastors and I am going to be talking about spiritual authority. I wish I could take my heart out and show it to you. I am writing this for ALL of us. I’ve already told you that I struggle in this area too. It is for YOUR benefit that you submit to the authorities in your life. Here is what the Bible says about submission and to whom we are expected to submit:
- To God –
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” (James 4:7 ESV).
“Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you,” (Job 22:21 NIV).
“Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever,” (Hebrews 12:9 NLT)?
- To Spiritual Authority (pastors, teachers, etc.) –
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you,” (Hebrews 13:17 ESV).
- To Governmental Authority (president, police, etc.) –
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people,” (Titus 3:1-2 ESV).
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right,” (1 Peter 2:13-14 NIV).
- To Husbands –
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled,” (Titus 2:3-5).
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives,” (1 Peter 3:1-2 NIV).
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord,” (Ephesians 5:22 NIV).
“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord,” (Colossians 3:18 NIV).
I sincerely think us wives had to have so many reminders to submit to our husbands because it was part of the curse when Eve brought sin into the world (Genesis 3:16).
- To Wives –
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV).
Read verses 22-33 for more context.
- To Elders –
“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble,” (1 Peter 5:5 NIV).
- To Parents –
“Children, obey (submit to) your parents as believers in the Lord. Obey them because it’s the right thing to do,” (Ephesians 6:1 NIRV emphasis added).
- To Bosses –
“Those who are employed should listen to their employers and obey (submit to) their instructions with great respect and honor. Serve them with humility in your hearts as though you were working for the Master, (Ephesians 6:5 emphasis added).
- Our Bodies –
“… but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected,” (1 Corinthians 9:27 WEB).
Even our bodies are expected to submit!
And just in case I didn’t cover all of them, here is what I consider the scripture on submission. This covers anyone who is in authority over us:
“Every person must submit to and support the authorities over him. For there can be no authority in the universe except by God’s appointment, which means that every authority that exists has been instituted by God,” (Romans 13:1 TPT).
The Bible obviously has a lot to say about submission. Thank you to those of you who stayed with me and read all of them! I think it is important that we know what God says about this because can’t argue with Him.
I told a friend recently that there is an area in my world right now where I feel like I know what could help and fix some things. “If they would only do this… everything would be so much better.” Here’s where submission gets really tricky: what if your authority is asking you to do some things that don’t align with who you are (I’m not talking about immoral or illegal things – just doing things differently than you think they should be done)? What is the appropriate response in those times? Do we use this as our opportunity to say all the things they are doing incorrectly and let them see how brilliant we are for knowing better than them? Or do we just do what we’ve been asked because this is their thing and we are serving their vision? I know what the correct answer is but man, it is hard!
When I was in high school, I was the only person in my family who was a Christian. My parents were not yet. They didn’t understand my obsession with church and would sometimes ground me from attending. That made this ugly, proud thing rise up in me. How DARE they keep me from God and His people??! My wise pastor told me to submit to them. Even if they were wrong in what they were doing, I was going to be blessed by submitting to them because God put them over me.
There’s a direct relationship between how much authority we will submit to and how much authority we get to walk in. Those who want authority without first submitting, will be subject to a fall like what scriptures says is coming for the proud.
“First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall,” (Proverbs 16:18 MSG).
Those who willingly submit to their authority in humility, will find that they move up in the ranks.
“When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I’m saying is, if you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself,” (Luke 14:10-11 MSG).
We all have people in our lives that are hard to submit to. We have to remember that God has a purpose in all of it. I am not saying that as a person who has had an easy road with authority. I have been subjected to spiritual abuse from pastors. They said very inappropriate things about me and treated my husband cruelly. The worst things that have ever been said about me were things that pastors said. Of course, we spoke up and didn’t allow it to continue (submission doesn’t mean allowing abuse). We ended up in counseling after all of the stress that it caused. Our counselor told us that she had never heard of a case as bad as ours. Ha! We are kind of proud of that in a weird way! We made it. We honored and submitted to them and God sent us out of that place blessed. That season made us who we are. It gave us compassion and grace for people that we didn’t have before. It helped us understand how powerful a pastor’s voice is into the lives of his/her people.
If submission is hard for you too, take these steps:
- Ask God how you can better submit to Him. Often in submitting to His authority we have to let go of some things that aren’t good for us – attitudes, the grip of our past, bad thoughts, etc. He often asks us to start new things as well – reading the Word, spending time in prayer, find a mentor, etc.
- Pray for those who are in authority over you. Especially the ones who are difficult for you. Remember that God placed them in their role. Trust that He has a plan for you being under their authority. Pray for their family, health, joy, etc.
- Watch your mouth. Don’t be divisive or spread gossip about your leaders. It’s too easy to say ugly things when we are frustrated. Those things don’t reflect God’s heart for them and they have a way of getting back to the person.
- Support your leaders. Ask God to show you if there is a way you can come along side your leadership and help them.
- Choose grace. We are all guilty of messing up. Let’s give each other the grace we hope is extended to us when we mess up.
- Surrender your will. We have desires in our hearts that haven’t happened yet. They were placed in us by God. He will accomplish them. But, He uses this waiting time to purify us and expose areas of sin that we need to repent of. Let’s be willing to wait and trust His timing.
This is my man. He is my authority in several ways: he is my husband, my boss, and my pastor. He surprised me in the middle of our wedding by washing my feet in front of everyone. I was mortified because it embarrassed me and I couldn’t get my wet feet back into my high heel! But, he got down in the floor in front of everyone and told them that he was going to serve me. I’ll spare the details, but a couple of years after he made the commitment to serve me, he chose to honor that promise. It was a very difficult situation and he chose to serve anyway because he believed in what God had put in me. He wanted me to stand on his shoulders. He submitted. When I watch him stand in front of our church now and cast vision, preach, and come under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, I get weepy because I know the price he had to pay to walk here. I honor you, my love, and say thank you for who you are and how you lead us. I love you.
I think about Abraham submitting to God by laying Isaac on the alter. This was the son he waited YEARS for and now God was asking for him.
I think about David submitting to Saul in the cave. Saul lost his mind in his jealousy of David and was trying to kill him. David had his chance to kill him but wouldn’t touch God’s anointed.
Finally, I think about Jesus submitting to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. I don’t think He was afraid of death – He created death, but submitting to the sins of the world was another story. He laid down everything in submission to God for our benefit.
We have to lay down our agendas and timelines. We have one short life. I want to squeeze as much love out of it as I possibly can. I can’t spend my time building my name or my kingdom.
Here’s the posture I want to have:
Down on my knees again
Lord as You draw me near
Desperate for You
Desperate for You
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me
Stir within my soul
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me“
Let’s choose trust by choosing to submit.