My seminary’s spiritual formation classes required us to complete Guided Learning Experiences (GLEs). These experiences were seasons when we focused on a specific aspect of our spiritual growth. Because some people perceived I had a problem with authority, during one of these assignments, I chose to study—to experience—submission.
I learned I didn’t have a problem with submission in general. My issue with submission was more nuanced than that.
Submission is trusting God’s competence and adequacy.
As a natural born leader, I understood and practiced submission in certain situations. In others, not so much… Specifically, I struggled when submitting to authorities I perceived as incompetent, inadequate, or less competent than myself. In those situations, it just made more sense to me to fill the gap.
What I came to understand though is that submission isn’t about any human’s competence or adequacy related to me or anyone else. Submission is trusting God’s competence and adequacy—because the omnipotent, omniscient God I know and love is more than able to do exceedingly abundantly above all I can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). In other words, God could handle the situation, so I didn’t need to step in and do so.
Part 5 of How to Respond When Life Happens
“In the days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1), judges or chieftains ruled, meaning led or governed in the sense of setting policy for how the people would conduct themselves. Periodically, one of these judges would swoop in and deliver Israel from some foreign oppressor. Their deliverance included setting policy for how the people would conduct themselves while they led them, which was usually until the judge died. At that point, individuals would return to the days when “there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
~ Genesis 2:15-17
During this time, Israel went through a cycle of disobedience –> defeat –> distress –> deliverance, and –> back to disobedience. As you can see, Israel would go round and round cycling between self-leadership and judge-leadership. To break the cycle, they needed God-leadership—which requires submission. That brings me to the topic of submission. It’s the topic of this week’s blog post, part 5 of our deep dive into the Book of Ruth.
Three Things I Learned Studying Submission
1. All Authority Comes from God
As I mentioned above, I use to struggle when submitting to authorities I perceived as incompetent, inadequate, or less competent than myself. Then, I learned that all authority comes from God and He delegates it to whomever He chooses. So, God chose either to grant or allow the person in a position of authority over me to have that position (Romans 13:1-2).
Therefore, when I resist this person’s authority, I’m resisting God’s authority to place them over me. That’s a place I don’t want to be in—resisting God. So, I began to accept all authority had a right to be there because God—at the very least—allowed them to be there.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. ~ Romans 13:1-2
After I accepted that all authority was God’s—as am I—and as such, He could do with us as He willed, my struggle began to end. Once my struggle began to end, I was able to see the ways that God used these situations to grow me and the person in authority over me.In breaking the cycle of treating my symptom of bad leadership by curing the disease—by submitting, I learned God had me and I’d be okay in each situation, which is what God really wanted me to learn. Click To Tweet
It was a case of treating my felt need of replacing my authority vs. curing my real need of learning to submit to my authority. Like the children of Israel, treating only my felt need kept me in a vicious cycle where God kept putting me under different people, but with the same leadership style or lack thereof. In breaking the cycle of treating my symptom of bad leadership by curing the disease—by submitting, I learned God had me and I’d be okay in each situation, which is what God really wanted me to learn.
2. Submission Builds Trust
God really wants us to learn we’ll be okay because doing so builds our trust in Him—and building our trust is one of His top priorities. It’s a top priority because without faith it’s impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). I need to trust God to please God. And God, like the rest of us, wants to be pleased.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
~ Hebrews 11:6
It doesn’t stop there though. Because He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, He uses the same submissive acts and opportunities to build our trust in others—and it works both ways. When we submit and our authority proves to have been correct, it builds our trust in our authority’s leadership. On the other hand, when we submit and we’re proven to have been correct, it builds our leader’s trust in us—in our input and willingness to be a part of the team even when we don’t get our way. Thus, we learn to trust God and our leaders—and our leaders learn to trust us. Talk about win-win situations. That’s a win-win-win situation!
3. Submission Requires Cooperation
Win-win-win situations are more likely to occur when everyone cooperates. Cooperation is working together—everyone working towards the same goal.
Did I say everyone? Because I mean everyone.
Everyone has to work together, because if not, the endeavor could fail—and not because it was the wrong course of action. It all could fail simply because there was more work than those working could accomplish on their own. However, the possibility exists that they could have succeeded had everyone participated. So, they need us to do our parts.
Also, we won’t earn any trust helping someone fail. Come on, now. But if we give it our all and it fails, as I mentioned above, we build trust—meaning we learn to trust our leaders and God.
Cooperating creates a constructive cycle of positive outcomes.
Furthermore, building trust aids cooperation and cooperation—along with submission—builds trust. The opposite—not working together, not cooperating—erodes trust. In other words, the opposite does the opposite. Like the opposite creates a vicious cycle of negative outcomes, cooperating creates a constructive cycle of positive outcomes. Thus, everyone working together creates the kind of environment that most of us want to work in—one with high levels of trust.
Who doesn’t want to work in an environment with high levels of trust?
Therefore, I’ve learned the benefits of submitting far outweigh the detriments. So, if you aren’t already, I encourage you to give submission a try. Taste and see that the Lord and his authorities are good—in the sense of submitting to them is good for you.
The “How to Respond When Life Happens” Series:
- Part 1 – How to Respond When Life Happens
- Part 2 – The Freedom to Do You
- Part 3 – The Purpose of Chaos
- Part 4 – The Difference Between Felt Needs and Real Needs
- Part 5 – Who’s Ruling You? An Article about Submission
- Part 6 – Famines in the Bible
- Part 7 – The Differences Between Famines, Fasts and Feasts
- Part 8 – Famine in the Community