In recent posts I've talked about trusting God and how that trust is refined through trials and tribulations. Today I would like to cover three things: surrendering control, obedience, and submission. When we ignore God in the day to day matters of our lives we are effectively saying to Him, “No, I can do this without Your input.” We don’t want to release full control of our lives to Him. We may hear what He wants us to do but we don’t obey Him. Without obedience to God, we are ignoring His will. Without submitting to His will, we miss out on the blessings He had planned for us. These three things: surrendering control, obedience and submission must be present in the life of every believer. Yet for some reason that word "submit" seems to rub people the wrong way.
While Mary had three months to come to terms with the news that she would bear the Messiah, Joseph did not have that luxury. In Chapter 8 of my novel Come to Me we learn that Joseph was a righteous man who wanted to be obedient to the Law. Yet, at the same time, he wanted to spare Mary from the Law’s demands: that of being stoned for adultery. He was having a hard time deciding between obeying God’s laws and following his heart. You can read about it in Matthew 1:18-25.
During biblical times, adultery was a serious thing. If found guilty, the woman (and man) could be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). Today we see this form of punishment still in effect in Muslim countries. However, it is usually only the woman who is punished. Although we are shocked, this is a law God gave to Moses.
This law was a drastic measure on God’s part. It showed His unruly and disobedient children how much He hated sin. The practice of stoning anyone caught in adultery, therefore, was to act as a deterrent. No father wants his child to suffer, and no father wants to see his child suffer because of wrong choices. God loves His children, but like any parent trying to teach his child right from wrong, He needed to put in place consequences for disobedience. I truly believe the consequences were severe in this way so that people wouldn't risk their lives for the chance to sin. Unfortunately, the children of Israel disobeyed the laws God set forth because they did not respect Him. Regrettably, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees saw it as an opportunity not only to exercise their power and authority to carry out the punishment, but to lord their own self-righteousness over the people.
Mary obediently submitted to the Father’s will, accepting the fact that it might lead to her stoning. She gave control of her life over to Him, trusting Him in all things. As Christian women, we are called to be obedient to our husbands. But, it is sometimes easier to surrender to God than our own husbands. For some of us, the word obey strikes a nerve. So much so, many young couples have asked the word be stricken from their wedding vows. When Paul commands wives to submit to their husbands, many modern women are aghast at the suggestion. But are we interpreting the words obey and submit properly?
What is Control?
Control is to have power over or rule. God’s will is not considered.
• A controlling person says I can do all things by myself.
• A controlling person will not include God in their plans.
• A controlling person does not easily surrender.
What is Obedience?
Obedience is submission to authority. There is a fear of consequences involved.
• We obey our boss or we lose our job.
• We obey our teachers or we fail the grade.
• We obey our parents or we are punished.
• We obey the laws of the land or we are arrested.
• We obey God or we suffer the consequences of failing to heed His warnings.
What is Submission?
Submission is obedience based on love and respect.
• I submit to my parents out of love and respect.
• I submit to my husband “as unto the Lord” out of love and respect.
• I submit to the Lord’s will because I love and respect Him.
• Jesus submitted to God and gave His life for us out of love and respect.
What Submission is Not
• Submission is not allowing myself to be abused either physically or verbally, dominated, or hurt by another.
• Submission does not allow a husband to be “lord and master” over his wife. Jesus is to be his Lord and Master. He is to submit to the Heavenly Father.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:21-24, NIV).
Did you notice that the first thing we are commanded to do in these verses is to submit to one another? And we are to do it out of reverence for Christ. People always leave out verse twenty-one and start right in on verse twenty-two, missing the entire context of this verse. Men and women are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. And women are to submit to their own husbands. Why? Because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. So husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church. All this comes down to is respect for one another. If your husband is not respecting you he is not loving you as Christ commanded him to and if you are not respecting your husband, you are not loving him as Christ commanded you to.
Women see that word submit and see red. Men see it and get haughty. But did you know that this example of submitting to one another is to prepare you for eternity with Christ? How we treat each other in our marriages is essential for our spiritual maturity.
Did you know that a husband (as the head of the wife and the family) is charged with his wife's spiritual growth? Christ has made him head of the wife (and family) for a reason. The husband must love his wife as Christ loves the church. A man who treats his wife badly or "lords" his headship over her, is not loving her properly. Jesus gave himself up for the church and it is this kind of love He expects from husbands towards their wives. Why? For the same reasons Jesus died for the church - to sanctify her. Yes, women are smart enough to discern Scripture and grow spiritually on their own. Many single women can testify to that. But when you marry, Christ effectively says, "I am putting your husband in charge of your spiritual growth. It is his responsibility to love you and care for you, so on the day when he stands before me he may present you in all your glory. Holy and blameless. He is acting on my behalf. It is his duty to see you home to me. So respect him and submit to him because I have ordained it." The husband who uses his authority over his wife in a threatening or domineering manner therefore, will have much to answer for when he meets Christ face to face. NOTE: If you are a Christian woman in an abusive relationship LEAVE! Your husband is defiantly disobeying the Lord and you do not have to submit to any kind of emotional, verbal or physical abuse. Jesus died for his church and he expects that same kind of selfless love from your husband.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27, NASB).
When we relinquish control of our lives to God, trust soon follows. If we obey God’s Word and submit to His will, then it should follow that we also submit to our husbands as they submit to the Lord. In the end it all comes down to love and respect. How much do you love and respect God, His Word and your husband? If the husband is to lay down his life for his wife as Christ laid down his life for the church (his bride), then how could any wife not honour that kind of love? And men - if you are not loving your wife in this way, then how do you expect her to respect you? It works both ways.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Have you ever stopped to think about how God chose Mary to be His vessel for Christ’s entrance into the world? We know from Scripture that God knows each one of us intimately, before we are even born.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” ( Jeremiah 1:5).
Do you marvel at the wonders of God? Even before you were born, He appointed a set number of days for you to live. According to Ephesians 2:10, you were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”
God’s plans and His ways are not, unfortunately, something we always adhere to. The Scripture is true when it says, “We all like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). We have the unbelievable God-given ability of freewill, the right to choose to obey God or disobey Him. Amazingly, He knows what we will say before we say it and what we will do before we do it. Yet even when we disobey and do that which we know will displease Him, He does not give up on us. Instead, He continues to love us. So much so, He decided to send His Son to earth to teach us how to live. And He chose a young maiden whose days He had ordained before she was born. He knew her heart, and He knew she was obedient to Him. Mary was the perfect vessel to bring the Son of God into the world.
Twice in Luke 1:26-38 the angel Gabriel tells Mary she is highly favoured. The Greek term in verse 28 is translated “charitoō” (khä-rē-to’-ō) and means three different things that all apply to Mary:
• to make graceful – charming, lovely, agreeable
• to peruse with grace, compass with favour
• to honour with blessings
In verse 30, Gabriel tells Mary that she has found favour with God, and it means something slightly different. The root “charis” (khä’-rēs) in this case means:
• that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness; grace of speech
God "prepared in advance" the character qualities Mary would have. He honoured her with these blessings and looked on her as someone who brought Him joy, pleasure and delight. So when He came to her with the news that she would bear the Messiah He knew how she would react for she was "highly favoured".
Can you imagine being so loved and respected by God that He would honour you in such a way?
Mary obediently surrendered to God’s desires for her life. God was pleased to honour her by using her for His good purposes. Mary knew she was about to face a world full of trouble and hurt when her friends and family discovered she was pregnant. In fact, during those days she could be stoned to death. Yet she said yes to God.
God has also prepared you in advance for His good works. Your gifts, talents, character qualities - everything about you is for a specific purpose He has ordained. Are you unhappy with your life? Does it seem to always be "beating you over the head"? What we consider troubles and trials, God may consider blessings. How then should we react to bad news or heartache? God looked on Mary with favour because she was surrendered to His will. When life presents its problems to you (and it ALWAYS will) how do you react? Are you trusting God enough to surrender to His will and trust Him with the outcome?
When I was very young in my faith and knew little of how God works, I learned this verse: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Unfortunately, while it made me aware of obvious sins like lying or stealing, I was never prepared for the subtle sins, those that crept in so unexpectedly I wondered how I had been sucked in so easily.
For example, in regards to tithing, I always believed God loves a cheerful giver. Because my husband Jim and I decided early in our marriage that I would be a stay-at-home mom and he would work, we knew we had to put our tithing first or we would be tempted to hold it back to make ends meet. While we always struggled to keep food on the table, we still seemed to get by—just. But we still believed it was important to tithe each week, and so we continued to do so.
One day a well-meaning soul from church suggested we wouldn’t be struggling if we obeyed the Scriptures in regards to tithing. I was shocked. What did she mean? Of course we obeyed the Scriptures in that regard. That is when she introduced me to this scripture from Malachi 3:10: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”
She pointed out to me that God wanted me to test Him in regards to our tithing. She said we should give over and above our regular tithe. “The more you give,” she said, “the more you will get back.”
Well, we were struggling quite a bit during that time, and wondering if she was right, I decided to put God to the test, forgetting the admonition in Luke 4:12: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” And also forgetting to look at Scripture in its context. Needless to say, the day came when we had given our very last penny to the church and I wondered when the riches were going to start flowing in. They never did. However, God did provide food for us by prodding His servants to bring us enough groceries until my husband’s next paycheck. God loved us and met our needs. Yet, at the time, I was in shock that we weren’t rolling in dough. We gave so much money!
Where was our return? It didn’t help that my friend would shake her head in confusion and say, “You must be doing something wrong. You should be rich by now.”
Oh, the subtle dangers of the prosperity gospel! Be wary of preachers who teach that God “wants the best for you, and that means a better job, new car, fancy home, more money, etc.” These teachers are like wolves in sheep’s clothing and think only of earthly riches, not heavenly ones.
My faith went into a tailspin. I questioned God’s love for us. I questioned my faith; maybe it wasn’t strong enough. I doubted the Scriptures. I stopped tithing altogether. Satan, that roaring lion, was having a field day with me. Then God spoke, and His Holy Spirit gently reminded me I was to pursue Him, not riches. What I was doing was sinful, and I needed to stop and go back to what I had done before. I felt thoroughly chastised. Yet my friend continued to prosper, and I wondered, “Why her, Lord? Why not us? Would it hurt to give us just a wee bit more each month?” But the Lord reminded me He had a plan for me and it wasn’t the same plan He had for my friend.
One day she would struggle at a sudden loss of money and be like a fish out of water. She would come to me and ask, “How do you do it? How do you get by each day with only one salary?” And I could say with assurance, “We have faith that God will provide.”
There are many ways our faith can be tested in this life and I would suggest that a life that is tested is a life that God loves and has His eye on.
Revelation 3:18 says:
“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich . . .”
To refine gold, it must be hot enough to burn away the dross or impurities. It is known as a “refiner’s fire” If there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s this: When God wants to deal with something about me He knows I’m not seeing clearly or haven’t worked towards refining, I can be sure I’ll go through a trial. Of course, when those trials go on for months, one starts to wonder, “What am I not getting?” But it may simply be that the dross is gone but God knows He has to “test the gold,” as it were, to see if it endures.
You see, trials aren’t just to refine us, to make us more like Jesus. They are also sent to strengthen godly attributes. Sometimes God’s glory, like gold, can only shine through us after we have been tested. For some, that may mean a terminal illness or a financial setback, or the loss of a loved one. It is how you deal with those times that will determine how refined you really are.
The next time your faith takes a beating - rejoice! God must have a great deal of faith in you to endure this time of testing. He knows you will be strengthened by this trial and in the end it will strengthen those godly attributes He sees in you, making you better prepared not only to serve others, but to one day enter into His kingdom purified and holy.
Or, how do we learn faith? Is it acquired through osmosis just by being part of a Christian family? Is it something that grows over time? How can we grow in faith? More importantly, how do we instill our faith in God, in our children and other family members?
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, NASB).
The verse above is called the Shema. It is a term given to a set of daily prayers recited by members of the Jewish faith. The Shema is recited twice a day, during morning and evening prayers and is the last thing on the lips of the dying. It is considered a commandment, or mitzvah, separate from the commandment simply to pray.
As the stepson of a devout Jew, Jesus would have been under Joseph’s instruction and that of the local leaders of his synagogue. The Shema would have been one of the first prayers Joseph taught Jesus. As we read further in the verse, we can see why Jesus knew the Scriptures so well for it says:
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.(Deuteronomy 6:4-7, NASB).
So how do we show that we love God? According to the verses above we spend everyday in His Word. We teach our children about God through His Word. His Word should be on our minds when we are sitting in our house, out for a walk, lying down to sleep and the first thing we think about when we wake up. This is how we show God our love for Him, by how much time we spend in His Word and how often we talk about Him and His Holy Scriptures.
And that is how our faith develops and grows. You cannot really know God if you don't spend anytime in His Word. For example, when I first met my husband I didn't really know him. I knew he was handsome and soft-spoken, but I didn't know the real him. As I spent more time with him I discovered he had a wicked sense of humour, loved race cars (in particular Formula 1), was a genius when it came to computers and he was an introvert who was attracted to an extrovert, but the more I got to know him, the more I loved him.
My relationship with Jim was a long distance one, and we ran up some very expensive phone bills talking to each other every day. I couldn’t stand being away from him. He was always on my mind. My heart soared when the phone rang, and when I saw him in person, I was over the moon. I loved my husband with all my heart, soul, and mind.
How do you love God? Do you long to be in His Word as much as you long to be with the ones you love? If you don't, your faith won't grow and your love for God won't either. Faith and love are tied up together and the only way to grow in your faith is to spend time getting to know Him through the Scriptures.
Do you want grow in your faith? Than get to know God. Spend time in His Word.