Submission to God creates an atmosphere in which it is easy to hear and know God. When I find that I have lost the thread of His leading, the way back is always to locate that aspect of authority, which He has placed over me, that I am dishonoring.
* * *
As I descended the stairs to my study, my frustration boiled over, revealing an appalling indictment of God that I hadn’t realized I harbored.
“Why? Why do You convict me of danger, but give me a husband, who doesn’t see it? I’ve prayed and prayed, but You’ve done nothing to bring us together on the same page. It would be a relief for You to show me that I’m wrong, that I’ve misunderstood, that he is right, and everything is going to be okay — but you continue to lay this on my heart yet do not change his. Why are you putting me in this place?
Wracked with fear and discouragement, everything in me hotly contested the repeated message resonating within in me — that I was to place myself in unqualified submission to my husband’s leadership.
My husband is one of the wisest men I know. . . and our life is blessed by every measure . . . in part because of his integrity, and the rightness of his godly decisions. Though I have often challenged his leadership, almost always, unfolding circumstances have proven that Bill knew the right thing to do.
But human fallacy is at play in all of us, at play in every hero of Scripture, at play in every chain of command. So no matter how trustworthy my husband has proven to be, when I think I see human fallacy at work in his reasoning, I buck against his leadership forcefully.
In the military, bucking your superior in the chain of command is not permitted. We understand this in the military, but have we understood the imperative of submission in the spiritual?
What I am learning is that when I buck the chain of command — when I come out from under spiritual authority — I break the flow of God’s power, presence, and provision. No matter how hard I pray for God to come through for me (to lift the painful consequences), prayer does not change what only my obedience can.
Back to my story. I was boiling over with frustration, fist raised to heaven, demanding that God intervene in my husband’s thinking, feeling as if He owed it to me. Few things are harder than submitting to a decision that I don’t trust, and nothing that I could say would budge him. In all the years we’d been married, I’de never felt so desperate for him to hear me; I’de never felt so much was on the line. Before my foot hit the next step, my Lord responded firmly,
“Read your Scripture for today, and you will understand.”
Hmmm. I had left off my reading a day or so before. Where was I? The last half of the book of Esther. Esther has received news of a matter that threatens the existence of her people. It is a matter of life and death, but she (a secret Jewess) bears the burden of this knowledge, married to a Persian king, an absolute monarch under whom she must remain in complete submission.
The problem is: he has the sole ability to save her . . . but he doesn’t have a clue of the jeopardy she is in. Unknowingly, he has made himself complicit in her jeopardy, because as king he has failed to do due diligence in this matter. If he is to save Esther and her people, he is going to have to embrace a radically different view of what is in motion, and get rid of one of his most trusted (wrongly trusted) counselors in the court. How is she going to approach and inform the king, her husband, knowing that her life and the lives of her people hang in the balance of his decision? Clearly, the dilemma of this ancient queen far exceeded my own challenge, but the elements of the story were strikingly familiar.
In her day and time, Esther did not have the option to badger, threaten, wheedle, whine, cajole and demand that her husband listen to her. (Having tried these, I can tell you they don’t work . . . they just drive the wedge deeper). The stakes were so critical that Esther could not afford fail.
How was she going to gain God’s intervention? How was she going to bring God’s power to bear on her circumstances? By submitting to the spiritual authority of prayer and fasting.
As I made this connection, I exploded with indignance, “You mean I have to fast and pray to get You to convince Bill!” It seemed totally unfair.
Why should I have to give up eating and bury myself in prayer, for what God should be doing anyway? Why didn’t God just go to work on my husband’s mind, so that he could see the situation we were in . . . without me having to fast and pray? Why didn’t God just make King Ahasuerus see the danger he was putting Esther’s people in . . . and make him do the right thing . . . without her having to fast and pray?
“You don’t have to fast and pray,” I heard in my spirit. “I have given it to you as a gift, a means by which you can receive power stronger than that which you are up against.”
With a soft gasp I realized that I reeked of an entitlement mentality that stood in carnal contradiction to God’s means. I violently believed that God owed it to me to make it happen, apart from any responsibility of my own, without my having to fast and pray, without having to submit to the means He had given me.
I am stunned as I realize how deeply and widespread our attitude of entitlement toward God runs. We have the temerity to judge God, ever so subtly, for not doing what “by all rights” He should.
So many times I have railed at God over my inability to follow His guidance as I was preparing a Bible Study, blaming Him for not coming through for me when I was trying so hard . . . blaming Him rather than stepping back to quietly discern the means I was neglecting.
Our entitlement mentality substitutes “what God should be doing for us” in place of “our submission to the means He has given us.”
Many people tell me how much they want to hear God, but shrug their shoulders as if it was all up to Him to make it happen — yet, more often than not, they are not submitting to the authority of Scripture as a means of hearing Him
A sense of entitlement puts the responsibility on God to make everything happen, instead of accepting the responsibility that lies with us. It is a long futile road of disappointment ending in bitterness — doomed to fail because it places all of the demand on God without recognizing the means of submission to spiritual authority, which He has given us, to bring His power to bear on what we are aching for.
The God of Scripture, the God who calls Himself, ” the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 3:15) refuses to defer to our entitlement mentality. . . holding fast to His vision of who and what we are meant-to-be, unwilling to settle for less than the power that we are meant-to-walk-in . . . and He gives us the means to get there.
Esther’s 3 days of fasting and prayer were her submission to the means God had given her, by which a door in heaven was opened for God’s power to flow through — turning back the dire threat of extermination coming upon her people. As she fasted God released an exquisitely orchestrated series of circumstances that gave the king absolute clarity, far superior to any argument she might have tried to force on him.
Closing my Bible I understood what God was saying to me.
To practice Biblical submission to authority is not an outdated concept having little place in this modern world — it is the primary means by which we access heaven’s power.
The practice of submission is not an option, but an imperative, if we want to see God move in our life.
* * *
How much do you want it?
Enough to fast from your own means of trying to convince your husband of what you want him to see, and turn instead to prayer and reliance on Me?
How much do you want that relationship healed, your child to believe, provision to meet your needs, to hear God, to know the way you should go? As long as we remain half-hearted it will not happen.
‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Then I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord . . .
Most of us have to be brought to a place of utter desperation before we are ready to lay down our own way and submit to the means God has given us. When we come to that place where we feel as if we will die, if God does not come through for us, we will hear Him ask,
“How much do you want it?”
Enough to submit to the authority I have placed over you?
Enough to submit to the means I have given you?
Enough to embrace fasting and prayer?
Enough to give up your sense of entitlement and respect My right to set divine terms?
Enough to put your fierce demand of Me upon the altar?
Enough to treat My Word as your life-line to Me? not changing a word of it to fit your prior beliefs, but shaping your beliefs by what I show you there?
Enough to rise to the call of My vision collaborating with Me in what lies before us, no matter how hard or painful or difficult for you to understand?
Enough to learn, to risk, to submit to My ways?
Enough to acquiesce to My methods?
Lord, I am seeing it for the first time: the power that lies within submission.
Like an ancient staff, You lay the practice of submission before me, its plain nature belying its miraculous access to Heaven’s power on my behalf.
In submitting to Your word, I bask in higher truth than I can find anywhere else.
In willing submission to the authority you have placed over me, my fluid yielding from below releases Your power from above.
With shame I see how I have scorned, refused to kneel before the ancient rod you have laid in the dust at my feet.
How little I have understood that in submitting to fasting and prayer I was turning every hunger pang into a cry of dependence on You, exchanging a carnal solution for an open door to heaven’s power. . .
Ancient rod lying in the dust at my feet — how plain you have appeared to me, how out of date — the practice, the art of submission. And yet I see how even the novice who reverently takes you into her hands, making graceful sweeps, creates vortexes upon invisible air through which the Lord’s light, glory and grace tumble . . . It is more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.
I want it!