Submission is a most unpopular word in our present society. No one wants to submit. Amongst the feminist faction, the word produces a reaction similar to that of fire and gasoline. It seems to speak of slavery, abuse, and bondage. We are being bombarded with the doctrine that self-assertion is the key to fulfillment and discovery of ones own identity.
To the natural man, all this sounds very reasonable; it is an attractive philosophy, for it tells us to do what we always wanted to do anyway. However, it is not a Scriptural philosophy. The Bible teaches us precisely the opposite. The real key to self-discovery is not in self-assertion, but rather in genuine submission, nor is it "for women only."
But what is genuine submission? Is it more than mere obedience? Yes, far more. Mrs. E. Prentis, quoting from the Imitation of Christ, gives four steps that lead to peace, and the first of those refers to our subject. "Be desirous of doing the will of another, rather than thine own."
If we give it some thought, we will recognize in that sentence the essence of the mind of Christ and the spirit of genuine submission. Peter exhorts us, "yea, all of you be subject one to another..." (II Peter 5:5). The attitude of Christ is expressed in Hebrews 10:9 - "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God," and in John 4:34, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me..." In John 5:30, Christ says, "I seek not mine own will." David cries, "I delight to do Thy will, O my God" (Psalm 40:8).
These verses portray not merely the letter, but the very spirit of submission. The spirit is always more exacting than the letter. Let me give a personal illustration.
When I was young, I felt that I had nearly arrived with regard to submission. I recognized that if it is God's will that we obey civil authorities, and those civil authorities tell us to pay taxes, then it is God's will that we pay taxes. So I conscientiously, albeit grudgingly, paid my taxes. No matter how big a hurry I was in, I gritted my teeth and held the speedometer at 55. I was careful to honor my parents and their wishes. I promptly did all that my employers asked me to do, however distasteful or dull the job. Above all, I sought to obey God, whatever the cost (with the emphasis on "cost"). Then I discovered this principle and my self-confidence received a terrible blow. I could not say that I delighted to pay my taxes! (Or perhaps I could say it, but it wouldn't be true!) There was no doubt that I longed to drive over 55. I may have honored my parents' wishes, but I certainly did not try to discover them so that I could do them instead of my own. I may have been holding to the letter, but I did not have the spirit of submission, and I, therefore, lacked the mind of Christ.
There is, perhaps, no more difficult place to implement this principle than in the home. With that in mind, let us deal briefly with the responsibilities of husband and wife in this regard.
A word to Wives
Many Christian wives recognize the Scriptural responsibility they have to submit to their husbands, and are honestly trying to obey in this area. Still, they feel frustrated and un-fulfilled. Perhaps the problem is in the spirit. Ask yourself, do you delight in doing your husband's will rather than your own? When you obey, is it because you feel you must, or because it is the joy of your life to do so? The spirit of submission seeks to do the will of another even when it is not demanded.
When a wife learns to obey her husband joyfully, and furthermore, to diligently seek out her husband's will, and fulfill it before it is ever expressed, then she will discover the joy of submission.
A word to Husbands
Husbands often have the attitude that submission, at least in the family, is only for wives and children; certainly not for them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The husband is to be the spiritual leader in the family, and as such, he must be an example of every quality that he seeks to build into the others. It is vital that he illustrate to his family the true spirit of submission.
We have been taught that wives ought to submit to their husbands, and that the balance is found in husbands loving their wives as their own bodies. This is very true, but we need to go a step further. If I love my wife more than myself, what will that prompt me to do? Peter tells us to be subject one to another. A husband does not have a spirit of genuine submission unless he willingly foregoes his own will in favor of his wife's will whenever he can.
This, of course, does not free the husband from his responsibility. Adam was cursed, not merely for listening to his wife, but rather, for following her lead when she was wrong. In that case, he should not have submitted, and was held accountable for doing so. But be honest, husbands. How often does that happen? Most of the time our demands are merely the assertion of our own will. Husbands, ask yourselves, how often do I insist on having my own way when I could give way to my wife without the slightest neglect of responsibility?
God Himself submits His will to ours to this extent, for He delights to give us the desires of our hearts when He can do so consistently with what He knows to be our best interests. In this, He is an example for us. As a husband you must take full responsibility for the overall good of your family, but so long as your wife's will is not inconsistent with that welfare, you should delight in voluntarily subordinating your will to hers. You ought to desire to give way to her whenever you conscientiously can. Furthermore, you should seek to discover her will, and fulfill it wherever consistently possible.
Perhaps this sounds like a hard doctrine. You may say, "What then, am I never to have my own way?" But what does the gospel teach us? To have our own way? No, rather to give way, to seek the other's good. Certainly it is a hard doctrine, for it is not a natural doctrine. I dare say the natural man will think it an absurd way to live. But we were not saved to live a natural, but a supernatural life, and God's grace will prove sufficient even for this, if we purpose not to resist it. In such a home, the only competition will be to see who can do the other's will first! Blessed competition.
by Pastor Joel A De Ford