“Submission” is not a popular word today. We hear a lot more about assertiveness, about self-fulfillment. No one likes to give in. Talk of submitting seems to go against the grain, but submission is a very important part of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It takes submission, giving up one’s own ideas, to get saved. And it takes submission to stay saved. It takes that yielding to the Lord to do anything in His service. Without it we will never get anywhere with God.
Let’s read a portion of a verse found in Acts 9:6, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” This question contains a complete submission to the will of God. Saul had been on the road to Damascus, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the Christians in that city. But the Lord sent a light from Heaven—and a miracle took place! Saul’s cry became, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
After his conversion, Saul’s name was changed to Paul. When we look at what transpired throughout the rest of his life, it is apparent that he made a total and complete surrender to the Lord, and he was blessed and used in a wonderful way. The reason he decided to surrender wasn’t that he had no position or political standing in Jerusalem. He was a man of importance in the Sanhedrin and religious circles. However, he was ready to lay it all down when God spoke to him out there on the Damascus Road because he understood that Jesus was the Messiah. He was willing to submit to the will of the Lord.
Paul’s submission meant a complete change from what he had been doing, but as he yielded himself to the will of God, God directed his footsteps. His writings have been instrumental for instruction and inspiration down through the years. For instance, this is found in the tenth chapter of Romans: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:1-3).
They were attempting to establish their own salvation, their own righteousness, their own way of trying to get to Heaven. That, of course, was disastrous.
No doubt Paul could look back at his own life and say, “That was just what I was like.” But after he submitted to the Lord, he could write a chapter like this and say, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” Then he went on to explain what their problem was. It wasn’t that they didn’t know of God. He said they even had a zeal for God, “but not according to knowledge.” They were attempting to establish their own salvation, their own righteousness, their own way of trying to get to Heaven. That, of course, was disastrous. At this point, Israel’s government and their high priest were corrupt. They had all kinds of problems, but they were still taking their offerings to the Temple. The high priest was making offerings for them, going through the rituals. They had zeal, but their hearts were not submitted to God.
That same situation is very prevalent in the lives of people today. There are those who say, “I go to church and am active in the Lord’s service, so I am a Christian.” But have they been born again? Have they submitted themselves to the righteousness of God? Are they obeying His commandments?
What do the Scriptures tell us about our own righteousness? It is as “filthy rags” to the Lord. If we can talk only about what we are doing or have done in service, it is as filthy rags in the sight of God. But when we are willing to submit to the will of God, we can say, “Lord, I want Your righteousness in my life. I want to start with a born-again experience and know that my sins are washed away, and that I am on the road to Heaven.”
After we have been saved, we must seek to be sanctified—to be cleansed within, made holy. Then we go forward with the Lord and seek for the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, the power for service. This is letting the Lord establish His righteousness in our lives, not doing things our own way. We aren’t arguing with the Lord, telling Him, “I really don’t think this experience is for us today. I believe it was just for the Early Church and is no longer necessary.” That would be trying to establish our own righteousness; but by submission to the Lord, we get His righteousness into our hearts.
A good starting point is the cry Saul made out there on the Damascus Road, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” If it seems you haven’t progressed very far in the service of the Lord, or if you aren’t even saved, that is a good prayer to pray!
It isn’t just one surge of enthusiasm, one “Amen” that we say sometimes, but it is an everyday commitment, wanting the will of God to be done in our lives.
Once we have received that born-again experience, we must continue to submit ourselves to the will of God if we are to be used by Him. It isn’t just one surge of enthusiasm, one “Amen” that we say sometimes, but it is an everyday commitment, wanting the will of God to be done in our lives.
Think about Caleb. He was one of the twelve spies who went into Canaan and one of two who brought back a good report. However, the people listened to the evil report of the ten, and God decreed that they would spend forty years wandering in the wilderness. Though Caleb had done right, do you realize that he submitted himself to forty years in the wilderness? I am sure that took some consecration! It must have taken much earnest prayer. Perhaps he thought, Lord, I don’t quite understand why I have to be out here, but I am willing to submit to Your will. I am going to do it! And do you know what it brought Caleb? The very hill he had seen back there forty years before that he wanted for his inheritance became his. He went up and possessed it. That was victory!
Some people may say, “I just can’t submit. I can’t give in.” Do you dare to resist the will of the Lord? Those men and women who have been willing and obedient through the years have lived with God’s blessing upon their lives and the lives of their families. Oh, the victories God has given them because they were willing to submit absolutely to the will of God!
Submission is not easy. It may mean a period of time in the “wilderness.” It may mean some hard places to go through, some things hard to understand. But God will be with the one who purposes to go through.
One night the Apostle Paul dreamed that a man from Macedonia came to him saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” Paul knew this was a message from God, and he obeyed the call. He went, and God began to bless his preaching. Wonderful things happened. But then the picture changed. Paul, with his helper, Silas, was thrown into prison because he had commanded an evil spirit to come out of a young woman, creating quite a commotion. The two men were put into the inner prison, their feet fast in the stocks.
What did Paul do? Did he blame the Lord for allowing this to happen to them? No, he submitted to the will of God. The two men began to praise God right there in prison. God Almighty heard it, and sent an earthquake, which shook the prison. The whole place opened, and the bonds fell off. Then the jailer, awakened by the noise and the commotion, ran in. He was ready to kill himself, thinking that all the prisoners had escaped, but Paul called to him, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” The jailer called for a light, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Think what it cost those men of God for the jailer and his family to be saved! I’m sure they felt it was worth all they had gone through. When God has worked out His will in our lives, and we see the results, we will feel that every submission to the Lord’s will has been worth it.
Are you willing to submit today, so that you can be used of God? Are you able to say, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”
This article was originally published in the May 1986 edition of our magazine.