Paul Azinger was, for several years, a successful golfer in the Professional Golfers Association. He won 16 tournaments, including the 1993 PGA Championship – he was the best of that best that year. Then he was diagnosed with cancer – Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. (Perhaps the ground’s keepers had been spraying too much Round-up in and around the golf-courses.) Since then, for nearly 30 years, he has been trying to balance himself between his family, cancer treatments and the work which he plays. He says that people often ask him if golf is as important as it was before he discovered his cancer. He says. “Golf is still important, but whereas it was once his god, Jehovah is now his God.” Golf is now fourth on his list of priorities which begins with the Lord then goes to family and then friends. “Zinger” adds that since he began his treatments and before his retirement he played some pretty good golf. For example, he was named as the captain of the 2008 Rider’s Cup Team – a team golf tournament. During that tournament, when he missed a 4 foot putt, his reaction was different from before his cancer. He didn’t pull his hair out as if that miss was the end of the world. But neither did he say, “Woe is me; I missed that putt, but at least I’m still alive despite my cancer.” By the way, when his team won the 1993 Rider’s Cup, and they were invited to a reception at the White House, Azinger declined to go, saying that the didn’t want the accolades of such an immoral president. He continued to play every game with a desire to win, but he acknowledges the sovereignty of God – and in so doing he considers himself to always be a winner.
That assessment is a good one: To permit God to be God, and to remind ourselves that we are dependent upon His grace, makes us winners. We might call that attitude “submission” to the Lord.
Following on the heels of saving faith, one of the most important things that a Christian can do is submit himself to the Lord. I have read that the word “Saviour” occurs only 24 times in the New Testament, while the word “Lord” is found 433 times. Can a professed Christian refuse Christ’s Lordship and still benefit from Christ’s Savourhood? When a husband and wife totally yield themselves to Christ there is genuine hope for that marriage. When they don’t there will be conflict – fighting for supremacy. The same is true in the Christian life. When a person yields himself to the Lord, he can have confidence that his choices will be wise ones.
One of the best illustrations of submission in the Word of God is found in our text. David’s new-born baby was very sick. Home remedies didn’t work, nor could the physicians help, nor did the Lord through prayer. David sought earnestly that the child’s life might be spared; he wept, fasted, and pled with the Lord. But it was to no avail, and the baby died, reminding the king of Israel that sin is not without consequence – even royal sin.
This is a good illustration of submission because it begins in the absence of submission. David had brought shame to the throne of Israel, to the Lord, and to himself. He had stolen the child’s mother and killed her husband. He demanded that his own flesh be gratified no matter what the cost was to himself or others. The prophet Nathan then pronounced the upcoming death of the child as punishment for David’s sin. Another human being lost his life because of David’s sin. And when the baby died, the king’s servants were afraid to tell their master about it. They knew how he had mourned and wept as the child lay sick in his mother’s arms. Finally, when David asked if the baby was alive or dead, those servants had to answer honestly. Then he arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and went to worship the Lord.
Why David? “And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” David’s response to the hand of God shows us the nature of submission.
Submission is a necessary part of the discipline of the Christian.
Submission is a recognition of the authority and supremacy of Jehovah – an acknowledgment that God is God. We need to remember – every Christian is the property of the Almighty. We have been bought with a price, purchased with the shed blood of the Saviour. We have been clothed in His righteousness, and shod with the preparation of His gospel. We have been comforted with His hand; fed with His food, and warmed by His fire. We belong to God by the right of creation – and by redemption – and by preservation. But then sin comes along – rooted in our own wicked self and rejecting God’s authority over us. Lucifer said, “I will ascend into Heaven and exalt my throne above the stars of God.” Adam said, “I don’t care for God’s plan of abstinence, I want my will to be done.” And our sin has the same root: “God, you can’t tell me what to do and what not to do.” Salvation is, at the very least, a recognition that God does have some authority. He has authority to cast us into Hell – or to raise our bodies from the grave – or to save our souls.
Now, in some ways, God’s authority is invincible and inevitable, like some of His laws of nature. Most objects released half way down a hill, roll down that hill; they do not roll up the hill. Some things are God’s – some rules are God’s – and that is all there is to it. But by the permission of the Lord – some things in our lives can be submitted to Him or kept to ourselves – at least so we think. Your salary, for example, can be wasted, or hoarded (which is the same thing) or surrendered to God. Sunday evening may be spent dedicated to the gods of TV, or football, or dedicated to Jehovah. I have heard of parents who refused to acknowledge that their sons might have been called by God to be missionaries, because they didn’t want to give up their children.
There was a farmer who had some wonderfully fertile bottom-land, where he grew a nice crop. But right in the middle of his best field was a huge rock pointing like a finger toward heaven. Around it were a number of smaller stones, and as a result the farmer had to plow around them. For five years he worked that land planting and harvesting around those stones. They caused him some delays and some expense, because he had some land which was unused. He fussed and fumed about that funny looking rock for half a decade. Then one day he decided that he had enough. He tied a rope to the top of the rock and attached it to his tractor. Slowly he stepped on the accelerator, and to his amazement the stone began to move and fall. When it hit the ground, it instantly it broke into a thousand pieces – all small enough to be carried away. The very first time he faced his trouble and put it into the Lord’s hands, the farmer’s stone ceased to be any more trouble. Of course, there are things that cannot possibly change, but when we just give them over to the Lord, they loose their wicked nature.
Paul Azinger, through his cancer, learned submission to the Lord and now lives with, or above, his disease. When we are willing to admit that the Lord has the right to give us difficult trials, we step aboard an escalator traveling upward toward usefulness and, sometimes, greatness. Don’t accuse God; don’t excuse God or wallow in self-pity, but rather recognize God’s authority over us and move on.
Submission is a trust in God’s wisdom and His love. To put it another way, submission is faith in God’s providence. When I was a teenager, my parents, thinking that I would become some sort of scientist, gave me a microscope. I loved it, because it revealed things to me that I couldn’t see otherwise. An attitude of submission to the Lord is like that microscope, or like a telescope to another child. They enable us to see things which previously were too difficult to recognize.
There was once a stubborn agnostic who was visiting an agricultural research center. One of the scientists was looking through a microscope studying a soil sample. The visitor was invited to take a look. He found that the dirt was filled with the remains of tiny sea crustaceans. They came in all kinds of shapes and forms – stars, crescents and geometric designs. For weeks the skeptic thought about what he saw and told his friends about it. Finally the revelation which he had received accomplished its divine design in his heart. Visiting a neighborhood church he said, “I acknowledge there must be a God who cares for us. If God lavished that much love and beauty on insignificant dirt, He must care for me as well. I want to learn about the God of the Bible.”
The Lord does care for us, and proves it by His care for the sparrow and other insignificant things. The Lord Jesus said, take a close look that those lilies; smell them and see their beauty. There is probably not a lily on earth that has not had its days of trouble. But no lily has ever spent one second worrying about its difficulties. The Christian should say, “Since it is God who has appointed this problem, I will submit to Him through it.” God knows best.
Submission is the recognition of God’s authority and acceptance with a smile.
Yes, but why is this important?
Because submission brings PEACE and defeats the heart of discontent. Rarely will a sparrow be content to live in a cage; he will usually die. Why will the canary live there but the sparrow dies? Because the canary has peace through submission. Christians, above all people, should learn not to buck God’s will, but rather to accept it. That reception relieves the strain. Cast yourself on the love of God, the will of God and the providence of God. Why shouldn’t I have peace with my all powerful Father who promises my protection?
Another result of submission is POWER. Why is it that God doesn’t do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think for us? It is because, more often than not, we won’t let Him. If we refuse to enjoy collecting and eating manna, we will probably starve once we run out of cockroaches. Not far from Calgary, Alberta is one of the most beautiful places on earth – Lake Louise. This high mountain lake is usually azure-green in color, due to the glacial sediment filling it. At the far end of the lake is the glacier, which has been there since before man can remember. Even on the hottest days of the hottest summers that glacier is still there – why? It is in such a position between the mountains that it rarely receives much direct sunshine. Conversely, if we let the Son of God into our wills, the coldness of our hearts will retreat and melt away. Submission is power. A wife’s submission to her husband is often a great way to get what she wants.
Have you ever experienced conviction about some area of your life which needed work? Perhaps the Lord wanted you to take on some new responsibility or to prune away something selfish. After we think about it for a while, we decide, “I can’t do it, I just can’t do it.” Then the Lord begins to work on us, and we finally realize that it really wasn’t “I can’t” but “I WON’T.” When we finally confess the rebellion, the “can’t” transforms into accomplishment. When we refuse to submit ourselves to the Lord, we close the door to the Lord’s omnipotence.
A third benefit of submission is TRIUMPH. Submission means that God will be able to do what He intended to do with us. My mother used to crochet a lot. Sometimes, she’d work away for a long time weaving a nice smooth circle of material. Then all of a sudden it appeared that she made a mistake, one little notch appeared to be out of place. She’d keep right on going, and pretty soon she’d make another “mistake,” and another, and another. Ever so slowly, all the apparent mistakes began to form a pattern, and, lo, they weren’t mistakes at all. They were a part of the special design being woven into the finished piece. When we – without balking – permit the Lord to make some apparent mistakes in our lives, eventually we see that there is a pattern and purpose for it.
But what if we rebel or only partially give ourselves over to the Lord? Every one has seen birds sitting on some electrical lines. They never get hurt. However, if we took a stick and reached up to that line, touching it from the ground, we would get hurt. The difference is in the difference between total surrender and partial surrender to that line. As long as we touch anything else along with that line, we conduct electricity and will likely die. But if we touch only that electrical line, we’d be safe. “Submit yourselves unto God and resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” Submit yourself to God and we “can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us.”
Real submission is a trust in the Lord’s love and power. That submission is the very best thing that any Christian can do for himself. When the Lord asks something of you, it is always best to say “Yes, Lord.” When David surrendered to the Lord’s will, his pain disappeared.