by Steve Witmer
While the word “submission” carries essential Biblical importance, to many it may seem like an archaic and outdated cultural expression similar to jousting, a telegram or the Model T.
This is especially true in a world dominated by cultural, professional (and especially) personal aspirations and expectations. Who doesn’t have the coffee mug, wristband, journal or bookmark with Jeremiah 29:11 written on it? Certainly, the truth that God has good plans and a bright future for each of us is inspiring, but sometimes this leads to an interior drivenness that says: “Time’s a’wasting; I gotta get cracking!” We can easily drift into the predominant lie of our self-made culture that says: “If it’s gonna be, it’s up to me.” The preponderance of today’s self-help materials focus on personal empowerment and individualized achievement.
This is not a bad theme, just an incomplete one.
It is incomplete because it focuses the self on self. Here in the preoccupation and drive to become and to accomplish, we can momentarily forget that the One who called us is infinitely qualified to guide us daily! Invariably He will invite us into opportunities that are greater than our current capacity, our own wisdom and our acquired skill set. Why is this? I believe it is because our Father delights to work with us, and through us, in the endeavours of His Kingdom. When we join Him in the family business, it will demand abilities beyond our own. In this way, He will always get the glory – and we get to tell the story! Submission to God, and His plan, is the eternal bedrock of authentic Christian discipleship.
The prophet Daniel models for us submission to God and an authentic devoted lifestyle. Daniel was forcibly thrust into a God-sized opportunity when he was suddenly removed from his privileged Jewish home. As the son of nobility, he was exiled in Babylon and integrated into a nation and culture that was incredibly foreign to his own. When faced with the prospect of entering civil service under the ruthless Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, he distinguished himself in character, conduct and competency, even though he likely would not have chosen this pathway as a preferred career path! Scripture tells us that when interviewed by the King, he found “none equal to Daniel,” and that he was “ten times better” than all the other leaders in his kingdom (see Daniel 1; 17-21). Perhaps 60 or more years later, under King Darius, we are told, “Daniel so distinguished himself . . . by his excellent qualities that the King planned to set him over the whole kingdom” and “they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” (See Daniel 6; 1-5.)
Daniel retained his lifelong authenticity by demonstrating his Jewish values, unhesitating devotion and sacrificial submission to God, while serving in an ungodly, pagan and hedonistic society. He was the same guy in private as he was in public! Does Daniel’s story sound a bit like your current culture and ministry assignment? Like Daniel, we have the daily choice to fully surrender to God’s sovereign assignments (even the difficult ones!), and with His ever available and most capable assistance, live authentic Christian lives in today’s turbulent times.
Sadly, the staff at Focus on the Family Canada’s Clergy Care Network do not always hear this level of authenticity from the Christian leaders they serve. Calls from spouses and children of pastors reveal that the person serving in ministry up front is not the same person they encounter at home. Regrettably, stories emerge of emotional abuse at home or harsh authoritarian leadership towards co-workers in the church.
The true servant of Christ does well to self-examine from time to time. Could what was said of Daniel honestly be said about me? Are we truly trustworthy and without corruption in all areas of our lives? May we all strive to be – with God’s help!
We can take great comfort from these insightful words from Psalm 46, verses 1-2 and 10-11:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
“He says, ’Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Steve Witmer and his wife, Becky, serve as contract retreat leaders with Kerith Retreats, a ministry of Focus on the Family Canada. For more information about our retreats, visit Kerithretreats.ca
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