Philip Nation opens chapter 10 with a reminder that a cosmic spiritual battle is being waged for the souls of men. For the unbeliever the stakes involve the eternity of his soul. For the believer, that was settled at the moment of trust in Jesus. Now, what is at stake is the fruitfulness and faithfulness of the lives we live. Nation says, “The habits of our holiness give us paths to walk through the minefields of battle.” What a powerful way to imagine the place of spiritual disciplines in our lives. They are not empty, religious activities. They are the very means of our survival and lead to the kinds of outcomes that any serious Christian desires for their walk with the LORD.
Borrowing from the world of geo-politics, Nation presents two means of nations interactions – treaties and surrenders. In a treaty, power doesn’t shift in significant ways. Borders are honored and existing rulers usually stay in place. In a surrender, though, one nation and its leaders bows to the other. Power and authority is given up in deference to the power and authority that now is recognized in the surrendering land.
This is a rich, meaningful way of envisioning life in submission to Christ. We don’t get to demand recognition of our boundaries and authority. It is all surrendered to Him. His authority is now supreme in our lives.
Jesus showed us how to submit as a discipline of life. Matthew 26:39–42 (ESV) says,
39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
Nation points out that in that experience, we see two things. One, is that submission takes place in the context of relationship. Two, is that submission is hard.
Our attention is called to King David. An indescribably reckless assertion of his own authority takes place in his actions toward Bathsheba. Psalm 51 can be understood as his unconditional surrender to the Lord. In 1 Kings 19 we see the story of Elisha’s submission to God’s call on his life. When Elijah lays his mantle on Elisha, Elisha throws a barbecue and serves up all his oxen (by which he made his living). He takes away any possibility that he can return to farming if the prophecy thing doesn’t work out. It is an act of full surrender of his life and needs to the Lord.
Nation reminds us that in walking with the Lord, there are no shortcuts to maturity, confession of trust in the Lord is mandatory, and there will be a constant war against our own pride. While this life of submission begins individually, it cannot stop there. Ephesians 5:18-21 teaches us that in submission, we not only submit to the Lord, but to one another. So this, like all the disciplines, has a corporate component.
Hear again the closing paragraph of the chapter:
“Submission is not about being subhuman or loathing ourselves. It is about finding our true worth in the relationship forged by the cross and the empty tomb. In your daily discipline of relinquishing power to Jesus and living with the accountability of friends in the faith, you will find love. It is the love that dies for you and gives all for your holiness.”
PRAYER: Father, thank you for Your mercy. Thank you for the gift of the Gospel – for offering me eternal life through Your Son. Help me each day, and in all the moments of the day, to surrender my will to Yours, to acknowledge and submit to Your authority in all things. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.