What total submission to God looks like

Practice/ Faith
Deep in every person’s psyche is a subconscious desire to find the answer to, “What am I here for?” Many things in this world, however, keep us from going to the only One with the answer, our Creator. Yet it is only through total submission to God that we flourish as we were uniquely designed to. He will show us what we were created for. Anything else from this world could amount to a counterfeit life.

(See Chinese versions: 简体中文 > 顺服神繁體中文 > 顺服神)


Most of our life goals revolve around self-achievement or self-gratification. We want to “become as successful as (idol’s name)”, “be a good (role)”, “find true love”, “have children” and so forth. All these can satisfy us for a while. Yet no matter how good or meaningful our desires and goals may be, they cannot compare with the deep peace and joy we find when we follow God’s master plan for our lives.

God created us for His glory

Our Heavenly Father created each one of us intricately. He also designed a master plan for our lives that is uniquely suited to us individually.

  • God’s Spirit gave each one of us life | Job 33:4 ESV  The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
  • Every person belongs to God | Psalm 24:1 ESV  The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
  • Believers have been made for His glory | Isaiah 43:7 ESV  Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
  • God planned good things for each one of us to do from our beginning Ephesians 2:10 ESV  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

When we offer our lives to God and ask Him, “What am I here for?”, He will lead us on deeply rewarding journeys. Our lives will have a greater eternal significance that we could have ever imagined.

1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV  But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

Full submission is a lifestyle, not circumstantial 

With this in mind, it seems logical to want to follow God wholeheartedly. Yet we often feel torn and conflicted, because many “lessons” from this world teach us why we should not.

  • Control | “Decide your own destiny. (Ignore God)”
  • Fear | “Seize the opportunity now. It may not come around again. (Don’t wait for God’s perfect plan)”
  • Distrust | “Don’t trust anyone. (Don’t trust God)”
  • Security | “Take measures to protect or secure yourself. (Don’t rely on God)”

It is easy to fall for deceptions that are “so clever they sound like the truth” when we don’t make it a point to learn about God’s loving and perfect nature, and form the habit of submitting every aspect of our lives to God on a daily basis. Also, see Experiencing God’s love and Surrendering our will to God

Ephesians 4:14 NLT  Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

If we wait until a critical juncture in our life to submit to God, we will invariably face an internal conflict. Full submission is not motivated by external circumstances but our love and reverence for God. It is a lifestyle that submits our hearts, souls, and minds to God. 

Luke 10:27 ESV  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

It is challenging to move into full submission without insight into the individual areas that we need to surrender to God. Here are some of them.

Submit the heart

The heart is our moral conscience, it steers our values and choices. In order for our hearts to be transformed to have “a good conscience and a sincere faith“, we need to submit their current condition to God for renewal.

Ezekiel 36:26 ESV  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

1 Timothy 1:5 ESV  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

The Bible describes those who harden their hearts and refuse to submit to God as lacking reverence (fear) for Him. We are warned that this will cause problems for us later. In addition, those who harbour immoral desires in their hearts will be rejected by God altogether. Let us ensure that we do not fall into either of these categories and submit our hearts to our Heavenly Father fully.

Proverbs 28:14 ESV  Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

Psalm 101:4 ESV  A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.

1. Submit our sinful tendencies

The Bible describes a form of spiritual sickness when our moral centre has been corrupted. As a result, our hearts harbour evil intentions; hatred, envy, lust etc. We may be able to hide our intentions from other people or even deceive ourselves into thinking that we are good, but God sees through all such disguises. He will evaluate our hearts and reward or punish us accordingly. In order to be relieved of our evil conscience and our tendencies to sin, we need to submit our hearts to God and repent of our hardened hearts.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Matthew 15:19 ESV  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

Acts 8:22 ESV  Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.

Hebrews 10:22 ESV  Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

2. Submit our selfish motives

Every human being has an ego. We enjoy being admired and may even serve others to look and feel good. Where we have been driven by self-centred motives in the past, we now need to put those down before Jesus and decide to glorify Him only. Let us, therefore, follow Jesus’ example and submit to God by dying to our selfish nature and pride.

Proverbs 16:2 NLT  People may be pure in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their motives.

one’s judgment of what is important in life.

Philippians 2:5-8 ESV Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 

3. Submit our personal standards

Many of our standards about what is acceptable or not are dictated by the world. With Jesus as our Saviour, all old standards need to expire as we adopt God’s Law. True submission to God means that we do not compromise His standards, even if they contrast with our loved ones’.

Romans 6:17 ESV  But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

Luke 14:26 NLT  “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison–your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.

Submit the soul

The soul is the part of us that is eternal and defines who we are as individuals. It embodies our unique identity, memories, and emotions. The Bible calls us to purify our souls from sin and be “born again” through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. Otherwise, our souls will die. See Cleansing ourselves to qualify for heaven.

1 Peter 1:22-23 ESV  Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Matthew 10:28 ESV  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Ezekiel 18:20-22 ESV  The soul who sins shall die… “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 

1. Submit our ungodly desires

When God created individually, He chose our desires for us. These desires were meant to bring His glory on earth and spread His goodness to those around us. When we were ignorant of God’s will in our lives, worldly influences can corrupt these God-sized desires by pandering to our own carnal, self-gratification. Such ungodly desires corrupt our souls. 

We cannot overcome ungodly desires through our own strength. Thank God that He is faithful and will help us conquer them when we confess and submit them for Him. This is how we can become more godly – not by trying harder or doing more good things. It is God who transforms us and makes us new. He is the source of our new life, not our own flesh – which the Bible says will only lead to our spiritual death. 

1 Peter 2:11 ESV  Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Philippians 1:6 ESV  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:6-9 ESV  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

1 John 1:9 ESV  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

2. Submit our shame and pain

Our souls can be weighed down, worn out and infected by unresolved negative emotions. Instead of rejecting us, God will restore us if we submit our sorrows, grievances, and shame to Him. Jesus endured great humiliation hanging naked on the cross on our behalf. He understands every indignity that humanity has ever suffered (Matthew 26:38) and is, therefore, our perfect Comforter and Redeemer (Hebrews 12:2). We submit our past painful experiences by confessing them to Jesus and asking Him to heal and restore our souls. While doing so, we also need to repent of judging or cursing our offenders. See Emotional suppression is ungodly and harmful and Please vent to God.

 Matthew 26:38 ESV  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

Psalm 43:5 ESV  Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Hebrews 12:2 ESV  Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Psalm 23:3 ESV  He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 34:5 ESV  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. 

3. Submit our loyalties and self-vows

God breathed life into every soul and living thing. Every single soul belongs to Him. We can, however, unknowingly pledge our loyalties to people and organisations and become disloyal to God Almighty. God reminds us to swear allegiance to Him alone. All past earthly promises, self-vows, pledges, and loyalties should be revoked in Jesus’ name, so our souls can be fully loyal to our Creator.

Ezekiel 18:4 ESV  Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine…

Isaiah 42:5 ESV  Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it:

Isaiah 45:23 ESV  By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

Submit the mind

The mind is the processor and storehouse of our beliefs and ideas. It is where we form our reasoning, imagination, and rationale. Satan tempts us to focus our minds on carnal, worldly things, and bombards our minds with temptations, lies, accusations, and hatred. Our enemy knows that if he can corrupt the direction of our thoughts, we will struggle to submit to God. We all need to submit our minds to God’s Word and Holy Spirit before we can truly become His disciples. See Renewing the spirit of our minds and Reading the Bible with God’s Spirit.

Romans 8:6-7 ESV  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

Romans 7:23 ESV  But I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Romans 12:2 ESV  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1. Submit our judgments

We exercise judgment all day long. We decide when, what, how and with whom we do life with. When we use it to be critical of others or elevate our opinions, we obstruct other people from experiencing God’s grace through us. In judging the souls that Jesus died to purchase and redeem, we misrepresent Jesus’ hope for all mankind. Our patterns of thinking need to be submitted to God so we can exercise His wisdom. See Judgment and the abuse of wisdom

Romans 14:13 NIV  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

1 Corinthians 2:13 ESV  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

2. Submit our expectations

Impatience, frustration, and distress can be signs of misplaced expectations. We focus on our own will and plans, instead of laying down our assumptions to God. If we cannot predict what will happen across the world in two hours’ time, then we certainly cannot out-plan God. When we realise that our wisdom will never compare with God’s, we will have the peace to release our expectations and trust in Him alone.

1 Corinthians 1:25 ESV  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV  However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him–

3. Submit our anxieties

Fear and anxiety begin in the mind. When we do not submit our minds to God, Satan will subject our minds to mental torture and agony through unnecessary worry. Our minds and imaginations are tossed around like a kite in the sky, as the enemy blinds our minds to God’s perfect will. Fear is not from God. See Fear, an ungodly use of imagination.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Philippians 4:6-8 ESV  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Practical ways to submit to God each day

True submission starts from the minute we wake up each morning until the moment we fall asleep. It is, therefore, helpful to start each day with a prayer, such as the one below.

“Dear faithful and good Father, I start this day by humbly submitting my heart, soul, and mind to You alone. Please teach me how to walk according to Your good and perfect will today. I know I can do nothing of lasting significance without You. Let me see what are Your desires for me and the people around me today. I merely need to follow Your Spirit. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Alternatively, we may also consider memorising the verses below and meditate on them each morning before we begin our day.

  • Submit our heart | Psalm 86:11-12 ESV  Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
  • Submit our soul | Psalm 143:8 ESV  Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
  • Submit our mind Psalm 25:5 ESV  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.


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