Submitting to God
Submitting every area of our lives to God can be a real challenge for most believers. We don’t like to acknowledge that we are weak, blind and helpless without God. Yet the truth is we are unable to tolerate rejection, ascertain the future or guarantee our next breath.
Revelation 3:17 ESV For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Driven by fears
This lack of control over our destinies creates a lot of fear and anxiety. Fear drives many of our lifestyles and choices. Here are just a few examples:
- “I don’t like to look bad in front of others.” (Fear of abandonment)
- “I can’t decide now.” (Fear of failure)
- “I have to preserve my youth and strength.” (Fear of getting old)
- “I would like to be in a relationship.” (Fear of loneliness)
- “I had better join in. I want what they have.” (Fear of losing out)
- “I don’t want to follow any guidelines.” (Fear of loss of freedom)
- “I don’t like meeting new people.” (Fear of not fitting in)
- “I have to fit in and not speak the truth.” (Fear of rejection)
- “I need this in order to secure happiness.” (Fear of suffering)
- “I need to do what I can to secure my future.” (Fear of uncertainty)
- “I don’t rely on or trust anyone.” (Fear of vulnerability)
These statements reveal the insecurities that run through many hearts. It is all too easy to fall into this trap when we are soaked in a culture that idolises those who appear to “have it all” in terms of earthly desires, such as wealth, fitness, popularity, and the latest gadget. We are forced to live in a state of constant discontentment and to keep striving for more. The Bible calls this “chasing after the wind”.
Ecclesiastes 1:14 NIV I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Fear is the opposite of faith
Fear is the opposite of faith in God. Every fear we entertain is because we don’t trust God on some level.
Time and time again, God reminds us that He is good, and that He has a purpose and plan for us. God will always protect us and never leave us.
God has graciously provided an answer to each of our common fears to reassure, comfort and encourage us.
|Reminders from God|
1. Fear of abandonment
Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
2. Fear of failure
|James 1:5 ESV If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.|
|3. Fear of growing old||
Isaiah 40:31 ESV but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
4. Fear of loneliness
Matthew 28:20 ESV … And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
5. Fear of losing out
|Matthew 6:34 ESV “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.|
|6. Fear of loss of freedom||
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
|7. Fear of not fitting in||2 Corinthians 10:18 NLT When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.|
8. Fear of rejection
|Psalm 27:10 NLT Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.|
|9. Fear of suffering||1 Peter 5:10 ESV And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.|
10. Fear of uncertainty
James 4:13-15 ESV Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
|11. Fear of vulnerability||
2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
Fear is the opposite of love
Some people say the most powerful thing on earth is love. Indeed it is. If we love someone or something, it will drive us to step outside our comfort zones and do what is normally unnatural to us. Love pulls downs the walls of our fear.
The Bible says that we live with fear because we have not fully sought God’s perfect love.
1 John 4:18 ESV There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Fear and insecurity are driven by pride
Most fears are a direct result of our own pride.
Pride says, “My reputation and feelings are the most important”. It seeks to compare ourselves with others and ensure we are positioned above them. When our need to impress, control and dominate others is threatened, we experience stress and fear.
The reality is that when we compare ourselves with anyone, we are actually looking at the wrong person.
As believers, we are all called to compare ourselves with Jesus and become more like Him. God never calls us to benchmark ourselves against people. He calls us to look to Jesus, our High Priest, Saviour and Friend.
Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Pride is blind and foolish
Let us be honest with ourselves. Compared to God, what is there that we can boast of? Can we change the direction of the oceans or create butterflies just by speaking them into being? Will we die for someone who has offended us over and over again, in order to save his or her life?
Nothing we can do, achieve or say will ever compare to Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross and everything He has given to us as a result.
Satan’s heart is proud
Pride prevents us from admitting our need for God. It forms an obstacle that stops us from turning humbly to God and following Him with all our heart.
Pride says three main things:
- “I control my own destiny.”
- “I can achieve my own glory.”
- “I’m above all else.”
It is precisely this type of attitude that Satan loves believers to fall for because he too is full of pride.
The Bible warns us that pride is not from God but from Satan. Like Satan, pride will not submit to God. We become slaves to Satan when we choose pride over humility.
1 John 2:16 ESV For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
Romans 8:7 ESV 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.
God’s heart is humble
God is so high and mighty that He has every right to look down His nose at us. Yet He says just the opposite. Numerous times in the Bible, God reminds us that He is humble.
1. He humbles Himself to notice us
Psalm 113:5-6 NASB Who is like the LORD our God, Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in heaven and in the earth?
2. He humbled Himself to live a simple life on earth
Luke 9:58 ESV And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
3. He humbled Himself to serve us
Mark 10:45 ESV For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
4. He humbled Himself to be tortured in our place, so we can enjoy a full life
Philippians 2:8-9 ESV And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…
5. He humbled Himself to die falsely accused
Isaiah 53:9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
6. He humbles Himself to gently carry our burdens
Matthew 11:29 NASB “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
It is precisely because God is humble that He mocks and opposes those who are proud.
Proverbs 3:34 NIV He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
James 4:6 ESV … Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Stop following Satan
The first and most critical step in becoming a true follower of Jesus is to put down all our fears and pride.
God knows we resist submitting everything to Him because we are fearful. That is why He has repeatedly told us throughout the Bible to not fear. The phrase “do not fear” and its equivalent appear 137 times in the English Standard Version Bible. But on the other hand, we must understand that our fears are driven by our pride – and to be proud is to follow Satan’s example.
Let us contrast Satan’s attitude in his heart with King David’s heart. David is a man whom God described as “a man after my heart, who will do all my will” in Acts 13:22.
Satan’s heart said, “I will set up my own throne”.
Isaiah 14:13 ESV You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God, I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
David’s heart said, “Who am I that my God and King even cares for me?”
Psalm 8:3-4 ESV When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
When we place ourselves on the throne in our hearts to glorify ourselves and “rule” our own lives, we are behaving just like Satan.
God delights in those who desire to follow His will and bring Him glory. Even as believers, we can be driven by the fear or pride in our hearts more than we are by God’s love for others. We may fool ourselves about our personal motives and motivations when we serve in church, but we can’t hide the truth from God. He will weigh our hearts on His scales of justice.
Job 31:6 NLT “Have I lied to anyone or deceived anyone? Let God weigh me on the scales of justice, for he knows my integrity.
Like King David who repeatedly sang in the Psalms, we need to pause and invite God to test our hearts and purify us from our sins.
Psalm 139:23-24 NIV Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 51:7,9,10 NLT Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Psalm 40:8 ESV I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
Practical steps in submitting to Tod
Unfortunately, there is no on-and-off button for pride. Where we have built up walls of pride and fears over years or even decades, we must actively tear them down and unlearn ingrained patterns of thinking.
This following is a quick checklist of some ways we can practice submitting ourselves before God. We cannot be transformed on our own strength. We all need the Holy Spirit’s gentle guidance to give up our fears and submit to God. He is forever patient and kind, and always answers us when we ask for His help. No one is transformed overnight. Even the apostles, who spent three years with Jesus, struggled with some of these areas.
1. Acknowledge God for who He is and worship Him
First, we must take time to bow our hearts to our magnificent, awe-inspiring and fearsome God. There are no human words that can describe who He is and what He has blessed us with.
Job 26:11,14 The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke. Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
2. Confess and repent
We are only telling the truth when we confess that we are and have nothing without God. If we wish to follow Jesus, we should repent of all the times we have tried to control our own lives in the false belief that we have the power to do so. In addition, we must repent of the times we have judged God and slandered Him. On a daily basis, we should stop and say sorry to God whenever our hearts start to believe anything that is close to the following:
- “I control my own destiny.”
- “I can achieve my own glory.”
- “I’m above all else.”
Pride only brings strife. It blinds us and leads us to foolish decisions. Our pride also blocks Jesus’ blood from washing us clean from our sins, because it won’t allow God to sit on the throne in our hearts to rule over and redeem our past, present and future.
Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
3. Thank God every day
God says it is His will that we thank Him in any circumstance, because He knows this helps us keep our hearts in check. We are to focus on His power and providence and not on our own insecurities.
We can start by thanking God for one thing each day and as the days pass, we can add new things to this list. One will be surprised by how long our lists can be if we truly are thankful.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
4. Stop coveting
A sure sign of pride is covetousness. Pride tells us we deserve more. We compare, envy, crave, copy or even steal. It blinds us to our blessings and raises our levels of discontentment and stress. We all need to stop and repent of coveting and desiring what others have. Such greed is explicitly forbidden in The Ten Commandments. God sets out such laws for our own good; to prevent us from destroying ourselves with toxic envy.
Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
5. Stop grumbling
To grumble is to complain, whine and protest. Anyone who is a constant grumbler is highly unattractive. Such people are a killjoy. Any form of grumbling stems from a spirit of pride and entitlement that seeks to pollute others with our bitterness. When we truly have Christ in our hearts, we will be positive shining lights in our world.
Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
6. Stop passing judgment
Many believe that the “freedom of speech” is the right of every human being. We are all entitled to our own views and opinions. When we assess and conclude anything about other people, however, we judge them in our hearts. Things get worse when we follow up with thoughts like, “They will never change” or “They are beyond hope.” Then we not only judge them, but also curse them!
Such behaviour comes from a form of pride that assumes we are all-knowing and entitled to pass judgment on others. It also implies that God cannot work a miracle in their lives. This slanders and offends our all-powerful and merciful Father in heaven.
Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
7. Stop boasting
Pride tells us that our achievements and sacrifices should be glorified, neglecting that God alone deserves all glory and worship. Let us wait on God’s personal praises instead and not crave the recognition and praises of other people. Our Heavenly Father’s personal rewards are worth infinitely more than earthly rewards. They also last much longer.
Matthew 6:1,4 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven … so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
8. Stop seeking attention
People can seek attention in negative ways by being loud, crude, dramatic, inappropriate or antagonistic. They may use emotional blackmail, lies, seduction, self-victimisation and other forms of manipulation to draw attention to themselves. Such people demand our time and resources, and ignore what we feel or think.
All this behaviour is driven by the innate belief that other people should listen to or follow us. It is yet another form of pride where we place our needs above others.
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
9. Deflect all praise and glory to God
You often hear godly believers say, “I couldn’t have done it without God’s help” when someone praises them. This is something we can practise saying too, whether we feel it or not at that point of time. We need to speak out the truth for our own hearts to listen to and eventually be aligned with. We should not be tempted to steal God’s glory for ourselves.
Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
10. Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes and weaknesses
The fear of admitting our faults and vulnerabilities is driven by a desire to protect some personal image that we have carefully curated for ourselves. We idolise ourselves at the expense of our relationship with God. Our fear becomes our weakness.
The apostle Paul broke this mould by saying that he would boast of his personal weaknesses so that people would see Jesus Christ working in Him. Paul was no ordinary man. He came from a prominent, noble and wealthy family, and was respected and highly learned from an early age. Yet this distinguished and influential man wasn’t afraid to admit his frailties. This took true strength and true submission to God. We too need to give up our fear (of others) and idol worship (of ourselves), so that we can be fully transformed into God’s image.
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
11. Seek God’s opinion first, don’t assume anything
Only God has all of life’s answers. When we fail to seek God first and jump ahead of Him, we presume we know what’s right. The Bible calls such presumption idolatry, because it sets us above God’s will.
1 Samuel 15:23 … and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry…
Before jumping to any opinion or decision, let’s make it a point to slow down and ask God for His opinion first. It is dangerous to rely on our (lack of) understanding or ability to see the future. In the Old Testament, the Bible records the great wars that the kings of Judah and Israel won because they sought God’s counsel before going to war. Those who went to war on their own capabilities would fail and bring disaster to their own country.
Proverbs 3:5-6 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.
12. Consider others as more important
The thought of considering others first is most unnatural to human beings. Even as children, we loathe to share our candy and toys. True humility is demonstrated when we do just the opposite. It shows our hearts to be free of fears and selfish intentions.
We consider others more important than us because God loves them too. Because of this, we ought to be kind and generous to them. This is how we submit to God’s views of other people rather than our own. We love those whom God loves, regardless of how they behave.
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves..
13. Forgive others
As we love God more and more, we will also lean towards forgiving people for the offences they commit against our loved ones and us – because ultimately any sort of sin offends our Father in heaven. People don’t realise that when they sin against us, they are first and foremost sinning against God. His judgment is much more terrifying that anything we can conjure up. When we withhold forgiveness, we forget that we only bring the same fierce judgment that God has reserved for our offenders onto ourselves as well.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
14. Pray to bless our enemies
This is a true test of our humility and submission to God. The Bible tells us to pray for and bless others, especially those whom we see as our enemies. It doesn’t tell us to try to bless our abusers, it simply tells us to “just do it.” Unforgiveness is a form of pride that implies we are better than other people. This pride keeps us from being good representatives of a humble God who sent His Son to die for us. In contrast, we are to repent and actively bless those we are inclined to hate, resent or find intolerable.
Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
15. Forsake our prejudices
Every ethnic group has its own prejudices against other groups. Such influences are subtle but can be deeply ingrained. Hence, we are to also regularly check our hearts for status, racial, cultural or gender prejudices. We are to be kind and generous towards the less privileged or oppressed, such as orphans, widows, refugees or foreign domestic workers that are often treated like modern day slaves.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
16. Seek accountability
It can be extremely challenging for some people to submit fully to God. We cannot do it all on our own. If we choose God first, we need to humbly seek accountability and support from godly mentors and fellow believers. Being part of a larger community also forces us to put into practice the full list described here.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
17. Be water baptised
God calls us to be water baptised as a symbol of us being “raised” to new life through Jesus Christ, after being “buried” and dead in our sins (in the water). Even Jesus Himself sought John the Baptist to baptise Him before He officially began His ministry on earth. As Jesus’ followers, we should not stubbornly put off baptism. God Himself asks us, “Why do you wait?”
Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
18. Be faithful in tithing
God has given us the privilege to contribute financially to His Kingdom on earth. In giving with a cheerful heart to bless others, we will become unrestrained by worldly bondages and experience God’s power in meeting our every need. Satan works hard to stop believers from being faithful in our financial offerings by constantly reminding us about our worldly needs. The enemy knows that when we hold back our tithes, we rob God and bring on a curse upon ourselves. When we contribute generously, over and above the norm, we receive greater blessings and favour from our Father.
Malachi 3:8-9 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.
19. Stay determined to obey God
Jesus is a role model for staying obedient to His Father’s will. He stood up against Satan’s persistent temptations in the desert and chose to go to the cross to be crucified in spite of his own sorrow. We would not be guaranteed complete forgiveness for our sins if Jesus had refused to submit to His Father’s will. Just as Satan persisted in tempting Jesus to forsake God, our enemy will also relentlessly tempt us to follow him instead. We must be determined not to follow our defeated foe.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
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