Hebrews 13:17 gives a very simple principle: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Submission is a hard word because the context is so negative in our culture today. We are the American people who rise up against adversity, we shirk conformity in order to have individuality out of our own creativity, and submissive people are viewed as weak people who are unable to stand strong on their own.
To make understanding the submission & humility more difficult, many of us figure out the principles and go figure it out. We are reminded of the story when the teacher told Johnny to sit down. “I am sitting down on the outside,” says Johnny, “but I am standing up on the inside.” We confuse submission with an outward response of compliance. People on the outside recognize outward compliance with inward pride because it is not genuine; others can see right through us.
True, God-centered, biblical submission is a sign of strength, contentment, wisdom, peace, and power. It can only come from those who have found their identity in Christ, not in their job or their career or their possessions or their reputation or their status. And, it can only be accomplished by those who have first submitted to God.
Genuine humility and the ability to submit often comes like this…
- Self-powered life: we are confident that we can accomplish all
- Brokenness: we fail and begin to grasp for some meaning
- Awareness of God: we realize that God provides meaning so maybe we should follow Him
- Self-Awareness: we realize that, while we are trying to be God followers, our actions do not fill our needs for approval, significance, reputation, accomplishment, order, and control.
- Positional Awareness: God is omni_____; we are not God. We are able to submit to God because we realize how unable we are to meet our own needs. Pride begins to break down and humility surfaces.
- Refocus on the Gospel: in our humility, we discover that as a Christian, Jesus has already met all of our needs and put the fulfillment of them in us. There is nothing we can do but put our focus/trust on Him. Our daily need is simply to live in this knowledge which is a true place of humility.
- Servant of others: because our needs are met by Jesus, we have nothing to prove anymore. We can work and play hard, but we don’t find our identity in these things. We are free to serve because we can finally be others’ focused like Philippians 2:1-11 talks about. We can serve those we work for and those who work for us. Because we have nothing to prove, we can listen to others, value their opinions, and understand their needs before our own.
- Submission to others: submitting to God at our core, we are able to be content in our situation. Whether it be a bad boss or husband, a great boss or wife, our humility puts us in a position of faith and from that we know that God has put this authority in our life for good. (Some days we question it, but then we remember that Jesus meets all of our needs.)
As a boss of many others, I look for our leaders (both current and future) to have humility, to be free to serve others, and to be able to submit to their authority. Essentially, I look for a rising star to be ultra-capable (smart, talented, hard-working, friendly, team player) but with no need to prove themselves…because they are already proven in Jesus.
No one is there. No one has arrived at perfect humility. No one lives every single day perfectly content because they are made complete in Jesus. But truly successful people turn back daily to this simple Gospel message. They turn away from themselves because they are aware of how incomplete we alone are.
We encourage you to consider 2 books to read on this subject: