A teaching class for the Thames Valley churches of Christ.

Class 2 – Submission: How to Find the Will to do God’s Will even When it is Not Your Will

In this short series we are exploring how our security in the Father enables our willing submission to him. Last time we talked about the way in which we hear Father’s voice. We considered the example of Jesus, and, I hope, took inspiration from his ability to hear his Father’s voice in passages like:

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 NIV11), and, “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”” (Mark 9:7 NIV11)

The Trouble with Submission
Submission is, for some people, a troubling word. It carries connotations of oppression, abuse and control. Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline states, “Revolutionary submission commands us to live in submission to human authority until it becomes destructive.” Demands for submission to oppressive human authority can be destructive, but when God calls us to submit to his will, he invites us into a constructive life. If you fear full submission to God, you are a normal human. Don’t worry. Just invest in what we talked about last week. Security in God’s love is the antidote to anxiety over submitting to him. Trying to be submissive to God’s will for our lives without security in his love is, frankly, terrifying! But, with full assurance of his love for us, it is liberating.

We must reckon with our human nature — ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’ (Mark 14:38). We agree with Paul when he wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV11). But, as someone said, the problem with living sacrifices is that they tend to squirm off the altar!

Surrendering Our Will to God’s Plan
To make sense of submission to the will of our Heavenly Father, we take our cue from Jesus, who said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38 NIV11). How did he feel about God’s will?

He delighted in it, ““My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34 NIV11),

Just because he delighted in it does not mean it was easy. Jesus’ prayer in the Gethsemane is a poignant example of submission to God’s will in challenging circumstances (Matthew 26:39). Despite the overwhelming weight of impending suffering, Jesus humbly surrendered to the Father’s plan, saying, “not as I will, but as you will.” His submission demonstrated the depth of His trust in God’s wisdom and divine purpose.

In Leadership or Servanthood? Hwa Yung writes — “Jesus in life, ministry, and mission lived in the full consciousness of his filial relationship with his Father and in the unfailing security of the Father’s love. This allowed him to go about life in a calm and cool manner, and gave him inner strength and fearlessness in the face of immense challenges and unrelenting opposition.” It makes no sense to pray, ‘your will be done’ (Matthew 6.10) and live in opposition to God’s will. How do we align our will with the will of the Father?

  1. Be honest – in Gethsemane Jesus told his Father he did not want to do his will.
  2. Pray long enough to process your feelings – in Gethsemane it took at least three hours for Jesus to get where he needed to be to fulfil God’s will
  3. Pray the prayer of faith, even if you are not feeling it – in Gethsemane Jesus prayed “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 NIV11) before he was fully there. As my friend Charl put it we need to pray, “Father, help me to will your will even though I don’t will it right now.”
  4. Take the time to refresh your security in the Father, and you will find praying to live in submission to his will much more appealing than you might think.

Questions for reflection

  • How do you honestly feel about the idea of living in full submission to the Father’s will?
  • What is it about example of Jesus which is relevant and attractive to you?
  • If you want to grow in your willing submission to the Father, how will that happen?

Next time we will go on to look at how Jesus’ security in the Father’s love and his willing submission to the Father’s will made all the difference to his prayers.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm