By Daphne Delay
Before we can exercise authority, we must first practice submission. God desires us to increase and succeed, but it's not automatic. Every person must journey through an interim period of submission TO authority before being promoted to the one IN authority.
Consider this story: One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding him to listen to the Word of God, He saw at the water’s edge two boats left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little from the land. From there He sat down and taught the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink (Luke 5:1-7).
Hungry for spiritual life, the people crowded Jesus on the shore of the lake to hear what He had to say. Noticing a couple of boats nearby, He jumped in Simon Peter's boat and asked him to row out just a bit to give Him room to minister to the crowds. When He had finished speaking to the people, He turned and said to Peter, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." Peter had a choice: obey or not obey. He could easily have said, "I'm the owner of this boat, so I'll do as I please." But that's not what he said or did.
Peter had listened as Jesus taught the crowds and was intrigued by His words. Jesus often had this effect on people. As He spoke, they would be in awe of His wisdom. On one occasion the Pharisees were anxious to arrest him so they questioned the officers, "Why have you not brought Him in?" The officers answered, "[Because] No man ever spoke like this Man" (John 7:45-46)! In other words, the authority Jesus carried was evident the moment He opened His mouth. Simon Peter also recognized the extent of Jesus’ wisdom; thus calling Him "Master." To use the word Master was to defer authority.
Submitting himself to Jesus, Peter partially obeyed the Master’s instruction. Jesus had told him to let down his "nets." Peter responded, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." Peter considered overriding Jesus but then thought better of it. "Nevertheless..." However, he didn't follow Jesus' exact instructions. Instead of letting down his nets (plural), he let down "...the net." And because of Simon Peter's partial obedience, he only received a partial increase - great as it was, it would've been much more. You see, the purpose of increase is to be a blessing. The net Peter let down was bursting and on the verge of breaking. He had to call another boat and share the good fortune. I wonder how much more the portion would have been if Peter had fully obeyed the authority?
Yet notice God's mercy: Before we can exercise authority, He gives us opportunity to practice submission. God allowed this situation to be a chance for Peter to learn. God didn't withhold the blessing because of Peter's partial obedience. Instead, He proved to Peter the reward of submitting.
In another example, we discover even the Son of God had to practice submission in order to exercise full authority. When Jesus was young, his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. On their journey home, they realized He was not with them. Three days later, they found Jesus in the temple, sitting among the teachers, both listening and asking questions. In their relief and temporary frustration, they scolded Him. The scriptures say, "Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them" (Luke 2:51). Other translations say He was "...habitually obedient to them..." Submission came before authority.
In the story of the centurion, we see this same principle in operation. The centurion understood a person cannot be a one of authority until he or she has first been a person under authority. When the centurion approached Jesus asking Him to heal his paralyzed servant, Jesus said He would come. The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it" (Matthew 8:8-9). The Bible says Jesus marveled at the centurion's understanding of submission and authority. Why was He in awe? Because very few people comprehend this truth. On the contrary, human instinct is usually prideful and resistant to submission.
But if we look at Simon Peter, Jesus, and the centurion, each of them were not only blessed for their obedience to the authority over them, they were also promoted. Peter's boat was full and he later became one of God's greatest instruments of evangelism. Jesus "...increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52). And the centurion received high praise from God Himself and his request was granted. No wonder the devil sparks our flesh when it comes to submitting to authority! He knows there are rewards and promotion for obedience.
The Bible is clear concerning disobedience and rebellion to authority; "...[it] would certainly not be for your benefit" (Hebrews 13:17). However, through God’s grace, we can practice submission. (And there's certainly no concern over a lack of opportunity to practice!) Just remember - the rewards are great, both on earth and in heaven.
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Daphne Delay is the founder of Mirror Ministries in Seminole, Texas. She is the author of Facing the Mirror: Finding a Self to Live With. Daphne has written over 200 articles for subscribers to Mirror Ministries and other publications, and she blogs nuggets of spiritual growth encouragement every week. Daphne is the wife of a senior pastor and the mother of three. www.mirrorministries.org
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