two wrestlers Greco-Roman wrestling

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a popular sport these days. Men and women enter a steel octagon arena where they will use mixed styles of fighting to defeat their opponent. There are some fighters that are particularly skilled at submission moves. This is when one fighter has the other fighter in a spot that if they don’t tap out and give up they could be subject to some severe pain, broken bones or being knocked unconscious. Some of the names of the moves include: Knee bar, ankle lock, arm triangle, arm bar, triangle choke, guillotine, and the rear naked choke. I don’t know about you but I would not want to go through any of those. Submission in MMA means physical pain and the embarrassment of having to give up.

What does submission mean to you?

Is submission forcefully giving up to a stronger opponent out of fear? Or is it submitting to a higher authority knowing there is greater knowledge?

Submission really is a naughty word in the Western Church today. People tend to run from submission because we know better than to give up or in to someone else. We are taught to be self-sufficient, rely only on ourselves, and never show any weakness. This is the message we proclaim to the people we meet, “Don’t worry about me, I can handle it all and I have it all together.” Submission will only make us look weak.

To give you an example of how much we dislike submission, I have a story for you. About two years ago I was preaching on the subject of submission. I talked about how husbands and wives should mutually submit to each other and that in our relationships with others we should also submit to serve and love our neighbors before serving ourselves. I talked about some strategy to get that accomplished and felt good about the Biblical message that was proclaimed. After the service I had some positive comments from people as they were leaving, but as I would find out later, I would also get some negative ones. One gentleman went to his small group at the time and complained that it was the worst message of all time in the history of the world (Yes it was that dramatic) because he didn’t want to submit to his wife. He felt confident that his wife should submit to him alone.

In our human brokenness we never want the submission to come from us but would much rather have it from others submitting to us. James has a different word for us today.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

We submit to something bigger than ourselves. We seek a wisdom that is not of this world or innate in human beings. When we continue down the same old paths and we attempt to live by worldly standards then why would we expect to get anything different from what has already been seen and experienced.

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:14-16

It is not much of a surprise to us that people have envy and selfish ambition, we have all been there, but when we confess our sins to God he is faithful to cleanse us of our sin of selfish desire and only looking out for ourselves. But there must be another way…

We therefore can submit ourselves to wisdom that is from God, not out of fear or because we have been forced into by some MMA maneuver, instead it is because we know that it comes from our Heavenly Father who loves us. I don’t want you to believe that this will be easy, this call to submission will be a continual struggle. We will constantly fall back into the old ways, our sinful flesh will be at war with the Holy Spirit who dwells in us…this will be a struggle. Know this…In God is forgiveness and in the Spirit we have the power to overcome. We don’t struggle alone, thanks be to God.

When have you failed to submit to God’s authority and found emptiness in the ways of the world? How can you daily submit yourself to God and his wisdom?