Get in position!
Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 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.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!Matthew 8:5-10 NKJV
Great faith and the authority to command mountains come through submission, not domination. The Kingdom of God runs on authority and submission.Anonymous
There is something in the nature of man that automatically recoils at the term “submission.” We are inherently rebellious. “Who says!” and “You can’t tell me what to do! “are hard-wired into most of us. Be that as it may, in the Kingdom of God, there can be only one King. Ultimately, our spiritual life is founded upon the bedrock of obedience to Him. In order to understand the things of the Kingdom, we must come to an understanding of the nature of authority and submission.
The wonderful truth is that submission to the authority of God is good. He is good, He loves me, and when I obey Him, I can be sure it serves my best interest. As a general principle, few Christians will argue with that assessment, though they may bridle at some of the specific implications in their own lives. When He led us to move to Tucson, I was not entirely on board. It took several years for my attitude to shift. Fortunately, He honored my obedience and not my attitude. Though it didn’t happen overnight, and it was not ever easy, it has been good.
The safety of submission to God lies in His nature, not in ours. Unfortunately, when we are asked to submit to anyone other than God, we have the fallen human nature to deal with. Leaders are human. They fail, fall, and make self-centered decisions. Followers are human, too. They will rebel, be unfaithful, and stir up division. Institutions that are established and manned by humans will inevitably display human frailties. Yet we see that our attitude at home and in our churches is to be one of submissiveness. Finding our balance in the equation of submission to God, submission to His delegated authorities, and our understanding of His individual will for ourselves is usually a process. It is, however, vital to successful Christian living.
In our last lesson, we introduced the notion that submission to godly authority can be, should be, a conduit for the healing power of God in our lives. There are four Bible facts that will help you find the balance that allows you to receive the blessings of submission without being abused by twisted authority. Let’s take a look at the first three:
Fact #1: The Kingdom works on submission and authority.
This may seem too obvious to mention, but submission to God and to His idea of what brings salvation is a prerequisite to being part of the Kingdom. That means placing your faith in the resurrected Christ as your sole claim to His merciful forgiveness and entry into His family. His is the only righteousness that is acceptable to God. Yours won’t work. There will come a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Do it now while you still have a choice. (James 4:7 / Romans 10:1-4 / Philippians 2:9-11 / Romans 14:9-11)
Note that in this season, the Church Age, God has given judgment over to the Son. He has delegated, so to speak. “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. (John 3:35 NKJV)” After the Cross, the Son, having accomplished His mission through death and resurrection, pointed out that all authority had been placed in His hands. He immediately told the disciples to go and do work in His Name. In effect saying, “I have authority; therefore you go.”
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV
This method of operation shouldn’t seem strange. He used the same strategy in His earthly ministry. He first called 12, then commissioned them to preach, teach, and heal (Matthew 10). Shortly thereafter, He did the same with 70 more (Luke 10:1-20). This is how His kingdom operates. He has authority; therefore you go.
Fact #2: In every area of life, God has established lines of authority.
As we noted in the previous lesson, God has given instructions on authority and the requisite attitudes and requirements for the home, the church, the workplace, and the civil government. Wherever I go I look for the authority in that place. I make it my aim to be in submission to that authority. Whether in a new country, a new church, or if I visit your house, I want to know the rules. It saves much difficulty when I am aware of the flow of authority and remain respectful even if I don’t like it.
One of the most difficult moments that Christians face is when the authority in one area is directing us in a way that we don’t believe to be the will of God. This is when having connection with trusted elders is very important. Not every choice is clear-cut. Sometimes we need an outside eye and an unbiased voice from a source we know loves us. In situations when we are asked to do things that we know to be contrary to God’s revealed will, His Word, we have choices to make. The question is not whom will we obey, but how will we address the issue with the person or organization to whom we must say, “No.” Being disobedient (in action) while remaining submissive (in attitude) is a learned skill. It’s not natural; it’s supernatural. Don’t try to do it alone.
Fact #3: Great faith and the exercise of spiritual authority require that I be under authority.
In the passage above from Matthew chapter 8, we have the story of a Roman centurion who came to Jesus on behalf of his servant. Jesus was immediately willing to go with him to heal the man, but the Centurion informed him that He needn’t bother. Instead, he told Jesus that He could simply speak and the servant would be made whole. Jesus did, and he was. Jesus commended the Centurion’s faith, calling it ‘great faith,” and bemoaning the fact he couldn’t find such faith in Israel.
The Centurion explained that because he understood authority, he knew that a word spoken by Jesus would cause the sickness to leave. His soldiers acted when he spoke to them: “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.” He knew that they did this because “I also am a man under authority.” His soldiers obeyed him, not because he was a man who had authority, but because he was a man under authority. They obeyed him because of Rome and its governing power. That was the higher authority that stood behind the words he spoke to them.
This soldier recognized in Jesus another man who was under authority. Jesus repeatedly said that He only spoke words the Father gave Him. He only did what He saw the father do. The Father had placed judgment in this earth in His hands. He was a man under authority. Therefore when He spoke, the Father’s creation obeyed Him, whether it was a demon, an illness, a wind, or a wave. The authority of Heaven was behind His words.
Two big points to take from this:
- Great faith, the kind that speaks the word only, is associated with understanding authority. The authority in your spoken words is only as great as your submission to the authorities over you. Remember James 4:7, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” If you’re not submitted, the devil is under no obligation to flee. He flees because of the authority you’re under, the power that stands behind you.
- Authority ends where responsibility ends. The Centurion could order his soldiers around, but he couldn’t speak with authority to sickness. This is important in several ways. If a cop stops me for speeding, he can write me a ticket, but he can’t tell me what to eat for dinner. Traffic safety is his area of responsibility. My diet is not. By the same token, if a church leader tries to command you to buy a particular car or marry a specific person, they’re speaking outside their responsibility. They may have an opinion, but they have no authority in those areas.
When I need someone to pray for me, I look first for someone who has some responsibility in my life. That responsibility gives them authority to speak. I turn first to my wife. She is in covenant with me and has a unique place of responsibility, and therefore authority, in my life. If you have living parents or children who are believers, they have biblical responsibility and authority in your life, as you do in theirs. My next call in times of trouble is to my pastor. He has the responsibility to watch for my soul, and therefore authority to speak to my circumstances. The eldership and membership of my church are in covenant relationship with me. They have special standing to exercise authority in my life.
Here’s the point: Authority and submission impact our faith life. Being aware of how the flow of authority works will help you understand why some prayers go unanswered. Being in proper relationship to God-ordained authority puts us in a position to receive His benefits. It’s important to have submitted, covenant relationships with people of faith who know how to pray. It gives them responsibility, and therefore greater authority, to pray for you.
Next Steps: Review the 3 facts above, re-reading the scripture references. First things first: Are you submitted to God? Is your faith entirely in the completed work of the Lord Jesus Christ, or are you still trusting in our own ability or goodness? Do you know the lines of authority in your own life? In your home? On the job? Where you worship? Now to the hard part: If you needed prayer today, where would you turn? Who has authority in your life? In your family, are there people who know how to pray? Are you connected in a meaningful way to a church or faith community of some kind? What provision do they have to pray for you? If you don’t know, find out! It’s time to become consciously of your available resources.
These last questions are a problem for many people. They are believers in Jesus. They believe in healing, but they are estranged from the supply lines of the local church. They’ve either been so disillusioned with church that they no longer take part, or the church they attend is one where it’s easy to hide and simply enjoy the show, then go home alone. Some haven’t found a church that believes in praying for the sick in any meaningful, faith-filled way. If you are in any of these categories, take heart. In our next lesson we will look at Bible Fact #4 and see ways to find and evaluate spiritual authorities for our lives. Remember, God wants you healed, and so do I.