Trust and Submission
Trust and submission are two related issues that we sometimes have a difficult time putting into practice. They are also two of the most significant aspects of what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ, so understanding and practicing them are vital.
Christians are to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Biblical faith is not just believing something gullibly in spite of evidence. The evidence is there (cf. John 20:29-31). Faith is not just merely believing something, though it does involve belief. Biblical faith is trust. A fuller definition of this can be seen in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith stands under our hope. It is an essential trust and demonstration in the reality of what we cannot see. This highlights the temporary nature of what can be seen over against the eternal nature of what we cannot see (2 Cor 4:17-18).
We trust that God is at work even when we do not see exactly what He is doing. In fact, trust is most vital when we do not fully understand something. If we think we have to “see” or have to have everything figured out before we can exercise faith, then we do not really have faith. Faith can be built on evidence, as God has shown in Scripture, but faith stretches into areas unknown to our experience. Like a child who trusts parents, especially when the child does not understand, so we learn to trust God, knowing that there is far more going on than what we will know or grasp. Trust says, “That’s okay. God has it figured out, and I’m glad to be in His hands.” When we don’t understand what is happening or why, trust God. When we don’t understand why God is doing something a particular way, or why we are asked to do something His way, trust Him. He has it figured out when we do not.
Submission is a related, though not identical, idea. Due to modern concepts, and like the term faith, submission is a subject that is sorely misunderstood. Many seem to associate the term with the idea of forced subjugation. Since submission equates to being forced or humiliated to do something, and since Christians believe in submission, then Christians essentially accept this unfair and immoral viewpoint. No one should have to submit to another! However, this is not what submission to Christ or others looks like in Scripture. It does mean that one is putting oneself under another, but the idea here is that we voluntarily submit first to God through obedience to His expressed will and then to others as we seek to put them first and do what is in their best interests.
When we submit, we are first yielding to God. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7). God knows what is best for us, and we trust Him. Because we trust Him, we submit to Him. Herein trust and submission work hand in hand. If I am unwilling to yield my will to God’s will, then I do not really trust Him.
When we submit to others, we yield our will to their needs and put them before ourselves. All Christians are to submit to one another (Eph 5:21). Our first concern is not to be about ourselves. Rather, we are to be like Christ, emptying ourselves, doing nothing from selfishness or conceit, and looking out for the interests of others (Phil 2:1-8). Parents do this all the time for their children. They gladly, lovingly, willingly submit themselves to the needs of their children in order to serve the best interests of those children. In fact, we would consider parents who refuse to do this to be bad parents.
We can also see how this works in a marriage that is designed after God’s plan. Like any other relationship, husbands and wives should submit to one another (Eph 5:21). The wife is, indeed, told to submit to her husband (husbands are not told to put their wives in subjection). She voluntarily puts herself under his headship. At the same time, he is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. This is a great act of submission on his part to her as he is to be willing to give himself up completely for her and her needs. As they learn to trust one another, they submit to one another.
The interesting thing about submission is that it is most meaningful when something is disagreeable to us. Christ submitted to the Father’s will by voluntarily going to the cross, though despising its shame (Heb 12:1-3). We might even disagree with others about something, yet yield to their judgment (cf. Heb 13:17). We are showing a level of trust. Unless we are selfishly demanding that everyone kowtow to our will, we must submit ourselves to others for the greater benefit.
When we trust God, we will submit to Him even when we might not understand (like a child). When we love others, we will submit to them, even when we might prefer another course of action.
Trust God. Love others. Deny self. Submit to one another. These are staples of biblical Christianity.