Like many believers, I'm prone to wanting to do things my own way, including how I serve God. I'll go through times when I'm really learning and growing in my faith, studying the Bible and living life in the Spirit. Then there are times when all I focus on is "obeying."
While God calls us to obey Him and strive to be Holy, we miss the point if we try to do this by ourselves. Faith is not designed to operate within a vacuum -- it first requires His Spirit, secondly for us to interact and share life with others.
This recent epiphany -- far from being new -- struck me as I read my newest morning devotional New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp. I had been struggling to hear and touch God during my quiet times, which have felt far quieter than they have in recent months.
As a human, my first thought was that I wasn't trying hard enough, and yet while struggling with that feeling I suffered an equally powerful spirit of rebellion not wanting to try.
Of all ironies, five minutes spent in true communion with the Spirit is worth hours of striving to be obedient while alone. It's easy to forget that fact when you're trying to do it all yourself.
What's the difference?
Submission is a state of the heart, not merely a state of mind. It requires a huge attitude adjustment, but it's not merely just keeping your mouth shut when your parent tells you to do something; God wants our hearts attuned to His. We can feel like we're striving for just that when we just want to be obedient, but like Jews in the Old Testament, obedience of the hands is nothing compared to submitting your heart to God's.
Submission is choosing to REST in the authority of God over your life, ACCEPTING His love for you (which is a great deal harder than most of us would like to think, as we always have reasons why we're not good enough for God's love, forgiveness or redemption), and EMBRACING his Spirit as the only true power in your life -- including yourself.
Scripture calls us to rest in Jesus, as He is the only one who actually creates real change within us. While the Word tells us to obey, if we do not first set our hearts into an real attitude of submission to the Spirit, the Spirit cannot move through us to create the change that leads to real obedience.
We all have seasons of closeness with the Spirit in our lives, and we don't have to panic when we realize we're not so close with Him. Wrapping ourselves in guilt and shame won't serve us anymore than seven-hour Bible-reading sessions. Instead, we have to SURRENDER to the Spirit. We give up ownership of our lives, our days and our moments to His will. To say that "Thy will be done," even in the smallest of things. Also, trust that all God will do in and through you will be for His glory AND your benefit, even if that benefit hurts a little on its way to healing you.
If you've been striving to OBEY God but feel like you're getting nowhere, it's time for a gut-check. Have you been SUBMITTING to Him? Have you given up ownership of yourself? Are you releasing authority over your life, or merely trying to serve God your own way? These questions make me feel uncomfortable because I know I'm facing this right now, but I want REAL change in my life, and real change requires real submission.
So stop trying merely to obey. Submit. You will find obedience a JOY once you truly submit to the Spirit; it changes everything.