“What shall I do, Lord?” I asked. “Get up,” the Lord said, “and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.” (Acts 22:10)
The speaker is Saul. He’s talking to God and he’s not blowing smoke with the question. He earnestly desires an answer and is ready to execute whatever God tells him to do. He’s finally ready to submit.
Were he alive today and serving in the military, Saul would likely be a flag officer. He possessed a multitude of the qualities sought after in a leader within our Armed Forces. No one was more mission-focused.
For a long time, however, submission was not on Saul’s radar. Let me tell you the story surrounding Saul’s decision to submit to God’s will. It has application for us today.
In the days following Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the Early Church began to grow in Jerusalem. There was much opposition, however, primarily led by the Jewish religious leaders. They wanted to stamp out Christianity before it could get a foothold, and they went to extreme lengths to accomplish this. One of their young leaders was a man named Saul. Consider Saul’s own words describing himself:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” (Acts 22:3–5)
Saul was on another mission. He was headed to Damascus in Syria to persecute the church, followers of the sect called the Way. Saul had letters from the high priest in Jerusalem to the synagogues in Damascus. He hoped these letters would help him arrest more Christians.
But Saul’s life was about to change — radically. On the road to Damascus, Jesus appeared to Saul in a vision. There was a blinding light. Saul fell to the ground. He heard a voice from heaven: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Saul was stunned. He was convinced he had been pursuing the true God with every fiber of his being. Suddenly, he realized he had been headed in the wrong direction.
The rest is history. As the latter part of verse 10 tells us, Jesus told him to go into Damascus and await orders. Saul obeyed. Saul’s name was later changed, and we know him as the apostle Paul. He was a great missionary and writer of 25 percent of the New Testament under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Once Paul finally submitted to the Lord, God used this man in amazing ways to tell others about Christ.
Let’s be honest. Submission is not a popular concept. Our natural bent as humans is to be in control. We want to be in charge of our lives and do things our way.
Years ago, a fast food chain ran a series of ads on television. The catch line was “Have it your way!” The ad seemed to work effectively as multiplied thousands made a beeline to the restaurant so they could have food “their way.”
Nice thought, but God doesn’t work that way. He never has, and He never will. God is the Author and Creator of the universe. He has created us in His love and mercy. God has made each one to love Him and to serve Him. We have purpose in life.
The starting point for each person is to submit to the authority and rule of our Heavenly Father. How? By accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. He came to this world to save us from our sin. He died for you and me. By trusting in His Name we have forgiveness for our sin. But we have much more. We have the assurance of eternity with the Lord. We also have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us live out our lives on this earth in obedience to God.
But submission doesn’t start and end with becoming a Christian. This is only the beginning. It’s a lifelong process, and it’s not easy. But it’s God chosen route for us to be conformed to the image of His Son.
Military men and women know that basic training, regardless of the branch, is only the beginning. It gets the warrior started along the right path. Growth and development continue to occur throughout a career. Even generals and admirals continue to learn and develop. The Christian life is like this. This side of heaven, we never stop growing and learning.
Submission applies to every area of our lives. Submission to God also means relating to our fellow human beings with an attitude of humility. You can’t name any kind of relationship with other people where submission doesn’t apply — marriage, parenting, work, community, church, etc.
In the devotions that follow, I’ve tried to touch on just a few of the different areas of submission. I encourage you to read and study the verses carefully. Then pray for God to help you, particularly in the areas where submission may be most difficult.
Let me assure you that every human being struggles with submission. It’s wired into our sin nature. But know that submission is doable, but not in our own strength. We must depend on the Lord and the power of His Spirit.
Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged with setbacks. On a given day, you may be able to submit beautifully up to a certain point. Then a test comes and you blow it. Join the crowd. We all fail in our efforts to submit. The key is not to quit. Keep trying!