But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” [1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)]
The topic of study at SK8 church the other night was “Lordship and Obedience.” When the pastor mentioned the word “obedience” you could almost see the kids’ heels dig into the floor and their hackles rise. Submission to any higher power is difficult, especially if you’re a rebellious teen or young adult. Thinking of any restriction on us as an attack on our individuality and rights, however, isn’t limited to the younger generation.
That night, the pastor started with the easy word: “lordship” and its definition—a person who has authority, control or power over others and decides what is acceptable or not. One of the young men immediately understood exactly where the pastor was going with the lesson and shared his observation that lordship and obedience are two sides of the same coin—having a lord or master requires obedience if the relationship is going to work.
In actuality, from the very beginning of our lives, we’ve had to submit to authority of some kind. Parents say no to hitting your siblings, sticking forks into sockets, and drawing on the walls. Teachers tell us to sit at our desks, raise our hands, and study hard. Bosses require us to arrive on time, dress appropriately, and be conscientious. Landlords tell us we can’t have dogs and must pay rent promptly. Banks insist we repay our loans and not overdraw our checkbooks. Municipalities tell us to pay taxes, stop at red lights and obey parking regulations. Unfortunately, many of the young people at church that night had experienced difficulty with their earthly masters—they’d been kicked out of their homes, expelled from school, fired from jobs, evicted by their landlords or arrested by the local police. Regrettably, not all of our earthly lords and masters are worthy of unquestioning obedience—there are unstable parents, bad teachers, unethical bosses, shoddy landlords, greedy banks, corrupt governments, and dishonest cops.
There is, of course, one authority figure who is Lord and Master over all creation and worthy of our full submission: God! Unfortunately, it’s not just those young people who have trouble with this one. Many people think of obedience to our Lord and Master as an unwilling submission to an intolerant narrow-minded grouchy old man sitting on a throne in heaven rather than as our willing and eager submission to a loving father. Many picture God as restrictive rather than giving, punishing rather than encouraging, and angry instead of caring. But this is our God, a God who loved us enough to sacrifice his only son for our salvation—a God who has etched our names on the palms of His hand, knows the number of hairs on our heads, hears all of our praises and prayers and, if he had an iPhone, would have our photos on it. We have a Lord and Master, our loving Father, who wants only the best for us and knows exactly what that is!
The words succumb, submit, capitulate, acquiesce, yield, surrender, and concede all imply losing a battle of some sort but our relationship with God isn’t a battle of wills. If we turn it into one, we better understand that it is a battle we are destined to lose. God is relentless in His love for us and His determination to save us. Moreover, He is not our opponent; rather, He is our ally! When we cede control to God, we can’t lose—we can only win!
If God is the Creator of the entire universe, then it must follow that He is the Lord of the whole universe. No part of the world is outside of His lordship. That means that no part of my life must be outside of His lordship. [R.C. Sproul]