James begins a series of ten commands with the command to “immediately decide to submit yourself” to God. The word used for submit literally means “to submit to someone’s control, to yield to admonition or advice, to surrender voluntarily, or to obey.”
It is a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader.” In a nonmilitary usage, it means “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”
Just as the army teaches a soldier that he must submit to orders regardless of the risk to his life because of his duty and love of country, so the believer is to submit to God’s directives. Submission is measured by obedience to expressed commands.
Submission is a key characteristic of the Christian community: children are to be submissive to their parents; wives to husbands; slaves to masters; and everyone to governing authorities and to the rules of society. All believers are to be submissive to their elders and pastors and to the biblical rules within their congregation, and they are to be mutually submissive to one another, just like a married couple. Rebellion to authority in your sphere of life is contrary to God’s intended order.
Submission to God is the expression of humility, which has great promise: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God” (James 4:6–7). Humility is the evident manifestation of your submissive spirit to God. Later, James wrote, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you” (4:10).
Submission to God means to have resigned your self-will and self-interest in this life and to be subject to Him, ready to listen to Him and obey Him. He will certainly show us His will in the revealed word of God, and He will show us specific applications of His will with a “still small voice” (1 Kgs 19:12–13) in our inner selves.
We can choose to ignore or to fail to learn the former and to silence the latter when it is inconvenient. But these actions will mean that, as far as God is concerned, we have ceased to want to walk with Him. We become rebellious children only pretending to be followers of Christ.
If we are to submit to God, then we must learn all that He expects of us, yield our will to him, and practice His directives and leadings. Can we say to God, “Your wish is my command”?
“Lord, in my mind I want to give You my life, but my selfish heart wants to hold back to make sure I get all I want out of life. Teach me to desire all that You want out of my life.”