When it comes to responding to authority, everyone makes a choice. There is no middle ground.
You will either submit to God and the authority He has established in your life, or you will rebel. Remember, your choice for one is your choice for all. You can’t choose to respond to one authority favorably, rebel against another authority, and still claim God’s blessings for obeying the one. If you choose to undermine any single authority in your life, you rebel against God.
There are two characters in the Bible that illustrate the contrast between a life of submission and a life of rebellion. Both men were chosen by God to rule as king over Israel. Both men sinned, and both men were confronted by a spiritual leader about their sin. But each man had entirely different responses. In their responses, we see the results of rebellion and submission.
You’ve perhaps guessed the identity of the two men—Saul and David. Let’s examine their responses and apply the results to our lives.
The life of Saul is marked by continual rebellion. In 1 Samuel 10, God gave instructions to Saul through Samuel. Saul was to go down to Gilgal and wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifice, and then the Lord would show Saul what to do next.
In 1 Samuel 13, Saul responded to Samuel’s instructions in disobedience. Ultimately, he disobeyed God when he offered the burnt offering himself rather than waiting for Samuel. When Samuel confronted him, Saul explained and excused himself, revealing not only his disobedience but his failure to trust in the Lord (1 Samuel 13:13–14). Throughout the rest of his life, Saul continued to make foolish decisions, following his own whims rather than seeking the Lord’s guidance.
Saul’s life shows us that rebellion is a result of pride. Rebellion disregards God’s commandments and elevates selfish wants and desires. It may bring temporary satisfaction, but rebellion always leads to tragedy.
Rebellion will move a young person from a place of safety and blessing to a place of danger and disaster. Decide now that you will submit to the authority that God has given you.
In contrast to Saul, David’s life is marked by consistent submission to God. This does not mean that David was perfect—he wasn’t. Nor does it mean that he never disobeyed God—he did. The difference was in his heart toward God. While Saul’s heart was full of pride and willfulness, David’s was tender and responsive.
David’s submission is perhaps most clearly seen in his humble response when confronted by a spiritual authority with his sin. Second Samuel 12 records how David confessed his sin in humility and sought after righteousness.
As you may know, David had taken another man’s wife for himself, and she became pregnant. In an attempt to cover his sin, David had the woman’s noble husband killed and then hastily married her to remove any questions that could have arisen concerning her pregnancy.
The Lord sent the prophet Nathan to point out David’s sin. David broke in humble repentance. “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (2 Samuel 12:13).
David’s sin was not without consequences. However, because he willingly listened to the message of the Lord and confessed his sin, David continued to be blessed by God for the remainder of his life.
Submission to God and to the authority He establishes will always result in blessing. It does not mean that things will be perfect, but it does mean that you can claim the promises of God and trust that He will work everything out according to His perfect plan.
When it comes to responding to authority, you must make a choice. Looking beyond today to the outcomes of your options, there is really only one sensible choice—faith-filled submission. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6).
This article is an excerpt from Larry Chappell’s book, With All Due Respect, available from Striving Together Publications.