Summary: In this lesson we learn that submission is the essence of Christianity, and leads to the freedom from having to have our own way all the time.
A. I like the old story of the ship captain who looked into the dark horizon one night and saw faint lights in the distance.
1. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message, “Alter your course 10 degrees south."
2. Promptly a return message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north.”
3. The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am a captain!”
4. Soon another message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north--I am seaman third class Jones.”
5. Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: “Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am a battleship.”
6. The reply came “Alter your course 10 degrees north--I am a lighthouse.”
B. Submission is an ugly word in our culture, but it is the key to spiritual maturity and real Christian community.
C. James Dobson, founder and president of Focus on the Family, relates a marvelous story about the difficulty we have submitting to one another.
1. Dobson tells about a ten-year-old boy named Robert, who was a patient of his good friend, Dr. Slonecker.
a. Dr. Slonecker and his pediatric staff dreaded the days when Robert was scheduled for a visit.
b. Robert literally attacked the clinic, grabbing instruments and files and telephones.
c. His passive mother could do little more than shake her head in bewilderment.
2. During one physical examination, Dr. Slonecker observed severe cavities in Robert’s teeth and knew that the boy must be referred to a dentist.
a. But who would be given the honor?
b. A referral like Robert could mean the end of a professional friendship.
c. Dr. Slonecker eventually decided to send him to an older dentist who reportedly understood how to handle children.
3. The confrontation that followed now stands as one of the classic moments in the history of human conflict.
a. Robert arrived in the dental office, prepared for battle.
b. The dentist said to him, “Get into the chair, young man.”
c. Robert said, “No chance!”
d. “Son, I told you to climb on to the chair, and that’s what I intend for you to do,” said the dentist.
4. Robert stared at his opponent for a moment and then replied, “If you make me get in that chair, I will take off all my clothes.”
a. The dentist calmly said, “Then go ahead and take them off.”
b. The boy removed his shirt, undershirt, shoes and socks, and then looked up in defiance.
c. “All right, son,” said the dentist, “Now get in the chair.”
d. “You didn’t hear me,” sputtered Robert. “I said if you make me get on that chair, I will take off all my clothes.”
e. “I heard you, and I said, ‘Then go ahead and take them off,’ ” replied the dentist.
f. Robert proceeded to remove his pants and shorts, and finally stood there totally naked before the dentist and his assistant.
5. The dentist then said, “Now, son, get in the chair.”
a. Robert did as he was told, and sat cooperatively through the entire procedure.
b. When the cavities were drilled and filled, Robert was told to step down from the chair.
c. “Give me my clothes now,” said the boy.
d. “I’m sorry,” replied the dentist. “Tell your mother that we’re going to keep your clothes tonight. She can pick them up tomorrow.”
6. Can you imagine the shock Robert’s mother experienced when the door to the waiting room opened, and there stood her son, as naked as the day he was born?
a. The room was filled with patients, but Robert and his mom walked past them into the hall and down to their car in the parking lot.
7. The next day, Robert’s mother returned to retrieve his clothes, and asked to have a word with the dentist.
a. She had not come to protest.
b. This is what she said to the dentist: “You don’t know how much I appreciate what happened here yesterday. You see, Robert has been blackmailing me about his clothes for years. Whenever we are in a public place, such as the grocery store, he makes unreasonable demands of me. If I don’t immediately buy him what he wants, he threatens to remove his clothes. You are the first person who called his bluff, and the impact on Robert has been incredible.”
D. Like Robert, many of us will do whatever is necessary to get our way.
1. In fact, that is exactly how Philip Crosby described human nature in his book The Art of Getting Your Own Sweet Way.
a. “People are not complex,” he writes. “They really just want to achieve their personal definition of peace and quiet and to have their own sweet way.”