When my son, Jake, was a teenager he and I took Brazilian Jujitsu; he loved it (and was naturally good at it). Jujitsu is a grappling sport; meaning it’s a lot like wrestling, except instead of pinning someone, you’re trying to submit them. The workouts were intense; the first several weeks I thought I was going to die. I wrestled in middle and high school, so I instinctively don’t like being on my back. However, jujitsu teaches you to become comfortable on your back and work to control your opponent regardless of the position your in.
In class, we studied techniques on how to submit our opponent from various angles. We learned how to apply arm-bars, ankle-locks, knee-bars, and everyone’s favorite, the rear-naked choke. I think Jake enjoyed it so much because he got to abuse his dad without consequence.
After several months of training, our gym advertised a tournament in a neighboring city where several schools from the state would have students competing. I was reluctant, but Jake really wanted to do it and I didn’t want to let him down, so we signed up.
For the tournament, you grappled with students in the same weight division who was also at the same level in their training (i.e. white belt, blue belt, etc.). It was also a double elimination tournament. After five matches, my son ended up winning first place in his division. Myself, on the other hand, let’s just say I got the floor wiped with my face… twice. I left that day very proud of my son, but a bit embarrassed for myself.
I made up my mind that I was going to train harder. So, the following week I went to our instructor and asked how I could improve. He told me the problem was my cardio. My problem wasn’t strength or technique; it was endurance. He told me that some of the guys joked that it was misery to grapple with me for any amount of time under two minutes. However, they knew if they endured 120 seconds that I would tank.
That day, my instructor looked me in the eyes and said, “Brian, you could be good at this, but you’ve got to take it seriously.” He elaborated by telling me that I needed to find time to work on my cardio and modify my eating habits if I wanted to advance. It was during this season of my life that I took up mountain biking. I never took my bike off the rack on the back of my car. If I had a spare moment, I was in the woods riding.
Six months later, when the next tournament was announced, we signed up. I worked hard to cut weight before the tournament; I needed to weigh-in at 209 or less. That morning with an empty stomach, I stood on the scales and watched them stop at 211. I weighed in at two pounds over the limit for the division I wanted to compete in.
This means I was placed in the heavyweight division (210 and up). All the other divisions were based on fifteen-pound increments. However, anything over 210 was considered the “heavyweight” division. The first guy I grappled with was 6’2” 275lbs. I thought to myself, “this is going to be a repeat of last time.”
We locked up and gripped one another’s gi. I was shocked that for his size, his grip didn’t feel all that powerful. After a few moments of sizing one another up, he went for a leg sweep. I dodged it and swept his leg instead. He fell flat on his back. I jumped on him and applied a choke from the mounted position. He tapped out. I couldn’t believe it, he was the biggest guy there and I’d just beat him.
Guess what? After five matches, I won first place in the heavyweight division that day. What was different? – My endurance. I rode my mountain bike off-road, three to five times per week for several months leading up to that tournament. I was able to grapple for much longer than two minutes without getting winded.
The first tournament I lost because I didn’t take part of my training seriously. I wasn’t submitting to the instructions of my teacher. The second tournament I won, because I listened to my instructor and worked on my weaknesses. I submitted to my instructor’s instruction, and in turn, was able to submit my opponent.
This story is a lot like the Christian walk.
James 4:7 teaches, “Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” –– What if I told you the only way to resist is to submit? The way I was able to resist being defeated by my opponents in the second jujitsu tournament was to submit to the authority of my teacher. That meant I took what he said seriously. His instructions were not optional if I wanted to succeed.
God ordains authority. If you’re not submitting to the authority structures in your life you are opposing God’s will for your life. As long as you oppose God’s will for your life you’ll never walk in the fullness of God’s promises for your life.
If you want to thrive in your walk with Jesus you’ll have to take His instruction seriously. You’ll have to believe that His Word is true. You’ll have to submit to the authority God’s placed in your life even when it’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, or something you may disagree with. God has people and structures in your life to help you. Trust Him.
If you don’t learn to submit to authority, you’ll never learn to submit to God. And if you don’t learn to submit to God, you’ll never be able to resist the devil. I’ve got a lot more to say about this subject… stay tuned.
Click here to read Part 2: Submission to Authority (Part 2)