Written by Natalie Waterson
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘authority’ as: 'The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience'.
Right from the start, as a small, fragile infant, we are subject to authority. As a child, our parents are our first obvious authority figures, then perhaps an older family member (like a grandparent or aunt). At school it’s our teachers and prefects, at university, our lecturers and professors, and finally, as we enter into the working world, our bosses.
Ideally, people are placed in such leadership roles because they display confidence, optimism, and positivity. They are generally people who know how to hold themselves and others accountable; men and women who have an ingrained sense of integrity and ethics and are generally respected and well-liked.
It’s true that we cannot all be leaders, most of us are born followers, and that’s okay.
When I worked for eleven years in a play school, it became apparent very quickly which of the children obeyed and respected their parents and who did not.
We are called to obey God, not some of the time, not when it’s convenient, not when things are ‘going our way’, but always. Even in the difficult times. Even when we are not sure what the future might hold, even if we’ve convinced ourselves we might fail, and especially when it’s doing something that requires we step out of our ‘comfort box’.
If I hadn’t obeyed God, I probably wouldn’t be here - at least not living in Pretoria. I was born and bred in Port Elizabeth, and very happy there. Ten years ago we were settled, happy, and content in Port Elizabeth. We had our own home, great jobs, we were part of a small church community, and we were surrounded by family and friends. Things were great. I was happy and I had no desire whatsoever to change anything about our lives, especially not the geographical location.
But God saw a change in our future and He spoke to me as only He can - in my dreams. Night after night I would have the same dream – I was moving, packing boxes. The first two or three I just shrugged off, paying little attention to it. but God continued … night after night after night, until it finally dawned on me - this was no ordinary dream. It was a vision of what was to come. When I finally got it, I woke up one morning and told my husband.
'What? Where?' he asked.
'I don’t know.'
'Okay, then when?'
'I don’t know.'
'To do what exactly?'
'I don’t know that either.'
He gave me a funny look, said something like, ’uh-huh, right,’ and continued on his way. Nothing happened for long over a month and then out-of-the-blue we were offered a job here in Pretoria.
I had never had a desire to move, not even in the slightest. I had never even visited Pretoria. I knew absolutely nothing about the place, or climate, or schools, or anything. I only knew one thing – this was it. We had to go. God had spoken in my dreams and we obeyed. And here we are today, ten years later.
Here’s the thing, when God speaks, it’s not enough to just listen, we need to obey. More often than not, that means taking a leap of faith. God is, and should always be, the ultimate authority figure in our lives. In fact, when I think of authority, I consider the story of the centurion and Jesus (Matthew 8).
Verse 10 (NIV) says:
‘When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”’
Great faith. That’s incredible. As followers of Christ, we need to live by faith, and to do that means believing, trusting, and obeying God.
Authority is His (Inspired by Matthew 8:5-13)
I am a Roman officer of an army – a centurion of several hundred men
I give the order and they simply obey – they’ll go anywhere I send them
There’s no argument and no debate – I do not owe them an explanation
My plans are mine and mine alone – I delegate at my own discretion
I am the authority, their master and leader, they will do my every bidding
Discipline too is within my power; I can be foreboding or forgiving
When a soldier steps out of line – it’s my duty to correct
In any way I see fit, while still commanding their respect
They’re not entitled to deliberate, question me or demand I grant them their wishes
My mission is my only quest, to deviate from it would be foolish
I treat my subjects with great consideration, I’m not course or callous or cruel
But I am their supreme, I am always in control and will not be made a fool
I heard of a man, an authority of note who speaks as one familiar with order
I shall find this leader, this commander and chief and bring him due honour.
He’s called a teacher, a healer and Lord – some even call Him “friend”
He’s said to be patient and generous to all who seek Him and His wisdom truly transcends
I have a soldier within my service whose long been ill and paralysed with a disease
I shall go to this leader and humbly request a miraculous cure, if He so pleases
I stood before this Man, and made my request known – He accepted with a smile
“I am willing to help you. Take me to this man – I will not allow him to die.”
“No, my Lord!” I protested, “I understand your influence and recognise Your words have great power.
Just speak it forth, and I know that is enough, he’ll be healed at this very hour.”
Astonished He stared at me, and as one pleasantly surprised, and then granted my request
“Never have I seen anyone in all of Israel with such great faith,” He said.
I will not pretend to understand this statement, as I am a Roman by birth
All I know is no greater Commander has ever before walked this earth
Greater is He than many of my equals – greater even over me
More supreme than all the Roman gods – His divinity is clearly seen
Whoever this man is – I only know that no other could do what He did
I recognise His mastery, His authority and position and therefore I humbly submit
Blessed are those who are favoured by Him; privileged are those under his wings
Secure in His protection, adorned by His love and accepted by a king.
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