Colliding Captains, Road Signs, and the Wisdom of Yielding to God
“Submit therefore to God….Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” – James 4:7A & 10
I recently read a story about a maritime catastrophe that occurred in the Black Sea involving two colliding ships. Lives were lost simply because two captains refused to yield to the other. The story magnifies the stubbornness of the human heart while also teaching a valuable life lesson on the importance of yielding. Allow me to share it with you…
“Back in the summer of 1986, two marine vessels collided in the Black Sea off the coast of what used to be known as the Soviet Union. Hundreds of passengers perished as they were hurled into the icy waters. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem like some sort of radar malfunction. The accident was not caused by unfavorable weather conditions such a storm or a thick fog. Believe it or not, the cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both captains could have steered clear, but according to the news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time the two parties had come to their senses, it was too late.”
Think for a moment of all the people who lost their lives because of pride and arrogance. What an indictment on the human heart! As I read that story, the word “yield” seemed to leap off the page. When I think about what it means to yield, I think of the familiar road sign instructing drivers to “yield” to any oncoming traffic. These signs are strategically placed at assigned intersections in effort to improve the flow of traffic. They are hung to help protect motorists from having a collision. But imagine for a moment what would happen if a driver chose to ignore a yield sign in an attempt to have his way instead respecting the oncoming drivers who actually have the right of way? That driver would be like the two captains in our story, and there would definitely be detrimental consequences to their foolish actions.
Yet the word “yield” also provides a spiritual lesson for consideration. God’s children are to “yield” their lives over to their Heavenly Father. This yielding involves a willingness to submit to His divine authority. In our passage above, James emphatically stressed the importance of submitting to God in all things (Vs.7). He then said that God’s people are to humble themselves before God (Vs. 10). It should not surprise us that James mentioned submission and humility within the same line of thought; for they are spiritually inseparable.
At this point it is worth noting that the act of submission is frequently seen as a sign of weakness (at least from a secular point of view). But spiritually speaking, this could not be further from the truth; for God actually strengthens those who willingly humble themselves before God and submit under His almighty hand (1 Peter 5:6). No wonder James described the outcome of showing humility in the presence of God in the way that he did. He said that those who humble themselves before God will be “exalted” by God (Vs.10).
Oh that we would be broken and humble people for the glory of God, daily yielding to Him and submitting to His Lordship in every area of our lives. It would be wise for us to remember the foolishness of trying to get ahead of God. Remember the story of Abraham, Sarai, and Hagar (Genesis 16)? Instead, we ought to patiently wait for His perfect timing and humbly follow His lead. God’s timetable is always better than any timetable we could plan on our own; for God always has the right of way on our life highway. With these things in mind, ask God to cultivate within you a humble and submissive spirit as you yield to His divine authority. And as you do so, know that the Lord will exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:6).
– Pastor Eric