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Honoring Authority

Thursday, February 4, 2010

by Dr. Paul Chappell

"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."

Hebrews 13:17

God often uses authority to work in your life.

Christian Herter is well-known as the fifty-third United States Secretary of State under President Dwight Eisenhower from 1959-1961, but held many different political positions throughout his life including Under Secretary of State, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, first United States Trade Representative, and governor of Massachusetts. A humorous story comes from his time spent campaigning for a reelection to the Massachusetts governorship. While on the road, he spent many days giving speeches, talking with voters, and traveling from town to town. As is typical with political candidates, his days were long and grueling, and he often looked forward to times when he could relax. One day he was scheduled to appear at a church picnic, and before he spoke to the crowd, he joined the attendees in a line for the potluck buffet.

As he progressed in the line, he reached a lady serving chicken. She served him one, but being especially hungry that day Herter asked, "Could I please have another piece of chicken?" The woman replied, "I'm sorry but I'm only supposed to give one chicken per person." "But I'm starving," he retorted. "Nope. One chicken for everybody" was her reply. While Governor Herter wasn't normally a boastful man, he decided the extra piece of chicken was worth it, "Do you know who I am? I am the governor of this state!" Not missing a beat, the lady replied, "Do you know who I am? I am the lady in charge of the chicken. Now move along, sir."

Hester thought his authority as governor would persuade the chicken lady to give him another piece, but he didn't realize her authority at the picnic outranked his. While this is a humorous story about authority, God gives us a serious message about honoring the authority in our lives in Hebrews 13, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves."

As parents, we teach our children to obey and respect their authorities, and we desire that they learn early in life to honor those over them by obeying their commands. However, even as adults, we must learn to submit to our authorities. While children are taught to obey because their authority usually knows best, we are told to obey because our authorities will one day account to God for us, "for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."

Your pastor will one day stand before God and give an account for you and the rest of his congregation. Other authorities will give an account for how they appropriated the responsibility God entrusted to them. God desires that you would honor and obey authority so their accounting will not be in grief!

Often, God leads authority to make certain decisions and require certain things of you for a reason. God uses authority to work in your life. How can God work through authority if you will not obey them? While you may think you know best or authority may seem to be making a mistake, God desires that you would obey them. He placed them in your life for a reason.

While God doesn't want you to go against biblical commands no matter who requires it, He does desire for you to honor and obey your authority. Are you submitting to your authority's rule? Have you honored their requests? Remember that God has a purpose for everything that happens in your life. Trust that He has a plan even when you don't understand why, and obey those over you.

To learn more about the ministries of Lancaster Baptist Church and Pastor Chappell, please visit,, or follow him on twitter.

Daily Bible Reading
Exodus 34–35 | Matthew 22:23–46