Monday, February 23, 2009

A Spiritual Stimulus Plan - Part 1: "Submission"

Our federal government has just enacted an economic stimulus package designed to reverse our economies recessionary tendencies. Whether it will work or not is yet to be seen. Truth is--the humans in charge are guessing.

Our church (made up of humans) is also in need of a stimulus package to curb the tendency that we have to recess in our faith rather than progressing. Acts 16 records the beginnning of Paul's second missionary journey. The text reveals at least six unique motivators that prompted Paul to progress in his ministry as he traveled along his missionary journey. I believe that these same six motivators, applied to our modern lives and our gathered churches will produce the types of results that Paul experienced. The humans in charge need not guess--God has provided a "Spiritual Stimulus Plan".

Part One of the Stimulus Plan is a difficult motivator for us: "submission".

The first five verses of Acts 16 describes an amazing act of submission. Timothy, whose Father is Greek and whose mother is a believing Jew, submits to circumcision even though his new ministry with Paul centers on distributing a letter from the Jerusalem elders stating that the Gentile believers do not need to undergo circumcision. Verse 3 says that he was circumcised, "because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek". He was circumcised out of deference to the Jews. He submitted to their religious rule at great personal cost in order to be more effective among them.

The word "submit" comes from two Greek words meaning, "under" and "to arrange". It's a military term that is also used to describe the behavior of a slave to his master. To submit is to, "be ready to renounce one's own will for the sake of others". In its clearest light, a submissive person has simply given up the right to be in charge. They have voluntarily come under someone else's arrangement. Timothy voluntarily came under the Jewish arrangement of circumcision for their ultimate benefit. Effective influence from a respected place of submission had a high cost for Timothy.

The Bible identifies six relationships where submission is applicable for us:
  1. Submit to God (James 4:6-7).
  2. Submit to Government (Romans 13:1).
  3. Submit to Spiritual Leaders (Hebrews 13:17).
  4. Submit to One Another (Ephesians 5:21).
  5. Submit to Employers (1 Peter 2:18).
  6. Submit to Husbands (Ephesians 5:22-33).
With the exception of the first in the list, each of these submissions is to someone or something that is not necessarily deserving of our submission. Submission will often require us to be big enough to submit to someone smaller. Of course, I am not talking about potentially abusive situations. In those cases--safety must be a priority. A worker should not submit to work in an unsafe work environment. A Christian should not submit to a tyrannical government's request to deny God. A wife should not submit to become her husband's punching bag.

Notice the result of God's Spiritual Plan: "So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily" (Acts 16:5). "Submission" is just the first part...but it is the first part! Churches will be strengthened, families will be strengthened, communities and work places will be strengthened as we apply God's Spiritual Stimulus Plan.

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