Pillar Journal

The Inspiring Contagiousness of Submission

If God sanctifies us, we will be most influential to others when we are most afflicted.

…the real issue is not how many afflictions we experience but whether those sorrows bring us into sweet submission before God as we surrender everything to him. Would you sacrifice your most cherished hopes and dreams if God asked you to? Jephthah’s daughter did and set an example for thousands of Israelite girls after her. This young woman’s willingness to give up marriage and sexual relations in submission to her father and to the providence of the Lord was contagious; successive generations of young Israelite girls looked up to her as an inspiring example. By the Spirit’s grace, she inspired many to dedicate themselves to God’s service.

If God sanctifies us, we will be most influential to others when we are most afflicted. People will watch us most closely then to see if and how faith sustains us.

David Livingstone (1813–1873), the great missionary, geographer, linguist, and campaigner against slavery, is a notable example of contagious Christian living. When Livingstone was a young boy, he had a close friend. The two of them spent much time together during which Livingstone was saved, whereas the other boy was not. Livingstone tried his utmost to convince his friend to turn to Christ. He knew that the best way to live was to sacrifice all for Christ, but his friend was convinced that the way to live was to pursue money and the pleasure and leisure that comes with it.

Livingstone went to Africa in sacrificial submission to the gospel and God’s glory. His journeys to reach the unreached with the gospel took him thousands of miles on foot into remote African villages where no white person had ever been. Wherever he went, he preached.

When Livingstone died in Zambia at the age of sixty, his close friends buried his heart there while the embalmed remains of his body were brought to England, where he was given a state funeral at Westminster Abbey. Thousands of people lined the streets to pay homage to this great missionary and explorer.

A person in the crowd overheard a man in ragged clothes muttering under his breath as the hearse passed by: “You were right, Davey. You were right.”

After the procession ended the onlooker asked the man in rags, “What did you mean by saying, ‘You were right, Davey’”?

“David and I went to school together,” the man said. “He tried to convince me to give up everything for Christ. I refused because I was sure that I could live a far better life if I pursued money. I spent my life in the business world and eventually lost everything. Now I have nothing; no money and no friends. I see now that Davey was right; he had everything because he had God and he was willing to lay down his life for a cause bigger than himself.”

Are you, too, convinced that Davey was right? Will you ask God for grace to be a contagious Christian of sacrificial submission, like Jephthah’s daughter and David Livingstone? You may say, “This all seems so impossible for me. You have set the bar far too high.”

The bar is high, for two good reasons. First, too many of us today who profess Christ set the bar too low. We settle for mediocrity. We live far below our privileges as Christians. The worldly sprinter strives for excellence as he runs his race, but we Christians too often sit on the sidelines, seldom making anyone jealous of our Christian life and seldom witnessing to anyone of the joy of knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Shame on us for making the gospel so banal, so mediocre, so distasteful!

The second reason for setting the bar high is that God can give you the grace to live this way because of his Son, who is the supreme and perfect example of sacrificial submission. Even when he was twelve years old, Jesus was busy doing his Father’s business (Luke 2:49). He always lived coram Deo, always justified his Father, always approved of his Father, always clung to his Father, and always honored his Father. Even in the dark night of his soul, Jesus reached out for God, saying from the depth of his being, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Let us learn from Jesus, who was meek and lowly for our sakes, so that we, by grace, may live contagious lives of sacrificial submission.

We will not live perfect lives. We may often stumble. But by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and for Christ’s sake, we can live contagiously. And we can testify to ourselves and to others that the only way to live, the purposeful way to live, the joyous way to live is to live contagiously for the glory of God alone, in Christ alone, by faith alone, through grace alone! Soli Deo Gloria!

Excerpt from
Contagious Christian Living
By Joel Beeke