Have you taken time to consider your hands lately? I know it sounds silly, but stay with me. Hands have many positions and many functions. They can hang at our sides or be lifted high. They can be closed tight or opened wide. They can take in or give out.
My first real focus on my hands occurred a few years back, when our family’s income took a sudden, major hit. In that season, the position of my hands illustrated my beliefs about Jehovah Jireh, my Provider. I had to take stock of my beliefs: would I tight-fist my position and possessions as if I owned them? Or would I open my hands to receive what God—the true Owner—wanted to give? Likewise, would I willingly give up what He ordained to remove? The process was simultaneously frightening and joyful, as I grew in letting go and allowing God to have His perfect way.
God remained true to His Provider name, and what looked like death led to life anew. As our family journeyed through that season, we discovered a new level of freedom through submission to our Savior.
Freedom through submission. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? But I’m not the only one who has learned to shine through submission and discipline.
Growing up in the 70s, I used to love watching the Olympics on television. My favorite winter sport was figure skating. One particular Olympic year, I remember watching the pre-performance competition called the “schools.” In this portion of the competition, skaters were judged on their ability to pass certain basic tests, such as retracing a figure eight pattern on the ice over and over again. To the common viewer, these tests must have looked pointless—or even elementary. But I discovered that the skaters’ submission to the schools had a powerful effect on their performances. As the skaters disciplined themselves to perfect the framework of the schools, they gained skills on which to grow. They built up their abilities until they could master tricks like triple axels and flying camels, the stuff that earns gold medals.
And that brings me back to my hands. In a season of loss, God taught me what I could gain by living open-handedly. Now, I wondered, where else might I need to employ the discipline of open-handedness? For example, how was I “handling” the stewardship of my salvation and the spiritual gifts God had granted me? Was I searching for ways to perfect and employ them, or was I clinging to them as if I were their owner, denying myself and others the opportunity to live and grow?
Ephesians 4:11 tells us that God appointed apostles, prophets, evangelists and shepherd-teachers (administers) for the purpose of equipping the body of believers to be ministers of the gospel. In other words, when we open our hands to receive God’s gift of salvation, He also gives us spiritual gifts. And the only way to truly utilize those gifts is to remain open-handed, in order to:
- Receive more understanding of Him through His word, His Spirit, His Church, and His life lessons.
- Practice our understanding through ministry to other believers and to the world at large.
- Maintain the power and function of the Church by working alongside fellow believers under the leadership of our Head, Jesus Christ.
By following this divine system—our Christian “schools” of sorts—the Body of Christ soars to new levels of Christ-likeness. We are built up and unified. We become more knowledgeable about and hungry for God’s purposes. We mature and reflect our Savior. Indeed, the Church grows deeper, higher, and wider. And more joyful, as described by the apostle Paul below. Won’t you join me in this gift of ministry lavished upon us by our Father, arms outstretched and palms up to receive His gifts and pass them on to a world who needs Him?
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” Philippians 2:12-18