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Arms race beneath the Pacific

Large landing ships The Pacific Ocean and its neighboring seas are getting increasingly crowded these days as the countries that call those waters home try to keep up with China's growing naval presence in the region. As CNN's Charles Riley writes, Australia recently became the latest entrant to the arms race when they ordered twelve new submarines at a cost of $39 billion. The 4,700 metric ton Shortfin Barracudas will offer their navy better sensory and stealth performance without compromising the range and endurance of older models. Australia described them as the "largest and most complex" submarines it has ever employed. Their Pacific neighbors are likely to follow suit, with at least eight of the twelve nations in the area that currently utilize subs looking to upgrade their respective fleets.

Such expansion is merely the latest example of a recent trend in the region. Defense spending among Asian countries has risen steadily by an average of five percent each year at a time when military budgets in most of Europe have remained stagnant. While the region's growing economic power has enabled its countries to make such an investment, the primary cause is often thought to be China's aggressive territorial expansion through man-made islands in the Pacific and disputes with Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan, among others.

Admiral Samuel Locklear, the former commander of the U.S Pacific Command, believes that the Indo-Asia Pacific Region is already "the most militarized part of the world." Submarines play a central role in that militarization with some arguing that "half of the world's submarines will be operating in Asia by 2035."

Australia, however, has not been directly affected by such aggression and does not anticipate that changing any time soon. Still, they see the advances made by other nations as a threat to "the defense capability edge [they] have enjoyed" to date. As such, they seem to be less worries about their national security and more concerned about their standing within the region, though they might dispute any distinction between those factors. After all, in an arms race, the volume of one's voice is often directly related to the strength of one's military. If Australia wants to keep its seat at the table, then it probably does have to keep up with the rest of the region in this regard.

Fortunately, our influence on the larger culture doesn't work the same way. Throughout the Church's history, some of its most influential people were those least associated with strength and power. That fact is perhaps best seen in its earliest days. Our faith began with a group of fishermen, women, and others who were often marginalized in the political and religious realms of their day. The Church grew largely through its appeal to the poor and downtrodden. Its spiritual heroes were often those that chose to give up their wealth and standing in the pursuit of a closer relationship with God. And that pattern continues to this day.

As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:26–27).

That passage does not mean that God can or will only use the weak and foolish. Rather, those words were meant to encourage the believers then, and in every generation since, that to be used by God requires nothing beyond our willingness to be used. God can do more for his kingdom through the poor and powerless who are committed to serving him than he can through the rich and powerful who are not.

So wherever you fall on that spectrum, know that your submission to the Lord will most determine your influence for the kingdom. So how useful will you be today?

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