Can you even find it?
If you are not careful you will skip right over it, and if you are not too familiar with the New Testament, you might have a bugger of a time finding it. It’s only one page long in my New Testament; it is the little book of Philemon that packs quite a punch. The story of Philemon is an interesting one to be sure. The apostle Paul wrote this letter to Philemon, a believer in the city of Colosse. Philemon was a slave owner (certainly not endorsed, encouraged, or supported by scripture, rather a reality of the times). One of his slaves, Onesimus, had apparently stolen from him and then run away, which under Roman law was punishable by death. But Onesimus met Paul and through his ministry became a Christian, and ultimately a dear friend of Paul. Now Onesimus was willing to return to his master, and Paul writes this personal appeal to ask that he be forgiven, and accepted back – not as a slave, but as a Christian brother by Philemon.
Great Story! However, what struck me most in my reading of Philemon this week was not the storyline, but a simple, yet profound word that Paul gives to Philemon. This word is found in v. 6 of this brief letter… I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that You will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ (Philemon 6). Did you catch it? Perhaps it’s a little hard to miss it with my highlight. You might expect Paul to say, “Be active in sharing your faith, so that others will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” But instead he says that you should share your faith so that You will understand every good thing we have in Christ. Paul here is speaking of the personal benefits that you and I receive when we share our faith with others.
Let me give you a brief testimony to the truth of this powerful little verse in Philemon. As many of you know last month I went to Kenya, and served with the Gospel Center of Nairobi’s Mission team as they did a week of outreach in the small city of Kajiado (pron. Ka g a doe). One of the things that we did was go around house to house, business to business, just stopping people on the street to share our faith with them, and seek to lead them to a personal relationship with Christ. The first thing I noticed (to my embarrassment) is how rusty I had become at it – kind of like picking up a tennis racket after not playing for 10 years. Here I am a pastor, but I did more personal evangelism in those two days than I probably do in a whole year in the states – a sad but true confession. However, once I got back in the “swing” of it, I felt challenged personally with the thought, “why don’t I do this more at home?” Why do I have to travel 18 hours on a metal bird to be in Paul’s words “active in sharing your faith.” I feel inspired and challenged to be more bold to share my faith with others. I want you to hear me on this, this does not feel like a “have to – I guess I should share my faith with others because the Bible tells me to (spoken sad reluctance and guilt), but a “get to.” I was struck deeply with the personal joy and benefits that the team and I experienced as we shared our faith in Christ with others.
The Personal Benefits…
I experienced what Paul says in v. 6 of Philemon, “… be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Let me list a few of the things I was reminded of as I shared my faith with others…
- Apart from Christ I am lost, broken, alone, and faced a Christ-less eternity, but Jesus saved me, redeemed me and has changed by life.
- I was reminded of the message of the Cross – Christ came and died not only for the whole world, but for me personally. God loves us so much that there is no price he wouldn’t pay for our salvation.
- In Christ is “every good and perfect gift” – Joy, an ocean of love, peace, a family to live with (the church), hope and power in hard times, provides for our needs, meets us in our hurts, gives us a purpose to live and die for, and reserves a place in heaven for us when we die. And the fact that we will never die; because Christ tasted the sting of death, we don’t have to. We just pass from this life into the next.
- I was reminded of the free gift of grace, that it is not what we do for God, but what Christ has done for us that saved us.
- I was reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 15:10, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” I can just imagine the rejoicing as over 150 people gave their lives to Christ in this mission week.
One of the great dangers of the Christian life is the longer we follow Christ, the easier it is to take for granted the amazing, matchless, life-transforming good news of the gospel, and the incredible gift and privilege it is to be a follower of Christ. I was reminded in this precious week in Africa of the power of God to save sinners like me, and the beautiful, innumerable gifts and benefits we have in Christ. So my challenge to you is the same as those ancient words of Paul to Philemon be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of everything we have in Christ. Let me give you…
3 Simple Steps:
- Pray. Pray daily for opportunities to share your faith with someone else.
- Just Walk Across the Room. That is the title of a book by Bill Hybels on evangelism. His premise is that half the work of sharing your faith, is just having the courage to walk over to someone and just begin a conversation.
- Share your faith. Don’t make it harder than it is. The Bible calls it being a witness. Just telling others what you know about who you know, and how God has blessed your life. It can be as simple as sharing a story of how God has blessed your life, or sharing something you have learned, or inviting someone to something at church whereby they could hear about Christ.
When you share your faith with others, your own faith is built up, and as Paul says, “you will have a full understanding of everything we have in Christ. When you share your faith God is glorified, people will be blessed – maybe for eternity, and your faith will grow and be enriched! God bless you as you share!