Philemon 1:6 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.
Reading various English translations I realize that the NIV is something of an anomaly, but I still like it very much in this verse. The Greek obviously talks about “fellowship of faith,” but given the total flow, taking that as “sharing faith” doesn’t seem much of a stretch. Whether knowing what good things we have in Christ produces the fellowship/sharing (as the Japanese expresses it) or the other way around (as the NIV has it) would seem to be a toss-up. In any case the more we know of how good God has been to us, the more we are going to be sharing that faith/knowledge with others, and conversely, the more we share, the deeper our own appreciation and understanding become. It is something of a truism that the best way to learn something is to teach it. That applies to faith as well. When we speak God’s truth to someone else, we are hearing what we say as well, and as Paul said, faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. (Romans 10:17) I’ll never forget one time a man who attended our church, whose wife was a Christian but he had never been baptized, was actively telling someone else about Christ. It wasn’t long after that happened that he asked for baptism! At this point he is a very active Christian, though a job transfer has taken him to another city. In a way, faith/knowledge of Christ is like love: the more you give it, the more of it you have.
I have certainly seen this principle in action, both in my life and in the lives of others. That has been true both positively and negatively. It is rare indeed that someone who shares Christ regularly on a personal level has a crisis of faith, but people who decline to talk about Jesus seldom grow in their own knowledge and appreciation of Him. Japanese culture treats faith as something very personal, not to be talked about, and religion is seen as a cultural, even racial, thing. As a result, the average church member has never shared their faith and is likely to be somewhat shaky about it. I don’t have the gift/office of Evangelist, but I love to talk about God and His Word, and that has had a very good impact on my faith. At the same time I feel like I run into a wall every time I encourage the believers to do likewise. They feel that because they’ve never been to seminary, they aren’t qualified! I point out to them that seminaries didn’t exist until several centuries after the start of the Church, but that doesn’t break through the Japanese tendency to “leave it to the pro.” (Actually, Japanese are astonished at all the things I can do for which I’ve never been to school or had other formal training.) I need to help them understand that sharing Christ does as much, if not more, for their own faith as it does for the other person.
Father, this is obviously something I can’t get across by my own wisdom and persuasiveness. I ask You to open the eyes and heart of each believer so that they may grasp more and more of who You are and what You have done for them, and in the process discover who they are in Christ, for their great blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!