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.
There are some arguable points about exactly what is subject and what is object in this sentence, grammatically speaking, but one point is very clear: faith is intimately connected with both knowledge and activity. You can’t have faith without knowing something about Christ, and as James pointed out, it’s hard to claim you have faith without demonstrating it through your activities. (James 2:14-26) It’s very dangerous to try to substitute activities for faith. That’s one of the things that triggered the Protestant Reformation, as Luther saw the Catholic Church telling people they could essentially buy their way into heaven. He reacted so strongly that he called James a “book of straw,” but if the pendulum swings too far, you have people who claim to be Christians but whose lives are indistinguishable from complete pagans. Sadly, such people are very abundant. Whatever the Greek says, the NIV translation picks up on something I have observed time and time again: the best way to grow your faith is to share it. We won’t really know all the good things God has prepared for us in Christ until we walk them out in obedience, and our faith is certainly strengthened when it is confirmed in experience.
This has certainly been my experience, but I still have trouble applying it in pastoral ministry. My major motivational gifting is Teacher, and one characteristic of that is the tendency to feel that transmitting information is – or should be – enough. I can get very frustrated when I speak God’s truth to people week after week and they don’t change! The thing is, they aren’t going to change until they start putting that truth into action, because only then will they really grasp it and make it their own. We don’t really understand truth until we apply it and allow it to change us. That’s why it’s so helpful that I’ve been introduced to the concept of coaching, rather than simply teaching. I have a lot of room to grow in walking alongside people to help them apply the truth that I share with them. I really think the reason so many people have such shallow faith is that they’ve never really tried to express their faith to someone else, to share it with them. When we put our faith into our own words and actions, then it really becomes ours, and grows by leaps and bounds.
Father, thank You for continuing to grow me as Your servant. Thank You for this time right now when I’m not supposed to be speaking at all (when I usually talk so much). Help me indeed express my faith and Your love through my actions, as I distribute Bibles this morning with the Gideons and in every other thing I do as well, so that I may be transformed more and more into the likeness of Your son, (Romans 8:29) for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!