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.
I think the NIV translators hit the ball out of the park on this one. Reading the Japanese I can see that the Greek foundation is there, but the Shinkaiyaku translators really missed the boat. For one thing, they render it as “the fellowship of your faith,” rather than referencing the evangelism that is so clear in the NIV. Whether that is cause or effect of the extreme Japanese hesitance toward personal evangelism isn’t something I can decide, but it certainly seems related. The thing is, many of the things that we have in Christ are discovered only as we share Him. As long as we are focused on ourselves, we’ll never see them. Paul’s prayer for Philemon is something we should all be praying for each other! We are so prone to forget that God’s gifts are never limited to the immediate recipient; they are always to be passed on in some form. Nowhere is that more true than in the charismatic gifts. We tend to seek those for ourselves, and Paul even tells us we should seek to prophesy, (1 Corinthians 14:1) but they are always for the benefit of others. I think a major reason the gift of tongues is so emphasized is that seems like it’s the most individual, and we want something for us, not just to bless others. Sadly, some people seek the gift of prophecy as a “merit badge” to puff them up, rather than as a means of communicating God’s heart to others. Going back to the “individual” gift of tongues, yes, it does build up the individual, (Jude 1:20) but it is getting ourselves in line with God so that His will may be expressed and accomplished through our prayers, whether we understand what we say or not. Going back to what Paul prayed for Philemon, God’s gifts indeed bless the immediate recipient, but the more we allow them to flow through us, the greater the blessing for everyone involved.
This is an understanding I have only grown in the longer I have walked with the Lord. One of my “catch phrases” is, “Being self-centered/selfish never leads to genuine happiness.” That applies to “every good thing we have in Christ,” which includes life itself. That all echoes Paul’s quote of Jesus that isn’t in the Gospels, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) God is a giving God, and we are most fulfilled when we participate in that, acting as channels of His blessing to others.
Father, thank You for this strong reminder the day before Pentecost Sunday. May I, may we, not seek the filling and work of Your Holy Spirit for our own benefit, but so that many may be brought into Your kingdom, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!