One translation of Philemon 1:6 reads like this:
“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.”
How interesting. Paul doesn’t pray that his readers might be active in preaching the gospel so that others will be converted. Nor does he pray that they’re active so that the gospel can go forth to the nations. He might well have done so, and no doubt he did on other occasions, but specifically here the apostle points us to a personal benefit that comes when we are active in speaking the words of the gospel to others. When we speak the gospel we have a more and more full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
You might say, then, that preaching the gospel in all the ways we do so is not only for the benefit of those we are speaking to, but also for the good of our own souls. It seems that every opportunity to preach the gospel is also an opportunity to believe the gospel.
Perhaps a few scenarios might help in understanding how that works.
1. Preach (and believe) the gospel with the lost.
The gospel is the message that we can be saved from the righteous and just punishment of God for our sins because of Christ’s death in our place. This is the core of what we must speak to those who are lost in order that they might be saved. Sometimes that preaching looks like preaching – as in a congregation. Other times it looks like speaking the words of the gospel to a friend or neighbor who is not a believer. But in either case, the gospel must be declared.
But in that declaration there is an opportunity for us to believe it once again. That happens when we know there is no logical reason for the person we are talking to to believe something as outlandish as what we are saying is true: I’m really deserving of eternal punishment? There really was a Jesus who died in my place? My greatest need is to be at peace with God? It’s crazy talk. But as we are declaring this message that is indeed foolishness to those that are perishing, it’s an opportunity for us to be reminded that this message has power. Indeed, the only reason we actually believe it ourselves is because of the Holy Spirit, who is still blowing like the wind wherever He wishes.
2. Preach (and believe) the gospel when you’re wronged.
How do you preach the gospel when you’re wronged? It’s through forgiving and receiving the one who has wronged you. It’s through not responding in kind, with the same hateful venom they spewed at you. It’s through kindness and grace, modeled by Jesus who even though we were His enemies nevertheless died for us. We preach and validate the truth of God’s grace in Christ when we don’t hold out grace for someone else.
But as we display the gospel to those who wrong us, it’s also an opportunity for us to believe it even more deeply ourselves. We do that by reminding ourselves that our true worth is not measured by a single person’s opinion of us but rather by the death of Jesus. We do that by drinking deeply of the truth that we are fully loved and accepted in Christ, never to be rejected again. And when we experience rejection and accusation and hatred from others, it’s another chance to return to the core truth that we are the loved and safe children of God.
3. Preach (and believe) the gospel when you give.
Giving is not the gospel, but giving is compelled by the gospel. That means giving time, money, energy, prayer – it means sacrificing for the sake of God’s kingdom and other people. When we give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, but joyfully, we are shining the same sacrificial attitude that Jesus had who, though He was rich in every way, became poor for our sake. Our sacrifice of time, talent, energy or whatever is another tangible proof that the gospel is actually real. It’s so real, in fact, that we would happily not pursue our own comfort but instead give for the sake of someone else.
But there are those thoughts that still creep into our minds and doubts that slink into our hearts when we give: Am I going to have enough? Will I be too tired? How much will it really hurt? This is an opportunity for us to believe the gospel because the gospel reminds us that we are rich in Christ. We have every spiritual blessing in the heavens, and not one will ever be lessened. Not only that, but the gospel shows us that we have the kind of Father who knows and delights in giving us what we need. He will not fail to give us the daily bread, and therefore we are free to give to others.
Preach the gospel in word and deed. Preach, and as you do, feel the double blessing of believing it all over again.