I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that the faith you share with us may deepen your understanding of every blessing that belongs to you in Christ. – Philemon 1:4-6 NET
They say faith is hard to see, but Paul would disagree. Faith has fruit. Our belief in Jesus Christ should have a direct impact on the way we live our lives and should be visible to all those around us. Paul had heard of Philemon’s faith. Others had been able to see it and talk about it. They had been first-hand recipients of Philemon’s love – a direct byproduct of his faith in Christ. One of Paul’s other prayers, found in his letter to the Philippians, read, “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation–the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ–for this will bring much glory and praise to God” (Philippians 1:11 NLT). As we grow in our faith, the fruit of that faith increases, impacting those around us. Which is why Paul prayed that Philemon’s faith would deepen his understanding of every blessing that belongs to him in Christ. Our faith in Christ should result in a growing awareness of the incredible blessings we have received from God as a result of our relationship with His Son. We enjoy His unmerited grace, mercy, forgiveness,and love. We have the ongoing assurance of His abiding presence. Nothing we do can ever alter our relationship as His child. He never falls out of love with His children. As the incredible nature of the our relationship with God sets in, our faith should increase, along with our love for those around us. When we realize just how much we have received from God, we should desire to share that same love, grace and mercy with others. The apostle John writes, “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us” (1 John 4:12 NLT). God’s love for us was never meant to terminate on us. His love should flow through us to others, in order that they might feel the love of God in a tangible way.
As we grow in our understanding of the blessings of God available to us through Christ, we are able to turn from our normal and natural inward fixation to a Spirit-motivated love for others. We begin to live out what Paul described: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NLT). We become known for our love for others. Our faith in Christ takes on a visible nature that others can see, feel and experience. We become less self-centered and more other-focused. Our selfishness slowly gets replaced with a spirit of selflessness and sacrifice. Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ should be accompanied by a love for others. That is the fruit of righteousness. Paul knew that as Philemon grew in his understanding of all that he had received in Christ, he would increase in his desire to love others. So that was the heart of Paul’s prayer for Philemon. And we should pray that same prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ today. Our love for one another and our love for the lost are tangible expressions of God’s redemptive, restorative love for us. We are to love as we have been loved. We are to show grace as we have received grace. We are to extend mercy as we have had mercy extended to us. We are God’s ambassadors, His representatives on this earth. “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’’ (2 Corinthians 5:19-20 NLT). But the most effective way to get people to return to God is to allow them to experience the love of God through us. They can’t see God, but they can feel His love as we love them as He has loved us. Oh, that our faith would grow and that our awareness of God’s great love for us would continue to increase. Then that love would find expression in our selfless, sacrificial love for others. And the world would take notice.