(More Good Things)
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.
The apostle Paul is referring in this verse to a cause and effect relationship. The activity of sharing our faith brings us naturally into an understanding of many things in Christ which we would not appreciate unless we were involved in that activity. It is the Lord’s desire that we share our faith, not only to be witnesses of His power in the lives of others, but also to be recipients of His grace in our lives as well. As I think about His work both in us and through us two “good things” come to mind. The first of these is in reference to an understanding of His protection. The second deals with His work in my own heart in removing prejudice.
This young man and I had formed a good relationship over the preceding several months. We would usually meet for lunch, but on occasion would play tennis together. His understanding of the implications of the gospel came slowly as we looked at the scriptures together. Some of C.S. Lewis’s writings were helpful to him as well, and one day after we had met, he trusted Christ as his Savior. We met several times soon after that day and the following week I was to meet him at his house later in the afternoon. After being detained at a meeting, I called to let him know that I was running late. He replied that he had just met two friendly men who had just come to his door. He had invited them in, accepted their books and was in an active discussion of spiritual topics with them. My reply to him was to tell them to wait right there because I would be on my way and I wanted to talk to them. The moment I hung up the phone I prayed “Lord, get rid of those people.” I arrived ten minutes later to find no one but my friend at his house. When I asked him where they were he replied, “It was the weirdest thing. I told them what you said and then they looked at one another and said together, ‘We have to be going now.’” After thanking the Lord for His protection, we had a discussion about various cults, their methods and their errors, and destroyed the books. Through this experience, I came to a greater understanding of one the “good things” referred to in Philemon 6; namely His protection. Our Lord states in John 10:27-29, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; No one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; No one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
During the early years of my medical practice, I entered into a discussion of spiritual topics with most of my patients. As the years progressed, I became more selective and began to develop discernment as to their degree of spiritual interest. It was during the earlier years when I entered a room to meet this patient. She was a woman who had suffered a disease early in life leaving her nearly blind. She had been sedentary for years, and had grown to be quite heavy. Her knees and hips were weakened, requiring the use of a cane. The years of her limitation had worn on her emotionally and she had become somewhat ill-tempered as well. The nursing personnel reported to me that she had tried to hit people at times with her cane. On my examination, I found huge, weeping sores covering her legs. As a specialist in lung disease, seeing primarily referrals from other physicians, I wondered how she came to be on my schedule. I went outside to our receptionist and asked that she be referred to a Dermatologist. When the receptionist checked our book, she found out that the Dermatologist had referred her to me! I was dumbfounded. How could this happen, I wondered? As I thought further about this chain of events, it became apparent to me that the only possible reason that she was in my office was to hear the gospel.
In addition to caring for the sores on her legs and helping with the chronic leg pain, I began the process of earning her trust and building a relationship with her as her physician. I began to experience practically what I had known only intellectually, that God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11) I needed to know that God’s love extended to her as much as she needed to receive His love in her own life. She was a very needy person, and the next several years were challenging, but in the end very rewarding. After some months, she agreed to come with our family to a local church we were attending not far from where she lived. She began attending regularly and the Lord continued his work in her life. Following one of the Sunday services, the pastor came out and said to me. Your friend sent me to find you and say, “Tell Dr. Spann that I am praying at the altar.” Her physical sight never recovered, but the Lord granted 20/20 spiritual sight as she began her life as a follower of Christ. My spiritual sight sharpened as well, learning that no one is outside the desire of His grace or beyond the reach of His grace.
A few years after the above had taken place, any remaining prejudice as to the working of His grace was to be challenged in a different area. The young man in my office had been ill for several months. He had a cough, low grade fever, and some chest X-ray abnormalities that were compatible with pneumonia. He had seen several doctors already and had been treated with multiple antibiotics, but with no benefit. I admitted him to the hospital and performed a surgical procedure called a bronchoscopy and a lung biopsy. To my surprise, it showed some parasites typically seen only in patients with leukemia, and or who had received kidney transplants. After calling the Communicable Disease Center, I was informed that in California and New York, they were beginning to see these organisms in people who were homosexual. Although not seen before in our state, he became the first patient to be diagnosed with what was later known as HIV or AIDS in Kansas.
I felt uncomfortable spending time apart from the office with this young man as we met for lunch. As we spent more time together, however, the Lord removed any hesitation on my part to become his friend and enabled me to not only share the gospel but my time as well. Despite the rapid advance of his disease, he did live long enough to respond to the gospel and turn his life over to the Lord. He was even feeling well enough to attend a Navigator fall conference the following year. The Lord, in His grace, had worked in his heart to enable him to become a follower of Christ. At the same time, the Lord was working in my heart, removing prejudice as to who would respond to the gospel message.
The activity of sharing my faith has helped me understand in a personal way that there is no prejudice to the working of God’s grace in someone’s life. Many of those with whom I have had an opportunity to share the gospel have been in the eyes of the world either off the road in a ditch, or up a tree, out on a limb. This, of course, is exactly where Jesus found them as well. (Luke 18:35-19:10)
May the Lord continue to enable you to be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.