Staying Power: Week 3, Share Your Faith
This is the third week of our homily series Staying Power. This is a series about how to grow in your faith as a follower of Jesus Christ, and to keep growing in your faith. We grow spiritually by the commitments we make and keep.
Last week we looked at a commitment we said was the easiest of all, at least the easiest to understand and appreciate. We talked about prayer. Everybody agrees prayer is a good idea, even if we’re not good at actually praying. We also mentioned our Prayer Fully devotional as an aid to assist you; if you haven’t signed up yet and you need help, please see one of our staff as you exit today.
Today, we’re looking at another commitment. And this commitment is actually the most difficult one of all. It’s difficult for all Christians, and if you grew up Catholic, this commitment is a high hurdle. Today we are looking at the commitment of Sharing Your Faith.
And, it’s not about sharing your faith with people of faith. That’s easy. It’s about sharing your faith with people we collectively call the “unchurched”. Now, I’ve been doing this long enough to know there will be push back from some of you to do this.
The first push back is: I’m not equipped to share my faith. I don’t know all the books of the Bible, I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, I don’t know how Noah got the dinosaurs on the Ark…
Answering questions and criticism about faith is actually an academic discipline called Apologetics. And if you’re a Theologian or scholar it’s one way of sharing your faith. But it is not the only way. You don’t have to be a scholar to share your faith.
The second push back is: My faith is personal and private. Well, half right, your faith is personal, but if it’s the Christian faith, it is not at all private.
Perhaps the most common push back is: I don’t want to impose my religion on someone else. Well, I don’t want you to do that either. But “sharing your faith” is far different from imposing your religion on someone. Sharing your faith is more about living your faith so as to reflect Christ in hopes that an opportunity will arise to share the good news.
So, today, we’re going to look at how sharing your faith helps you grow spiritually. And we’re going to look at three ways you can measure that growth.
First way, sharing your faith helps you grow in love of God. In the Gospel today, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” We express love for God when we join the vision he gave his Son. And his Son, in turn, gave to his followers. When he called Peter and the other apostles, look at what he said “Follow me and I’ll make you…what? First consider what he didn’t say, I’ll make you smarter. I’ll make you richer. He didn’t even say I’ll make you holier! He said: Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.
Following Jesus fully means that we’re on a fishing expedition for the unchurched. That’s his vision. When you have the same vision in life as someone else, when your purpose and goals align, your relationship with them changes. Inevitably your affection and love for them grows.
God is all about bringing people into a relationship with him. When we join him in that vision it brings a greater sense of vision and purpose to our life.
Number two, sharing your faith helps you grow in love of your neighbor. In the Gospel, Jesus says the second commandment is like the first, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Spiritually mature people have an ability to think about others first. To be there for them. And what better way to be there for them than sharing good news with them.
The more churchy word for what we’re talking about is evangelization – it’s Greek and it literally means sharing good news. We talked about this in our last homily series Cornerstone when we said that the Church exists to evangelize – to share the good news with the world. The Gospel is that good news.
The good news is that we have a heavenly Father who planned for us from before the foundation of the world, and guides our steps everyday when we’ll let him, and one day will bring us home to be with Him forever.
It is good news that Jesus Christ died for us and rose from the dead to show us a new way to live. It’s good news that God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, can help us live this new way of life that is love, no matter our current missteps or mistakes, no matter what we’ve done wrong or gotten wrong.
Sharing your faith means working to bring the good news of God’s love and mercy to people who do not know it. There are people all around you, who do not know the good news of the Gospel. They either have never heard it or, more likely, they grew up only superficially exposed to it, and since then have formed plenty of misconceptions about the Gospel, and the Church.
Number three, sharing your faith grows your gratitude and enthusiasm for what God has done for you. When we commit to share our faith, it is an opportunity for us to be mindful of God for what he has done for us. To be grateful for the blessings we have received and, in fact, to grow in enthusiasm and gratitude.
This is an exercise that is a strengthening exercise, in exactly the same way a cardio workout is good for your heart, if you’re growing in gratitude and enthusiasm you’re growing spiritually. We see all of the personal benefits in sharing our faith played out in the life of St. Paul. Paul was one of the very first people to understand that the Gospel message and a relationship with Jesus Christ were not something to be carefully preserved and jealously guarded in a holy huddle of true believers. He recognized that it is simply incoherent to keep your Christian faith to yourself. And it’s because Paul shared his faith in Jesus, that we’re here today.
God used Paul to spread the Gospel beyond Israel to the World. One of the places Paul spread the Gospel was called Thessalonica. Paul wrote two letters to the Christian Thessalonians and one of the chief reasons he wrote, was to express his joy and thanksgiving that they had not only become followers of Jesus, but were growing and maturing in their faith.
Paul brought the Gospel to the Thessalonians because he was convicted that was something he needed to do. Paul shared his faith and was successful in sharing his faith because he was convinced of the difference knowing Christ had made in his life and would make in the lives of others.
Paul describes that he was a model for the Thessalonians on how to live. He says, “You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake”. What sort of person am I for your sake? What sort of person am I for the sake of the unchurched people in this community? What sort of person are you?
Sharing our faith means living our life in such a way that we do so for the sake of the unchurched. Living your life in a way that is worth modeling and worth following. Living it in a way that others might say, “I want what they have.”
Paul says, “For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son Jesus from heaven, whom he raised from the dead”.
This is what sharing our faith is about. It is about helping people turn from idols, false Gods …and there are every bit as many in our culture and community as there were in the Ancient Roman Empire. It’s about being an instrument of life change that helps people turn from unsuccessful and self-defeating ways of living to the more successful ways of God.
So let me give you a few ways to commit to sharing your faith beginning this week. Identify friends, family members and co-workers who are not connected to Christ and his Church. That’s easy, because they’re all around you. But it means you have to be on the lookout for them. You have to be paying attention at work or on the playground, on the soccer and ball fields, in your home-school or neighborhood association. Begin to pray for them. Pray also that God would open up ways for you to be a friend to them. Pray that he will give you the courage. Be someone who is open and available to them, easy to talk to, generous and kind. Then, when appropriate, invite them to church! Sooner or later circumstances or conditions, events or issues, will make an invitation to church appropriate and welcome.
Just make the invitation to join us either here in church, or to simply check us out online. We broadcast our Sunday Mass live at 9:30am on Facebook and YouTube and they can be watched anytime. If you are home watching, a great way to invite someone is to start a watch party on Facebook.
Commit to sharing your faith. Jesus is counting on you.