Increasing the Faith of Others

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“But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (2 Cor. 10:13-18)

A few weeks ago we looked at this same verse and examined what it meant to be “assigned an area of influence by God.” (v.13) We looked at how each of us has an area of influence, and how our job is to help increase the faith of those we influence.

But what does it mean to “increase someone’s faith?” How do we know what we’re looking for in the lives of those whom we disciple?

Fortunately, Paul answered this question for us in his letter to the Ephesians. In the third chapter of that letter he says that he prays for the following characteristics to manifest themselves in the lives of his disciples (see bold/underlined below, enumerations are mine):

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you 1)to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being 2)rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have 3)strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be 4)filled with all the fullness of God.

But Paul does not leave it at that. He does not just pray for the people he disciples and leave the rest to God. He realizes that there is a responsibility that one has towards those he disciples in order to increase their faith. Therefore, he spends the entire chapter outlining for us how he, as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, went about this task. The prayer quoted above is only a piece of what he did. But as you can see in the table below, the discipler increases his disciples’ faith through much, much more than merely bowing before God for the people in his area of influence. He takes an active role in their faith journey, both when he is with them and when he is away.

Here is an outline of chapter 3 to help us understand how to apply these same efforts for the people we influence.

Verse

Responsibility

v.1 – For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles Know that when you invest your life in increasing the faith of others, your sufferings will no longer be about you alone but will also be on behalf of those you are influencing. Therefore, you must remember your disciples, encouraging them and enduring your suffering on their behalf.

 

v. 2-3 – assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. You are to be a faithful/good steward of the grace of God. This means that you must not only correctly handle the word of truth but must also work to not defame God’s grace by your choices or lifestyle. Your example is a powerful, visible reminder to others of not only what you are teaching but also how it practically expresses itself and makes a difference in a person’s life. (2 Tim. 2:15)
v. 4-5 – When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. Let others perceive your insight into the mystery of Christ as you teach to them the truth.

 

Rely only on God for revelation into this mystery. Your talent or intellect or abilities are nothing when used in the service of yourself. But when you use them in the service of God, others can see Him and understand the truth as He defines it.

 

v. 7 – Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. Keep this idea foremost in your mind: you are a minister to this person/these people according to the gift of God’s grace and that this was given you by the working of His power. You did not conjure this up on your own. And you do not sustain it on your own. It is all of God, from God, and for God.

 

v. 8a – To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, Be humble — view yourself as the least of the saints.

 

v. 8b-10 – this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[b] God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Focus your teachings on two overarching emphases: 1) the unsearchable riches of Christ and 2) to bring light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery of the ages. This will allow the church to be the vehicle through which the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Meaning, we are not only witnessing these truths to those whom we can see but also to those whom we cannot see)
v. 11-13 – This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. Receive the boldness you have in Christ and access Him with the confidence you have through faith in Him.

Exemplify this boldness in your own sufferings so those you are influencing can see how to not lose heart in trials and can learn from your example of how to stand firm (Eph. 6:10-20)

v. 14-17a – For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[c] in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith Pray diligently to God that He may strengthen your disciples with power through His Spirit in your inner being according to the riches of his glory SO THAT Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith.

 

v. 17b-19 –  that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Pray that they will be 1) rooted and grounded in love, 2) have strength to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of this love, and 3) to know that the love of Christ surpasses knowledge, i.e. that they may be filled with the fullness of God. Do not pray for only one of these characteristics. Pray for all of these things. For without all of them in your disciples, your disciples lack the fullness of God and will make poor ambassadors for Christ to the world and to those whom they eventually disciple as well.

 

v. 20-21 – Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Pray that God’s incomprehensible purposes will be accomplished according to the power at work within your disciples FOR THE GLORY OF GOD.

 

Pray that these things will occur both in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout ALL generations. Do not pray for these to occur in your disciples only. Have a long-term view in mind. Pray for the generations coming after them as well, for your area(s) of influence do not end at the people you know. They only begin there. There are myriads of people who will follow the example you established in your disciples. And they will pass this example onto other generations as well. Pray as broadly and boldly as you can, exploring the depth and breadth of all you can ask or imagine, but leave the work of accomplishing these prayers to the One who is able and can do far more, according to the power at work in us. May He receive the glory, not us, both in the church and in Christ throughout all generations, so that it may never be said: “They forgot the LORD their God.” (1 Sam. 12:9)

Now, go. Be His witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, making disciples of all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [He has] commanded you.” And behold, He will be with you always, even to the end of the age. (Acts 1:8; Mt. 28:18-20)

The Unobserved Ministry

“But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (2 Cor. 10:13-18)

Every one of us Christians is in ministry. Without exception. We may not all be formally ordained or have a huge following of some kind, but God does not define ministry in this way. First, He gives you Christ. Second, He assigns an area of influence to you, and third, He asks that you use your influence to increase the faith of those in your area so that your area of influence may grow and others’ faith may be increased as well. This is what Jesus meant when he talked about us going to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and even to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). We begin in one area of influence and as the faith of the people there increases, our area of influence is greatly enlarged “so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond [them].” (v. 16)

So, look around you. What are the areas of influence that God has assigned to you?

…Wait. You don’t have one?

Are you sure?

Do you have a family?

A job?

A blog?

A church?

A community?

How about a Facebook account?

Or a little league baseball team that you coach?

Maybe you have a business partner, a client list, or employees?

Perhaps your area of influence is a neighbor, a best friend, or the hobo you always see on the street corner.

The list could go on and on.

The point is: we are all in ministry. And the areas of influence that God has assigned to us are plural, not singular, in nature.

We are called to be a gospel people in each of these areas, teaching all that Christ commanded us so that the faith of others grows, our territory expands (1 Chron. 4:10) and we make disciples of all nations.

Such a perspective may be a different way of looking at your life and admittedly there are traps along the way. Therefore it is helpful to use the above passage as a helpful model in praying for your ministry, whatever your area(s) of influence may be.
1) Focus on the area of influence God has assigned to you

2) Ask that God will prevent you from overextending yourself or boasting as though you reached those you have not reached with the Gospel.

3) Ask that God will greatly enlarge the people’s faith so that your area of influence may also expand, so that you may be able to preach the gospel in other lands beyond the original people or group God assigned to you.

4) Pray that as you grow you will be humble, not taking credit for the work others have already done in those lands but boasting in only what the Lord does through you in those new places.

5) Earnestly pray that your only boast will be boasting in the Lord, both for the willing and the doing of the work.

6) Ask that you will not be approved because you commend yourself (i.e., clever marketing or prideful boasting in how you have used your talents) but because God commands you. Let the whole work, the spreading of the Gospel, the preaching, the expansion, and the approval be God-centric. “For it is God who works in you, BOTH to will AND to work for his good pleasure.” (Php. 2:13)

Amen

Remember, God gives you authority in the areas of influence He has assigned to you in order to build up, not tear down, someone’s faith (2 Cor. 13:10). Now go, asking God to answer this one question through you: How can I build up someone’s faith in my areas of influence today?