Because of personal hurts and the ultrahigh stakes of eternal salvation or damnation, many followers of Jesus are brokenhearted and deeply concerned about the salvation of their children, parents, family members, or friends. If you are brokenhearted because your loved ones don't know the Lord, be thankful that you have faith enough and love enough to care. The Lord will not forsake you.
Give your life to Jesus and then give your spouses, children, family, and friends to the Lord. "Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you" (1 Pt 5:7). At the great family reunion in heaven, the Lord will gather your family members, and we have reason to hope that not one will be missing.
We usually focus on the sinfulness and stubbornness of loved ones who are not totally committed to Jesus. However, we should first remove the plank from our own eyes before taking the speck out of theirs (Mt 7:5). Let's focus on our sinfulness, go to Confession, forgive, and be forgiven. Then we should commit or recommit our lives to the Lord and ask for the Spirit to be stirred up in us (see 2 Tm 1:6-7). Also, we should surround ourselves with a cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1) faith-filled people who will support us in prayer.
All this prepares us to be effective ministers of God's grace for our loved ones. When our lives are in order under His lordship, in the power of the Spirit, and in unity with Christ's body then we may be called to pray and possibly fast for an extended time. Often the Lord calls us to a novena, nine days of prayer. In this novena, we pray not so much for other persons as for ourselves. We pray and fast to be freed from false impressions, negative feelings, condemning attitudes, and lack of faith (see Is 58:6). We want to see our family in a new way God's way. We pray for ourselves to love our loved ones unconditionally. We probably love them in some way, but not with God's agape love. And without this kind of love, nothing we do will work (1 Cor 13:3). We begin by praying for ourselves to receive unconditional love.
We must be sure the foundation is laid, if we are to be effective ministers of God's grace. When loved ones delay in coming to Christ, it is sometimes more our fault than theirs. Often we try to mold others before we have let God mold us. This makes matters worse and delays our loved ones' conversion. But when we've let God deal with us for an extended time and have opened up to receive His unconditional love, then we're ready to be used by God in leading our loved ones to Christ.
To transform others' lives, we simply must act according to our relationship with that person. For example, if you are a wife, you will lead your husband to Christ by the hidden beauty of your life (1 Pt 3:1-4). If you are a husband, you must take spiritual leadership, call your wife to obedience, and serve her sacrificially (Eph 5:22-26). If you are a parent, give your children prime time, personal attention, and affectionate love. Teach them, pray with and for them, and call them to obedience (Eph 6:4). If you are a child, you will win your parents to Christ by honoring and obeying them (Eph 6:1-2). If you are a brother or sister, be faithful and self-sacrificing. God has created these relationships; they are the primary ways in which He works.
When we act according to our relationships, we see the Lord moving powerfully. Usually the first reaction is resistance. Things get worse before they get better. The family becomes even more divided. Jesus came "for division. From now on, a household of five will be divided three against two and two against three; father will be split against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law" (Lk 12:51-53). However, this division is part of the process of reordering the family. When something is put together wrong, it must be dismantled before it can be resembled properly.
During this time of division, we feel worse, worried, and fearful. The devil uses these circumstances to manipulate us into our taking back control of our lives and families. We are like fishermen who have thrown out our lines; but every time we're afraid, worried or resentful, we reel them in a little. Soon the cares we have "cast" on the Lord are back in our hands (see 1 Pt 5:7). Trust the Lord. Keep your family and loved ones in the nail-scarred hands of the crucified and glorified One, Jesus. He is your Savior and your family's Savior.
P.S. When your family members come to the Lord, please write to us and share the good news.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Edward J. Gratsch, March 19, 1997.
Imprimatur: Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, March 24, 1997.
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com