“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.” 1 Peter 3:15-16
We all have people in our lives that we'd love to see experiencing the love of God in a dynamic, transforming way. It might be someone who has lost all hope, sees no way anything will ever change, and is stuck in the rut of destructive habits. Or maybe it's a friend who feels empty and lacks purpose. Perhaps your loved one doesn't see his or her need for God at all. Life seems good as it is. Yet you know that something critical is missing.
But most of us, if we're honest, hope that we don't have to be the one to bring up the sticky issue of religion. We'd rather do just about anything else. We don't want to offend by sharing faith with others. We don't know what to say. So we figure, “I'll just quietly live out my faith through my actions, and that should be enough.”
But then we're reminded of Jesus' words in the Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make 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 I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19).
These words weren't just meant for the early Church. They are directed at us today. In his first homily, Pope Francis I said, “We can walk all we want, we can build many things, but if we don't proclaim Jesus Christ, something is wrong.”
In 1983, St. Pope John Paul II spoke of the pressing need for us to pass on the gift of faith in Christ. In speaking of the New Evangelization, he said, “Entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and His Gospel.”
What is the “new” evangelization? Sharing the Gospel with the people God places in our path. We can't assume that just because someone attends Mass, or is a baptized Catholic, she experiences the transforming love of Christ. How many of us grew up in the Church, yet never heard the Gospel explained in a way that really resonated and impacted our lives in practical, relevant ways?
Our churches have many, many people that are not experiencing all that God has for them. Will you reach out by sharing faith with others? Will you point them toward the resources that will help them to experience the life-changing power of a friendship with Christ?
It's easy to stay in the holy huddle-sharing faith with others who affirm our beliefs. It's hard to go out into the zone of the unknown and connect with people we don't know. Research shows that the longer a person attends church, the fewer interactions she has with people who believe differently than she does. The circle gets smaller. Our circle of friends tends to be just like us, and as a result, fewer people hear the Gospel.
The gospel is most effectively shared when we walk alongside someone who sees what a difference Christ makes in our life. Friends see that it's not all rosy, but that when the trials come, Christ gives a strength and peace that surpasses all expectations. Fewer people see this witness when our circles are small.
I'd like to offer you three suggestions for ways that you can try sharing faith with others.
1) Develop friendships
Purposefully expand your circle of friends to include people who don't believe what you believe. Reach out to your neighbors. See family functions as great opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ. Look at people the way that Jesus did; see their potential. What might this person be like in a transformed state? Look deeper-speaking to their need instead of to what appears on the surface.
2) Discover stories
Intentionally discover people's stories. Learn what life has been like for them. What do they dream about? What is going well in their estimation and what needs work? Learn to ask good questions. Be a safe place for a friend to share what's really going on. One day, the opportunity will come to share “the reason for your hope.”
3) Invite a friend to Walking with Purpose
We're coming to the point in the year when registrations are beginning for Walking with Purpose this fall. If Walking with Purpose has made a difference in your life, who could you invite to join you on this journey? Pray and ask God to reveal to you the women in your life who would benefit from WWP.
Grateful for the opportunity to walk with purpose by your side!
*This post first appeared on the WWP website in April 2013.
In my writing and speaking, I often quote other authors in order to more succinctly illustrate a point I am making. After receiving feedback from the July Positively Purposeful message, I feel it's important to say that the selection of a quote does not indicate an endorsement of everything said or written by that person.
When the quote by Ted Tripp was selected for the July Positively Purposeful message, it was chosen to illustrate the point that when we lower standards of acceptable behavior for our children, instead of encouraging them to ask God to help them when it feels impossible to do the right thing, they miss out on a wonderful opportunity to see how they need Jesus in their lives, too. It was not intended to advocate or endorse any specific method of discipline or child-rearing.
I could hear the coins jangling in her pocket as she climbed up the stairs to my room. Some small change was missing from a dish, and I had just asked who had taken it. Greeted with silence and no admission of guilt from any of the kids, I told them I was going upstairs to wait. Whoever took it could come to me on their own timing, but we weren't going anywhere until the truth came out.
With tears in her eyes, my daughter admitted that she had taken the money. “What was going on in your heart when you took it?” I asked her. “Can you remember what you were thinking or why you felt like it was okay to take money that you hadn't earned?”
She burst into tears. “I took it because the five dollars I earned working in the garden is gone! I put it in the empty Uno box and someone threw it away. I can't find my money, and I saw that money sitting there, so I took it.” She sat on the couch, full of misery.
We talked about how hard it is to do the right thing when life feels unfair. How easy it is to justify all sorts of things when we feel we're owed something. But at the end of the day, it was stealing, and she knew it. I asked her what a better response would have been. We talked about 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. [We all get tempted. Our situation isn't unique.] And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear [When we say we just couldn't help it, that's not actually true. In our own strength we can't, but God will always help us make the right choice.] But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I asked her what she thought was her “way out.” What else could she have chosen?
I told her that choices have consequences. She would have to give the money back to her brother and ask him how she could serve him to show him she really was sorry.
I asked her if she felt like it was hard, maybe impossible, to be as good as God wanted her to be. She gave a big nod of agreement. And then we got to the good part-the good news.
Every time our children (or we) mess up, it's an opportunity to be drawn to the Cross. My daughter was right-it is impossible to be as good as God wants us to be. God tells us to “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Perfect?! we think. I can't even be perfect for an hour, let alone a lifetime. So what is the solution?
Ted Tripp addresses this question in his book, Shepherding a Child's Heart:
The focal point of your discipline and correction must be your children seeing their utter inability to do the things which God requires unless they know the help and strength of God. Your correction must hold the standard of righteousness as high as God holds it. God's standard is correct behavior flowing from a heart that loves God and has God's glory as the sole purpose of life…The alternative is to give them a law they can keep. The alternative is a lesser standard that does not require grace and does not cast them on Christ, but rather on their own resources…Dependence on their own resources moves them away from the cross. It moves them away from any self-assessment that would force them to conclude that they desperately need Jesus' forgiveness and power.
“I know it's so hard,” I said. “And that's why we need Jesus. He died so that we could always be forgiven when we make mistakes. And He sent the Holy Spirit to us to be inside us, to help us to make the right choices and overcome temptation. Let's pray and ask for God's forgiveness (He'll always say yes), and then ask the Holy Spirit to help us make good choices-to give us the strength to do the things that are hard, but right.” She prayed and we hugged. Everything felt good again.
I'd love to say that this is how it goes every time someone in my house needs correction. This takes time, and I don't always stop what I'm doing to discipline in this way. Too often, we're on the go when I've caught someone doing something. I say that we'll address it when we get home, and then I forget all about it in the busyness that follows. But summer affords opportunity not just to slow down and relax. It gives time to slow down and be a better mom. Not a perfect one-but one that asks the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to do the things that are hard, but right.
As I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store today, I noticed the woman behind me showing her daughter the delicious deli-prepared meals in their cart. I looked back at my two bulging shopping carts and thought ahead to the hours it was going to take me to make the meals for the week. She caught my eye and looked at all my food, so I explained that I have seven kids and that three of them are teenage boys. “Oh, enjoy it,” she smiled. “The time goes so fast!”
“Really?” I wondered. Because sometimes it can feel like time moves slowly, and that I've been doing the same things, over and over again, for ages. People say that the days are long but the years are short. I can see how that's true. But my reality is that when little Charlotte heads off to college, I'll be sixty, and we will have been parenting for thirty-seven years. That's a lot of meal preparation.
After I got home and unpacked the groceries, I made a cup of tea. It was 5 p.m. That's the time of day I most want to sit down, but if I do, I find it really hard to get back up. The clock crept toward 5:30 p.m., then 6 p.m., and my family started getting hungry. I announced that I just didn't feel like making dinner. What I really wanted was for Alice from the Brady Bunch to come through the door and make dinner for us. But then I wanted her to disappear, so no one would know that I had an “Alice.” I didn't want anyone to think I was a slacker. No one seemed very interested, least of all my husband, who was reading the paper and only half-listening. So I finally made myself get up to prepare dinner (it's in the oven), and I think we'll be eating around 8:30 p.m.
It's hard to remain steadfast, especially at this time of year. Summer beckons, and the desire to quit working so hard is strong. It can be especially difficult to remain faithful doing the little things well-all those thankless tasks we're tired of doing. Is there an area in your life where you feel tempted to procrastinate or quit? Yet, you know, like I do, that God is asking you to persevere and finish well?
When I feel the urge to settle for mediocrity, I challenge myself with the following thoughts. They help me re-focus and remain steadfast. I hope they'll encourage you, too!
When I'm sitting on the couch at 5 p.m. instead of staying faithful to the little things, it's often because I'm worn out. I've been going all day, and don't feel I have anything left to give. That's when I need to ask myself where I've spent my best efforts. Have all my energies been sapped by activities outside my home so that what I have to give my family is leftovers? Who gets my best? I say that my highest priority is my relationship with God, then my husband, then my children. I'm convicted by Psalm 101:2, “I will walk in my house with blameless heart.” It's going to be hard for me to apply this verse if I've given my best efforts elsewhere.
When I'm feeling tired and bored with my responsibilities, it helps me to look up and look ahead. What is it that I'll want to have accomplished in five, ten, or twenty years? In what way is this small task a part of a bigger vision? Proverbs 29:18 reminds me, “Without vision the people perish.” We don't achieve our long-range purpose or vision through one heroic self-sacrificing event. Purposeful living is made up of many little decisions-small steps of faithfulness. Little things matter.
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).This verse can be applied over a lifetime, and also to every day. At the close of each day, I ask myself, “Have I finished well? Have I given time to the things that matter most? Am I leaving undone things that are going to make tomorrow more difficult?”
Let's resolve to remain steadfast in what God has placed before us. Our summer rest will be all the sweeter when we feel we've given our best to what matters most.
Holding you close to my heart as I pray for you,