When I first surrendered my life to Christ at the age of sixteen, many of my acquaintances noticed that my life suddenly looked different. A friend of mine asked me why I no longer jumped into casual dating relationships with one guy after the next. I was thrilled that someone wanted to know about my convictions about true purity! So with great enthusiasm and zeal, I launched into a fiery ten-minute lecture about the sinfulness of shallow dating relationships and the dangers of temporary flings.
It didn’t take me long to realize that zealously yapping about my convictions wasn’t enough to make someone “see the light.” Whenever I tried to proclaim truth to the non-Christians in my life, they simply shrugged it off as a youthful “phase” I was going through.
Why isn’t anyone responding to all this great truth I’m giving them? I wondered. I’m saying all the right things!
But as I prayed about it, I began to realize that that was exactly the problem. I was saying all the right things. But that was all.
Instead of leaning on the Spirit of God to gently work in others’ hearts and lives, wrestling in diligent prayer for their souls, and allowing them to see a consistent example of Jesus Christ in my lifestyle, I was merely shoving Truth in their faces. I was expecting them to instantly “get it” because of my brilliant, compelling arguments.
Switching to the Right Tool
When I came across that well-known statement, “Preach Christ at all times, and if necessary, use words,” it completely transformed my approach. I realized that words were not my primary tool for communicating truth—my life was.
The Bible says that a truly wise person uses few words (see Prov. 17:27), and in James 1:19–20 we are commanded to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
Prayer is a far more powerful weapon that human words will ever be.
There is a time and place for well-chosen words of Truth. There is even a time and place for righteous indignation when it comes to defending the name of our King. But primarily, it is not going to be angry, insistent words that will win others to Jesus Christ. A compelling argument can never take the place of a consistent example.
As I submitted this area of my life to God, He began to show me His pattern for communicating truth to my friends and loved ones. He began to show me how to preach Christ at all times, even without using words.
If you’ve ever wondered how to reach the people in your life with the message of truth they desperately need to hear, consider these practical suggestions from God’s Word:
Start with Prayer
First John 5:14–16 exhorts us, “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and [God] will give him life . . .”
When we see compromise in someone’s life, our first response should not be confronting them or trying to convince them to change their ways. Rather, God’s Word says that if we see our brother or sister sinning, we are to ask in faith for that person to be delivered from sin and set upon the path of life. We are to have confidence that God hears us, believing that He will bring victory in the other person’s life through our importunate prayers.
Often our human tendency is to rush headlong into the situation and use our debate skills to bring about change in someone’s life. But we must remember that true heart-change is a work of the Spirit of God, and not of the flesh. It is not something we can accomplish in our own strength. And if we give in to fleshly anger and frustration, we get in the way of God’s work in the other person’s soul. As it says in Zechariah 4:6, “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
Prayer is a far more powerful weapon that human words will ever be. “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13–14).
Even those people in our lives who seem like the toughest “nuts to crack” are not above the power of prayer: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
Live It Out
First Timothy 4:12 says, “Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”
If your life is going to make an impact on others, they can’t merely hear your convictions spoken; they must see your convictions lived.
If your life is going to make an impact on others, they can’t merely hear your convictions spoken; they must see your convictions lived. In my own life, I discovered that when I lived a faithful, consistent example of the things I believed, people would seek me out and invite me to share my convictions with them. I didn’t have to force Truth down their throats; rather, they saw something in my life that made them want to know more.
I will never forget hearing the true story of a cruel communist who was thrown into a prison cell with a Christian pastor. The pastor preached the gospel to the communist relentlessly for months. Finally the communist had had enough. “That’s it,” he told the pastor. “I’m sick of hearing about this Jesus. I will give you once sentence to tell me who Jesus is, and then I don’t want to hear about Him ever again!” Without hesitation the pastor replied, “He’s like me.” After a moment of silence the communist said, “If He is like you, I am ready to give my life to Him.”
Oh, may this be the testimony of our lives! When anyone asks us what Jesus is like, may we be able to say without hesitation, “He’s like me.”
Are there people in your life that you long to reach with God’s truth? Lean on the Spirit of God. Give yourself to faith-filled wrestling prayer, set a consistent Christ-like example, and shine the light of Jesus Christ everywhere you go. And let your words merely be an outflow of the Spirit within you. May we follow in the steps of Jesus Christ who said, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (John 14:10).
Have you ever shoved the Truth of God’s Word into someone’s face? What was the outcome?
Who is one person you can ask God to “give life” to?