I used this picture on my blog in November. These stockings have been functioning as my prayer list since decorating the house for Christmas. Each stocking represents a life, a soul and a witness. Each stocking represents a past, a present and a future. And my great joy is the knowledge that one day, when I have a mansion in heaven, I could hang these stocking above a fireplace there. So this blog is dedicated to all of you who might have an “empty hook” on your Christmas mantle in heaven. How do you share Jesus with the people you love?
The following are my thoughts/suggestions:
1. Pray. I know that is the standard answer, given by well-intentioned Christians, for every problem. That’s because prayer is the standard answer that every Christian needs, for every problem. If you haven’t prayed, you don’t know what to say or do. The Bible says, “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And the Bible isn’t making a “suggestion” at this point – it is a command. Before you tell anyone about Jesus. . .pray. Pray for that person, pray for the time and circumstances to be right, and pray that Jesus will speak through you. The truth about the Christ of Christmas is best told by the One who was there!
2. Care. The worst way to witness is to make Jesus the center of an argument. The best way to witness is to make Jesus the center of attention. I have heard about conversations, which someone defined as “witnessing,” that were really about the people involved rather than the point. Don’t try to witness if your motivation is proving that you are right and the other person is wrong. Jesus loses that argument even if you win. Care about the other person’s salvation more than you care about anything else. Until you care at that level, you aren’t ready to speak.
3. Know. Oswald Chambers says it well. “If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don’t, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth.” The point: only speak about what you are convinced is truth. And most of us have become convinced only after study and struggle. Have you worked hard at understanding your faith, and at voicing your faith, or is your faith in Christ just something you suppose or imagine is right? Be convinced.
4. Obey. St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless we preach as we walk.” He also said, “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.” Jesus put it this way, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Your life is your loudest sermon. But to all of you who just said, “Oh well . . .so much for witnessing . . .” here is the truth. Your best witness is not to live a life with no mistakes – that would be living a lie. Instead, live forgiven. Be honest about your mistakes, weaknesses and struggles. Then when you tell the truth about Jesus, they will know it is coming from someone who tells the truth.
5. Love. How is love different from caring? You can care for people in your own strength, but to love as Jesus loved, means loving people with Jesus’ love. Agape love is the perfect love of God, and it can’t be produced by a human being. Agape love must be received before it can be given. 1 John 4:7-8 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” When Jesus became your Savior and Lord you received God’s love. When you want to share your faith, share the love of God that indwells you. There is a power found in the love of God to transfix, transform and transfer people from this life, to a life eternal. Jesus said, “Love each another as I have loved you” John 15:12. People don’t need another religion to consider, they need the love and grace Jesus died to give.
Immanuel means “God with us.” This Christmas, recognize that God is with you and He wants to minister through you. Who will come to know Jesus because you pray, care, know, obey and love? It can be difficult to share Jesus with those you love, but God will help you. I hope that your “Christmas mantle in heaven” will have every stocking in its place.