Convince — Not Convert
It has taken me more than 50 years to learn so many things. Only recently have I realized by watching my sons and their friends suffer through life and its many disappointments, that I could have and should have been a better role model. I see my imperfections in them. While they are human and accountable to The Lord for their actions, I can see their emotional struggles with situations beyond their control and hurt for them in times sadness. I am sure I would much rather watch them be filled with joy and live life in exuberance.
One of the things I have learned concerns the external forces in our lives. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to what happens to us. It was only this year that I realized, God wants to be glorified by how we respond to adversity. Anyone can praise God when things go their way. In the midst of the blessing, God is awesome, but guess what?? He is awesome in the midst of calamity as well. Staying above the fray in the midst of the storm requires staying focused on Christ. The hymnist wrote “….the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
What happens when we take our eyes off of God? When we are distracted by the commotion of life and everything that rocks the boat, even if we are “on top of things”, just like Peter, we will sink like a rock (pun intended). Not only does it not honor God during adversity for us to go under, we are on display for the world to see. When we do go beneath the waves, we realize there are a bunch of other people down here too! I have plenty of company! Our spiritual challenge is: That is not where Christ would have us to be. He wants us to walk with Him above it all.
I was spiritually challenged recently when someone at the office asked me to participate in something unethical and totally un-Godly. I was not challenged in my decision matrix. That was a no-brainer. Uh….no? My challenge and my spiritual heartache came from being approached. Where did I miss the mark? Why would someone think I was an approachable candidate for this kind of behavior? Where has my living testimony been? Why do I not look different enough to this person for them to immediately cross my name off of the unethical list?
Perhaps I am being too hard on myself. But what if I had been caught in a moment of weakness where I was bitter or felt I had been treated unfairly? It felt a lot like one of those nights when you are driving in the wee hours of the morning, perhaps on vacation trying to make it to a motel in the next town. Your head begins to nod and then you pop back up having realized you fell asleep and crossed the center line. Then you are hit with a jolt of realization about what might have just happened to you and your family. It was a real wake-up call for me spiritually.
Song of Solomon Chapter 6:1-3 speaks about people asking where our beloved is so that they may seek Him too… Do I love Jesus enough that other people want to know HOW to meet Him and have the same relationship? Some of the challenges we face as Christians (or sinners saved by grace) is we don’t look different enough from the world and the lost for them to think they need anything we have. Some of the activities we are asked to join are not as overtly evil, as my earlier example. Unfortunately we (myself included) rationalize our behavior as Satan still says “You surely will not die!” The world tells us “You deserve it – nobody got hurt”. Christ tells us “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. If Jesus is the only way, then why do we always have to have ours? Who does that convince?
We cannot save anyone, but we should convince them there is a Savior. My conversion should be a testimony which leads to theirs. My life should be a roadmap to Christ, not a road block. The Holy Spirit can and will convict much more efficiently than I can. I need to put down all my stones and focus on my relationship with Christ. I may not be able to convert anyone, but I need to improve my ability to convince them.