Summary: How to influence your unbelieving family members for God. Sermon notes included.
Influencing Your Family for God
In the past two weeks during this marriage and family series, we have talked about speaking the truth, conflict, submission, responsibility, and the example of Christ’s love. I didn’t really talk about arguing, but I wanted to let you know that during the last argument I had my wife, I had her down on her hands and knees – she was saying, “Come out from under that bed and fight like a man!”
Today I want to talk to you about influencing your family for God. I am still using the context of marriage, but if you participate in the message today, you will understand that these principals apply equally well to almost all relationships.
Because we are relational beings, we get a lot of grief in our life from the relationships in which we find ourselves, especially when the other party doesn’t eventually “line up” with our beliefs. Because of the sin factor that we all deal with at some point in our life, we seek to influence the other party in many ways – some for the good and some for the bad. Sometimes we tend to feel like Rodney Dangerfield when he said, “My wife made me join a bridge club. I jump off next week.”
I want you to understand that as we explore this together, that I operate under the basic assumption that everyone has influence. John Maxwell said it this way, “If your life in any way connects with other people, you are an influencer.” 1 So why not seek to influence your family members for God?
Well, pastor, how would I do that? How can I be an influencer for God in my family? How can I influence someone for God? I’m glad you asked! To begin, let us read a couple of introductory passages together, and we will read several others as we go along.
First we find that we influence someone for God when we honor God. This principle can be found in these passages we just read, as well as many others.
1. You influence them for God by Honoring God
We are called to honor one another while we honor God. “The heavenly calling does not set aside our earthly callings.” 2
Ephesians 6:1-4 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” See also Titus 2:4
Honoring them brings grace to the relationship. Here is what one commentator had to say about this “sanctification” of the unbelieving partner: “Those inseparably connected with the people of God are hallowed thereby, so that the latter may retain the connection without impairing their own sanctity (compare 1Ti 4:5); nay, rather imparting to the former externally some degree of their own hallowed character, and so preparing the way for the unbeliever becoming at last sanctified inwardly by faith.” 3
Or as Doug Lyon put it, “The believer may have a positive, spiritual influence on their unbelieving mate. The unbeliever may get saved due to the believing spouse’s example and lifestyle. Live an exemplary Christian life in front of them. Who knows? Maybe your example will eventually lead them to Christ.”
Doug goes on to tell what happened to his in-laws, Harold and Dorothy. When they got married, Dorothy was a believer and Harold was an unbeliever. And Harold was content to stay married to Dorothy so they never even considered divorce. Now, Dorothy was careful not to nag Harold with the gospel. She simply prayed for him, answered his questions about the Lord when he asked, and endeavored to live the Christian life in front of him. Finally, in 1987, after 48 years of marriage, at the age of 75, Harold accepted the Lord as his Savior. Doug says, “I’m convinced that my father-in-law is in heaven today because of the patient, faithful witness of his wife, Dorothy.” 4
But when it comes to those we live with, and those of our families, we often subconsciously believe in several lies that affect our influence. Here are 2 lies we believe about our influence and about ourselves:
“LIE: I can make it without consistent time in the Word and prayer.
TRUTH: It is impossible for me to be the spouse/person/man/woman God wants me to be apart from spending consistent time cultivating a relationship with Him in the Word and prayer.” My wife consistently went to church, had her devotional time and lived it before me – even when I discouraged her to not do so. You cannot know what it did (and still does) to me to see her reading the Bible, studying and writing notes as she studies.