Our Lost Loved Ones And How To Win Them
"Thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:31).
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6).
Whatever else we may do for our loved ones, all is lost if they are lost. Some children and older ones seem by nature to be easier or harder to win to Christ than others, but the more difficult the task the more effort we should put forth. The possibility of being separated from them for all eternity to their eternal sorrow, should awaken each of us to allow nothing to hinder our every effort to win our loved ones to Christ. When we see them die without Christ, we shall wonder why we let foolish bashfulness or backwardness, or the cares of this life, keep us from doing our best to win them to Christ before it was forever too late.
The great question remains: How shall we win our loved ones to Christ?
We must be sure of our own right relationship to Christ and them. If we are dead and dry in our own experience, we cannot help them to a real, bright and clear Christian experience. If we are earth-minded, careless and prayerless, we have nothing to offer them until we get right ourselves. We must have a living fire in our own hearts, shining out through our eyes, and radiating through our own words and deeds, if we would impress and win them for Christ. A dead soul cannot give life to a dead soul. Backslidden parents and companions cannot lead their loved ones to Christ.
Our next responsibility and opportunity is to live the Christ life in the presence of our loved ones. It takes a holy life to generate holy influence. Christian carefulness, in word and deed, should be our daily conduct. We must watch our conversation and avoid questionable remarks in their presence. We must be especially careful in our expressions about other Christians and ministers of the Gospel.
We must also be more careful in our business dealings, not only to deal according to Bible principles, but to impress upon our loved ones that we are more in love with our fellows than with their property. We must lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven in the form of the souls of our precious loved ones, instead of material wealth on earth. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21).
If we are to win our loved ones for Christ, we must do it through prayer, and even fastings. In different cases earnest and constant prayer and fastings will be very much needed: "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:21). If we are not earnest enough to fast, can we expect God to answer? If we could see them in hell, we would fast and pray. If we would only take the same careful precautions and preparation, and then put forth as much interest for the souls of our families as we do their bodies, many of them now lost would be saved.
Then we should manifest a radiant, trusting attitude toward God and our loved ones. We cannot win them to Christ in careless neglect; neither can we win them by being blue and despondent about them all the while. If our salvation does not satisfy us, how can we expect others to want it? There is a difference in religious blues and a burden for the lost, born in faith and gratitude toward God and in tender love for our lost ones. We can feel a deep concern, and yet trust God while we carry it.
A minister’s wife prayed all night for her lost son in a distant city and came home from church the next morning shouting. The son who had been restless all night decided to come home and was saved at the very hour that his mother "prayed through" and began shouting the victory. "According to your faith be it unto you" (Matt. 9:29).
Parents should take special time for the spiritual instruction of their children. The deep impressions made on children’s minds and consciences warrant any and every effort. Hearing their parents call their name in prayer, or listening to their kindly instructions and admonitions, move children’s hearts more than we know. There is a thirst in human hearts for God and reality greater than their thirst for natural bread and water – if parents only realized it in time.
Our family worship should afford a special time to refresh and instruct us. Instead of waiting till we are tired and worn, until we cannot really pray, we should select a time best suited for the most important part of our family life, and worship God in Spirit and in truth. We should make it a time of reverence and thanksgiving. It is a good time to sing some hymn or spiritual song and make melody in our hearts and in our homes. This is a good time to inquire into the children’s spiritual needs and conditions and give testimony to God’s wonderful grace and help.
Special personal instruction should be given to each member of the family at set times. John Wesley’s mother had nineteen children besides her duties as a pastor’s wife, but she gave one hour of personal instruction to each child each week. But you say, "I just cannot take time for such duties." "Life is more than meat, and the body more than raiment" (Luke 12:23). How oft we feed the bodies of our children and other loved ones, and then send them out with starving souls. How much time do you spend with your children’s souls?
When shall we lead our loved ones to Christ? We cannot do it too early, but we may wait too late. The devil begins in their early months and years. Let us win them for Christ before Satan wins them. We must begin while they are young and tender, or wait till they are hard and rebellious. We must do our best to get them in before they are tied up to sinful companions and habits, before their important choices are made without Christ.
Children learn more in the first three years of their lives than any other like period. The first seed sown in their hearts springs up first. Most great men and women have been converted in early childhood.
Bishop Taylor was converted at six years, Richard Baxter at three years, John Fletcher at seven years, Bishop Asbury at seven years, Adoniram Judson at twelve years, Matthew Henry at ten years, Jonathan Edwards at six years, Isaac Watts at eight years and Robert Moffatt at ten years. How old were you when you were converted? How old are your children, and how many of them or other loved ones are saved? What have you done about it? What are you going to do about it? When?
We cannot tantalize or force our loved ones to be Christian, but we can keep loving and watching for a chance to woo or warn them. Keep at it; the devil never lets them rest, but approaches them every time from every angle and at every turn of the road. Does he hate them more than we love them? To train up a child in the way they should go does not mean to turn them loose and let them go. Most people wait till it is too late to win their loved ones. There are many who have grown up in sin who once were tender and hungry for God.
We must discipline and restrain our children. If they do not know how to yield to their parents, they will not know how to yield to God.
When we are lax and loose with our children, we are making rebels of them. But you say, "Oh but I love my child too much to punish him." You do not agree with God Who said, "He that spareth the rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Prov. 13:24). "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying" (Prov. 19:18).
Restraint is difficult, but it is a parental duty. When to say no and yes; when to let them go and when to make them stay is the test of our love and better judgment. When it endangers their morals or souls, say no. Let us be kind but firm.
If you have not lived so that your children trust you and want your religion, confess your sin and ask their forgiveness, and get something that you can recommend to them. Let us put their salvation first; all else second.
When our loved ones come to the altar to seek God, let us avoid the two extremes of either being too careless and harsh, or too soft and indulgent. God loves our children, but He does not allow any more for them than others. They must repent, confess and forsake their sins before God can save them.
We cannot force them to be Christians against their will; neither can we force God to save them against His holy commandments. They must meet His conditions before He can meet their need. It does not take a seeking soul long to find a seeking Saviour. We must put their salvation before food, clothes, education, sleep or any other fleeting earthly interest. If we are more interested in the newspaper than the Bible, and in the latest radio news than we are in hearing from heaven, our children will not be well impressed by our lack of piety.
Finally, for our children, it is not enough to get them well saved; we must help them grow in salvation. The greatest sin of parents and churches is to get souls saved and then leave them to their enemies, without further manifested interest. If mothers gave their newborn babes no more care and attention than most parents and churches do their young converts, this generation would be the last one on earth. Spasmodic religion will not do for us or our loved ones. We must watch over, counsel and pray for and with our converted loved ones. Be careful about criticizing them for their faults and blunders, but encourage, comfort and instruct them in the way of God more perfectly.
– Edited from a pamphlet by Arthur L. Vess.