Day 31: The Circle

Missions March couldn’t be complete without a final stop: a visit to the circle.

What is “the circle”?  The circle is the people you have the most contact with, know the best, and influence the most.

People’s lives are changed by strangers everyday.  The family of a child in Africa saved by a heart surgery donated by Christians in America through Samaritan’s Purse is not likely to forget the ministry of strangers.  The ministry of strangers has changed lives, saved lives, and, best of all, brought people to eternal life in Christ.

But more often, lives are changed by the ministry of those we most know.

Your family, your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, the people in your small group Bible study, your canasta club, your hunting buddies, your Tupperware party ‘girl friends’ . . these are the people God has given in your circle.

If you think of a circle drawn around your life, the people you are closest to are inside that circle, and they are not there by accident.  They have been providentially placed there by God, and they are your responsibility to reach.

That’s heavy.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the thought of being responsible for those in my circle who are, very often the hardest people to reach.  It is easier for me to go on a mission trip or talk to a stranger on an airplane about Christ than it is for me to talk to some of my friends about Him.

Why is this?  Probably because there’s more danger involved.  If somebody sitting on the plane next to me waves his hand at me in disgust when I share my testimony with him, not much is lost except maybe my comfort for the rest of the plane ride.  But if one of my closest friends, or a family member I have to see every holiday thereafter, despises me, or even just makes fun of me, I feel as though I can’t face it.

Satan knows about the circle.  And he will attack in any way he can to keep your light from shining consistently and brightly for the people you are most likely to have the most influence over.

And he will fight dirty.

He will try to get you to be so fearful, so distracted, so frightful, so forgetful, so reluctant, so busy, or so embarrassed that you never witness at all, or only weakly witness at best.  He will try to persuade you that you would be a fool to reach out to the people in your life who you have the most influence over.

We have a choice.  We can listen to Satan, and lose out on witnessing to those we have the most time and relationship to do so with, or we can listen to God, and start living a life of Christ everywhere–not just in church, not just on the mission field in a foreign land, but right here, right now.

You are not limited in your witnessing to non-Christians in your circle.  You can encourage, council, and, even (the hardest) confront believers in your life through God’s help.

The idea of “confronting” is not pleasant, but it is vital.  If you and I know that we have a brother or sister living in sin, and we say nothing about it–how can we really love them?  God never tolerates our sin.  He never allows a believer to stay there.  Conviction is something only God can do; but you can confront a friend and pray for God’s conviction in their life.

Why do that?  Why not just hope God does it without your help?  You could rescue them from looming disaster and grave consequences (Read Jude).  But can’t God forgive them without your help?  Yes.  But would you really let a friend drive drunk because you knew his father would forgive them?  That’s hardly the point, is it?  The point is, you friend may get in a serious accident and kill himself or others or both.  In the same way, we can’t let family (and believers are our true family) live in the peril of habitual sin without praying for them, warning them, and reaching out to help them.

Reaching out to believers in our circle isn’t second to reaching to unbelievers.  If anything, we should flip the priority.  When we in dear love encourage, council, and confront believers, we help them grow in the wisdom of Christ.  A growing believer is a phobia to Satan.  Imagine the unity in the church if we only reached out to believers!  If we took care of each others needs like family would, worked together to pay hospital bills, shared meals, had picnics and cook-outs together all the time, prayed for each other with devotion, traveled together, searched for strengths to encourage and weaknesses to strengthen, protected each others’ vulnerabilities, housed visiting believers so they wouldn’t go to hotels, called on each other in times of crisis, etc.  We would have the attention of the world.  (Note: There are certainly, certainly Christians who already do this.  But the rest of us need to get serious about living like belong together.)

Imagine what would happen if all the Christian parents in America only witnessed to their children–only their children, no one else.  If they spent their free time praying for their children, reading God’s Word to their children, sharing their faith, engaging in missions together, learning in church together, playing together, working together, etc.  If the Christian parents in America did only this and no more, we would have revival in twenty years.

I am not saying that every child would choose to be a Christian.  As Ravi Zacharias says, Christianity is not a religion where you can be born into it; you must choose it for yourself.  It is a personal and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus atones for sins for individuals, not for families.

Yet, many children would become believers, and not only would they become believers but–Hallelujah!–they would become strong, passionate, zealous believers, a group that has been a radical minority in America for years.

But there’s more.  What if Christians just loved their families?  Forget friends, coworkers, canasta club, etc.  Just family.  And not all family, but just immediate family.  What would happen?  We would draw our friends, and even strangers, like iron to a magnet.

If we truly engaged with our children, loved our spouses with passionate and devoted romance, treated our parents with respect from a core attitude of honor towards them, helped our siblings as though they were our best friends . . the world would be asking us, What is different about you?  Why do you treat your family like that?  How did you get that kind of love?

A critical problem with American Christians is that we do not spend time with God every day in His Word–I’m not talking about reading a verse in your Inbox or a page of your devotional calendar or the newest Christian bestseller–but the Word of God.  Our lack of care for God’s Word will be our nation’s downfall if we do not repent from this course.

If we spent time in God’s Word, we would see how important it is to God that we reach our family and our neighbors and everyone God gives us the chance to reach.  We would know that we are not to be casual or passive about our family or friends or world, but we are to fight for them.  And it starts with our family: physical and spiritual.

Would you want to listen to someone who always grips about their kids talk about the fatherly love of God to you?

Would you want to listen to someone always full of demeaning stories about their spouse talk about the great romance of God pursuing us?

Would you want to listen to someone always belittling their parents and avoiding visits with them talk about the respect they have for God?

Would you?  Neither would I.

THEN WHY DO WE DO WE TREAT OUR FAMILIES LIKE THIS?  WHY!?!?!?!?

We have got to wake up!  We have got to get in God’s Word and start fighting for our family (spiritual and physical), our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, and everyone else in our circle.  We will never be able to reach the world with a consistent message until they see us treating our family, friends, coworkers, boss, and clients the way God commands us to treat them.  This is not an option.  And if we keep getting it wrong, we may find ourselves one day in the center of an empty circle, bringing no one with us to Heaven’s Gates.

. . each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:10b-15, NIV)

______________________________________

Note: I’ve heard The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson is very good.  His idea of making a circle prompted my thinking, though I only heard about it second-hand through my mom, who has read the book.  🙂

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