If you have been a believer for very long, there is a good chance you are concerned about the eternal well being of someone you love, be it a wayward child, a close friend, a parent or even a spouse. There’s also a good chance you have had trouble finding the words to tell them about the hope you have in Jesus Christ.

Why is it so much easier to share this hope that you have with a stranger than with someone in your own family?

Maybe you fear being ostracized by this person in your life. Even if we have a sense of security in our familial relationships, there can sometimes be a fear of tension. Maybe you are a parent and you fear your grown children will not come visit as much if you talk about your faith. Or, maybe you feel your loved one will stop confiding in you because they feel uncomfortable with biblical solutions you offer to their problems.

Or, perhaps you became a Christian later in life and they remember the way you used to live. If you were an adult when you gave your life to Christ, it is very hard to explain your faith to your family—especially when they saw you live a long time apart from Him and His influence on your life. How do they know it’s real? You might be frustrated because you can’t seem to convince them it’s not “just a phase.”

So, how do we get over hurdles like these? Let’s find out how Scripture tells us to handle this. It’s not only about what we need to say or do. It’s about who we need to be.

Be Holy

19th century Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne is often quoted as saying, “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” In this context, he was probably speaking of his congregation. But this can apply to us as we live alongside those who we want to see come to Christ.

When we are living inwardly holy lives, we are bound to see an outward manifestation of the effect it has on those we love.

1 Peter 1:15-16 says:

But, like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy for I am holy.”

The more we become like Christ through the study of God’s Word and through the Christ-driven choices we make in our behavior, the sweeter our relationship with Him will be. Our lives will not be perfect, but they will be peaceful and abundant.

But, the pursuit of personal holiness not only benefits us – it has a positive impact on those around us. When we are holy, we are “set apart.” We are called to be different, and our loved ones will question why a Savior is needed if there isn’t a notable difference in the way we live from the rest of the world.

Another crucial point to consider is the holiness of our speech, not just our actions. Many of us struggle with our faith. We have questions, doubts, and sometimes anger, when it comes to God. Part of our journey with Christ is examination, and He can certainly handle it.

There will be times when something seemingly unfair or nonsensical happens. In Psalm 73, the psalmist has witnessed the prosperity of the wicked. In verse 15, he comes to the realization that if he vocalized his frustration with God on this matter, he would “have betrayed the children of the children of thy generations.” Let this be a lesson on our speech—our complaints, our gossiping and our slander of others. Be careful of what you say. Don’t let your emotions get the upper hand when you feel the need to “vent” in front of those you love—particularly if they don’t know Christ.

Be Consistent

People are watching us. Especially those who live with us or who are close to us. We can say what we want, but at the end of the day, they are watching whether our words are consistent with the way we live. Look at what 1 Peter 3:1-2 says about this:

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

Although this passage speaks specifically to wives, why couldn’t the same principal apply to anyone in your inner circle? We can affect more than spouses and children—they are not the only ones watching us. Our friends, coworkers and even acquaintances are observing us to see if it is “real.”

Interestingly, the word “observe,” as it is used in verse two is a word that indicates not just a one-time observation, rather a continual one (original Greek word is Epoptenu). One of my husband’s childhood Sunday school teachers is a terrific example of this principle. Early in her marriage, she became a Christian, but her young husband did not join her in her in her newfound faith. For thirty years, she prayed for her husband. He eventually came to Christ, but do you think it was after a few conversations? No—it took thirty years! That’s not only a lot of conversations. That’s a very long time of observation.

Thirty years is a long time to wait for, plead with and pray about someone, but in this case, it is what it took. The woman’s life was so consistent with her words that her loved one—in this case, her husband—was won to Christ.

Be Prayerful

More than anything, pray.

In doing so, remember that our prayer lives are affected by the way we live. James 5:16 tells us “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Notice that it says righteous man. Are you living in such a way that the prayers for your family are being hindered? Are you pursuing holiness?

God longs to answer our prayers when we pray for things that line up with Scripture. He tells us that Christ came to seek and save the lost. So, if you are praying for your unsaved loved one, rest assured, you are praying according to God’s will. If you have been praying for days, month, years—even decades—don’t give up. 

Pray that God will do something—or even allow something—in their lives to help them see their need for Him.

Pray that God will increase your desire to have holiness cultivated in your own life so that your family member will be won without words.

Pray that the spiritual movement in your family will start with you—not necessarily in what you say to them, or how you say it—but how your own walk in Christ is displayed before them.

*All Scripture references are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

Joy Allmond is a writer for billygraham.org. She lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband, two step sons and two dogs. In her very little spare time, she can be found concocting her latest culinary masterpiece, watching college basketball or buried in a book. She is working on her Master's degree in Biblical Studies at Southern Evangelical Seminary.

Publication date: March 7, 2011