Do you remember the scene in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the one in which his tiny heart begins to grow? He expected whining, crying, and complaining when Whoville woke up to the absence of Christmas gifts, but instead the Grinch heard singing. They had no presents (the Grinch had made sure of that), but they still formed a circle and sang their silly little song of Christmas. The Grinch’s heart was awakened, and “they say his heart grew three sizes that day.”
Growing my heart Grinchy-like Heart
I started the school year discussing, “Three questions to ask yourself for a flourishing year.” This post finally addresses the last question, “What steps of faith am I going to take to make Christ known?” I don’t necessarily like this question. For when I ask myself this, I discover I can have a “Grinchy-like” heart. It is at times kept small with its busy, comfortable, distracted agenda– keeping me from taking steps of faith in loving others and making Christ known. How can I grow my “Grinchy-like” heart, to a be more like Christ’s heart?
Of course, Jesus had the perfect heart- a “God-sized” heart. Jesus looked out on the crowds and had compassion on them, for He saw people as people with needs– in desperate need of a Savior. They were people who were messy and unkept, not people who appeared to have all their ducks in a row with no problems or “issues.” Jesus wept for his friends who were despairing. His heart felt with them and mourned the broken world they lived in. He didn’t ignore those who were hurting or tell them to “get their act together.” Some probably did look better than others on the outside, but with each person He demonstrated grace and mercy. He moved and worked where the people were who had needs– not just keeping among the ones who appeared to be “well.” No matter who they were, He saw their greatest need was to experience true life and forgiveness from their sins. He demonstrated a sacrificial and giving heart– not a small “Grinchy-like” heart. That is what I want God to grow in me (or at least to grow it a few sizes in that direction.)
What steps of faith can you take right now to make Christ known?
1. Live as a “stranger”
The first thing has to do with keeping in mind a certain perspective, for our mind affects our heart. In the bible study I lead, Peter is writing in 1 Peter to a group of people that feel different, and are different due to being scattered from persecution. He reminds them of what is true– that they are strangers, or “aliens.” They are not in their true home, but in a temporary resting spot– a place to only “stay.” They belong to a heavenly home, not to earth. They have a new focus, not to just be comfortable and “well-fed,” but to be a different kind of people with a new purpose. Because they are now identified with Christ, Christ mission is now their mission. He urges them throughout the book with this eternal mindset.
My mindset does affect my heart. What I know, touches what I do. Peter actually tells them to now be a different kind of people– a people who are holy, who long for the word, who suffer well, and love one-another fervently, among many things. When I remember that I am stranger, that I am just “staying” here, it changes my focus and the purpose of my days. I become motivated to use my time and life for Christ’s mission– growing my heart with the things that are on God’s heart. I want my heart to be invested in His kingdom, not in temporal things. When I lose sight of these things, my heart shrinks– and I begin to love the things of this world more than the things that are on God’s heart. A “stranger” discovers and seeks what is on God’s heart.
2. Live intentionally
Where has God placed you?
Having a eternal perspective affects my heart focus, but living intentionally gives me opportunities to make Christ known. It is intentionally placing myself in situations that help me to make Christ known. Where has God placed you? Who are the people your life intersects with daily? Who are the people in your life that need to hear the gospel? If you look around and find none then something needs to change.
I want to have a place where I am around those who may not have the light of the gospel– a place where I can enter into their needs and struggles. Where will this place be for you? This place has changed for me through the years. As a college student I lived and spent a lot of time in in my sorority house. If you are a college student, it is the people you share time with in class, in group projects, at work or in the activities you are involved with. I had a friend in college who purposely stayed in the dorms all four years of college, along with his bible study, so that they could have opportunities to make Christ known there. They were intentionally living in a way that placed them around people who needed to hear about Christ, build them and equip them. If you don’t have a place like this, and find you are just surrounded by followers of Christ, this is a good time to pick a place that suits you and the interests you have.
Do I look for ways to connect with others that I do find myself around?
When I first moved in this neighborhood, I found I connected with a neighbor over our children. We had two boys the same age. As I spent time outside with my kids I could talk with her and get to know her better. She had lots of questions about how I raised my boys and about my relationship with my husband. We also shared meals together as a family. One day, after many conversations and prayers, she decided to place her faith in Christ and follow Him. When she moved away, the first thing she did was to find a church to plug into. God used our connection over our kids to help sew seeds for the gospel.
Volunteering at my kid’s school gives me a different opportunity for caring for the teachers and parents. I can be someone who introduces myself and welcomes parents at the parties, for often they don’t interact with one another. There are parents also from different countries who may feel out of place. Being aware of these different needs, I can set a friendly tone. How do you seek to connect with others you are around?
Am I curious?
Being curious about wherever God places me and whover He brings into my life, is a good thing to practice. It allows me to find what others are interested in and where their needs really are. As I am curious and learning about others around me, I find my heart begins to soften towards them. God uses this to grow my love for that person. I understand them better. I saw this in a tangible way at the assisted living home. I really thought little about the residents that lived a quarter-mile from my home. I didn’t think about their holidays, if they had family or visitors or what their life was like pre-assisted living. Once I started visiting I wanted to visit with those who never seemed to have visitors. I wondered about their life, their, children and spouse. I played the piano and enjoyed their singing, even though I was not very good! Actually being with them gave me compassion and love for them that I didn’t have sitting in my own home
I am discover that when I take my eyes off myself, the needs of others become more obvious. I am reminded what it is like to live without hope, in darkness and live with uncertainty. As we are curious of others, we find our heart enlarging. As I talked with a student recently who just placed her faith in Christ, she said, “I wish I would have met you when I entered college, instead of at the end of college.” Who are the people you are around right now, who you can be curious with?
3. Live Practically
Are you available? What is your schedule like? I might know the things above, but am I too busy to take action? I need margin in my life if I really want to make opportunities, connect with others, and be curious. I don’t want to always be so busy that I can’t take time for what I really value. There will be times of busyness, but I don’t want this to be clogging my life continually. This could be the time to change up my schedule so I can say, “yes” to being intentional with others.
What training would help you? You want to be able to understand the gospel in such a way that you can explain it to simply to someone else, without complicating things– but leave it in such a way they can come back and ask questions. Ask a person with more experience to help you with this. Go to a conference like our Winter Conference to become better equipped. Make this a priority.
Have you tried an overseas missions? This was the thing that gave me a greater heart for my peers to know Christ, and at the same time it gave me a new sensitivity to others of different cultures. My heart grew for Christ’s mission. The training, team experience, and gaining a deeper heart for others will help you wherever you land in life.
Who right now can you initate with and invite into your world, into your home? Make a choice to invite people into your home regularly. The holidays are a great time to connect with those who are away from family or are from a different cultural background. I have had Christmas lunches with friends and discussed how we celebrate the holidays. I love to have an open house at Christmas– and invite my different friends and neighbors over. For those who do not celebrate Christmas it gives them a chance to experience the culture and Jesus in our lives.
Who would benefit from exploring the Gospel together (more to come on this)? Reading through the gospel of John together is a great way to explore Christianity or help someone to become more grounded in their faith. Make a time with them to have coffee or eat lunch together each week.
Growing my heart is a key to making Christ known
Who wants a Grinchy heart? My heart grows for others as I seek to live with an eternal perspective. As I find ways to I live intentially and curiously, something changes inside of me. My compassion grows. As I talk about the gospel, I treasure it more and it sinks a little more deeply into my heart. I want to share it. God actually uses stepping out in faith and connection with others to enlarge my “Grinchy-like” heart. What is one practical step of faith you can take to make Christ known?