How do we help a friend who is a professing Christian but doesn’t want to obey God? A friend who is not just experiencing the normal undercurrent of rebellion and independence that is always present. The friend who says, “I don’t care. I really don’t care. I’m done, I’m through, I’m not trying any more.”
1. Start by praying for them. I find that I think a lot about the value of prayer…much more than I actually talk to God.
2. Surprise them them with relationship. Don’t start every conversation with a warning. Have a conversation with them about their interests and burdens, unrelated to their heart.
3. Eventually, ask them why they don’t want to obey. Don’t cut them off half way through, don’t point out all of their inconsistencies. Just listen.
4. Repeat steps 1-3.
5. Initiate a conversation where you can share one poignant Scripture and briefly share why you thought it would be helpful. Why Scripture? Because God promises to bless his Word. Why brief? Because their capacity to hear is limited. Which Scripture? All your minutes of listening should clarify their fundamental doubt in God’s character. Disobedience always flows from doubt. Find a scripture that describes that aspect of God’s character in the most winsome way possible. Encourage them to consider the truth of these words. Apply this truth with gentleness.
6. Repeat steps 1-5.
7. If a lengthy period of time elapses or the disobedience escalates quickly to life destroying decisions, include another mature friend in the conversation, and share tenderly but clearly your concern for the spiritual and practical consequences of this course of action. If the person is a member of your local church and a professing Christian, inform one of your pastors and welcome their counsel about a process of pastoral correction and potential church discipline.
8. Keep praying, keep relating, keep listening, keep speaking truth with gentle, Biblical, succinct, firmness.
9. Trust the Lord with your friend’s heart and future.
If at any point in this process your friend indicates 1) some desire to change, 2) an awareness that they are wrong 3) some hope that God may work in the future or 4) a willingness to listen to a Biblical perspective– then be lavish in your encouragement and celebrate God’s grace working in them. They will still have a long way to go, but only grace can produce such softening in heart.
10. Express gratefulness to the God who sought us while we were yet sinners.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God is not slow, as some count slowness, but is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.