I grew up going to church. I don’t ever remember not going to church, but for some reason, my family could never get out of the house early enough and we were consistently late for service every Sunday. (That’s not particularly relevant, but I just wanted to get that off my chest). I participated in youth groups, church summer camp, rummage sales – the whole experience. It was just what we did. But then something happened that changed everything for me. My older brother went away to college. While in itself this was not significant, what changed was him. He had become a Christian, a genuinely devoted follower. As he shared with me his experience I started to wonder about my faith, “Was I a Christian?” I didn’t know.
It took several years of talking and wondering until one day – July 1, 1974 – I was finally able to say to Christ, I want to be a Christian. Looking back, I don’t think I actually knew what I was getting into, but I said it anyway and God took me at my word. I grew in my faith slowly… very slowly. It wasn’t until about five years later that the truth of the gospel started to sink in.
I tell you this story because as I was reading Paul’s second letter to his friend and companion Timothy, I came to this verse,
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”
Paul expresses his confidence that even though Timothy had the benefit of believing family members, the faith he had was genuine, sincere and his own. Timothy was not simply riding the spiritual coat-tails of his mother or grandmother, he standing in his own relationship with God. Like Timothy and so many of us, I also had a rich spiritual heritage, generations of sincere Christ-followers and the benefit of years of church attendance. This is a tremendous blessing, but did it make for an authentic faith? Was it my faith or just the thing my family did? Did I have a real relationship with Christ or was I playing a part just to fit in or please others?
Many of us have come to the same questioning place and, realizing we were just playing, have walked away from church and from Christ. What a terrible loss, but to me that is more honest and more genuine than continuing to pretend. Others continue to play the church-game just because…well, just because. That is so much sadder. There is, of course, an alternative – make faith your own. Explore, question, ask, seek. He will be found. Your experience may be wild and dramatic or slowly progressing – like mine. It doesn’t matter. What is important is that we own our faith and pursue God relentlessly. I want people to be able to say of me, “I am reminded of your sincere faith.” What about you? Do you have a faith of your own?