Grandma’s Sincere Faith

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)

Grandma kissing grandsonTimothy was a very blessed guy. He had a mum and a grandma who had a sincere or genuine faith. Their religion wasn’t a Sunday only thing and their trust in Jesus wasn’t a get-out-of-hell-free card. Their faith was transformative – it changed the way they lived, it changed the way they spoke, it changed the way they raised their kids and grand kids including Timothy.

It should be the deepest desire of any Christian parent that their children come to know The Lord for themselves. It has been said that, “God doesn’t have any grandchildren,” meaning that you cannot call yourself a Christian just because your parents are. But having Christian parents, especially parents with a sincere faith, can be a great advantage to your children entering into a relationship with Jesus.

However, there is danger for children whose parents have insincere faith. I’ve seen dozens of kids who grew up going to church with their parents, who when they reach their later teenage years slowly drift away from the church. And very often the parents of these kids have an insincere faith; their faith makes no difference to their lives – it’s not transformative. Through the parents actions and words, they show their children that their faith is unimportant and that Jesus is not a priority nor does He have much relevance for their lives.

I believe this answers the question of why we see so many young people leave the church between 16 and 20. They gain some independence, get a car and want to something other than church. Youth groups and Christian clubs barely stand a chance against this wave of insincere faith in parents. I’ve seen kids, who have parents with insincere faith, who have been mentored, held accountable and deeply invested in by youth group leaders who have drifted from the faith in the later years of adolescence. And I’ve seen many young people who have parents with a sincere faith who don’t get particularly poured into by youth leaders, who grow to have a sincere faith of their own. They don’t need all that faith investment from youth leaders, they get it from mum and dad.

Here’s what I’m not saying; that if you have a sincere faith then your kids are guaranteed to have a sincere faith too. But here’s what I am saying; if you have an insincere faith, then it is highly likely that your kids will have an insincere faith too, if they end up with any faith at all.

So the big question is, do you have a sincere faith?

You might declare that you are a Christian, but the much more important question to ask is, would Jesus call you a Christian?

One of the most terrifying sections of scripture is in Matthew 7.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)

We need to pray and make sure that we have a sincere faith, a faith that is transformative, a faith that makes a difference in our day to day lives, both for the sake of our own souls and for the sake of our kids.

Caring for Widows

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband…But refuse to enroll younger widows. (1 Timothy 5:9, 11a ESV)

Widow on benchOne sight I remember vividly from my trip to St. Petersburg, Russia is that of the street widows. These tiny old ladies, hunched over, dressed all in black were begging on the side of the street just to get by. I remember thinking how much I would hate my Nan to have be in that position.

I can imagine that widows in the first century were in a similar, if not worse position. A common call to the New Testament church is to look after widows (James describes this as true religion – James 1:26-27) which suggests that there were widows who were really in need.

But in modern, western culture, the need doesn’t seem the same. Many widows can live quite comfortably on their late husbands retirement income and family savings. I know of widows who have family trusts set up through which they are supported. And so how is the modern church to live out this call to care for the widows?

Well firstly, there are some widows who still need care. There are widows who don’t have the comfort of retirement income or family support. They live entirely on their Social Security check or state pension – which is barely enough to cover housing and food. So one way the church could support such widows is providing free services so that the widow doesn’t have to pay for them. Someone could volunteer to take care of the yard work. If there was ever a maintenance need like a leak, then some handy people in the church could be on a call list. Such maintenance shouldn’t be abused like asking for a full house remodel, but there are plenty of things that could be taken care of by the church.

If the widow doesn’t drive, then people in the church could volunteer to take her grocery shopping, or to take her to doctor appointments or whatever.

Our church has begun to use an online service called Meal Train which allows you to schedule meals for people who have just had babies, or for people who have just had surgery etc. the website also allows you to schedule other things like rides, or grocery shops. This could easily be utilized for caring for widows.

Paul clearly had in mind some qualifications that these widows needed to pass before they could be added to the widows list. They had to be over sixty, the wife of one husband, known for good works, hospitable, washed the feet of the saints etc. Younger widows were not allowed to be added to the list.

Another huge need that the church can meet is that of single moms. There are many single moms in the church who are much in the same situation as widows, especially if the husband has nothing to do with the kids. She might have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. She might need help looking after younger children. She might just need some personal time every now and then. She may have home maintenance needs, she may be in need of a car, or car maintenance.

Again, there some be some qualifications for the single mom to meet so that the help goes to those who are really in need. Interestingly, the qualifications that Paul has for the widows require them to be believers. Often in our modern churches, we would say we want to help non-believing widows first, to show them the love of Christ. But it appears that Paul is speaking strictly here of church family care.

The place where this sort of care should begin is in the context of church small groups. These should be places where lives are shared openly so that needs are known and can be helped with. Groups have the ability to pull on the resources of the wider church body, but care should be primarily administered through these small gospel communities.

So what other types of needs should the church be responsible for meeting?

Immerse Yourself

“Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Timothy 4:15 ESV)

Man divingThe hot, Central Valley sun is beating down while I’m doing some yard work and cleaning the garage. But I bear the heat knowing that my reward at the end is a dip in the clear, shimmering waters of my pool. As my work is done, I prepare to cool off. And if you’re anything like me, I don’t use the steps to slowly get into the pool. I head towards the deepest part and jump. Instant cool down.

Paul is telling his young protégé Timothy to immerse himself in various activities. As a young man in ministry, these are the things that should be Timothy’s bread and butter. In v13, Paul tells Timothy to devote himself to three things:

  • The public reading of Scripture
  • Exhortation
  • Teaching

And I think the immersion command of v15 can also be applied to v12:

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12 ESV)

And so, as a young man in ministry, I believe I have the same call. I am practice these things and immerse myself in them. I should be intentionally seeking to get better at preaching and exhorting people. I should be deliberately looking to set an example for believers, both younger and older ones, by the way I speak, by the way I act,  by the way I love, by the way I trust, and by the way I live. This is no small task – I better go get wet.

I feel that God is calling me to intentionally get better in my preaching and teaching. I want to be disciplined to read books about preaching, to read and study the style of sermons by some of the great preachers of the faith. This is my task.

What do you think God is calling you to immerse yourself in right now?