By Javan Rowe
We have all heard that cliché about making faith our own. The truth is that our faith is never really our own because of the interactions we undoubtedly experience. Upon retrospection, I find that my faith did not arise within me because of some inherent greatness. God is, of course, the author of all faith. But I also realize the wonders of the community of faith where some believers plant seeds, while others offer discipleship, encouragement, and even reprimand along this crazy path of sanctification.
Many friends and family have played their divinely initiated roles in my life, which have helped at various stages in my faith journey. No one, perhaps, has been more influential than my maternal grandparents. I owe a nonrepayable debt to them because of their faithfulness to the Lord, to me, and to the church.
An Example to Follow
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I did not always love to go to my grandparents’ house as a kid. They were so—Christian. I used to get somewhat annoyed at how God was the center of everything they did, from the way they talked and behaved (after all, they actually prayed before every meal), to the constant Christian broadcasting on their radios. Looking back, I see how normal their behavior really was. Sure they had their struggles, as we all do, but it was evident that God flowed into every aspect of their lives.
They demonstrated their faith to me by making a committed sacrifice of their time. When I was in middle school they drove about nine miles into the city, picked me up, and then drove me back to a church near their house. They did this two to three times a week. I must admit that a primary reason I enjoyed going to church with them was because it was sometimes followed by a trip to Friendly’s restaurant for dessert. But I also enjoyed the privilege of singing with my grandpa in the choir—a ministry I enjoy to this day.
I am sure that it was a bit of a burden for my grandparents to drive into town to pick me up, but it is one they gladly took on because they wanted to see me in church. I look back with gratitude at their sacrifice and wonder how my spiritual life and church attendance would look today had they not freely given of their time.
A Benefit to the Church
It may appear that I was the only one who profited from my grandparents’ actions, but I believe their faithfulness benefited the church at large. This may sound perhaps overstated, but allow me to explain.
Even though I was a young junior higher, I became quite involved in their church. I was an active member of the youth department, I helped with church maintenance projects like laying down a roof over part of the building, and I even helped plan events for the younger kids at Vacation Bible School (which included me stumbling around in a suffocating animal costume). Then there was the church choir I mentioned. I found great enjoyment in my involvement because it felt as if I had become enveloped into the very fabric of the church. Their act of bringing me to their church provided me the opportunity to use my talents and gifting in the church setting.
Hopefully this does not sound like arrogance, but the church benefited from my involvement, as it always does when believers are using their gifts and talents for the Lord. This was all made possible through my grandparents’ selfless action of picking me up multiple times a week. Their faithfulness continues to resonate—that period of time whetted my appetite for service within the church, and I have been actively involved in church ever since.
Faithfulness to Imitate
One of more audacious statements by Paul was, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16). We may not be bold enough to say that, but the truth is people are looking for good examples. We tend to imitate the corrupt and the fallen, while our soul yearns for something good. God used my grandma and grandpa’s faithfulness in powerful ways. Their lives contained attitudes and actions worthy of imitation. Here are three I strive to imitate:
Use your gifts.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it” (12:12, 27). These verses indicate how important believers are to the church.
The reason I like to highlight my grandparents’ faithfulness to the church is because a great way to pass your faith on to a greater number of individuals is in the church setting. Paul’s analogy of Christ as the body and us as members of that body is an excellent way to view us living out our faith. My grandparents knew their gifts and never neglected using them to help make the church flourish.
Live out your faith.
Being faithful to the church gets even simpler than knowing and utilizing spiritual gifts. Yet I know that these final two points may be easy to comprehend yet quite difficult to carry out successfully.
I could probably list shortcomings of both of my grandparents, as we could for ourselves and any believer. However, it isn’t their sins and failures that endure for me, but their example of faithfulness. My grandparents played a vital role in the faith I enjoy today by practicing faithfulness to me, to God, and to the church. Obviously, the Holy Spirit is the one who draws people to Christ, but I wholeheartedly believe the seeds my grandparents laid and the example they set were what the Lord used to stir my soul in his own timing.
I must also briefly mention that I was forunate enough to have a strong example on my father’s side as well. Where some people fade into increasingly more bitterness as they age, my grandma grew ever closer to the Lord. Her body may have slowly deteriorated but her spirit grew exponentially.
Sacrifice for others.
Besides the obvious passing on of Christianity and living the life of faith, the greatest lesson I learned from my grandparents was the need to step out and do something solely for another person’s benefit—something that is vitally needed in this self-serving, hedonistic culture.
I know I’m repeating myself, but they made a tremendous sacrifice taking me to church with them. They gave of themselves in Christian love. My grandparents are both in Heaven, but the legacy of their faithfulness continues as I pass on to my own children what was given to me.
I see the involvement I have in my own church today and wonder if I would be so active if my grandparents had not sacrificed their time nearly 30 years ago. Sometimes I am flooded with reasons not to sacrifice for others—often because of my limited time. But then I remember my grandparents’ sacrifice and the excuses simply fade away.
Javan Rowe is a freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio (eyesonthekingdom.com).