I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I have been 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. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:3, 5-7)
Can you remember the first time you heard about Jesus, or the first time you realized that you had faith? If you were baptized as an infant and raised in a Christian family, you might not remember a specific moment. If you came to faith later in life, you might remember vividly the moment the Holy Spirit worked faith in your heart. But whether you’re a lifelong Christian or a new believer, you can probably identify certain people who have influenced your faith.
Most people come to faith after hearing God’s Word from another person, whether it be a parent, a missionary, a pastor, a coworker, a friend, or even a televangelist. God can certainly work faith in a person’s heart apart from interpersonal contact: it is possible for someone to take that Bible out of the motel nightstand and come to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit after reading it. But we also know that God most often chooses to work through means – specifically, through people who proclaim the Word. The story of Jesus shows us that God’s M.O. is personal: He didn’t send a written message to save the world; He sent a person, the Word incarnate. Likewise, before it was written down, His Word was spread in person by the apostles and other early Christians. Even a person who comes to faith in the isolation of a motel room will sooner or later be nurtured by other Christians who are more mature in the faith and who can serve as guides and mentors.
It’s clear that God intends for us to participate in communities of faith, in faith families. Although it is a blessing to be raised in a Christian home, the faith family is far more extensive than any household. All Christians, including those not raised by believing parents, belong to a huge extended family of faith. A Christian’s family includes the entire “communion of saints” mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed – Christians of every nation and every era. And when we take the Lord’s Supper with our brothers and sisters in Christ at our church, our local faith family, we are getting just a foretaste of the huge family reunion feast to come in heaven!
In the Scripture passage above, we learn that Timothy, who accompanied Paul on some of the missionary journeys described in the book of Acts, was blessed with a Christian mother and grandmother. Yet he also had a special spiritual parent in the person of Paul, who refers to Timothy as “my true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2) “my son” (1 Tim. 1:18, 2 Tim. 2:1), and “my dear son” (2 Tim. 1:2). Just like earthly parents, such spiritual parents provide loving guidance and even words of discipline at times, helping us to mature in our faith.
Take a few moments to reflect on people who have been spiritual parents to you (they might be your actual parents, or maybe they’re much older or much younger and not related to you at all). Should you spend more time seeking their guidance? Do you know a new believer for whom you can be a spiritual parent or big brother/sister? Perhaps these topics can be the focus of your prayer life this week: give thanks for the blessing of people who provide spiritual guidance in your life, ask for the wisdom and courage to actively seek the company of such people, and pray for opportunities for you to share your faith life with others as well.