It was the thirtieth day of May in the year of our Lord, one thousand nine hundred fifty-four. According to the Order of the Church, pastors and elders ordained and consecrated my father as a minister by the laying on of hands. I can only imagine his mother’s delight—my grandmother who watched many Billy Graham crusades on TV. As I now held the certificate of ordination in my hand, I recall precious memories of a faith passed down from generation to generation.
Born a preacher’s kid, I attended church every time the doors were open. Sundays and Wednesdays especially found us all at church, even when snow kept everyone else away. My Dad made sure of our presence. While my upbringing has instilled regular church attendance, it’s my dad’s faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that I cherish most. What a blessing to grow up in a household that celebrated the gift of salvation through Jesus. To be taught how to grow in faith through Him.
But faith-building isn’t always easy, especially when life appears hopeless. Ironically, learning to trust God emerges out of difficulties. Why does it seem we lean in and learn more when hardship hits or when death strikes? Living through adversity tends to shape our lives. Walking through tribulations with the Savior transforms life.
My dad’s death shook me to my core. How would I live without him? Along with grief, a broken relationship with my daughter brought me to my knees. I agonized over the discord and disassociation with her. I couldn’t dam my tears. They flowed like rushing water. Despite the misery, God continually reminded me of the blessed assurance handed down by parents and grandparents. Eventually I held on to salvation in Jesus and experienced peace through the Holy Spirit.
Day by day I encountered this peace, but pain came alongside. It’s as if I walked in between railroad tracks with Jesus on one side and agony on the other—peace paralleled pain. Such a bittersweet existence.
Over time I became receptive to the revelation of other wounded people, especially mothers with prodigals. I believe God steered them in my direction, and I identified with them—their tears were my tears, their heartache my heartache. Seeing them took my eyes off my own suffering. They needed to experience the peace I had discovered, the resolve in my heart that God guarded our lives. But how would I tell them? What would I say? I felt so uneducated when sharing the gospel.
“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord,” Paul told Timothy. (1 Timothy 1:8)
Paul considered Timothy his true son in the faith, bonded by the blood of Jesus. Because he recognized Timothy’s youth and lack of confidence, Paul reminded him of the faith that lived in his mother and grandmother. And he prompted Timothy to recall the prophecies made over him at the time of his ordination. (1 Timothy 1:18-19)
“Fan into flame the gift of God,” Paul said. “And know that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline,” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).
Paul didn’t want Timothy to be afraid to share the gospel. He encouraged his spiritual son to join in his suffering, to fight the good fight, to guard the good deposit entrusted to him through the Holy Spirit. With honest eloquence, Paul motivated Timothy to keep the faith by saying, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:20)
God used Paul’s words to speak to me. Being afraid to share the gospel was not an option. I needed to hold tightly to the words of the Lord, reject fearful thoughts, and intercede for my child. With more strength than I could have imagined, God galvanized a fight within me—a fight of faith, the faith of my fathers. He formed our group of mothers with prodigals and gave us a Scripture verse to sustain us, Isaiah 43:5-7. Together we determined to humbly pray for our children, believing God’s truth.
We refused to allow anxiety over choices made by our children to squelch the fire. The embers in our troubled hearts had been deposited by our Heavenly Father. The power of the Holy Spirit fanned them into flame. In unity but with distinct voices, we cried out to the True and Faithful One, Jesus Christ. And He strengthened us.
Timothy came from a line of faithful believers. I learned of faith from my parents and grandparents. Standing on a firm foundation, I’m compelled to fan into flame this precious gift of God, passing it on to my children and grandchildren.
With power, love, and sound minds, my prayer group and I will continue to keep the faith and share the gospel with a lost and hurting world. For the sake of our children, for the next generation, we yearn to set ablaze the gift of God. We believe our prayers will ignite the flame.
Oh the joy of future generations living in the truth.