A Story About Nurturing Faith
Timothy, at thirteen, knew how difficult it was to live in a two-culture home. Having a Greek father meant that he had not been circumcised as a baby, and now he would not be able to take his place in the synagogue as some of his friends were doing. It’s not that he did not know the Hebrew Scriptures. Eunice, his mother, and Lois, his grandmother, had seen to that. And what is more, they had both heard about Jesus and told him what they had heard. Then Paul came to town, their town of Lystra. He healed a cripple. Barnabas and Paul narrowly escaped being treated as Greek gods, then the Jewish community stoned Paul, leaving him for dead. Eunice and Timothy were probably involved in caring for him and helping him get away safely. But the biggest thing in Timothy’s life was the invitation to accompany Paul on his later journeys. His faith had been nurtured by his mother and grandmother, now it was to be nurtured further by the dynamic and inspiring Apostle. There was quite a contrast between the two. Paul was bold, aggressive, and a dominating presence wherever he went: Timothy was affectionate and loyal, but rather timid and quiet. Yet Paul entrusted him with some very significant responsibilities. To the end, even when he was the Superintendent Minister of the Church in Ephesus, Timothy remained under the tutelage of Paul. Faith in Christ needs nurturing. If it be likened to a plant, it starts off in a person’s life like a tiny seed—something said, an act of compassion in a time of need, a friendly word when feeling isolated, a prayer answered, a Bible passage read, whatever. But it grows as it is fed by prayer and worship, by Christian companionship and care, by reading of the Bible and by many subtle ways. It is the Spirit of God that brings forth growth. And there is always further to grow. The task of nurturing faith is never finished. There is more to learn -more to learn about God and the Bible, but, more importantly, more to experience of God’s love and grace, God’s will and purpose, God’s power and goodness. It’s not only children and young people that need nurturing in the faith. Church leaders need nurturing. Just as elite athletes still need coaches, so church leaders need guidance, encouragement, companionship, correction and prayer.
Something to think and talk about
Nurturing is training, encouraging, guiding, shaping, feeding and nourishing. What can be done is limited by the capacity of the person being nurtured to receive it. In one of his letters to the Christians in Corinth, Paul wrote that when he was with them he had fed them with milk because they were not yet ready for solid food. He regrets that, when he writes, they are still not ready for it (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). The hope is that they will go on growing in their faith so that they will be ready to handle more mature stuff. What convinces him of their immaturity is their disunity and divisiveness. Pride, arrogance, intolerance, jealousy, suspicion and rivalry breed disunity – a sure sign that people have not matured in their Christian faith. It’s only partly a matter of knowledge; it is mainly a matter of attitude. Biblical literacy and theological understanding have their place, but the area of growth that is most important is one’s relationship with God, a relationship of trust, obedience, devotion and love, and as Jesus, so clearly put it, this is intimately linked with the attitude we have toward other people: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-40)
• Think/talk about your own experiences of being nurtured in the faith. Offer a prayer of thanks for those people who have been involved in nurturing your faith.
• What obstacles have to be overcome if nurturing in faith is to be effective?
• How could you contribute towards the nurturing of the leaders in your congregation?
Read Romans 13:8-14
• What does this passage say to you about the nurturing of faith? • What part should rules play in the nurturing of faith?
• Make an effort to find out what helps are available for the nurturing of your faith and the faith of your family; e.g.: books, videos, tapes, CDs, Bible reading notes, children’s Bible story books, pictures, etc..
Holy and loving God, tend my struggling faith that it might become strong, shape my unruly faith that it might be ordered by the faith and style of Jesus. And I make myself available to be used by your Holy Spirit in strengthening the faith of others. In his name I pray. Amen.
Recognizing that I have more to learn I will listen for your Word, O God. Lead me, teach me, shape me; convince me, use me, hold me.