I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 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. (NIV)
They say that the Christian faith is always just one generation from extinction. If it is not passed on, it dies out. Paul reminds us that Timothy’s faith didn’t just happen. It seems it had been passed on from his grandmother and mother. This doesn’t mean children and grandchildren of Christians will automatically come to faith: they have to respond.
But an example helps a lot. And that example is not just a matter of words which fill up a religious data bank. It is a lived out faith, more than mere formal instruction. It is a faith which models how to be thankful to God and how to be faithful when faith is hard. It is real, it is authentic, it is not make believe, it is not filling our heads with facts.
And we who seek to pass on the faith can never be sure of the results. In 1858 a Mr Kimball led a Boston shoe shop assistant to Christ. His name was Dwight Moody and he became a famous evangelist. His preaching stirred up a man called Frederick Meyer in 1879. He was a pastor who discovered a new zeal for evangelism. He led a man called Wilbur Chapman to Christ. In time, Chapman befriended a man called Billy Sunday and got him involved in evangelistic meetings. This Billy Sunday led some meetings in North Carolina and stirred up the locals to have more such meetings.
So they invited a man called Mordecai Ham to lead some outreaches. During one of those meetings a young man named Billy Graham heard the message and gave his life to Christ. And we can guess the rest of the story. And we can be sure Mr Kimball went to his grave utterly unaware of the impact he made in that shoe shop in Boston.