I often wonder what happened to the teens I attended youth group with as a young adult. We had a group of about 30 teens who gathered every Sunday night to play, connect and learn. I have no idea if they continued in the Church and in their faith. I do know that statistically speaking most of them are no longer involved in any Church even though they might still claim to be believers. Time is not kind to people of faith. Quite often people will quit on their journey with God long before they reach their destination. Some people get hurt, others lose interest and still, others fail and just quit trying.
I am unique. I have stayed their course with my faith. It has been 36 years since I proclaimed Jesus as my Lord and Savior and was baptized. My faith has changed through the years but I am still trusting God’s grace daily and actively involved in Church. Lately, I have been kicking around the question, “Why do I still believe when many others have given up?”
1. My decision to follow Jesus was purely my decision
I did not feel any manipulation from my parents, my youth leader or my Church. In fact, I think I surprised people the day I walked forward to accept Jesus. Many people come to faith at a week of camp or CIY where there is a lot of emotion in the moment. Some people come to faith to make their parents happy. I really didn’t feel that pressure. I made my decision based on what I understood and as a result, I feel a personal obligation to God.
2. My faith is built solely on Jesus.
My dad explained the gospel to my brother while we rode around in his truck. I overheard everything and it made sense to me. My preacher offered an invitation to accept Jesus and be baptized and I went forward. I trusted Jesus as my Savior. I did not get scared at some “Thief in the Night” or “Heaven’s gate and Hell’s flame” production. I clearly understood the gospel message and built a life of faith on a strong foundation.
3. I have sought answers for my questions.
Through the years I have had numerous questions about my faith. I struggled through the death of my best friend. I was tossed around in seas of doubt. I have nearly drowned in guilt and shame. Each time I encountered a new struggle I went back to the Bible. I prayed and read God’s word. I read books and articles to help me understand. I talked to people who lived through a similar crisis of faith. Each time I came out of the mire of doubt a little stronger than before.
4. I wanted to help instead of fleeing
The Church can be incredibly ugly. I was there in the Church lobby when my dad was verbally assaulted by a lady about his work as an elder. I have heard the horror stories of my dad as a young man. I decided I wanted to make a difference in the Church and not run away. As an adult, I have realized most of my childish fears. People were mean, ugly and nasty to me. With each encounter, I asked God to teach me and help me make changes that would make the Church better. Honestly, wherever two or more are gathered to do anything, there will be issues. The Church is no different, unfortunately. You can either be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.
5. I still need grace
No matter how hard I try to achieve it – I am still not perfect. I still make mistakes. I still struggle with temptation and sin. I still struggle with guilt and shame. I still need the forgiveness that I find in Jesus Christ. I still need the grace to let go of my yesterdays and embrace today. I still need the hope of heaven. I still need Jesus.
I have always said that if I find anything better than Jesus and I come to the point of believing it, then I will leave my faith in him. To this point, I have found nothing that can compare with my faith in Jesus. In fact, I find most people desperately need what he offers. Even when I could have walked away from faith and no one would have blamed me, I didn’t. To whom shall I go? Only Jesus has the words of life.