Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 30, 2009


Many of us are indebted to parents for the legacy of faith

Webster’s Dictionary defines faith as “something believed with strong conviction.” Whatever our faith, most of us received it from others. It was passed down to us by people we trusted and admired. Many of us are indebted to our parents for an inheritance that included a strong spiritual faith.

As a young adult I was not willing to admit this. Many years passed before I began to recognize the debt I owed my parents for my own faith. This is really to admit the obvious. When we are young most of us are cocky and self-confident, unwilling to credit anyone else for our presumed “brilliance.” I know I was like that in my twenties and early thirties.  

Then gradually my parents became smarter. I began to recognize qualities in them that I had never seen before. As a result of this new attitude, I became thankful for the quiet but persistent way my parents influenced me to trust God.

Neither Dad nor Mom talked a lot about God. But they lived the faith; they walked the walk. When it came to church, they never discussed whether or not to go to church. On Sundays we went to church. There were few exceptions – rare occasions when “the ox was in the ditch” because of bad weather or a sick animal on the farm.

As I grew up I realized that Mom and Dad were not religious fanatics. They were, however, “God-fearing people,” a term I later realized applied to them. This was true of them because of some of the things our family did, and did not do. We attended church and worshiped God, though Dad never said “Church is important,” or “We should worship God.”  

Dad prayed a prayer or “said the blessing” before every meal. Dad and Mom worked hard; they did not have “a lazy bone” in them. Dad was honest to the core. If he told you something, you could take it to the bank. When we started going to school he told us if we got a whipping at school, he would give us another one when we got home. I can testify that he kept his word.

Mom and Dad set a good example for me and my siblings. Because of the example of our parents, we did not smoke or drink alcoholic beverages. We did not use profanity. I never heard either of my parents use the “F” word that has become commonplace in today’s society. To this day I have never heard any of my sisters or my brother use profanity. We credit this to the strong influence of our parents. I do not mean to imply that genuine Christian faith is a list of Do’s and Don’ts. It is clearly much more than that. Nevertheless parents do exert great influence upon their children by what they do, and do not do, as they live out their faith.

  What I see clearly now is that the influence of our parents made it easier for my siblings and I to embrace a faith of our own.  In fact we had the joy of seeing our parents mature in their faith; they realized that genuine faith in God was much more than “the rules” of our childhood. They showed us that it had more to do with the way we cared about other people – doing what the Bible calls “love.”

Passing the faith on to others is not a responsibility assigned to a few; it is a privilege to everyone who has faith. But the best way to pass it on is to live it so that others can “catch” the faith by observing our example.

Faithfulness is never easy. Great sacrifice is often demanded from those whose faith exposes them to the wrath of terrorists. Today believers in many nations are suffering because of their faith. Some in India are faced with the option of denouncing faith and returning to Hinduism or being killed.

Persecution is not something new. The Bible warns believers that they will be persecuted for their faith. Such persecution has been a reality in every century. Over the years Oswald Chambers has repeatedly reinforced my faith. I have read his popular book My Utmost for His Highest more than thirty times. Chambers can bring me to my knees quicker than anyone I read. Take this passage for example:  

“I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. I should never say, ‘Lord, this causes me such heartache.’ To talk that way makes me a stumbling block. When I stop telling God what I want, He can freely work His will in me without any hindrance. He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness. Self-pity is of the devil, and if I wallow in it I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world.”

In my pursuit of a strong faith I have had to come again and again to this kind of surrender. Such surrender is never easy. But I know I must keep doing it in order to keep the faith and have any hope of passing it on to others, especially my own children.  

In my first pastorate I met Frank Pierce, a devout farmer who had been superintendent of his church’s Sunday school for 50 years. He had never missed a Sunday in half a century. One Saturday it started snowing. By Sunday morning the snow was so deep that no one in this rural Alabama community could get to church. We all stayed home.

The next Sunday in church Frank Pierce shamed us all. He had walked four miles through the snow to church. He turned on the heat and stayed awhile, then returned home when no one showed up. Faithfulness meant a lot to Frank. His example, and the strength of his character, influenced many family members and friends to embrace the faith.

Frank’s example reminds me that if I want to pass the faith on, I must live it faithfully every day.  Just talking about faith will not make it a legacy to the next generation. + + +