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Pre-Owned Faith

Jul 30, 2017 05:01AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith

It had been two weeks since our car accident. I was not sure I would ever be in the mood to go used car shopping, but our rental car had to be returned, and it was time to make decisions. I couldn't put this off any longer.

We take my daughter along whenever we need to make a significant purchase. Fourteen-going-on-45 years old in wisdom, she has an eye like a hawk and an uncanny ability to see the big picture. A few months back she kept us from buying a travel trailer in poor condition. She raises the bar in many ways, but she also keeps us sensible. I’m certain she’d make a fantastic life coach. She’s been handing common sense out to me like candy since she was old enough to put three words together sitting in the shopping cart: “Not that one—that one!” I’m the whimsical writer lacking clarity in basic decisions, and she steps right in and cuts through the fluff.

As we test drove a few cars, we asked her to offer opinions on space, comfort, and safety. We had already researched our three best options, and now it was left to the “feel” of the car. We’ve owned both new and used vehicles over the years. This time we were adding a few nickels to the insurance value of our totaled van to purchase a used commuter car. With college expenses on the horizon, as well as a teen driver, we decided “used” was best. My absolute favorite word for used is “pre-owned.” Doesn’t that just class it up?

I made sure to sit in both the front and back seats of these “pre-owned” vehicles to wiggle into the same space once shared by others. As I did, these questions swirled around in my mind:
  • Could I be comfortable here?
  • Has it aged well?
  • How many miles has it traveled?
  • Does it drive consistent with how it is advertised?
  • Is it limping along in any area?
And I thought about my faith in Christ—and the faith of my children. All along, I have prayed they would receive the truth of Christ and would live according to the peace my husband and I have found by aligning our lives with the Holy Bible. Our heart is that our children embrace this life-giving manual and meet the loving, sacrificial, merciful, just, faithful, and good Father within—that they would invite His son into their hearts.

But the reality is:

Pre-owned faith can get us started. It takes us part of the way, but eventually we have to own the miles ourselves.

My husband and I will never regret giving them a foundation to build from, but they must test it, try it, take it for a real spin through both smooth and rough terrain, and decide if they will own it. Will they travel with it, feeling safe and secure inside? Or will they jump in other vehicles for a while?

As much as we want them to stay within the lines we’ve drawn for them, it’s not really their faith until they ask these same questions:

  • Could I be comfortable here?

(Do I believe this, or am I forcing on the faith of my parents like a tight-fitting glove?)

  • Has it aged well?

(Is it tried and true, unchanging, no matter how old I am or how long I have been practicing my faith?)

  • How many miles has it traveled?

(Is it solid, unwavering, no matter where I go with it? Does it apply to my career, my relationships, my entire life?)

  • Does it drive consistent with how it is advertised?

(Have I found anything to be untrue? A false claim? Is every promise real to me?)

  • Is it limping along in any area?

(Has it ever failed me? Are there kinks in the system?)

James was the brother of Jesus, and initially, he did not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

John 7:5

For not even his brothers believed in him.

Later, after the death and resurrection of Christ, James encouraged new believers to allow the trials of life to test their faith. He told them to approach God for wisdom. There is no reproach in the asking.

James 1:1-5

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

I think Christian parents sometimes fear the questioning of faith that naturally happens at certain developmental ages as well as after trauma, loss, crisis, or illness. In my experience, however, we never stop holding our Christian beliefs up for examination. It’s human nature to look for a flaw because we are flawed. To be really secure in what we receive in our hearts to be the truth of Christ, our questioning can take us deeper to the heart of our Father who art in heaven. We find out who He is, and thereby, who we are, by always seeking to know Him more.

He wants to be known.

In his letter to his beloved Ephesians, the Apostle Paul reassured them that the eyes of your hearts [will be] enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.

Ephesians 1:16-21

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

When I think of my children taking honest questions to God, I have no fear. I believe He is true to what He says, that He will be faithful to reveal Himself. I trust Him. He promises to show Himself and His creation. He doesn’t play games or manipulate us. Paul once again emphasized this in Romans: He will make Himself plain to them.

Romans 1:19-20

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

As Jesus prepared for His death and resurrection, He explained to His disciples that they will know that He is in His Father and that He will manifest Himself to whoever loves Him.

John 14:18-21

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."

Even if we have known and believed in Christ a long time, it’s very healthy to continue seeking wisdom from Him, keeping an open dialogue. It is exercising a teachable spirit, and, like children growing in the Christian faith, it reminds us that borrowed or pre-owned faith is not our own. 

We must give Christ a chance to manifest Himself in us individually for that is the very essence of being a child of God.


Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.

She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.


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