What Does it Mean to Have Faith?
About the Guest
God has no grandchildren. Each person much accept Jesus for himself. Brothers Ryan and Josh Shook talk about their years of spiritual struggle, despite growing up in a Christian home led by their pastor father, Kerry Shook. Ryan and Josh talk about their crisis of faith which eventually lead them to accept the truths of Scripture for themselves.
Josh ShookJosh Shook is a musician, a song writer, and a graduate of Belmont University. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ryan ShookRyan Shook is a filmmaker and blogger. A graduate of Baylor University, he is married to Sarah, and they live in Houston, Texas.
Brothers Ryan and Josh Shook talk about their years of spiritual struggle, and their crisis of faith which eventually lead them to accept the truths of Scripture for themselves.
What Does it Mean to Have Faith?
Bob: Ryan Shook grew up in a Christian home. Like a lot of young people, when he got to college, he put his faith on pause.
Ryan: It’s always easy, when you’re young, to think, “Later on I’ll figure that out.” You know, “I’ll clean up my act a little bit once I get older / once I have a career; but for now, I’m living for me and it is fun.” I just thought—I don’t know, I always thought about being in a loving marriage, like my parents, and realizing the relationship I had, and what I was settling for now, in many areas of my life, was not going to get me to there.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today about what parents can do to help their sons and daughters make their faith their own. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, you and I have seen the statistics for a long time, talking about the number of young people who, post-high school, leave the faith. And we don’t know—some of them come back when they get married / some of them come back when they have kids.
Bob: Some of them you’re not sure what’s going to happen. There are a lot of kids, who grew up in Christian homes—going to church / going to the Christian school—for whatever reason, they get to their college years and they just say, “I’m done with this.” I think a lot of parents look at that and go, “Where did we go wrong?”
Dennis: Yes, exactly.
Bob: And, “Is there anything we can still do today to try to woo our son or daughter back?”
Dennis: I think a lot of parents feel like failures, Bob. Some may not have passed on an authentic faith that they lived out in their own home. The way they were living might have been so antithetical to what the Bible teaches that their kids finally could put up with the hypocrisy no longer.
When they got out on their own, they: “You know what? I’m not living this charade out with you any longer.”
But if you do try, and you did attempt to pass on your faith in a meaningful way, it’s absolutely normal for a parent to feel like they’ve failed. But what you have to understand is our children have to become independently dependent upon Jesus Christ.
Bob: And even if you messed up, as a mom or a dad, there’s still an opportunity for you to come back to your kids and to say, “Boy, we messed up,”—to repent in front of them and to make a proclamation of the gospel there; right?
Dennis: It isn’t a matter of if we messed up; it’s a matter of—
Ryan: —when, and how, and how often.
Dennis: —and how often we messed up. [Laughter]
Well, we’ve got the authors of a book called Firsthand, speaking of firsthand faith. Ryan and Josh Shook join us again on FamilyLife Today. Ryan, Josh, welcome back.
Josh: Thanks so much. We’re happy to be here.
Ryan: Yes, thank you so much for having us.
Dennis: Josh is a musician who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. His brother Ryan is a graduate of Baylor University. He and his wife Sarah live in Houston, Texas.
Earlier, we talked about your journey of ultimately coming to the end of your rope / coming to your emptiness and admitting your need of Jesus Christ. You grew up in a pastor’s home. Both of you guys share in your book how you really dealt with emptiness. In fact, you call it a gift—that it was a gift from God to allow you to come to the end of yourselves and, ultimately, to find Him.
Bob: And I’m just curious, because you also experienced doubt, do you think the doubt led to the emptiness? Do you think the emptiness was fueled by the doubt? What is the relationship between these questions you had about—“Is there really a God?” “Are miracles real?” “Is creation true, or is evolution true?”—and then the sense of emptiness that you were starting to feel in high school and college?
Ryan: I think it’s a combination of factors. Like you said, there were doubts that Josh and I were dealing with, on a constant basis, now that we were in high school. We were in science classes, learning about things that we had never really been very familiar with—about evolution and different principles. Then, on the other side of that, just during the day, we were confronted with friends who were drinking and doing things that we knew were wrong but looked appealing. Then, we also had a sinful nature. It’s kind of in those high school years that so many students, just like Josh and I did, want to explore that kind of sinful side of ourselves and kind of rebel against whatever it was we were brought up in.
So that was when Josh and I really started to struggle with depression/anxiety. These are all just kind of the cruxes that we fell on while we were trying to find fulfillment in ourselves.
Dennis: When you’re empty, you start trying to fill the holes with something that the world offers.
Josh: Yes, absolutely. You just grab at anything, you know? Immediately afterwards, you just think to yourself: “This can’t be it. There has to be more.”
Dennis: Our God is a great God, though. He has means to get our attention—plenty at His disposal to do. You guys describe some of those means as “divine disturbances.” I like that phrase because I think, sometimes, God is mischievous.
Dennis: He disturbs our lives in unmistakable ways. How did it happen in each of your lives?
Ryan: Yes, God definitely does disturb us. Actually, there’s a really great quote by Francis Drake. Josh, can you say it?
Josh: Yes, Sir Frances Drake wrote—well, it’s credited to him as this poem called “Disturb Us, O Lord.” I just love that. I think it just encapsulates a prayer that Ryan and I strive to pray more often. It goes:
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we’ve dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of the things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We all want to be comfortable, you know? When we talk about divine disturbances, one of the most exciting things about the Christian life is it is uncomfortable. We’re constantly put outside of our comfort zone, where we go: “Okay, God, I don’t know how You are going to follow through with this,” or “I don’t know what’s going to happen because I’m in way over my head here; but I see a need. I see You calling me to this area. I see You calling us to step out.”
I mean, for Ryan and I, even writing the book about this was—that was a big disturbance, too, because this opportunity came up. We were both like: “Oh! We can’t really write well. This isn’t going to come across right.” But we were like: “Okay, God, we know this is important. This is an issue that’s so important to Ryan and me. We want to step into this. We don’t know how it’s going to work, but we’re going to trust You, Lord.
“We need You to come through because Ryan and I are—I’m not my favorite writer.” [Laughter]
Dennis: You know, I like what he said in that poem: “Disturb us when we sail too close to the shore and arrive safely.”
Dennis: There’s something within us—that God placed—that is a sense that He has a destiny for us—
Dennis: —that is far greater / far more noble than to waste our lives down in the pigsty, eating the slop with the pigs—
Dennis: —because that’s what the prodigal son did. Instead of being a noble, he ended up having to eat what was being thrown away to animals. I want to know how that occurred in both of your lives. What was the point of disturbance? What did God use to disturb you?—to ultimately have you turn the spiritual lights back on in your life?
Bob: Yes; was it gradual or was there a wake-up call for both of you?
Josh: Man, I think it was gradual in a way, but I think there were several moments when I just—I kept trying to make things work on my own terms. I was in a relationship that wasn’t very healthy; but at the time, I was very comfortable. It ended badly, and it made me realize—I don’t know, I had just always thought about being in a loving marriage, like my parents, and realizing the relationship I had, and what I was settling for now, in many areas of my life, was not going to get me to there.
Dennis: So the divine disturbance for you was realizing that this relationship you were pursuing wasn’t going to get you there.
Josh: Absolutely—that was a big one.
Dennis: Without Jesus Christ, it wasn’t going to work.
Dennis: What about you, Ryan?
Ryan: Well, for me, it was more of a gradual process. You know, it began in high school. It was really that freshman year of college where I hit rock-bottom, like we talked about earlier. It was at that point, when I had nowhere else to turn, that I looked up at God and said: “I need something. I’m not perfect.”
I kind of prayed one of the most honest prayers of my life in a moment of just desperation. I think desperation is often the breeding ground for some of the most genuine and the most authentic prayers of our lives.
Bob: When you were in high school and you were dealing with your doubts, you said you would bring that up to your mom or your dad. When you were dealing with depression, did you tell your mom or dad: “I’m really struggling with loneliness,” or “…depression,” or “…anxiety in my life”?
Ryan: To be honest, I really didn’t know I was depressed. I just knew I felt crummy and didn’t want to talk to people. It was my dad who kind of saw Josh and me—he saw that he went through a lot of the same things—and he had gone through depression, at our age; but, just like us, hadn’t recognized it. It was really Josh, who also dealt with it, who kind of brought it up to my parents first and said, “Hey, I’m having these really depressing thoughts that I don’t know what to do with.”
Dennis: Yes. Both of you guys struggled with doubts.
You have no way of knowing this, but I took a little longer than you did. It took til the end of my sophomore year in college to kind of do spiritual business with God on my own. One of the men He used in my life was a guy by the name of Tom Skinner. Tom was the Chaplain for the Washington Redskins. He gave a quote to me that hit me between the eyes. I want both of you guys to comment on this because this didn’t change my life, but it helped put my doubts in context.
Tom Skinner said this: “I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts when, suddenly, I realized I’d better come to grips with what I believe. I have since moved from the agony of questions that I cannot answer to the reality of answers that I cannot escape, and it’s a great relief.”
Now, for me, as a young man, I had a lot of doubts that—some of which I still carry on today, as an adult, occasionally.
But I had to come to grips with: “What do I really believe? What does the Scripture teach? What am I going to base my life on? Am I going to base it on my doubts and live according to question marks; or am I going to live according to exclamation points, like the empty tomb and Christ being alive after the crucifixion?”
Ryan: That’s powerful; yes. I love what you said about, “Am I going to live by question marks or exclamation points?” That’s a great way to put it because, just like that quote is saying, there will always be things that you can’t be 100 percent sure about. I think that the logical side of us, as Christians, wants to be able to lay everything out and prove every detail and have evidence for everything.
The reality is that there is a lot of really great evidence for what we believe. There are great books on that that Josh and I love and recommend; but the reality is that, at the end of the day, you’re still going to have, probably, some things that you don’t have totally resolved in your mind.
The question is: “Do you believe that your God is big enough to handle those doubts? Or are you kind of trying to box God in and say that you can figure Him out?” I mean, how arrogant is it of us to say that we can know everything about everything?
Dennis: He gives us the courage to surrender; but we have to take the steps to ultimately kneel and say: “Okay, God, I’m going to stop playing church. I’m going to surrender to You. Use me for Your purposes. I don’t know what that is—that seems frightening to me.” It was very frightening to me, as a young man. I thought this meant I had to get on a banana boat and go to Africa—
Ryan: Yes! [Laughter]
Dennis: —and dress in black and mourn the rest of my life; you know? But quite the opposite was true. When you come to Christ, He doesn’t leave you fully yourself—He empties you of yourself and then fills you up with Himself. That’s the journey of a lifetime.
Josh: Well what would you say—if you don’t mind me asking a question to you guys: “What would you say is the most joyful thing about that journey that you didn’t anticipate before it started?”
Dennis: Well, after thinking about that for a moment, I would say who God is has been such a surprise. When I first started my journey, I read a little book—I think it was by J.B. Phillips. It was called Your God is Too Small. I think, for most people, their god is too small because they don’t know the God of the Bible.
I would say the thing that brought me the most joy—because there’ve been a lot of journeys through some dark moments in life—I lost a granddaughter who lived seven days. You don’t think of that as being able to experience joy in that. But when you know who God is, and you know He can be trusted—and you know that He’s a good God, and He didn’t stop being good on the day our granddaughter was born—then it’s a bittersweet joy, but you can experience joy.
It’s all about knowing Him and finding out who He is—that’s been the greatest surprise for me.
Bob: And, as you say that, it made me think of Psalm 16, verse 11—that says, “In Your presence there is fullness of joy.”
Bob: “At Your right hand are pleasures evermore.”
I think the surprise of the journey for me has been the surprise that what, on the frontend, looked like duty, turns out to be delight—that things you have to do, you do them and find there’s great joy in the doing. The spiritual disciplines bring joy. In the old days, it was like, “Oh, we’ve got to go to church.” Now, it is like: “Oh, it is Sunday! I get to go to church! I get to be with God’s people—I get to worship the Lord!” It’s those kinds of things—where you start to see that “There is life, here, if you know Christ.” If you don’t know Christ, it’s going to still feel like duty / it’s going to feel like a burden. But if you know Christ, there’s joy in His presence.
I’ve been sitting here, thinking about two things. First of all, I’ve been thinking about a sociologist from Notre Dame—a guy named Christian Smith—who did a study about young people leaving the faith. He drew a conclusion from his study. He said a lot of young people, who are leaving the faith—he said the faith that they’re leaving wasn’t the faith in the first place. He said a lot of young people are growing up in evangelical churches. He said what they’re learning is what he called “moralistic therapeutic deism.”
They’re learning there is a God, and that God loves you, and He wants life to be good for you. As long as you keep the rules, that will happen. They get to college and go: “That’s not true!—keep the rules and nothing bad will ever happen?!” You know, it takes about three weeks of college before you go: “That just—that doesn’t work out.” He said they hadn’t learned the authentic gospel.
What they had learned was just: “Keep the rules; and the God, who loves you, will take care of you.”
Do you feel like the gospel you believe today is different than the gospel that you learned, growing up?
Josh: Yes. You know, it is funny how you can read the text of the Bible—what our faith is built on—but a lot of it depends on: “How are you reading it? How intentional are you about what you’re trying to get out of it?” I think that’s one of the great struggles in our generation is—that so many of our generation have confused religion for relationship. Like you’re saying—practical deism, where they know there’s a God—but “Are you really trying to get to know Him on a personal level?”
That’s really the core of it and why we wrote First Hand because really everyone deeply, truly needs an authentic, real firsthand relationship with God / not just second-hand knowledge of Him. I think a lot of our generation have—who have grown up in church—have just replaced that knowledge for the relationship that we so desperately need, like you’re referring to, Bob.
Bob: Okay, then, here’s the other question I have for both of you because Dennis and I have had this question about his story. He was seven years old when he prayed “the prayer.”
Josh: Dennis was; yes.
Bob: He didn’t want to go to hell—prayed the prayer; okay? You’ve heard him say he was in his early 20s when he kind of came back and got serious about his walk with Christ. So the question was: “Was Dennis saved at seven, or was Dennis saved at twenty?”
Ryan: That sounds like a deep theological question, Bob.
Bob: Well, here’s my question for you.
Dennis: Bob delights in these questions! [Laughter]
Bob: As you look back on your life, and you think about your journey—
Bob: —do you think you knew Jesus when you were twelve, or do you think you didn’t meet Jesus until you got to the bottom in college?
Bob: How would you describe your journey?
Ryan: Well, here’s what I believe, Bob—is that Christ desperately wants relationship with us. I believe that if you reach a point—you know, as long as you’re at that age of kind of understanding what Christ did for you and accepting what He did for you—I believe that when Dennis made that decision, he became a Christian.
I don’t think Christ ever let go of him. I believe that Christ always was pursuing after Dennis and that he was always saved by Christ’s grace. Now, his distance from Christ definitely varied over the years. I think that’s one of the things that Josh and I really believe—is that faith is a process. As you guys have probably seen over the years—it’s a process of new learning, of realizing how much you don’t know, and then a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ.
I would assume that, as you grow older, it becomes less about what you knew and more about who you know—who you’re in relationship with. That relationship with Christ only deepens and strengthens over time.
Bob: Yes. Josh, do you think the relationship you had with Jesus, when you were nine/ten years old, was the real thing?
Josh: Yes, I honestly—I believe it was—I don’t think it was a very—it might have been a very casual relationship.
Bob: Pretty basic?
Josh: Pretty basic.
But that’s how—even now, I’m sure ten/twenty years down the road, I’ll think about where I am now—as I’m sure you guys do and say: “Man! Did I really know it then? Did I really know it then?”—because we’re always learning and we’re always growing. I remember, several times, thinking: “Did I pray that right?—because I really want to know Jesus! So, I’d better do it again just to make sure!” You know?
Even when I was furthest from God, I absolutely still felt that conviction; you know?—not just conviction and guilt—but the real conviction of: “No, there’s something better for you. You know this isn’t what you need.”
Bob: Well, I tell you what—when we get to heaven and we find out—no! Never mind! [Laughter]
Josh: If we—the thing is— well, the thing is—[Laughter]
Bob: See, we’ve got a steak dinner going on.
Bob: When we get to heaven, and he finds out “seven,” I buy the steak / if it’s “twenty,” he buys the steak—so that’s how that works.
Josh: I like that.
Dennis: Either way, we get to eat a steak together!
Dennis: We’ll go to Cheesecake Factory; who knows?! [Laughter]
Ryan: It is funny, though—I will say—the great thing is that, even though it’s absolutely fun to talk about that, and we should be asking these questions—it’s fascinating to ask these questions about God. It’s—you know, people can disagree on it and it is fine; you know?
Bob: Sure. At this point, we know where you are; right?
Ryan: Yes; exactly!
Dennis: And for the listener, who’s listening right now—who’s still on the fence—I’ve got a passage I want to read to you because Jesus Christ—and we started talking about this at the beginning—He does disturb your life. He disturbed people who were following Him. In John, Chapter 6, the disciples said: “This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?” But Jesus knew what they were thinking. He kind of confronted the twelve and said: “Are you guys going to go away as well? Are you guys going to leave Me? Are you going to stop following Me?” Simon Peter said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that You are the holy one of God.”
When you finally find out who Jesus is, and you come to that determination—there’s no other one worthy of being followed—there was only one perfect God-man—Jesus Christ—King of kings / Lord of lords. He is the one worthy of your surrender, and of your life, and of your imperfect way of following Him for the rest of your life. If you’re listening to us and haven’t done that—before the sun sets or before you go to bed tonight—settle up and saddle up because it’s an adventure and the journey of a lifetime.
Guys, I want to thank you for being on FamilyLife Today. I hope some of those who are struggling, Bob, with having their own faith, will get a copy of Firsthand by Ryan and Josh Shook.
Bob: Yes, especially if we’re talking to folks who are maybe where you guys are—in their twenties—having been through this season in their lives, where they’ve kind of set aside their faith for a while. They’re starting to wonder: “Is there something more to life? How can I reconnect with God?”
I would encourage them to get a copy of the book, Firsthand,by Ryan and Josh Shook. It’s a book we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go, online, to
FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can order a copy of the book, Firsthand, right there.
Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Look for the “GO DEEPER” button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. That will take you right where you need to go for a copy of the book, Firsthand. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order the book: 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Now, we are into the final week of the month of May. For those of us, here at FamilyLife, this is kind of a count-down week because we have been,
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You’ve called, or gone online, or mailed a donation to us, here at FamilyLife Today. We’re grateful for your support. We still have a little way to go—so I’d like to encourage you to go, online, to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I CARE,” and you can make an online donation from there. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—you can make your donation over the phone. Or mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
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Now, tomorrow, I hope you can tune in. Kevin DeYoung is going to be here. He’s a pastor from Michigan. He’s just written a book called What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? We’re going to talk about that with him tomorrow. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today
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