Sharing Faith with Family

By Bennett Rolan – BSF Editorial Manager

Erin Levine’s heart broke for her husband, Tony.  

Raised in a Jewish home, Tony believed in God and prayed during important events, but exploring Christianity wasn’t a priority. As a successful college football coach, he was busy. He was fulfilled. They were happy. But Erin longed for both of them to share an abiding relationship with Jesus ChristSo she prayed. 

For 10 years, Erin prayed, hoped, and waited. Then in 2012, surrounded by friends at a Christian family camp, Tony Levine publicly proclaimed his faith in Jesus.

BSF Leader Erin Levine shared the gospel with her unbelieving spouse Tony Levine, former college football coach and Houston Chick-fil-A franchise owner.

Erin’s advice to others who want to share the gospel with family is to “Just keep praying. When you keep praying for that person, God will work through that, but He will also work through you. It changes you. For me, there were a lot of times when I would get mad or upset, wondering when Tony would respond to Christ, but praying through it kept me focused and grounded.”

Tony shared, “I think the strongest witness is observing someone. The word that comes to mind is passion. The passion she had for learning and growing her relationship with the Lord was consistent over time. It was a process. Her joy just continued to grow. I wanted that joy, I wanted to know how to get it.”

God Prepares the Soil

As a professional and college football coach for 22 years, Tony’s career moved the Levine family often. In their early years of marriage, Erin’s faith was tepid. But as the Holy Spirit worked, her love of God’s Word grew, along with her commitment to Christ. 

“I always knew God had a plan for Tony, but I began to wonder, ‘When?’ ” she shared. “He was my best friend, and it was so hard that we couldn’t share that. He just didn’t get it.”

From 2003 to 2005, Tony worked as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. Just outside the city, Erin found a church with a Messianic Jewish community. She was on a mission to find the people who would lead Tony to Christ.  

“I was trying to change him, but God used that time to change me,” Erin said. “I started understanding how the Jewish faith fit with Christianity. When I started learning all of that, my eyes opened, and that’s when I wanted to know the Lord more.”  

Tony smiles when he recalls those Louisville years.   

“I was at the office thinking about how not to get a punt blocked when a man showed up with a bag of Burger King and sat down to talk to me about Jesus,” Tony said. “They had the messianic meetings at our house, and I kept thinking, ‘When are these people going to get out of our basement?’ ”  

Erin remembers, “He was not sold by any means. I’m glad we can laugh about it now, but a lot of those conversations ended in arguments. Sure, he saw my faith, but he also saw me with an attitude. A lot of those days I felt like I messed it up. In the beginning, everybody wanted to save him. Nobody really wanted to get to know him.”

But God met Erin in her longing and taught her to surrender the burden of Tony’s salvation to Him.

“I felt like it was my job to save him. But when you realize that God does the saving it removes that weight,” she shared. “When you don’t have to do the saving, your faith overflows. It takes a lot of prayer. I know it’s hard. I’m not trying to make it sound easy, it’s a discipline and focus. When you realize you’re only supposed to be faithful, and you allow God to do the saving, you can let that go.” 

As the Levine family moved from Kentucky to North Carolina, then to Texas, Erin’s faith grew, and her love for God’s Word ignited. She joined a BSF class in Texas, where she served as a Children’s Leader and a Group Leader. Tony’s career continued to thrive, and in 2011 he was named the head football coach at the University of Houston. That summer, he accepted Christ.

God Plants the Seed

Along the way, God was quietly working. He honored Erin’s faith and softened Tony’s heart. God placed Christian men in his path, and Tony watched as the believers around him handled adversity with grace and fortitude. 

“The Christian coaches I saw were strong. Because of the nature of this profession, when you get fired from a job it’s very public. I watched these men lose their jobs, and I watched how they responded. When the world would tell them to be discouraged or disappointed, they weren’t. I thought, ‘What do they have that other people don’t? And how can I get it?’ ”

When Tony surrendered his life to Christ, it wasn’t the work of a single moment.

“If you have a rock, and you hit it with a hammer 100 times, it may finally break. But it wasn’t just that 100th hit that broke the rock. It was the build-up of the 99 times before it,” Tony said. “For me, it was a combination of seeing Godly men and, in my case, Godly husbands, coaches, and fathers live through faith over time.”

Tony developed a passion for Christ and the roots of his faith ran deep. The Levines were bound together, strengthened by their faith and unknowingly prepared for difficult years to come.

God Grows Our Faith

Three years after becoming the head football coach at the University of Houston, Tony’s career took a difficult turn. The university announced a coaching staff change and for the first time in 22 years, Tony was left wondering about his future. 

Taking a year away from football, the couple prayed, seeking God’s direction for their lives. During that time, they felt called to open a Chick Fil A and Tony began the interview process. Knowing it could take several years before a location in Houston became available, Tony waited and worked as an assistant coach, turning down several major coaching opportunities.

The Levines’ Chick Fil A opened in Houston in 2018. And as the family celebrated the end of one challenge, three months later, Erin was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Within a three-year period, I was fired for the first time in my coaching career, I made a decision to give up coaching, which was all I had known for 22 years, and then Erin gets cancer,” Tony said. “How do you get through something like that? I was able to trust that the Lord orchestrated all of it.”

Surrounded by familiar doctors and dear friends in Houston, Erin began her treatment. The couple prayed and proclaimed God’s faithfulness through fear and adversity. When the world told them to be discouraged or disappointed, they weren’t. The faith that Tony had questioned years earlier kept him grounded.

Today, Erin is in remission and Tony volunteers as a coach for his sons’ football teams. The couple points to those early years as the days God used to prepare them.

We Pray, We Wait, We Share

For most of us, Erin’s story is familiar. Like the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, we long to plant the seeds of the gospel in the lives of those we love. But waiting for God to prepare the soil is a true test of our faith. We hope, we pray, we share, and we wait. We can’t predict when or how the seed will take root. We are simply called to be faithful.

For Erin, faith meant trusting Jesus with the salvation of the person she loved most.

“I focused on my relationship with Christ,” said Erin. “When I discovered that God was enough to meet my needs, that He would fulfill that longing through His Word, it took the pressure off trying to save Tony. I didn’t have to be perfect or have the perfect family. Jesus was, and is, enough.”

 

Are you looking to share the gospel with your family? Invite them to try BSF with you for 4 weeks! https://www.bsfinternational.org/trybsf/ 

Bennett Rolan

Editorial Manager

Bennett Rolan joined the BSF staff in 2017 after working for several Christian ministries and non-profits. She loves to combine her passion for God’s Word and her journalism background to share stories of God’s Work in and through BSF. As a wife to a busy college football coach and a mom to four young children, BSF studies keep her relationship with the Lord grounded and focused. She loves to learn from fellow believers as God faithfully grows her each day.

 

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143 Comments

  1. This story was really a blessing in my life today and gave me hope at a time when I realize I need to continue praying fervently for family members and loved ones for their salvation, but I need to remember that God does it in his own time. He is faithful and loving and compassionate and does not want our loved ones to perish. Thank you so much.

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  2. Thank you for this inspiring story! I have been praying for my son Adam since he was 15 to be saved and have victory (thru Christ) over drug addiction, it’s been a long heartbreaking journey. He excepted Christ and was babtized at Teen Challenge (a Christian treatment program). He does well for awhile then goes back to using. I helped him get to Arizona’s Teen Challenge about 10 years ago and he did well and then fell back. I have been on my knees and cried myself to sleep many times. Sometimes I just want to give up but I can’t. He’s my only son and I love him to my core. He is now 39. I am encouraged but to be honest I’m guarded. I have been let down more times than I can count. As a Christian mom, I cannot stop believing God has a plan and a purpose for him. Please pray for Adam, I would be so very thankful.

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  3. Loved the Levines’ story!! I too prayed for my husband for years and he now is a big part of our church and we pray together. He still is not sure why I pray for our daughter & family’s salvation, but one day God will turn their hearts to Him and we will be the family God planned. Our son stopped going to church when he married at 30 but when his wife of 7 years left him, he was devastated, turned to Christian counseling and one day fell on his knees to confess his sins and Jesus as his Savior. Several years later he met a beautiful Christian woman raised in the faith whom he married 2 years later and they now have 3 beautiful children all with Biblical names! God is good! Forgot to mention I have been in BSF for 14 years and our son, his wife and her family are BSF devotees too!

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  4. Love how Father God is always working out his perfect timing. He hears and responds to each prayer. Praise & thanks to our Lord for this beautiful testimony.

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  5. WOW!! What a powerful testimony of a godly wife consistently displaying a “gentle & quiet spirit” from 1 Peter 3:1-6. I love this & I too Bennett, am forever grateful for the plethora of things I have learned from others.

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  6. Praise the Lord. I am encouraged to see how God responds to our prayers.

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  7. Thank you for this story of Erin and her coach husband. I’ve been married for 50 years. Still waiting for God to save my husband. I was so encouraged by Erins story.
    My sister is so sad because her son is gay and has pushed her away. She’s trusting God for his salvation.

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  8. What an encouraging testimony. Thank you.

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  9. Thank you for this sharing. I too have a burden for my 3 brothers who are pre-believers. I’ve shared my testimonies, the gospel and invited them to my church evangelistic events but their hearts are still not ready to accept Christ. I do feel disappointed at times but God continually reminds me through His word and now Erin’s sharing that salvation is not my work so I shall not boast. It is the gift from the Lord and at this timing. I shall not give up in sowing into their lives, to make time for them, pray for them and to be a good testimony for God. And also to be opened to allow God to change me in the process.

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  10. It is a very encouraging story! I have the same longings for my husband and two sons. However, God is taking time to prepare the soil, and I just need to stay faithful to Him.

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  11. Beautiful story with loads of
    background on the family as God worked on and through the hearts of the family members to bring the family members to Christ.
    Thanks for sharing,God does the saving, we just pray and believe.
    We have to sow good seeds.

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  12. God’s answers are usually Yes, No, or Wait. He changes our goals as we pray for His work. When our will aligns with His will we see His had at work. Waiting can be hard but also exciting, full of expectation, and joyful, knowing that God is at work for our good and His glory. Praise Him for His perfect timing!

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  13. God says His ways are not our ways neighter His thoughts our thoughts. The waiting period is the most difficult as that is time He prepares us for what lies ahead. But in the end He makes all things beautiful to His Glory. Thanks for sharing

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  14. My total dependence on God will make me live by faith and trust God in all areas of my life and also enable me have the eye to see from far and wide and share the treasures of the truth with confidence.
    The end result is always victory to the Glory of God, Amen.

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  15. I met a wonderful man. He was Catholic and I was going to a Baptist church. I accepted Christ when I was 30. I invited him to a Christmas play. He was crying and totally amazed as he watched the performance. Then he started to go to church with me. He enjoyed all of it. Then he went to a Tres Dias retreat.

    He accepted Christ on that retreat. We got married. I had 10 years with him. He died at the age of 52.

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  16. My story is so very similar. From the time I was a little girl I believed there was a God and believed in Jesus and knew He died for me and rose from the dead. I didn’t however understand who the Holy Spirit was nor did I know or understand His love and grace. When through attending BSF and beginning to study God’s Word for the first time I began to understand more I became passionate about my husband coming to faith. I became, as I called myself, the “resident holy spirit”. This I would not recommend. As with Erin’s story, most of my conversations about faith with my husband ended in an argument and me going away discouraged. It was when God’s Word began to work in my heart and I realized how much the Lord wanted to do in my life that I let go. Over the next 9 years I too prayed and concentrated on my Bible study and what the Lord was teaching me about myself and the changes I needed to make. It was then that my husband started to take notice. He saw those changes and the joy that I was beginning to have and it drew him. The Lord also orchestrated conversations with several men he highly respected who had or were attending BSF. Through those very positive conversations and the many prayers of family and friends, my husband decided to check BSF out. A couple years later he realized he believed Jesus was God’s Son and that He had died for him. He was then baptized and also became a leader in BSF. He remains a leader to this day–15 years later!! Praise God!! I need to add that at 4 our daughter, who had asked Jesus into her heart, started praying that her daddy would come to know Jesus. Every night for 9 years we would pray this. I know God became so personal to her through this prayer process and trusting Jesus. She had decided in her heart she would wait until her daddy accepted Jesus to get baptized. Then they could do it together. . . and they did!!

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    • Lori- this is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. God is so faithful!

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  17. A very encouraging article. Matthew 7:7-8 (continue to “ask, seek, knock”). Thank you.

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  18. This blog was very encouraging to me! I have been praying diligently for my loved one for 10 years I know that God will one day save her but as the time of Christ return draws near I have been anxious about her salvation. Your blog encouraged me to keep on keeping on…..Gods timing!

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  19. This article so encouraged me because I have been praying for family members for quite a long time now. So much tragedy has happened in our family and they are all not speaking to one another. It makes it so difficult when I see them separately. Please pray for the Lord to bring His saving grace and mercy to each of them and the forgiveness that is needed to reconcile with one another. I will continue to keep praying and trusting the Lord to save them.

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  20. I very much enjoyed reading about the Levines. Thank you.

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  21. When I was saved I had this burning desire to witness to the Jewish people. They are not an easy group to work with but God is faithful and much pray helps. Right now I an other Jewish believer are sharing the scriptures with an older Jewish woman on zoom.Enlist your prayers that she would accept Jesus or Yeshua as her Messiah! To God be the Glory!

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    • Nancy, praying with you! So thankful for your heart to share

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  22. sharing makes a big difference for others and encourages them

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  23. This past summer my Dad of 83 years old accepted Jesus, he had to be in the hospital thinking this was it for him that he would no longer live. My family have been praying for Dad for years, so when he was in the hospital bed my cousin told me over the phone you need to share the gospel with him before its to late, I have accepted that it would take someone else to introduce him to Jesus, so the the Holy Spirit led me to share about the thief on the cross who ask Jesus to remember him in paradise, my Dad fell asleep as i was talking to him about the thief and Jesus telling him he would be their with him. We dont know how much people listen when we think they are not listening, the next morning my mom went to visit her husband who ask his wife to help lead him to ask Jesus into his heart. Today my Dad is doing well and getting to know His new friend and savior.

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    • Michael, thank you so much for sharing this! “We don’t know how much people listen when we think they are not listening …” – This is so encouraging!

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  24. I too have had trouble trying to plant the seeds of The Gospel & Jesus with my Extended Family members. I pray for them everyday & try to model my Christianity to them. I don’t see a change in them but I will keep Praying for them.
    Mary

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  25. The comment…”everyone wanted to save him . No one wanted to get to know him” really hit me. Caring about a person enough to get to know him speaks volumes, it involves listening and time and compassion and is key even in family relationships.

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    • Yes, I agree. Get to know the person, then we’re able to hear and see God’s leading. Thank you.

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  26. Praying for all of my friends…for increased true faith, trust and hope in our God who promises to never leave nor forsake us. What He promises, He follows through on! May we all be in the Word and prayer everyday, that we’d grow closer and closer to Him. Amen!

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  27. Thank you for sharing your testimony Erin. I am encouraged to continue waiting on God for the salvation of my entire family. I love the reminder that it is God who saves, not me and that it is not about me being perfect or having a perfect family, it is Jesus! Praying for your total healing. God bless

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  28. I too have several relatives that I have been praying for to receive salvation.Like Erin I too get frustrated and to be honest I sometimes get upset. Last week’s lesson in BSF reminded me that God expects me to keep praying for my relatives and their salvation no matter how frustrated I get. This article reminds me that God is in control.

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  29. Loved this beautiful story about faith! Faith in the waiting snd letting God deal with our loved ones’ salvation! His good and perfect timing!

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    • AMEN 🙏! I will keep Praying for my Family’s Salvation & wait patiently for God to do it!

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  30. The story of the Levine family is very encouraging as I wait for my husband of 62 years !!! to say “I believe”. He is now 89 years old and says he cannot believe in things he cannot see. Please pray that he will open his eyes and see the “light” and be saved before he departs this wonderful world. I realize that God is the one who saves and I definitely cannot perform such a miracle! His health is declining since having been diagnosed with a rather rare palsy and he has great difficulty walking and maintaining his balance. As each new year arrives, I continue to be saddened that we have missed out on the spiritual side of our marriage. In the meantime, I am patiently waiting and hoping….Being in BSF since it was started years ago has been such a great blessing and support system for me. GRATEFUL beyond words…

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    • God in own time will save him. Let’s trust him. It is God who saves

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    • Joanne, I will keep you and your husband in my prayers. I have been married 34 years and you have been married twice as long. When you mentioned not having the spiritual relationship together with the Lord, that resignated with me. How much I longed for that. The Lord knows our hearts and our sorrow. He loves them even more fully than we can.
      I will hope and pray with you.

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  31. What a story in how the Lord works in our lives. We just have to give it to Him and let Him work through other people. I enjoyed you sharing how God works in our lives.

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  32. I had to learn what Erin learned! I had to give up my idea of who I was and what Gods plan for me was! I knew God and was a faithful church attends and even taught SS but I kept God in a department or protected space in my heart and life. At the pinnacle of a successful career in business my husband declared he wanted a divorce.
    My parents were divorced when there was still a stigma and shame in it! I-there is the operative word -vowed never to divorce! I was so proud of 11successful years! I was Mrs Ric. I was friends with all of his friends. I loved his parents -they were mine too!
    He moved out and in the course of 2 years of calling out to God, wise counsel prayers with another spiritual mother I came to know that I am a child of the King first and foremost! I am beloved and cherished by Him! This was greater live and I could live securely with His live alone.
    I relinquished my demands on my husband and my marriage! Whatever happened I knew I would be alright.
    God caused him to change his mind and pick me over his new fiancé.
    It was really difficult for 3 years! Really awful until God brought my husband to a place of surrender and peace! He said -you were so happy without me? How Why?
    We had a new relationship! We worshipped and served God together!
    God grew us both and made our soul soft and productive!

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    • Carol, this redemptive story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing! God is so good, His ways our not our ways but He is always faithful

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    • What a Beautiful Testimony, Carol! Thanks So Much!

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    • Praise be to God for this amazing testimony of a restored marriage. I eagerly await mine but while am waiting, Rejoicing on how sweet and faithful God is to me.

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  33. I’m very interested in the connection to the Messianic congregation that Erin had. I too am connected to a Messianic community, and would love to hear from her how she sees the Torah play out in her faith walk. Does Erin advocate keeping the Holy Days commanded in Leviticus 23? Does she advocate keeping The Sabbath, on the 7th day of the week (Saturday) like the Hebrew scripture command? I would love to hear how she intertwines some of the differences between the Hebrew roots of our faith, and the typical western Christian faith walk.
    Shalom in Yeshua

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  34. Praise the Lord, God be all the Glory and Honor. Thank you for sharing.

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  35. Great story about Erin and Tony Levine. Still praying for my husband!

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