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 Christ. So 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.
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 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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