After coming to faith in Jesus, John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace,” made the dramatic change from being a slave trader to influencing the eighteenth-century movement to abolish slavery in England. But he didn’t fully turn to Jesus in the moments when he first famously cried out to God when he thought his ship was sinking. In fact, Newton admitted that he likely wasn’t a true believer until much later.

Newton’s faith would grow and flourish after his first close friendship with a believer, someone who not only instructed him theologically, but also helped him to receive the gift of grace. No longer crippled by his fear of God, Newton would never be the same.

Newton’s story illustrates the need for believers to find mentors in the faith, a truth reflected in Paul’s letter to Titus, where the apostle instructed this church leader to remind the believers in Crete of their new life in Christ. No longer were they “foolish and disobedient” or “slaves to many lusts and pleasures” (Titus 3:3). Instead, they’d been saved, not because of their behavior, but because of God’s mercy (Titus 3:5). In His grace, God had not only cleansed their sin but through the Spirit given them “a new birth and new life” (Titus 3:5).

Paul wanted Titus to “insist on these teachings” (Titus 3:8) so the believers could leave their old life behind and embrace the things of the kingdom of God. They would need mentors like Titus to help them live with Christ-like gentleness and humility.

We can take encouragement from stories like that of John Newton and the church in Crete. Not only can our faith in God be strengthened through fellow believers, but we too can be used to build up our brothers and sisters in Christ.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Jonah 3:1–4:11