Today is a special day because four believers in our midst have decided to take the step of faith to identify fully with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, and to publicly declare that they are taking personal ownership of their faith.
What does it mean to own one’s faith? We may each come to know Jesus through different ways. For me, it was through the faithful witness of Christian schoolmates long ago, through Youth For Christ meetings and gospel rallies. It was a process that finally led to an awakening to the reality and presence of God and His great sacrificial love for me. It fulfilled the deep yearning in me to know the purpose of life and what happens to people after death (I lost my very dear grandmother when I was about 8), and to know if I am a person of worth.
I was the first in my family to become a follower of Christ. When I responded to the gospel then as a youth I did not understand everything about the Christian faith. But what was real was my personal encounter with God. I felt greatly loved and valued by Him as an individual. He gave me a great sense of purpose and security. I began to discover myself in Him, and in His plan. Truly, the verse in 2 Cor 5:17 is so true: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The transformation in me was not obvious to me, but to those who knew me, they could see the difference. I found a new courage to love the person God has created me to be and to speak up for Him and for myself.
As a parent, I too desire my children to come to experience God first-hand. Christian parents have a mandate to bring up their children in the ways of the Lord, but there is no guarantee that they will embrace the faith. Our children don’t become Christians just by being born into a Christian family.
Helping our children own the faith is a challenging task. After we have done the part of teaching, the harder part is to let them learn and discover God and to internalize these values for themselves. Parenting is a life-long discipleship journey. It is often a process of trial and error. If we are too authoritarian, our children may perform and behave out of duty (they may go to church out of duty too). If we are too permissive, our children may not develop healthy boundaries and discernment (they may have difficulty submitting to structure and authority). If we are too cautious or perfectionist our children may not learn lessons from making their own decisions, even if they are sometimes poor decisions.
As a parent, I am often tempted to fix things for my children. But I learnt some time ago that I have to let go. Jesus knew that Simon Peter was going to fail him, but he didn’t shield Peter from it. Peter went through it and learnt repentance, recommitment and the cost of owning and standing up for his own faith.
Someone said “faith is born in adversity, in the storms of life” and that there is no greater privilege that we can give to a child than the right to own his/her own faith. Storms are not always a bad thing. They are necessary for faith to grow. When children fail to follow in the ways in which they were raised after they leave home, parents tend to take it personally. I learnt that we need to forgive ourselves, continue to love our children for who they are, even though they may for a season reject what we believe. We must on our part continue to uphold the values we love.
Similarly in church discipleship, while we persevere in teaching the Word and biblical principles for life, we must allow church members freedom to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit if their faith is to mature, rather than try to live up to expectations. There is no greater treasure than for them to find their own faith and, through it, overcome adversity. There cannot be genuine growth if we over-parent! I praise God that on the last Sunday of this month, my own daughter Daphne will be taking the step to undergo baptism in Perth where she lives. She has come home… she has finally come to own her own faith in God. Hallelujah!
By Har Lee John, Pastoral Staff (YCKC Bulletin 5 May 2013)