In John 5:17, Jesus tells us that “My Father is always at his work, to this very day…” In Philippians 2:13, the Apostle Paul reminds us that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” In our "Stories of Grace" feature, members are invited to share a particular instance of how God has been at work in their lives.
This month, our contributor is Daniel Pun.
I grew up in a Christian family and my parents were always very encouraging in my walk with God. My parents would often remind me and my siblings to always put God first. In my room growing up, my parents put up a plaque with the words from Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
We would also go to church every Sunday, church-scouts on Wednesdays, choir on Thursdays, fellowship every Friday, church retreats during the winter and summer, and occasional mission conferences. So, growing up, I was fully immersed in this Christian bubble. My parents also were very transparent about their own walk of faith, so I did not ever doubt that God was real. It was a fact to me, and it still is a fact to me. God being relevant, however, was a different story.
Growing up in a church was great. But when I hit middle school/high school, it all kind of changed. It was my first time to experience bullying—and it was at church. I was left out and intentionally excluded. Suddenly, going to church was something I dreaded. The more I was excluded, the more I withdrew. I started to find my identity with peers that did accept me. I began to grow an attitude of indifference towards church and hung out with friends from high school that did welcome me. I still went to church because of my parents. But whenever I could get out of it, I would.
It was not that I stopped believing in God, doubted His existence, or was angry with God. I simply stopped seeing the church’s relevance to my life. I would still go to church and fellowship and say and do all the “right” things. I would pray before meals, read the Bible during family worship times, and was an obedient “Christian” son. But the more indifferent my heart became, the harder it became, and the more legalistic all of these “Christian routines” became. I knew that God was real, but that didn’t matter to me. God was irrelevant to me.
This continued all the way up to grade 12. But then something changed. Some of my close friends were Christian, but we had never talked about Christianity or anything spiritual. But when I was in grade 12, these friends began to ask me about my faith and would encourage me daily, if not weekly. “Hey, Pun (my nickname in high school), did you do your ‘devos’ [i.e., devotional time] today?” They started to invite me to their church fellowships as well. I cannot exactly say that I was thrilled about going, but I still went because they were my friends. I think it was through this that I began to rediscover my faith again. I saw that church could be different. It could be warm.
I started to go back to my own church with a renewed attitude, looking past the people and more towards God. At the end of grade 12, a new youth pastor at my home church invited the congregation to join him in a mission trip to Longlac 58 [a.k.a. Long Lake 58 First Nation]. It is an aboriginal reserve 16 hours north of Toronto. I do not know why, but I felt compelled to go. Even though I was only a “Sunday Christian” at the time, there was something deep down that just would not go away until I filled out an application form for the trip.
During the mission trip, I did not know what to expect. I did not even know how to articulate the gospel clearly. I just remember that when other people were reading their Bibles during quiet times, I thought to myself, “I should read the Bible, too…” At this point, it had been quite a while since I took the initiative to read the Bible for myself and, to be honest, it felt kind of awkward. But once I started reading it for myself, I felt God like never before. The closeness, the warmth…it was overwhelming. Everything started to make sense—why my parents continued to “force” me to go to church, why my friends suddenly went Christian on me and asked me about my faith, why I felt the need to be here in Longlac. God had been pursuing me, even though my heart was hardened. God never let me go. It was his grace.
After two weeks in Longlac, I came home with a renewed sense of purpose in my life and in my faith. Things did not change instantly, but it was a start. My faith was re-ignited. And I believe it was in that moment that I actually became a Christian, as I was no longer living under my parents’ faith. My faith was now something special between God and me alone.