Scriptures

Reaching Mom

By Connie Ch'ng

Born in China, my mom emigrated to Malaysia when she was seven. As a Chinese woman living in Malaysia, she grew up with strong Buddhist beliefs and Taoist practices and was not receptive to the Christian faith, which is often seen as a Western religion.
 
But at age 90, in January of 2016, my mother gave her life to Jesus. For me, it is an indescribable joy to see my mother walking with God in peace after 38 years of prayer.
 
Through this long process of prayer, serving and hoping, I have learned a lot about how God works in the lives of people who start out distant from God. And because so many of us have relatives and friends who are not believers, perhaps some of the principles I’ve learned might help encourage you as you interact with those you love.
 
First, as a Chinese woman, my mother believed strongly in the importance of family and generational honor. This is, of course, a good trait; but it is common in Chinese culture for people to venerate deceased relatives by going to temples to “send money” to them in the spirit world, or to have small shrines in homes where they offer food to dead ancestors during festivals.
 
So, when my sister and I became Christians, we wanted my mother to remain certain of our love and respect for her. The Scriptures command us to honor our parents. But we had to do this in ways that would also honor God. Long ago, in a discussion about this with my mother, I spoke frankly with her.
 
“Mom,” I said, “I think it is better for me to honor you when you are alive than after you have died.”
 
I assured her that she could always count on my love and participation in her life. This comforted her and she agreed with me. I also communicated that I would show filial piety after her passing. So, every year I would go with my family members to the graves of our grandparents to clean the graves and pay honor and respect, without participating in the religious activities that involve worship.
 
The principle I learned is that believers can avoid setting up unnecessary cultural barriers between people and Jesus. There are ways to give people the pure Gospel of Jesus and His kingdom within each cultural context.
 
Second, it would not have been enough for me to only use words of love without any demonstration of love. So my husband, Alan, and I always spent our holidays as a family with her. Every month Alan wrote my parents a letter just to keep them informed of what was happening in the family. Included in that letter would be a small monetary gift to express our filial piety. We did many other things to demonstrate our love for her.
 
Perhaps, in our world of too much information, active love is even more important than just nice words. Perhaps people need to see love and experience it. I believe my mom did. Hearing the Gospel is not enough. They also need to see the Gospel.
 
Finally, I’ve learned how important it is for believers to live godly, transformed lives among those who don’t believe in Christ. After my sister and I became followers of Jesus, my mom saw the deep changes taking place in us. This did not mean we had to be perfect! We could be transparent without being “glossy” or artificial. My mother simply saw the work of the Holy Spirit taking place in our lives over the years.
 
The principle here is for believers to walk in submission to the Holy Spirit, that we might reflect God’s character among those around us and display His grace in our imperfections.
 
There’s certainly more than these factors involved in a person’s journey to faith in Christ. But I know these biblical principles—prayer, not setting up cultural barriers to the Gospel, good works, and a transformed life—helped my mother move forward to Jesus.
 
Today, when I’m with my mother, I can see that she is deeply at peace. She is sure of God’s love and forgiveness. Although she is illiterate, throughout the day she prays naturally in Jesus’s name.
 
As you think about and pray for those in your relational and family network who still don’t believe in Jesus, perhaps you can remember to persevere in prayer and love. Acts 16:31 has always inspired Alan and me to never lose hope. It says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 
 
Connie Ch’ng works alongside her husband, Alan, an International Vice President of The Navigators. She and Alan served in the Asia-Pacific region for more than six years before Alan joined the International Executive Team. They have three grown sons.
 

A Hidden Life with God

By Mike Treneer

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Over this last few months, I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking to Navigators in many parts of the world. As we interact, I wonder with joy about the potential of their lives, and about what is going on below the surface.

I know from my own life experience that what is visible about me is often not what is most important! And while we need to stress the importance of community in serving the Lord, we know that life direction and fruitfulness are the result of what’s hidden below the surface.

The secret of a tree is its roots, and roots are hidden. They belong underground! When we see a beautiful, strong, fruitful tree, our attention is not drawn to the roots. But if we stop to think, we know it is the roots that make its strength, health and fruitfulness possible.

As a young Christian, I was deeply impacted by Elizabeth Elliot’s book The Shadow of the Almighty, which is the biography of her missionary husband who was killed taking the Gospel to unreached people in Ecuador. In a chapter titled “Behold Obscurity,” she describes the importance of “hiddenness” in Jim Elliot’s life. This is how Isaiah describes the unseen work of God in Isaiah 49:2-4.

He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.’ But I said, ‘I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.’

It is in hidden times of quiet intimacy that we hear God say, “You are my servant,” and it’s where we can utter our frustration, “I have labored to no purpose” as we battle alone to determine which voice to believe.

It is in the secret place, alone with God, that we are sharpened and polished like David was as he cared for his sheep in the wilderness. He was hidden from the public eye as he meditated on the greatness of God and forged his character in unobserved battles with lions and bears!

Have you ever noticed the brief mention in Luke 24:34 of a very important meeting of which we know nothing, except that it happened? "The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon."

Luke mentions it, almost as an aside, as he more fully reports the encounter Jesus had with the two disciples on the Emmaus road. Paul refers to the same little-known meeting with Simon in 1 Corinthians 15:5, using Simon’s better known nickname: “ . . . he appeared to Peter and then to the twelve . . .”

Of course, in John 21, we are given a full account of a later meeting in Galilee between Peter and the risen Jesus; but of that first meeting, just a few hours after the resurrection, we know nothing except that it happened. I find this deeply meaningful!

We can guess at the significance of that meeting for Peter—the heartache and tears as he poured out the agony of his failure, the words of Jesus as he ministered grace to His broken disciple—but we can only speculate. The truth about this meeting is a secret between Peter and his Lord. And so it should be! I doubt that, even when all is known in heaven, we will ever know what was said. I take heart from this.

I, too, have the incredible privilege of an intimate, personal fellowship with the One who alone knows me utterly and completely.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:6).

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6, “Your Father sees” and “Your Father knows,” invites us into an intimacy with the Lord of the universe who alone holds our fate and the fate of the world in His unimaginably powerful and unfathomably loving hands. We can pour out our heart to him in absolute confidence, expressing all our longings, all our fears, all our failures, hopes and dreams. We need hold nothing back, for He knows and He sees. This dialogue is only between Jesus and me. There is no other audience to worry about!   

Mike Treneer served as International President of The Navigators from 2005 to 2015. He and his wife, Chris, lived in Kenya for 16 years where Mike helped develop our Africa ministries and became our Africa Director. Mike served on the International Executive Team before becoming International President.