Growing up in a Christian family, I am only familiar with the Christian way of life. My parents are first-generation Christians who came to know the Lord in their university days, and they handed the faith to their children. I gave my life to Jesus when I was nine years of age and was baptised at the age of 12. During my undergraduate days, I encountered people from all walks of life. I was fascinated by their life stories of how God plucked them out from the miry clay and set them on solid ground. In fact, I was envious. I had never known what it was like to have a prodigal son’s homecoming. When asked to share my testimony, I always felt somewhat reluctant and embarrassed because mine would sound ‘boring’.
Paul’s Testimony vs
One Sunday, the lights turned on for me when a speaker shared about having a ‘Paul’s testimony’ or ‘Timothy’s testimony’. Paul’s life had literally been turned around 180⁰ with a dramatic encounter with the living Lord Jesus (Acts 9). On the other hand, Timothy was a third-generation believer, a young pastor whose grandmother Lois and mother Eunice brought him up in the way of the Lord (2 Timothy 1:5). Like Paul, many first generation Christians would identify with a turning point in their lives that brought them to the Lord. While second (or subsequent) generation believers may not share such a testimony. Nonetheless, God has His plan for both Paul and Timothy. His saving grace abounded equally towards both the worst of sinners and the young man who had been faithful since he was a child.
Every salvation story is unique and glorifies God. Although we admire the dramatic testimonies of those saved from drug or other addictions, spiritual bondages, abusive relationship, or reckless lifestyles; we do not necessarily have to go through such experiences to know the love and grace of God. Second generation believers are saved from such problems as much as others are saved out of these. It is a special grace of God to spare us the hurts, sorrows and scars that comes with such experiences. Regardless of our salvation experience, the spiritual reality is the same awesomeness: we have passed from death to life, we are loved unconditionally by our Father who did not spare his only son Jesus to die for us, and we have the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Sowing and Reaping
As second generation believers, we need to recognise that we inherit a rich heritage of faith from our parents and those who have gone before us. We are reaping the rewards of our parents’ obedience and trust in God. As it is written about God in Exodus 20:6 ‘… but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments’. However, we should not take for granted the blessings that overflow from their labour in the Lord. All the more, we should be sowing into the lives of our future generations, lest our descendants lose the promised heavenly inheritance. We can examine the life of King Solomon, who enjoyed a lifetime of peace as a result of his father King David’s obedience and heart for God (1 Chronicles 22:9-10, 1 Kings 11:12-13). However, King Solomon’s heart was gradually led astray by his many wives and concubines of different faiths, and thus led to the division and spiritual downfall of the nation of Israel (1 Kings 11).
Our Battle to Fight
Each generation has its own battle. Pioneers fight for freedom and pave new roads for the next generation. Second and subsequent generations have to fight against spiritual apathy. There is often a lack of conviction in the superficial faith of the second and subsequent generation believers. Many have second-hand faith. It grieves me to see one of my friends who is privileged to know Jesus at a young age, only to abandon Him to marry a Muslim. Sadly, this is not uncommon in our time, not only in marriage, but in compromises in various areas in life. Like Esau, many are willing to trade their birthright for a bowl of lentil soup (Gen 25:29-34, Heb 12:16-17).
If we find ourselves relating to God as if he is our parents’ friend instead of ours, something needs to change. We cannot live off our parent’s faith. We need to have our own journey with the Lord, a personal encounter and relationship. To start, we could ask our parents (or grandparents) what convicted them to follow the Lord. However, it is observed that parents hardly share their salvation story with their children (just like how they rarely share their love story). Parents should be actively sharing their faith to the next generation.
We should then dig deeper by seeking after Jesus for ourselves. Most of us have grown familiar with the gospel (since our Sunday School days) that we think we know it all. But in reality we have not allowed that truth to touch our hearts, we have not looked intently into the love of Christ. One practical way is to begin studying and pondering the book of Romans, which spells out the whole gospel truth. The clarity of the profound truth presented in this book is life-changing and have impacted people like Father Augustine, Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley, and Karl Barth (to name a few) who went on to change the world.
We are also encouraged to ask questions. Most of us grow up in church not daring to question anything. However, Jesus said ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.’ (Matt 7:7-8). One place where it is safe to be vulnerable and ask questions is in a life group or fellowship group. In a smaller group setting, we are able to discuss questions honestly without being judged, and there will be others who had similar experiences and struggles and would be able to help.
Our journey of faith is personal yet communal. As a generation who have the privilege to inherit the faith, we ought to have an authentic personal relationship with Jesus, and be in communion with the wider family of faith. May we be the faithful generation that watches and stands guard for the sake of the generations to come.
By Esther Kwan,
Wesley Methodist Church, Sibu