Editor’s note: Grace transforms. In recent decades, millions of Chinese people have met Jesus and had their lives turned inside out. Their hopes, dreams, families, leisure, and (in some cases) occupations have changed because of Christ. This is the third part of a five-part series with a house church pastor. In it he discusses the struggles of faith and discipleship. Some identifying features have been altered to protect his identity. Our hope is that these interviews challenge and encourage Western believers to examine their own faith and remind them to pray for their brothers and sisters in China.
What kind of questions and problems did you have concerning Christianity?
Because they would talk about how someone came back from the dead, I would ask my wife’s friends, “Can people who are dead really rise again?” They would say, “God rose from the dead, God wants us to live like this.”
They talked half the day — and they were all old, naïve, they didn’t know a lot about a lot of things. They would say Jesus is both God and man. Whenever they answered me, nothing satisfied me. At that time, I just thought that to have a faith was a good thing. I saw these people were happy and joyful. Also, I saw my wife and my child. Previously, my home was full of fighting, we often quarreled, but now we weren’t fighting anymore. I thought this was really good.
At this time, what was your life like? Were you still gambling, going out, doing the same old things?
Would You Pray With Us Today?
I just continued in the same ways.
Towards faith, I was really like, “Amen.” I identified with it, I thought it was good. Every time my wife’s friends came, they would bring books, gospel pamphlets, and I would look over and study them. I thought everything was really very good. But I still had a lot of doubts, many things I couldn’t agree with. I asked questions, and they would not be able to answer. I began to spend a lot of time reading the things they brought. After I read, I would think, “In this human life we really need to make a choice.”
During this process of questioning, one of the sisters said something to me. She said, “Yes, you must believe. But you believe Jesus first, and after you believe, then you will understand. Just believe in him first, then everything else will make sense.”
I asked her, “How do you believe?” She said, “Just pray.”
So, in this process, I finally found the way. And I did a sinner’s prayer.
Why did you finally decide to make this prayer of belief?
Because of the change in my child, and my wife’s change. Because of the change in their lives. I saw the brothers and sisters, their kindness, their relationships among one another. I was spending a lot of time considering life, thinking life needs a direction, people need something to pursue. I myself pursued many things. I was hungry for success.
Every time I was with those Christians, they would sing and I would go along with it. In my heart I accepted it. But I wasn’t ready to confess with my mouth.
You faced a contradiction within yourself.
I didn’t want to say it out loud. But that sister said to me, “You believe first, then you will understand.” So, I was very pure, very simple, and in this manner I prayed.
I still remember what I said. I said, “God, I still don’t understand. But I will do what Auntie Zhang said. I’m coming now to believe. To be honest, I still don’t really understand! But I’m choosing to come and believe.”
I prayed just like this. What was really amazing was that as soon as I said this prayer, I felt at peace inside. I started to spend a lot of time with these Christians.
You started going to church?
I did go. But when I would go, I felt really discouraged. Everyone there was really old. When I was there, I was so discouraged. I thought the faith was good, but these people, I felt like maybe they couldn’t help me a lot.
Because they weren’t of your generation.
Yes. But later I met this couple, they were American but of Asian descent, they came here to work with orphans.
How did you meet them?
Maybe it was God’s plan? Once, a sister brought them to our community so they could help a kid. By this point I had already believed, and as they were trying to understand this child’s home situation, I came along with them. Then they came to my home, and we all sat down.
At this time, I still had lots of questions. I asked them about how God could rise from the dead. I asked intellectual questions; lots of questions about faith. He shared about people’s sin, about God’s love. As he was sharing, I started to really understand that I myself am a sinner, this concept.
Up to this point you hadn’t really understood that?
Before then, I knew I had a need. People would talk about, ‘Oh, humans are sinners.’ But they never talked about what a sinner actually is. Before, I thought, “I’m a pretty good person.” And then all of a sudden, I knew I was no good. I had a bad habit, and I knew that was no good. But that was just a behavior, an action that I did.
That couple started talking about sin, about God’s love, about how Jesus came to save us. All of a sudden I thought, “Oh! I understand!” At the same time I thought, ‘This is what I need.”
I really wanted to understand, so I studied a lot, read a lot of books, asked all kinds of questions. I treated them like elder family members and came to them with my questions. I definitely wanted to understand. Whenever I heard there was some sort of study, I would go.
I wanted to understand God, to be able to talk about it with others. If I was teaching others, I needed to understand it myself. So, I started to study. Today I’m able to serve, and there are two really important reasons for this: the first was because the changes in my home gave me the greatest gift, harmony. The next reason was, as soon as I believed in the Lord, I had a great desire to share the gospel with the rest of my family.
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