Faith

A faith-driven identity

TC Choong // July 22, 2019, 11:34 am

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Photo by Ashik Salim on Unsplash.

Many years ago in China, I attended a dinner party in a private room. The round table was so large that all 20 of us could sit comfortably around it.

There were three distinguished people – the host, who exuded influence and authority, and two guests who were important businessmen. One was the chairman of a large telecommunications company and the other was a film producer and financier. It seemed they were combining a dinner event with work – discussing an important project in a local dialect that I did not understand.

The rest of us were left alone, and it made us feel insignificant.

My old self would have wilted right there and then.

At long last, they arrived at some conclusion, and there was an obvious pause. Suddenly, I found myself speaking to the entire table.

When I heard my own confident, ringing voice, it dawned on me that I had not dwelled on my own inadequacies. Unable to match the host and his two friends in influence and wealth, my old self would have wilted right there and then. Instead, because of my faith, I felt worthy in their presence.

If my self-confidence was based on anything else, it would have been spurious, pretentious and brash.

I have believed and accepted the identity that Jesus has given me through faith in Him. At that dinner table, I joyfully discovered that I was able to live out, in the company of powerful people, the identity that my faith has given me – that of a child of God.

The fracas

I told them this story: I had travelled two hours from another Chinese city by train to attend this dinner party. I was in a window seat in the last row with two other passengers on my right.

If my self-confidence was based on anything else, it would have been spurious, pretentious and brash.

This made it inconvenient to move out from my seat to the aisle. Fortunately, the trip would only take about two hours.

I was in light conversation with the young man on my right, who was making his first overseas business trip. The topic of our conversation was whether he knew Jesus.

Suddenly, there was a commotion from the middle of the train’s cabin: A young woman was at the aisle standing next to a young man, arguing with him over the stowing of their cabin bags. The quarrel seemed trivial, but it refused to go away, even after several minutes.

Everyone in the cabin stoically put up with the fracas. The two cabin stewardesses, more frightened than helpful, made weak attempts to pacify them.

Some passengers were already recording the whole incident with their mobile phones and cameras.

I did not share this at the dinner party, but I was struggling inside: Should I or should I not intervene and restore peace in the cabin?

Peacemaker? Who, me? 

My struggles intensified when I recalled the commandment of Jesus in the sermon on the mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God”. (Matthew 5:9)

I was hoping that someone else would do what the Lord had so directly commanded me to do.

Still, I did not have the resolve to do the right thing.

I was hoping that someone else would step out to do what the Lord had so directly commanded me to do.

Unexpectedly, the young woman began to pound the head of the young man with her fists. At that point, the young man’s older sister and young woman’s aged father stepped into the aisle too. The quarrel escalated.

While I was still struggling and giving myself excuses (like “someone might put me on YouTube” and “it would be too much bother to go from my seat to reach the quarrel”), the drama took a nasty turn.

The young man said something he should not have: He had identified the young woman’s accent, and made a string of derogatory remarks about her hometown.

Crisis escalation

Suddenly, a huge, stocky man rose from his seat near the front of the cabin.

Suddenly a distinct peace fell on me. I felt a quiet authority to do what Jesus had commanded me to do.

He walked down the aisle to where the young man was and punched him! It seemed he was from that same locality and was deeply offended.

Suddenly, all my struggles inside ceased and a distinct peace fell on me. I felt a quiet authority to do what Jesus had commanded me to be as a peacemaker.

I inserted myself between the combatants. I asked the young man to sit down, which he did – probably frightened by the other man’s wrath. Then I turned around to that huge man and asked him to also return to his seat.

Thank God that, at that precise moment, his mobile phone rang and he went back to answer it.

The fight had ended; it had been that easy.

When the train arrived at its destination, the young man and the two stewardesses, together with the chief stewardess, came to thank me.

Clarity in identity

After I shared my story at the dinner table, it appeared that I had won the approval of the host and his two special friends. They started to warm up to me and began to engage me in conversation.

Somehow the tables had turned; it was, as if relative to them, I had grown in importance.

That evening, I felt an inner peace throughout. I felt secure in God.

My peace and confidence in the presence of authoritative, powerful and successful people did not desert me. It seemed that I had been sustained by the spiritual understanding that God regarded me as His son.

Why did this identity give me the confidence to speak , and the conviction to act in the face of danger?

In fact, I believe that if my confidence had been based on material wealth and influence instead of Jesus, I might have become miserable that night.

It would be hard to match the influence the host wielded and the wealth his powerful friends possessed.

I would also not have been given the respect that I was accorded. I won their respect because they were people with noble hearts, and they treasured the values that I had demonstrated during the whole incident.

But where did this identity in Jesus come from? How was it forged in me? Why did this identity give me the confidence to speak at the party, and the conviction and authority to act in the face of danger?

The danger was real – barely two weeks after the incident, the newspaper reported that someone had been stabbed to death trying to stop a fight at the train station.

A son of Adam

Two years after I stopped the fight on that train, I was still ruminating over the whole event.

Adam fell because he had no objective understanding that God was blessing him.

Recalling the strength that came from my identity in God, I thought I caught a glimpse of how secure Adam must have felt before he fell into disobedience. Loved by God as his son, Adam must have felt confident as he was protected, at peace and blessed by his Heavenly Father.

Despite that, I realised that Adam travelled a spiritual journey that was opposite in direction to mine. From being secure with the righteousness of God in Him, Adam disobeyed God and became insecure after sin entered him.

Adam fell because he had no objective understanding that God was blessing him. He had never experienced the pain and suffering that came from the ravages of sin!

In our case, we hunger and thirst for the righteousness that Adam rejected not because we are wiser, but because we have suffered sin’s torments.

It took me 20 years in my walk with Jesus to realise that his words have crystallised in me a new identity in God – one that inspires and sustains me in a real-life situation.

We hunger and thirst for righteousness that Adam rejected not because we are wiser, but because we have suffered sin’s torments.

The train incident led to the self-discovery of my sonship in God at the dinner table.

It also led to two whole weeks of soul-searching:

Why hadn’t I stepped out immediately? Why had I struggled for more than 10 minutes when they were just quarrelling, but stepped into the aisle without any hesitation when it escalated into a terrifying fistfight? Did I have what the New Testament calls agape love for strangers because of Jesus? 

The incident gave me a glimpse of what a faith-driven identity is like. It is also what we must have if we are to step into the destiny that God calls us to.

 

This excerpt was taken from A Faith-driven Identity by TC Choong. It has been republished with permission.

About the author

TC Choong

TC Choong is a full-time teacher of God's Word. He was previously a law lecturer at the National University of Singapore, a partner at one of the biggest law firms in Singapore, the proprietor of a legal practice specialising in China practice, and finally, a securities regulator in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. He received a clear call from God to spread His Word around Asia and in 2002 moved his family to Hong Kong. He is happily married with three sons.