Sophia Houng: A Testimony
Interviewed by Ricky Njoto
Hi Sophia! Could you share with us your faith journey?
I was born in a Christian family, and my Dad is a pastor. At a very young age, I began my relationship with Jesus. God has blessed me with loving parents and with a tight knitted Christian community. My faith, knowledge of God and life values were very much shaped through family devotions, Sunday Schools and youth fellowships.
With my coming of age, the head knowledge of who God is started converting into a real, foundational relationship. I therefore decided to get baptised when I turned 14 years old. In the very same year, my Dad decided to further his theological studies in Singapore without much in his pocket. That was when I started to see that this faith was real, was practical and could be personal. I witnessed God’s gracious providence, and how my parents put their faith into action and walked the talk. So all throughout my teenage years, my relationship with Jesus was pretty consistent and smooth sailing. I didn’t have any issues or queries about my faith and my belief either. I had no major sins that I needed to put away, so the transformation process in my life was at slow and almost imperceptible. In fact, looking back, I realise I didn’t know that I needed to be transformed.
So what happened after that? How did you come to “know” that discipleship would require a transformation if you already felt that your faith was secured and comfortable?
In uni was when my faith was being challenged. I struggled with self-worth. I would avoid going to social events and overanalyse my conversations with people and worried that I would embarrass myself. I constantly compared myself to my mates in terms of physical appearances and academic achievements. I was testing boundaries in a relationship that I was in. My identity was not at all anchored in Christ.
I thought God couldn’t possibly work through me again because I had messed up too much. I was living under this weight of guilt. I wanted to get back on my feet and thought I had to prove first by reading the Bible, serve and go to church enough. “Look at me, now I’m a daughter that you can be proud of.” All the while, I assumed I could live the Christian life by my own moral willpower. I didn’t realise the necessity of relying on the Holy Spirit to enable me to apply Scriptures to my life. Essentially, I had a passive approach towards my faith.
Sounds like God was putting you through a very challenging season. And what did that produce? What was the turning point?
The turning point for me was in 2016. I told God that enough is enough. I cried out for help and prayed that God would guide me take control of my life, I’m just gonna hold onto him. When I gave God those things I thought would disqualify me from him forever, he instead started bringing me closer to him. God started showing me that I had nothing to earn and nothing to prove. He already loved me because of Christ, and I was never too messed up for him to work through. John 3:16 had never resonated with me that much up until that point. God in his mercy rescued me from this passive approach to faith and enabled me to see a greater extent how the gospel provided the foundation for my faith and motivation for my spiritual transformation journey.
Wow! That sounds like a great revelation of God’s grace and love! But surely, your faith journey didn’t stop there?
No. That was when my own spiritual transformation really got underway. Nothing changed immediately but overtime as I kept giving and re-giving the burdens, regrets and past of mine to the Lord, he slowly revealed himself to me. 1 Corinthians 1:28 “God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world… to bring to nothing what is viewed as something.” God gave me the courage to confide in some of my closest friends and mentors about my struggles and bring the sins in me into light. God opened the eyes of my heart through his Word, through conversations I have had with people around me, and through the conventions I attended that year. I began to desire to do what I ought to do, and I became motivated to keep grow in my knowledge of God and to live a life glorify him. Those things I thought would disqualify me were exactly what God chose to use in my life. Those are the stories that he’s given me that I can use to share with some of the girls and help me relate to the struggles that my mates are experiencing.
So my journey with Christ didn’t stop there. It’s not easy, but one thing I can say for sure, is that I need Jesus in my life. This experience of joy from the gospel compelled me to live not for myself but for Christ who loved us and gave himself for us.
Amen to that! But I’m curious about how you’re applying that grace God has given you in your practical life. You’re a young professional. As a Christian in the workplace, how does the grace of God help you in your work?
God’s grace helps me to step out of my comfort zone and work with people from all sorts of backgrounds—different personalities, different lifestyle and very different life values. There are kids that I find hard to love, and there are teachers whom I found really hard to work with. I prayed for months and now we are good friends! Did God change him? No, God changed me. God reminded me that dependence on Christ is a daily thing. When I get discouraged, God reminded me to serve them “from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything”. He humbled me by reminding me that I’m like these kids, very unlovable, but he’s been very patient with me. I am dependant on him to make my labour effective.
That’s awesome! God’s grace has certainly changed the way we live, hasn’t it? Do you find that the way you work is different to those around you because you’ve felt God’s grace in your life?
Certainly! I find that I’m enabled to be faithful in everything I do, including the little things because I am called to reflect Jesus to those around me. Colossians 3:17 “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus… whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men… You are serving the Lord Christ”. For example, when my colleagues started gossiping, I would discreetly excuse myself and go back to work or remove myself from the situation where possible. I have once apologised to a colleague because I was being curt with her due to long and tiring day working with kids.
Surely this kind of transformed life and work would attract people around you? Have you had conversations with your colleagues about your faith?
I have been open about my faith at work. I would talk about my church community and share my opinions on certain topics from Christian point of view when opportunities arise. Many times it has generated interesting conversations amongst the office. I remember once I told my colleagues that I was attending a friend’s baptism ceremony at a beach. They started asking questions and sharing their stories. I really got to know them.
That’s really encouraging! But what about outside of work? We know that life as a Christian is full of ups and downs, how do you hold on to Christ in both high and low points in life?
It’s not easy to always be on the mountaintop in terms of my relationship with Jesus, but one thing I can say for sure is that I need Jesus in my life, and I need the gospel every day in my life. There are still days where the shame, guilt and negative thoughts would come and eat at me, but often, if not all the time, I find God telling me to embrace the gospel, and reminding me that I am dependant on the Holy Spirit to power through every day.
God has given us gifts to navigate through the Christian journey. And I find it helpful to prioritise the discipline to abide in Christ and put on the full armour of God. He’s given us the Sword of the Spirit; and I draw it when I spend time alone with God through his Word and prayer because his Word is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness. I pray over the verses I’m reading on that day, asking that God will teach, rebuke, correct and encourage me in whatever way he knows I need. Just recently, God used Proverbs to remind me what it means to fear the Lord and to humble myself before God as I plan for next year youth ministries.
God has also given us a family. So, surround yourself with a community who loves God; Isaiah 40:31 “But those who hope in the Lord WILL renew their strength.”
Thank you for sharing, Sophia! I pray that God will keep you in Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit until he returns or calls you home.
Sophia goes to Church on the Corner, an English congregation of Camberwell Methodist Church, Victoria, where she serves the young adults, in discipleship, and in music ministry.