Stephen's Spiritual Journey
by Greg Wright, Father of Stephen Wright

False Start.
Every Christian parent wants to see his children come to a true faith in Jesus Christ as soon as possible. We were no different. However, we wanted Stephen's conversion to be real, not coerced or fabricated through emotional situations. To make sure of this, we explained to Stephen that when you become a Christian you aren't your own boss anymore; you live for God; you obey him. To make this easier for him to understand, we explained that when you become a Christian you give God your "want-to." So periodically we would ask Stephen if he was ready to give God his "want-to" and he would answer honestly, "No."

One day I made the mistake of asking Stephen this question after I had disciplined him. At this point, because he was anxious to please me, he answered yes. We tried to carefully explain the gospel to Stephen, telling him that Jesus died for his sins and that by trusting him as his savior he could have eternal life. Then we led Stephen through some form of the sinner's prayer and told him he was now a Christian. At age four and a half he was baptized. We would not learn until several years later, after his true conversion experience, that he did this only to please us.

Struggle With Sin.
Hardly anyone but Stephen's parents would understand the way he struggled with sin in his early years. Indeed he was a fun loving and delightful child, usually pleasant and thoughtful. But he was also very sneaky. In fact, if he thought he could avoid being punished, he often resorted to lying. As his parents, we had to be very clever to catch him doing this. He was very good at lying; he could look you right in the face with his bright blue eyes and appearance of innocence and lie to you. I would punish Stephen many times for lying, trying to break this pattern, but nothing worked. Lying became a tiger that I couldn't catch and that he couldn't tame.

The Movie.
After we moved to Lebanon my family was invited to a friend's church to watch a movie about the end-times. Having already seen the movie as a young man and knowing that I disagreed with some of its ideas, I wasn't real interested in going.

However, my wife thought it would be good for Steve, so we went anyway. In the movie Jesus returned and carried away all the Christians. Those left behind had to deal with all the perils of the Tribulation Period.

Stephen was very frightened; he did not want to go through the Tribulation Period. But he didn't have the assurance that he was ready for heaven, either. God was beginning to work in his heart, and now, more than ever before, Stephen was aware of his sin.

Stephen was afraid that Christ would return and leave him behind. Then, when we explained that many Christians believe that we will go through at least part of the tribulation period, he was really scared. We explained that many of the horrible things that happened to people in the movie are happening to Christians right now. Indeed, more Christians had been martyred during the twentieth century than during all the centuries since the birth of Jesus. But because of their faith in Jesus Christ, they would not deny him, even to save their lives.

We sat down with Stephen to explain how he could be sure of going to heaven. Stephen listened with great interest and unusual seriousness.

We started with what Stephen already knew: that without Christ, man stands already condemned to hell because of all the ways he has rebelled against God and displeased him.

We talked about how Jesus was the only one who lived a perfect, sinless life. Because he was sinless, he was able to take the punishment for our sins.

We explained that if Stephen truly trusted Jesus as Lord, he would save him from being punished for his sins and take him to heaven someday.

However, Stephen remembered his false conversion from years before. What would be different this time? The main difference this time was that Stephen had a clear awareness of his own sinfulness. This made him highly motivated to get right with God.

We told Stephen that there are many people who are glad to have Jesus as a ticket to heaven but who don't obey him. Usually these people aren't true believers. True believers, on the other hand, have such a strong desire to obey Christ that they fervently fight against the sin in their lives, quickly asking Jesus for forgiveness when they mess up.

Stephen placed his faith in Jesus Christ, acknowledging him as his lord and asking him to forgive him. However, it was several weeks before Stephen had any kind of inner assurance that he truly was a Christian. Doubts troubled him during the days ahead. But over time, as he saw God working in his life, his confidence grew that God had truly saved him.

As his parents, we soon saw differences, as well. There was a big difference in his respectfulness for his parents and in his attitude towards household chores. As for his problem with lying, as far as I know, once he became a Christian he never lied to me again.

When we moved to Grace Baptist Church in Hartsville Stephen was examined by the elders for baptism. He was baptized in August of 1999 in Goose Creek, a year and a half before he died. His baptism was one of the most beautiful moments we had with Stephen. A detailed account may be found at Baptism At Goose Creek.

A detailed explanation of how to become a Christian may be found at Bible Facts You Must Face.