Hi everyone, my name is Ivan. As a redeemed child of God, my Father in heaven has shown me incredible grace by choosing me and calling me His own. I would love to share how He has been so gracious to me in my life. In fact, that is what my name Ivan means: God is gracious. And as we’ll come to find, this is no mere coincidence.
When I look back at my life, there is no exact moment where I can pinpoint a full 180 degree transformation. Rather, I would consider myself somewhat of a Christian, even from a very young age. I understood simple truths such as Jesus dying for my sins on the cross, or the iconic song ‘Our God is a Great Big God’. I can really only attribute this to having strong Christian parents who love the Lord. I’m thankful to mum and dad for their constant prayer, scriptural comforts and imparted wisdom from years of walking with Jesus. I am eternally thankful to God for both of them, and I am able to declare myself a Christian largely because of how they have nurtured me in Christ.
Growing up, I always wanted to be the popular kid. So this often meant that I would go to great lengths to impress friends or find approval from family. My main way of getting this approval was through my grades. I have always pushed myself to be a high achiever, and so I had founded my identity on being top of the class. This would continue into high school, where my goal was to always look the best on the report, and still be popular at school at the same time. I would willingly force myself to Kumon and sit there for hours in order to stay at the top. And the issue for me was that I was actually pretty good at it. I never really had any bad friendships, and I could genuinely say that all my friends were close.
But I soon realised that this was all meaningless, as I came to grips with my own personal existence as a human being when my parents explained how I came to be. You see, when I was still in my mum’s womb, my mum went through various regular checkups as you do. The pregnancy was going all well and good, the baby was set to be healthy. That was until my mum did an amniotic fluid test. It was then revealed to mum and dad that the baby would have an almost certain probability to have all sorts of serious problems. Literally, you name any organ, and the baby would have issues with it, including spina bifida. My parents were given the option to abort, as it was still early enough to do so. This was incredibly hard on my parents as they wrestled in prayer about the decision. After much prayer and petition, they decided to continue with the pregnancy, due to their Christian convictions. A few months later, the baby was born. By God’s grace, the baby didn’t have any of the issues that he was meant to have. The fact that I am here today is truly a gift from God. If it was not for my parent’s faith in God, I would not even exist. If it was not God’s incredible grace and provision, I probably wouldn’t have met my friends and church community.
It was through a process of many years of reflecting on this that I realised one incredible truth. My life is not my own! My life has been bought with a price, the price of Christ’s blood. All the Sunday school songs, all the Extreme Bible studies, they all clicked for me. Jesus truly loves me, and my life is of no value at all, if it were not for God. From there, my identity switched from my grades and social life to glorifying God in all things. My worldview lens also completely changed. I began to see everything as a blessing from God, every breath, every note of a song, every friendship I had. But the biggest change was my realisation that even despite God’s blessings in my life, I still chose to live my own way instead of His. I pushed away the freedom of the cross and instead chose my own pride and glory. Being liberated by the stress of performance was incredibly freeing.
Now I live every day dependent on Christ. I know that I will fail in my sinful ways, but praise be to God for His new mercies every day. I now live with a sense of purpose without the fear of failure or the need for approval. This is only possible because God approves of me, not because of anything I have done, but because of His one and only Son. His enduring love for me is mine for all of eternity.
My parents were initially going to name me Ian. But after I came into the world, they decided to name me Ivan, because God has truly been gracious to me. Not just in my existence, but also in my salvation. And I would love to leave a question for you to ask yourself today. The question is this: “How has God been gracious to you in your life?” My hope and prayer is that you’ll see how much He truly loves you, so much so that He sent His one and only Son to die for you.