What Does Heart Transformation Really Mean?
Steve Chua teaches that a transformed life will transform the world.
Steve Chua is an executive life coach who has touched more than 500,000 people in over 20 countries. He stresses the need for heart transformation that comes from discovering our identity in God. This is part 2 of our interview with Steve – part one covered Steve’s backstory.
Your ministry has a major focus on transforming the heart – how does that happen? What is the key to heart transformation?
That’s the million dollar question. I believe that God is always working on our hearts. It’s not a one-off thing but it’s constant growth, glory to glory to glory to glory. The kingdom of God has no end – He’s infinite. We’re in a constant state of transformation; the key is whether we are open to it.
Transformation can ultimately only happen through the cross. But we can only come to the cross through the love of God. When you’re in love, you’re happy and can believe anything – you have so much hope.
It starts with choice. I believe the greatest gift God has given us is free will – the power to make a choice. God is love, and love never controls another. God never forces us to love him. Choice is the ultimate expression of love. The gospel is about choice.
So we have to make a choice to receive God’s love and love Him before true transformation can happen.
How does your own life story relate to this? What was your process of transformation?
I had to become self-aware, when for years I had been self-protective. We don’t want to see our failures, we try to run from them and explain them away. I often say our identity and heart are the same. I had to learn to acknowledge my failures so I could receive God’s loving work.
Transformation of the heart is about being willing to submit to the journey, to choose God’s way and not your own way. It’s a choice to be vulnerable and teachable. It involves choosing to trust again. When you’ve been hurt, it’s very hard to trust.
In my personal journey with God, the Holy Spirit would often ask me, “Will you trust Me or not?” This question is one of the most fundamental parts of transformation. Every time God brings a transformation in my life, He calls me to surrender something, to die to myself and say, “Not my will, but your will be done.”
God always gives us abundantly more on the other side of surrender, but still I would fight it. I would want it my way! People all tend to ask, “What? When? How?” But I’ve finally learned – when God gives me a challenge now, I say “OK, God, whatever you want!” Because I already know the end will be good. It may be tough, but ultimately, it is good.
It sounds like transformation should be looked at as a process and not a one-time event – is that right?
Growth is a constant journey. With every level of growth comes greater authority; with greater authority comes greater influence; with greater influence comes greater responsibility; and finally, with greater responsibility comes greater glory. But the question is, where does the glory go? Who do we give it to?
“Transformation of the heart is about being willing to submit to the journey, to choose God’s way and not your own way. It’s a choice to be vulnerable and teachable.”
So it becomes about stewarding, being faithful with what He’s given us. He wants to transform your heart so you can transform your world. You can’t give what you’ve not received. If you’ve received love, you can love well; if you’ve received grace, you can give grace; if you’ve been forgiven, you must forgive. If you’ve been transformed, transform others.
You’ve lived in Hong Kong, England, Canada, and now California in the USA – do you feel this has helped you as you discuss life transformation? Do you feel these principles are universal, or are they very specific to the culture they are used in? Will transforming principles look very different in the United States than in Hong Kong?
I think heaven’s culture – kingdom culture – is universal, so it works in every culture. Jesus is the representation of perfect love, and I don’t know of any human being, in any place, who doesn’t want to be loved.
Love is giving value, worth, and significance to someone or something. It’s never focused on yourself, it’s always trying to give to another. The purest form of love is unconditional. I believe that every human being desires unconditional love.
What I’ve realized is that my background – having been born in Hong Kong, growing up in Singapore and the United States, spending several years in England and Canada, and now being back in the United States and travelling all over the world – has helped me understand people.
Culture shapes people. So the question is, how do you take kingdom culture and communicate it in a way that a specific culture understands?
So many times people try to use culture to interpret the kingdom. My experience has helped me understand that the heart of the individual everywhere is the same, but its interpretation is different. If you don’t understand people’s culture, you can bulldoze your way in and be misunderstood.
The challenge is how to honor a nation’s culture without compromising kingdom culture. Honor is the expression of love. When you honor someone, you give them value. Love always unlocks doors.
You said you want people to know their destinies, but how does this work for those who don’t know God? Certainly it’s a different challenge talking about life transformation to a believer and an unbeliever.
I believe everyone is made in the image and likeness of God. I want to see people through the eyes of Jesus. My goal is to bring the anointing and purpose of God out of people. If you look at the Scriptures, God used pagan people like Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar for His purposes – and He had people like Joseph and Daniel come alongside them to see the favor of God.
“Love is giving value, worth, and significance to someone or something. It’s never focused on yourself, it’s always trying to give to another. The purest form of love is unconditional.”
Helping others know their destinies includes bringing out the best in them. This happens through kingdom principles, by honoring them and demonstrating what God is like to them, even before they have received Him.
Some of those I coach have come to Christ, but I didn’t have to preach to them. The Apostle Paul wrote that the whole of creation is waiting in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19) – the world is waiting for us to reveal ourselves. But so much of the time the church can be self-righteous, and that’s just not attractive to the world.
On the other hand, when you demonstrate honor and grace and empower others – when you bring the best out of people – that’s what the kingdom of God looks like.
Obviously if someone is already saved you can move faster in coaching them; those who don’t know Jesus, you’re essentially planting seeds and allowing them to start applying Bible principles to their lives.
Sometimes my clients ask me, “Where did you get that idea from?” And I tell them, “Well, it’s something I learned from my own faith journey.” I don’t push Biblical principles down their throat, but I stand on the principle that it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Do you have any favorite stories of heart transformations that have taken place over the years?
There was a pastor’s son who was incredibly gifted; he and his brother were part of an amazing worship team. I thought they were as good as any well-known band – they were amazing. However, they were also very hurt by the church. There were certain people who didn’t love them for who they were, but only for what they could do.
I was always concerned about them – sometimes the platform and the promise of fame can keep you away from what is best. Anyway, this young man ended up taking drugs, and his life became a mess. He was on the verge of taking his life.
One afternoon I heard a knock on my door, and this young man, strung out on drugs, was looking at me. He said, “Steve you’re the only pastor I feel like I can trust. Is there any hope for me? Is there any future for me?”
At the time I was running a ministry school in California. I said, “Absolutely. Come see me on Monday, I’ll take you into my school, and we’ll allow you to be part of my leadership team.”
When I told this to my team, they said, “You told him what?”
Monday morning came and he didn’t show up. He calls me two weeks later and says, “Steve, did I miss the meeting?” I said, “Yes, you were supposed to be there that Monday. Come this next Monday instead.”
Come next Monday, he never showed up. And my team members say, “Why are you bothering with this guy?”
Three days later, he called again, “Steve, did I miss my meeting?” He swore at himself, but I told him, “Come and meet me the following Monday at 10 o’ clock.”
Once again Monday came, and once again he wasn’t there. My team insisted, “Steve, this guy’s wasting your time.” And so I said, “We’ll see what happens.”
Two hours later he called me, “Today’s the meeting right? Can I still come?” “Yes,” I told him.
He finally arrived and I introduced him to the team. He told us all, “I want to get off meth. I messed up big time.” I told him, “You’re going to be part of this team, and we’re going to give you accommodation and everything else you need.”
For the first few weeks he was with us, he was 2-3 hours late for everything. The team was getting upset, and they kept saying, “There’s no hope for this guy.”
But I said, “Can’t you see what’s happening? First he was two weeks late, then three days late, then four hours late, three hours late, one hour late…He’s moving forward. As long as he’s moving forward, I’m OK with it.”
Within another week, he was half an hour late; then ten minutes late; and within a month, he was coming in 45 minutes before everybody else, cleaning the whole place! Today he would say it saved his life.
Transformation isn’t always instant. It’s a journey. Today he’s a pastor in Orange County, California. He’s passionate for God, and helping other people go through the same thing he went through. He’s happily married, with his first child, and doing everything everybody said he couldn’t.
Love is relentless. I’ve seen people transformed almost instantly, and others take time. God is not interested only in the result, but in the journey.
This is definitely one story I see great value in. Many people won’t have the patience or time or grace. But love would always go beyond the surface and look at the heart.