I had a very happy childhood and only occasionally attended Sunday School via the Life Boys (sea scouts). My teenage years in the 1960s were as wild and crazy as anybody’s at that time and with hindsight I marvel at God’s hand in bringing me through such a period.
After working as a hairdresser for a few years, I moved into property renovation and the more financially successful I grew, the more hedonistic I became. My life consisted of an endless round of parties and holidays. I had a really wonderful circle of friends, a great social life and was certainly not seeking God or looking for a crutch to lean on. I didn’t have any sense of sin at this stage in my life and thought Christians were a sad, inadequate bunch of zombies, going to church on Sunday to recharge their batteries by hearing what they wanted to hear, and then carrying on regardless for the rest of the week.
I didn’t give God any serious thought until my girlfriend started attending church and subsequently moved out because she believed it was wrong for us to be living together while we were not married. I knew how hard it had been for her to leave, both emotionally and practically, and initially it made me angry with God. I resented the challenge that her decision presented to my values and the way I had been living.
This angered me into reading the Bible – not because I was interested in finding God, but in order to disprove it, thinking that my girlfriend had been brainwashed or emotionally cajoled. To begin with, reading God’s Word felt like reading a manual on car maintenance when you have no concept of what a car is! This started a long battle which I am now pleased to say I eventually lost.
Little by little I found myself being surrounded by God’s love. Everywhere I went, and whatever I did, God was speaking to me in everyday situations - on the TV, on the radio, in music lyrics, in the people I met and in the things I read. No matter what direction I took, he was there, offering me forgiveness and reconciliation, and the message began to get through.
The Bible, which had previously been a dead, cold and incomprehensible book, was now springing to life. For a week I couldn’t put it down and read it every night until 5 o’clock in the morning! I started going to different churches, and the message always came to me with such force as if I were the only person there and the preacher had inside information about me. I resented this and so the inner battle continued. I was not prepared to let God be greater than my understanding of him, and so I carried on questioning the message I was hearing and resisting God.
I started going to Amyand Park Chapel, where the preaching made me feel like a son apprenticed to his father but not wanting to learn. It was there that I heard a sermon on Acts chapter 26 verse 14 – ‘It is hard to kick against the goads’.* That one short, strange sentence spoke to me of the harm you do to yourself by resisting God’s prodding and guidance, and the pain it causes when you refuse the gift of salvation that cost him his Son. It brought me to my knees in tears of repentance and joy – repentance for what I had done, and joy for what Christ had done for me.
The 22 years since that night have not been easy, and I am conscious of my many failings and the problems of previously having lived ‘me first’ for 40 years. But when I fail, God picks me up, dusts me down, and we
start again. As I look back, I see the thread of God’s grace running through my life, weaving a picture you often can’t see or understand. He never promises an easy journey, but guarantees a safe arrival.
I am nobody special, but I am real and my God is real. Open your heart to God and the truth will set you free.
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.