I was born in Nottingham in 1949. My family was respectable, but with no serious interest in God.
Church was only for family occasions like christenings and weddings. 50 years ago this month, I trusted in Jesus Christ to be my Saviour and Lord, and my life changed direction.
Superficially, that change seemed to hang on random events not of my making. A year before I was born, my dad went to work for the railway. Train travel led to my lifelong interest in railways.
When I was five we moved to Long Eaton, about eight miles from Nottingham. These circumstances led me to the place and people where I would find the Lord. In reality, I believe the Lord Jesus Christ settled an appointment with me long beforehand, and prepared the way that would bring me to it.
When I was about 15, I joined a railway enthusiasts’ club. Some of my school friends who shared my interest went there too. Unfortunately, like many teenage lads, we also thought it clever and grown-up to use bad language and tell dirty jokes. We threw ourselves into this with gusto, never thinking that sin is like a lobster pot — easy to get in, but hard to escape.
I am afraid I didn’t work very hard at my A-levels, and failed them, leaving school at 17. There were plenty of jobs in those days, and eventually I went to work at the railway workshops in Derby. I continued to go to the railway club and meet with my friends.
One day, one of my best friends told us that he had become a Christian. We were aghast! He had been to a Youth for Christ rally with a school friend. The speaker had talked to the crowd of youngsters about sin — the defiance of God that offends Him — the need to be forgiven and the danger of judgment. He finished by inviting them to trust in Christ’s death. My friend felt acutely aware of his need and responded to that invitation.
We listened to him, and then pulled his leg and made his life a misery. We kept up a constant barrage of ridicule for weeks. Even so, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘He’s got something worth having. I wish I had it too’.
He quoted, ‘Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’ — can’t even see it, let alone get in there. I saw that my best mate was a friend of God, going to heaven and I was going to hell.
Then I saw that to be ‘born again’ was not something for me to do. It was something that had to happen to me. I wanted Christ, but didn’t know how to find him. So I asked God what to do and I saw that I should simply ask my friend to teach me.
Remember, he was only recently converted himself, but he explained all he knew and asked if I wanted to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to be my Saviour. He led me in a prayer that I sincerely meant, asking Jesus to enter and take control of my life.
On 14 December 1966, the hour struck and, right on time, the appointment fixed by Christ, long before, took place. It was a new life beginning for me.