Everything now made sense
I was raised in Scotland in a village just outside the picturesque town of Stirling. Our family would probably have been best described at the time as agnostic.
We simply didn’t have any need to discuss God, and I never went to the Sunday school that some of my friends went to. I thought of God with slightly more respect than I did church or Jesus, which is to say, not much.
In my first year at secondary school, we were all offered a Gideon Bible. The men who offered them pointed out that we didn’t need to take them, but if we wanted one, we were not to let anyone put us off.
I went with the latter option. I liked my little, plastic-covered New Testament and Psalms — but not enough to read it. I put my name in it, read some of the advice sentences occasionally, and allowed it to gather dust.
As a teenager, I was of a scientific bent and grew to treat much of religion as laughable myth. That’s what everyone else thought and what the TV thought. So, that’s what I thought.
I never bothered doing the research on it, because, like so many people, I assumed that there was nothing to research. I gave far more credence to the occult and paranormal — even as far as looking at university degrees in it — though I was never ‘brave’ enough to throw myself in fully, thankfully.
Though I was fascinated by the ‘new age’ nonsense taking root in the UK during the late 1980s, when I went through a particularly dark period in my life, it was my Gideon Bible that I was drawn to.
Death confused me. As a scientist, I was supposed to think that death brought the end to my life, and then I would rot and there would be nothing after that. I struggled with that thought; something didn’t ring true.
I’d been under anaesthetic, so I knew that an end to conscious existence was possible, but something struck me as odd — the end of me. There was a certain something that didn’t quite fit — and so I started looking for answers.
Looking for answers
Strangely, I looked for answers in the Bible. Dusting it off and beginning to read, I must have started to sense that there was the possibility of an answer there, because I kept reading.
Soon, I was looking for a church where I could get more answers. I went to a local church, which did not do a great job at teaching who Jesus was and is, but some faithful old men at a local Sunday school helped me. I was three years older than anyone else in the class, but they made room for me and helped me understand.
As I read my New Testament, my questions changed. I could not tell you when, but they shifted from ‘What happens when I die?’ to ‘Was Jesus real? Did Jesus really exist? Did he really come back from the dead?’
It struck me that the answers to all the biggest questions were to be found in this man Jesus. If he rose from the dead, as the Bible said, then the whole shooting match rests squarely on his shoulders. If he didn’t exist, or didn’t come back, I could move on.
So it happened that one day pondering all this and leafing through some tracts, something struck me hard. The whole of history after Jesus only makes sense if he did come back from the dead.
The church down my high street only made sense if Jesus’ early followers genuinely believed Jesus came back. And they would only have done that, they would only have died for him subsequently, if he genuinely had.
Without Jesus coming back from the dead, very little of the rest of history makes sense. And claiming ‘It’s all myth!’ only sounds plausible until you actually investigate the evidence.
At that moment, I was born again. The gnawing, depressing burden I had disappeared. I knew what I was here for. I knew I was saved; I knew I would live past death. Jesus promised it.
Little bits of me changed then and there. I didn’t blaspheme anymore. I wasn’t as depressed. Other bits took a long time to change, as God worked in me through his Word and people. Some bits still have to change yet!
I excelled as a scientist, won prizes, scholarships and various degrees. But even that changed. I found my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was much more in bringing God’s Word to other people and in growing his church in depth and height. Today, I’m a minister for evangelism in a large Anglican church.
I’d love to say I still read my Gideon Bible, but I don’t. I gave it away to someone else who was searching for answers.
Two faithful men
But I still thank God for those two men who came to that school hall, set out their Bibles and braved the scorn of 120 thirteen-year-olds, in the hope that God’s Word would not return empty. If they were still around today, I’d say, ‘Fear not. It didn’t!’
‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…
‘Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:1,20,58).
The author is associate minister at St Peter’s Harold Wood.
This first appeared in Gideon News and is used with permission (www.gideons.org.uk)