My Journey of Faith
I was born in Bugbrooke, Northampton, England in 1946, a year after the end of World War II. During my early childhood, shortages and hardships were still around. We lived in a small rented house owned by a church. Mum and Dad worked in a town seven miles away, Mum as a machinist in a factory and Dad as an electrician working on street lights and domestic power supplies. So up until I was age 12, I stayed at my gran and grandpa’s place out in the country before and after school each day until my parents returned home. Even though the times were hard generally, my grandparents were self-sufficient. They kept pigs, chickens, rabbits, geese, and grew fruit, vegetables of all kinds, flowering plants and had a large greenhouse for propagation. They sold much of their produce and also gave some away to poorer folk. I enjoyed those days feeding the animals, picking (and eating) fruit from the orchard, and planting out seedlings.
Gran was the only church-goer I knew and always took cut flowers for the church. My parents didn’t go to church but to my surprise one Sunday when I was around six or seven, they said they were taking me to Sunday school. I was usually a quiet child, but not that day. “I don’t want to go!” was my response, and not in a quiet way. Still, they got me dressed up and off we went. I rebelled at the door to Sunday school bracing myself with a foot on the step and hands on the door posts declaring, “I’m not going in!” I felt very shy and was easily embarrassed. My parents took me home, and the subject never came up again.
In 1962, I left school at age 16 and signed up for an apprenticeship at a large elevator company. Working with twelve other new lads the same age as me helped me lose some of my shyness. Part of the apprenticeship was to attend college, most of which I enjoyed. One favourite class was math, taught by Mr. Hughes. He was a great math teacher, but I also liked it when sometimes we could get him talking on his pet topic: Bible prophecies that were coming true in our time. He would tell us Old Testament stories and explain how they related to us today. I was fascinated to hear about the floods, earthquakes, wars, and pestilence. We didn’t know why he was telling us such things until the end of term, when he wished us well in our future and then opened his Gladstone bag and started throwing out small red books. One of them came straight at me. The books were small Gideon Bibles. Mr. Hughes threw out only six or seven in a class of 20, and he didn’t throw aimlessly. He had noticed who was paying attention to his little talks. I didn’t know why until many years later (after I was saved) when he was a guest speaker at the church I attended. He spoke on the Gideon association and where they go to give out free Bibles. I spoke to him after the service. He may not have remembered me, but God’s word had not been wasted on me.
When I was 21, my mum died rather suddenly after a short stay in hospital. This caused me to look for comfort in the small Bible. It had a reference section in the front for help with finding answers to life’s problems from the teachings of Jesus. It was helpful for a while, but the Scriptures hadn’t been enlightened to me as I hadn’t yet heard the Gospel message so had no Holy Spirit knowing.
A few years later, I got married, and we had two children. If one were to ask me, I would say I was happy, but inside the reason for life was missing and I was searching for answers. There had to be more to life than work, meals, looking after children, and sleep. Why are we here? What’s life for? These questions became more personal when my wife’s mother became ill and was hospitalized. A friend of my wife, who was a Christian, told us that she and her husband would pray for my mother-in-law, who recovered soon afterwards. That got my attention. I began to ask these Christians about the Bible and what being a Christian meant. The discussion about God, Jesus, and the Bible continued for a few weeks, and the answers that came back seemed good to me. So when they invited us to their church, my wife and I went.
It was different from other places I’d been to. They were happy, noisy, full of life. The Gospel message was clear and simple. I knew I was a sinner, and God’s remedy of Jesus dying in my place was good news for me. I didn’t answer the appeal in the meeting, but at the end of the service, I spoke to the minister saying I need to be saved–What must I do? He talked me through being sorry to God for all I’d done wrong and then said to simply ask God to come into my life by the fact that Jesus died for my sins and a new life would begin by faith in God’s Word. As I left the church that night, some things were different in me–the stars looked brighter, the air felt fresher. I couldn’t explain what had happened, but it was good.
I was told that it would be good to tell someone of my conversion over the next few days so Monday morning I decided to tell a workmate what had happened to me Sunday night. I knew he attended a Methodist church, so he seemed a safe person to tell. I didn’t get the response I expected. He just said, “That’s good,” and no more. I had been to a Methodist church before and didn’t hear the Gospel message, so perhaps he wasn’t saved so couldn’t relate to my joy. Later in the week God gave me an opportunity to tell a group of ten work colleagues my testimony.
A few weeks later we joined a local evangelical church near our house. It was good to be with others who believed the salvation message. My wife and I went door to door with Gospel tracts to invite folk to church in the hope salvation would be theirs. After a few years, though, things seemed flat and without the abundant life the Bible says we should have. We left that church for a Pentecostal church, then a few more years went by, and we left to go to a home church.
Still there were problems closer to home. I was not the Godly husband and father I should be. I failed to discipline my children, taking the easier, softer way. With my wife and others I refused to express an opinion and thought by staying silent and never disagreeing I was a “nice” guy but in truth I was criticizing other’s actions and stubbornly thought I knew best. (It would be some years before I would honestly confront, confess and turn from these sins.)
We were put in touch with a church pastor in another town who did marriage counseling. In the counseling sessions, we told the pastor our problems with the church and our personal problems. His answer was. “Let’s look at the Bible and see what it says. To start with it says, ‘If you walk in the light as He is in the light then we have fellowship with Him’ (I John 1:7a). He went on to say that God’s Holy Spirit dwells in every believer–when we walk, we are walking by His Spirit in us. “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27) is always available to every believer. This was new to me! I loved no longer thinking that God’s away someplace to call back to my location–no, He’s not just near, but within.
Then the marriage counselor referred us to someone who could help us learn more about Christ-in-you, and through her we were introduced to Norman Grubb’s teachings and subscribed to The Intercessor. Over the next years we attended meetings and conferences with others who were learning about what Norman came to call the Total Truth. I liked my new friends and these new ideas, and I agreed with all I was learning. But I had yet to apply it, by faith, to my personal life. Sadly, many years passed before I made that decision.
In 2013 after the usual week of Zerubbabel Summer Camp, I was invited to stay for a few weeks. Out of that came the decision to move to the States–to join my daughter and son-in-law and fellowship with the “home team” at Zerubbabel HQ. Living among Christians who really believe what God says about us–that there is no independent “me” going along with Jesus, but that Christ is joined in a spirit union living His life in me, as me–has been life-changing!
God said, “Be changed by the renewing of your mind,” but that didn’t come easily for me. I was very set in “my” ways, and since I saw myself as “just me,” so Satan was doing my seeing. Since “I” was right, I was not willing to take advice or try anything new. Other evidence of believing Satan’s lie began to surface–the so-called “little” ways Satan operated through me and had for years–hidden pride and arrogance that showed up in my actions toward others. God was faithful to shed His light on how He saw me.
For a long time I stubbornly held onto “my”/Satan’s view. Finally one night I felt fear for the first time–fear that at this might be my last chance to get things right with God–especially at my age. It felt like this was a life and death situation that I had to face. I turned to two of my friends and asked if they would come outside and pray with me–“I can’t do this anymore.” We went out, and I got on my knees. I knew I had to kneel before God for forgiveness. I knelt and started talking to God, confessing specific sins against Him and others. Suddenly I began shaking from head to toe. I can stop this if I want to, I thought at first. NO! This is God. He is shaking me up to get me straight. My friend put his hand on my head. The shaking lasted about 25 minutes and stopped as quickly as it had started. I felt such relief. It was like every molecule in my body had been shaken to set me free.
I went home that night with a feeling of unimaginable joy. I felt like I had stepped out of a dense, grey, dismal fog into a technicolor world. My mind felt clear and everything around me was full of light. I will always remember what God did that day in that short period of time. By the grace of God, He met me at my greatest point of need.
As I look back over the past four years, so much has changed! When I admitted I needed God’s renewing of my mind, it came only when I chose to believe what God says and took it by faith that I have the mind of Christ. Sometimes I need reminding and urging to put into action what I/He knows. The difference is Jesus Christ living through me for others. I have learned new things and ways of doing things differently. Living with my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren (ages 5 and 3) keeps me active and creative. I had few friends for much of my life, but now I have friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.
I’m learning to recognize and admit when I’m seeing myself independently (unbelief) in everyday situations and to quickly replace Satan’s lie with the truth–that I am a vessel through whom Jesus Christ is living His life (Gal. 2:20) and that in Him I am “whole and complete, lacking nothing,” (James 1:5). One of the key things for me is to tell the difference between soul and spirit as things come up in daily life. Here’s a recent example: I have always enjoyed being in water and took adult swimming lessons at some point, but never learned to swim. I wanted the security of feeling the bottom under my feet. That didn’t bother me much until my grandchildren were old enough to splash about in the pool. I enjoyed being in there with them but was painfully aware that if they were in danger, I could not help them. My friends encouraged me to walk in deeper, just up to my shoulders. Very reluctantly, I walked in to my shoulders, as asked–but I would not go one step further. Later I thought about it. Even though I did want to swim, my fear kept me back. Standing in the water was one thing–but launching in was altogether different. On a feeling level, I just knew I’d sink. A thought came to me in the night: Other people learn to swim. You can do it. Next morning, my attitude had changed. I no longer chose fear. I believed I could do it! As I went into the pool, I thought, “Oh, just lunge in there.” And I did. It felt great! And as I moved through the water, I remembered instructions from the past–reach out with your arms, kick your feet. And I did!
I see now how often fear and the pride of not wanting to fail and look foolish–Satan’s seeing–held me captive and blinded me to the truth. How many times throughout my life had I allowed Satan’s lies to incapacitate me! The verse, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13) has become personal to me. He strengthens me not when I’m standing in the shallow water, refusing to launch in; He meets me only when I choose to launch out in faith. Once I’ve committed myself, it’s Him guiding the events.
When a problem comes up now, I know two things: I’m not alone because Christ lives in me, and it’s really His problem. I live surrounded by people that I can talk to who can confirm that these are just feelings and remind me of the truth that God is in this circumstance for my good. All feelings have their place–even fear. But I must see it for what it is and recognize that whatever comes to me God determines, for my benefit, painful as it may be at the time.
Recently a serious issue came up, and I felt overwhelmed. “Oh, this is just terrible. I don’t think I can cope with this.” When I shared that thought with my son-in-law, he said, “Oh yeah? Where is the “I” in this? What is the truth about this?” And I caught on right away. It’s so easy to step back into independent thinking by my first reaction to circumstances. Of course God is putting them in my path to strengthen me in the truth that it’s His strength that will meet the circumstances.
At 70 years of age, I have found new life: I am crucified with Christ, yet I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me. And the life I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).