At no time in my life have I ever doubted that there was a God. My father died just after I turned three and my mother was left during those war years to bring up four children under the age of ten.
I often felt that I was deprived of the love and guidance of an earthly father, but through my mother’s simple faith, teaching, and example, I soon came to realize that I had a loving Heavenly Father who was far above any human parent. My mother was a very law-abiding citizen – ‘honest as the day is long’ you might say. To illustrate this, I will tell you about a childhood incident.
We had a few hens in the backyard and one day one of the old chooks died. My brother and I offered to take the dead bird on our bikes to dispose of it at the local rubbish tip on the outskirts of town. We duly dumped the carcass, covered it with a bit of soil and leaves, and rode back home. My brother, who was a bit of a blabber-mouth, told mum that there was a sign at the dump which said ‘No dumping of dead animals – heavy penalties apply’. So our law-abiding mum sent us back to the tip to exhume the body and bring it back home to be buried in the backyard. Oh, why did God make mothers so honest!
From an early age, I attended the Methodist Church, Sunday School, Christian Endeavour Society, and the Methodist Order of Knights. And eventually took on some leadership roles as a Sunday School teacher, Junior Christian Endeavour Superintendent, Commander of the Order of Knights, and Junior Circuit Steward. At the age of twenty-one, I became an accredited Local Preacher in the Methodist Church.
Some people may come to faith in Jesus like Saul’s encounter on the Road to Damascus – a spectacular about-turn conversion experience! For others, it may be a gradual process.
In the 1980s, we had a men’s group meeting in our home for Bible study and prayer. At the time, a young man I worked with was driving on Anzac Avenue, Kippa-Ring, and hit a girl and killed her. He was charged with manslaughter and sent to prison. Our men’s group prayed earnestly that God would intervene in this man’s life. We were unaware that a Salvation Army chaplain had been ministering to him in prison. He had a miraculous conversion experience. On discharge from prison, he studied to become a pastor in a particular denomination. This confirmed to me that God is faithful and does answer prayer.
In Mark’s Gospel, we have two accounts of blind beggars being healed by Jesus. In one incident, the blind man, in answer to Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” replied, “Rabbi, I want to see”. “Go”, said Jesus, “your faith has healed you”. Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus.
In the second incident, after Jesus had anointed the blind man’s eyes, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around”. Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes, then his eyes were opened and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
The final outcome was the same in both cases, but the process was different. One healing was instantaneous but the other was gradual. God chooses how He acts. In a similar fashion, some people’s spiritual eyes are opened as they have an instant or dramatic conversion experience. For others, it is a gradual process. They may not be able to pin-point the date or place, but they know assuredly that they have accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour of their life as their spiritual eyes have been gradually opened. This was my experience.
Having said that, there have been significant milestones along the way for me confirming and strengthening my faith in Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and leading me forward.
One of the early ones occurred at Easter 1957. It was the first Easter Camp held at Kamp Stacey, the Methodist Campsite at Cunningham’s Gap. The leader was Rev Lew Born who had challenged us throughout the weekend about our commitment to Jesus. After breakfast on the Monday before the camp broke up, he made a final call for anyone who wanted to make a decision for Christ or who wanted to re-commit their lives to stand. Somehow, I think I must have been sitting on one of those ejector seats and the Holy Spirit pressed the button as I shot to my feet. Although I had previously given my life to Jesus, this was a public witness or declaration of that decision. I think there comes a time in every Christian’s life when they need to publicly acknowledge before men that Jesus is their Saviour and Lord.
It had been a tradition in our household to stay up till midnight on New Year’s Eve to see the old year out and the New Year in. Quite often there would be a social in the church hall, and just prior to mid-night we would proceed into the church for a Watch-night Service when we praised God for the year that was past and committed the New Year and ourselves to Him.
For some reason, there was no such celebration on 31st December 1977. However I still sat up at home and as midnight approached, I walked outside and stood near the mailbox looking up at the myriad stars and praising God for His goodness in 1977, especially as it was the year of the inauguration of the Uniting Church. I also asked God what was in store for me in 1978. Immediately the words of Zechariah 4 verse 6 came into my mind. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’ says the Lord”. I wondered what was the significance of that, and stored those words away in the back of my mind.
Around that time, a man by the name of Steve Rider was exercising a ministry of healing and deliverance at a couple of Anglican Churches in Brisbane. He had spent time in prison for some serious offenses but had a miraculous conversion experience and was now exercising a great ministry. In September 1978, I was in Brisbane for work and staying over-night. I decided I would go to hear this preacher at the Sandgate Anglican Church. I did not know anyone there and slunk into the back seat. During the praise time, people were raising their hands but conservative Lawson stood there with his hands firmly clenched on to the back of the pew in front. But all that was soon to change.
Towards the end of the service, people who wanted prayer for any reason were invited to come forward. I knew that in spite of all the ‘church’ work that I was involved in, there was something missing in my like. I was trying to operate in my own might and power. I went forward requesting prayer for an issue in my life but received more than I had bargained for. I received an anointing or baptism in the Holy Spirit and life was never the same after that. I then realized the significance of those words from Zechariah that I received on New Year’s Eve, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.”
There have been other milestones in my life assuring me that I do have a loving Heavenly Father. I do have a Saviour who died for me. I do have a Holy Spirit who guides and strengthens me.
I realize now that my earthly life has limited time to run. But I am assured that I will spend eternity with this wonderful Triune God. A couple of verses from 2 Corinthians chapter 4 provide me with great hope and assurance now and for the future:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen but the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal”.