Following my profession of faith and, what I can only describe as a ‘turn-around’ in behaviour (the Bible calls it repentance) at the end of 1975, there were, indeed, some glaringly apparent changes; it was as if my personality had had a re-vamp. OK, I’d never been ‘that bad’, but I certainly had had my moments of—whatever label one wishes to ascribe to the innately human propensity to do the opposite of ‘GOOD.The Bible refers to it as ‘falling short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23). On one occasion in my late teens I was on my own at a local dance place—called ‘The Royal Pier’; during my time there I happened to bump into my brother Graham who was with his fiancé. She asked him who I was, and was taken aback when he admitted that I was his (by two years) older brother; he’d inadvertently told her that he didn’t have such a sibling. He, no doubt, had his reasons.
I had always loved Christmas, nothing remotely religious—though there was the unmissable sense of ‘something other’; I loved Christmas mostly because of the family get-togethers—especially Christmas Day. It was just prior to Christmas 1975 that I, along with some of my work friends, were down at a local pub in Hamble; the ‘Christmas Spirit’ flowed, the atmosphere festive. There ensued an argument that soon erupted into a full-blown altercation; this situation was arrested (so to speak) by my impromptu (physical) intervention—followed by an appeal to the ‘Christmas Spirit’—the other one. The fight ended.
The change in my behaviour had become noticeable—both home and at work. So what was going on? Could it have been ‘all in my head?’ The answer is that something had happened that allowed for a change in my behaviour that was ‘a change for the good’. NB. It’s important to note that, the Christian Life, is not about keeping rules—though it is about the ‘rules’ we cannot possibly keep, i.e. in our own strength.I had ‘become a Christian’ and I had a strong desire to ‘give a reason for this new and eternal hope, the hope that my wife Jackie had and that I had come into myself.
Best Selling Book(s)
If you ‘Google’ for a list of ‘The Best Selling Book’, you’ll most likely see an additional clause e.g. ‘besides the Bible’. The Bible is, apparently, the best selling book ever; well there are sixty-six books in the Bible so you get very good value for money, besides which, it is God’s Word. Have you ever looked inside? I don’t recall ever reading the Bible (actually contemplating its content) prior to my coming to faith in Christ—I do remember though that the Sunday School used to, sneakily, give us kids Bible Verses on small squares of coloured paper or cards NB.I shall return to my concern to give others a reason for this new found hope in another part of the story ( See1 Peter 3:15). The Bible, obviously, plays a major part in ‘the story’. But, of course, it’s not just the words—as they may be considered ‘ink on paper’ (even papyrus) but rather the significance of these words in space and time.
A Turn for the Worst?
Within a year of the beginning of my ‘faith-journey’ I had become rather unwell. Following a protracted period away from my place of work—with no sign of recovery and no sense of #urgency from my GP—until, that is, my wife instigated one of those rare occasions (at least nowadays) ‘a house call from one’s GP. After the visit from the GP. I was immediately admitted to the neurological ward of Southampton General Hospital—this being during the week of a major industrial NHS dispute—with The Government. Margaret Thatcher was in opposition. The outcome of this dispute was that hospitals were only accepting serious cases aka: emergencies.I presumably was such an emergency.
Whilst in the hospital my friend from the squash court paid me a visit. Alan had heard from my wife that I was, to put it mildly, rather poorly.He, tentatively,read from Scripture (aka The Bible): “Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need,always asking him with a thankful heart.And God’s peace,which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ” (Philippians 4:6,7 ‘Good News’ Version). At the time I wasn’t able to acertain the relevance to my rather precarious situation.Indeed, I recall saying something like, “It’s OK for you Alan…” ‘Good News’, for me at that point in time would have meant ‘time travelling’—a ‘get me out of here, I don’t need this.’ Well, I hadn’t previously considered the possible implications of this verse. Was there more to the Bible than ‘meets the eye’ of the average cynic, I wondered?
While undergoing all the (then) latest tests for ‘all things worrying’,I began reading the Bible (I’d either been given it by someone or Jackie had got it for me). When some effective pain relief kicked-in I would read from the Psalms; If I recall correctly, one particular verse from Psalm 46 stuck-out; it was verse ten: “Be still and know that I am God.” I had been rather concerned—as were others too. Oddly enough I became quite calm and unworried. Concerned though? Yes. After all I was only thirty-five and had been given an amazing wife, in Jackie, and three children: twins girls (Rebecca & Esther) of nine and another (Katie Victoria) of seven. My son Gerald was to follow some twelve years later in 1987.
The medics had been looking for a tumor on my spine—but after some more rather horid tests they #suggested that it was not that but more likely something called ‘Ankyolising Spondylitus’.They were’nt conclusive in their diagnosis.I’d been back home a while—still no real improvement—though lots of outpatient hospital appointments. I was rather frail, having lost around thirteen kilogrammes in weight. By this time (I had rather a lot of it without anything much filling it—time, that is.
I came across the New Testament letter of James. James 5:13,14 poses the following question: “Is anyone among you (the community/assembly of Jesus’ followers) in trouble (suffering) let them pray.Is anyone happy (I was, strangely content but—‘happy’ not exatly.) let them sing songs of praise.Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord (Jesus).”
A short while after my reading of this passage I discussed it with Jackie, who asked Alan, who was one of the elders, whether or not the elders would come around and implement, what seemed to me to be an imperative rather than a suggestion. True to ‘The Word’ they came—though they were, I detected rather nervous. NB.One of the elders was Alan’s father. I was later to learn that he had, not long before, lost his wife and Alan’s mother to cancer; she was in her forties. The elders knew well the challenges of taking seriously the teachings of Scripture. If I had known about this, I most likely would not have requested that they pray the same prayer over a relative stranger. Forty-four years have past; Alan’s mother is ‘ever’ in the presence of Christ. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is (personal) gain.” Philippians 1:21. I have yet (obviously) to be in the presence of Christ or to receive a new body—one that is not affected by the present physical laws—laws that seem to operate in the known universe—laws that bring about that which is the lot of all flesh:corruption,decay and physical death.
As it turns out the Bible has, more than a lot, going for it. There isn’t the space in this #shortaccount of my ‘reasons for faith’ rather than to say that there are strong reasons for allowing it to direct your life. Indeed there is a library full of books written in defence of the reliability of the Bible and of the historicity of the person of Jesus Christ [i].I have ‘a few’ such books on my bookshelves—mostly written by professors of faith and Professors of Science,Philosophy,Sociology and—as you’d expect—Biblical Theology. The Christian Life though is a ‘life practice’ (vita usa). One just has to live it.
Derek J. White