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By Ken Wiggett
God brings people into a living relationship with himself in many different ways. For some it’s the quiet word spoken through a friend or family member; for others, stronger persuasion is needed. Such was the case with me.
As many do, I wrestled with and dipped my toe in the various ideologies or ‘isms’, from atheism, through to a brief adventure with one particular cultism. But I knew deep down that none addressed my criteria. What that criteria was, I had yet to find out. It was while involved with this last cult, with my wife patiently (sometimes too patiently) in tow, I heard through the proverbial family grapevine, that the entire church where my wife’s brother and his family then attended, was praying for me. Surely a very commendable exercise, I thought, but perhaps not really necessary!
In the passage of time, we were invited by said in laws to visit them over the spring holiday break. It transpired, that not far from their village, an evangelistic tent mission was in full swing: if that’s the proper way to describe such an event. Now I don’t know if you have any experience of a ‘tent campaign’, but no punches are pulled: especially bible ones! It’s a sort of Billy Graham rally on a small scale, and without the American accents. Nevertheless, I went along to one of the meetings. I remained unconvinced.
I debated issues with the family throughout the evenings, and it was suggested, probably from desperation, that the leader of the tent campaign: Mr Big no less, be invited round to their house so we could have a chat. Perhaps we could come to some agreement, I thought!
I can’t remember for how long we talked, or its entire content. But the part I most remembered was where we talked about works and faith. You see, all religions and beliefs I know about rely on doing things to please God. The more good things you do, the more you please God and the better your chances after you die. The religion with which I was now being presented acknowledged that while doing good things did please God, it was simply not enough. The tent campaign leader (Mr Big) then went on to cite a chap by the name of Martin Luther (no, not Martin Luther King). This Luther lived a few hundred years ago and did just about everything he could to please God. But suddenly, while he was performing some particularly uncomfortable religious exercise, a line from the bible came into his thoughts. Those few words were: ‘the just shall live by faith’. Suddenly, Luther realised that whatever he did, however hard he tried, he could not please God by doing things.
God requires that something else be done; something quite extraordinary: to trust and believe that God’s Son, Jesus, has died on the cross so that all would be eternally forgiven and made perfect: that’s the ‘faith’ bit. The good works: the ‘just’ (or behaving rightly) bit, comes afterwards.
I had no answers and simply felt very wretched. And after retiring to our bedroom for the night, I sobbed incessantly in what seemed like a blackened void, and comforted only by my wife, I felt devoid of just about everything; soul and spirit included. The next morning when we were due to leave, I was utterly miserable and almost totally silent. It seemed that the entire weekend was a mistake, especially with a catalogue of petty disasters with the car. It was only sometime later when I realised that the car problems were merely a small part in a greater spiritual battle. On our way back home, I was silent. I insisted on driving and said nothing. Suddenly, and the reason escapes me, I pulled onto a grass verge and asked my wife to drive. As I got out of the car and looked across the fields, the most wonderful sight met my eyes. The fields, trees, hedges and sky were clearer and sharper than I had ever seen them before. It was as though the very molecules had re-formed themselves into a resolution and clarity outside the laws of physics. For those few brief minutes; I don’t remember how long it lasted, I have never seen a landscape so indescribably breathtaking and wonderful. No view, painting or photograph has before or since matched that scene. As we were getting back inside the car, I said “Now I understand”. And the gloom, darkness and oppression had at that moment been lifted from me. Christ’s wonderful love and compassion was freely poured over me and I experienced a peace and joy way outside and beyond Man’s wit, wisdom or words. Now whenever we drive along that trunk road in Warwickshire and pass the spot where my life was turned around, I say “that’s where I became a Christian!”
View previous Reflection articles
A Home for the Lord
The New Age of Martyrs
A God of Second Chances
Acceptance & Rejection
More Thoughts on Christmas
Thoughts on Christmas
The Vastness of Creation
Home is where the Heart is
Beyond Fear to Exhiliarating Trust
Sticks and Stones
Beauty in the Chaos
God and Creation
The Lord is near
Having fun and taking new steps with our friends
A friend who stands where we stand, and weeps with us
Remain in Me
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