The Bible states that “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance” – In other words, God never changes His mind about those whom He brings to Himself – He loves them eternally and unconditionally, and I would love to tell you how true that has been in my case.
I was raised in a nominally Christian home where we were firmly taught the moral and social principles which one expects of a Christian. Moreover, we were taught that God loves us and that gentle Jesus takes care of little children. However, those things at the very heart of the Bible - the holiness of God, the sinful, lost condition of each one of us, and our absolute need for Christ were regarded as belonging to an unnecessarily severe kind of religion. Surely God's sense of fair play would override all else, so long as we were well-intentioned, whatever our beliefs.
However, one Sunday evening when I was fourteen years old I listened to a preacher who showed from the Bible that we all need a Saviour from our sins. I had heard the Gospel presented many times before, but somehow for the first time I understood that it applied to me personally. I realized that eternity lies before us, and that all the affairs and considerations of this present life were pitifully insignificant in light of this sinner’s need for Christ. How the Lord impresses these things upon the human heart I do not know, but He graciously helped me that night to receive Him as my own Saviour by simple faith.
I wish I could say that my life was one of uninterrupted spiritual progress from that day on, but I cannot. It saddens me to reflect upon how, in my later teenage years I gradually became more and more entangled in worldly things, and correspondingly I walked at a greater and greater distance from the Lord. I had never been properly grounded in the Bible, and being so woefully ignorant of God’s precepts for living, I was deceived by the temptations of the world, and had drifted away. Perhaps I was not more evil in my habits than Mr Average, but the problem was that I was no better either! The world had simply absorbed me.
How unhappy are my memories of those years! They were full of anxiety and restlessness more than any man experiences who has never known Christ. For once we are His, there can be no peace and contentment unless we are near Him. Moreover, I met and married my dear wife, Liz during this period, and my morose condition was certainly a burden for her to bear, as she was not a Christian at that time, and had no inkling of the spiritual conflict in my life.
This unhappy condition continued until our first daughter was about four years old, and like many others I suspect, the Lord began to use my child to bring me to my senses: Where was I leading her? It dawned on me that this precious little one’s future depended so much on the reality and depth of her father’s spiritual life, and so for the first time in a long while, I exercised some honesty before God, and turned again to Him with all my heart. How gracious He is in His dealings with those who fear Him.
The years rolled by, and under the teaching of a good and patient pastor, I began to truly love God's word and to understand His precepts. As understanding grew, so did my grieving for the needs of the Lord's Church here in New Zealand, as I saw her being weakened by worldliness and deceived by mysticism. Yet, being like Moses, "slow of speech, and of a slow tongue", and possessing few discernable strengths, I never imagined that a tradesman like me would ever be in a position to exert any great influence for good.
However, one day my left knee became swollen. This was not unusual, as I was born with haemophilia, and internal bleeding resulting from minor incidents is just part of my life. However, this time, it would not settle despite the hospital's best efforts. Weeks became months, my job was terminated, and I was left wondering what a man on crutches could do with his time.
It was then that the chaplain at the local hospital convinced me that a Christian on crutches would be quite capable of getting around the wards doing part-time chaplaincy work, and so I did - for nearly two years in fact. (Though, so satisfying did I find this work, it tended to be somewhat more than part-time.) It was here that God demonstrated, to my complete surprise, that He could enable me to function in pastoral work for Him, and thus convinced, I began to make plans to train for the ministry (though still no sign of my poor leg returning to normal).
We moved away to the city of Auckland, where my wife & I settled down to four years in Bible School. However, I had a definite conviction of heart that God would not have me study while on welfare, and so we mortgaged our little house back home and purchased a commercial cleaning business. It was a matter of faith considering my physical condition, but if God blessed it would allow me keep a family of five by working nights while attending lectures during the day. No sooner was the paperwork completed then, after two and a half years of getting about like Long John Silver, the Lord in His kindness returned my knee to it's old self, and I have never had to get my crutches from the wardrobe since. How good it is to look back and thank God for my difficulties, for they have proved to be the portals of blessedness!
That was over fourteen years ago now, and for the last eight of them, He has honoured me with the care of a church here in Auckland, serving some of the dearest of His saints. If you are ever down here in the south Pacific, you are sure to find us if you just look up a church called "Faith" in the Auckland phone book. We'd love to see you.
Auckland, New Zealand