Sue’s testimony to the Grace of God was mentioned in the service and copies were made available for people to takeaway. I’m pleased to say they all went. I remember Sue agonising over writing this, so concerned was she to get it right. Several times she asked me to read it and make sure everything was as it should be to Glorify her Saviour. It’s a powerful testimony to the SAVING power of the Gospel of the Grace of God. But not only that, it’s a powerful testimony to the KEEPING power of the Gospel of the Grace of God. He SAVES & KEEPS. I think as Christians we can so easily neglect the latter.
I grew up in a non-Christian home and although I never attended church, I did go to a Church of England school where I suppose I must have received some sort of religious instruction but as far as I am aware I did not hear the gospel. However I grew up never doubting the existence of God, and as I look back I can see that the process of coming to faith in Christ started all those years ago.
When I was eleven, the local vicar came into school seeking to drum up candidates to attend confirmation classes. My friend and I decided to go along. However I had never been baptised and as this was a requirement of attendance I had a problem. I desperately wanted to be confirmed and can remember being consumed with the need to be baptised. As a result I dragged my bewildered parents along to the village church to be ‘sprinkled’.
I did go on to be confirmed, and even took communion on a couple of occasions, but this early attempt at being a Christian was not to last and as I look back I can see all I had was ‘religion’, there had been no true work of grace in my heart.
Gradually the world, together with painful personal circumstances, began to take their toll. Over the next few years the cracks that had begun to appear in my parent’s marriage began to worsen and the effects of their constant warring and final separation profoundly affected my emotional state of mind.
Over the following years I continued to fall deeper into sin and to also bear the consequences of it. By 23 my parents had separated for good, and I was working. I think that it was at this time the Lord began in earnest his work of salvation in me, and I once again began to think about God and began to be concerned about the way I was living.
At the time I was working in a residential hostel for children with severe learning difficulties. One day when on duty with a colleague that I knew to be a Christian I had the desire to instigate some sort of conversation about God. In order to do so I can remember bringing up the weather and saying that ‘not even God can control the weather.’ My comment had the desired effect and from that day a door was opened never to be shut again. During the course of one of our many conversations I learnt that she was married to someone I had gone to primary school with. The lad in question had been a really naughty boy, always in trouble – a real ‘rum’un’ as they say. I found out that he too had become a Christian and this astonished me. How could someone like him change so radically?
Over the next few months Sharon gave me a booklet about the Ten Commandments, together with books by David Wilkerson (The Cross and the Switchblade) and Nicky Cruz (Run baby Run). These in particular were to have a profound effect on me, and for the first time I began to think about Jesus. I was reading how he was able to work in the hearts of seemingly hopeless cases and give them the power to live transformed lives. For the first time I had begun to consider my own relationship with Jesus, and to be truly concerned about my eternal soul. There was a growing realisation that because of my sins I actually deserved to go to hell and not to heaven as I had always assumed.
For many months I remained under conviction of sin and once again I (capital I) sought to reform my life. Over time though it became apparent that nothing had really changed, I was still unable to conquer my sin and the power to live a transformed life like the people I had been reading about was completely absent. As a result when faced with a situation that I should have walked away from, I did not, and it was to cause me to descend into such depths of despair that I believe if the Lord had not intervened, it would not have been long before, at best, I would have been committed into a mental institution, but more likely be dead. However the Lord knew what he was doing and he had His hand upon me; He knew that I needed to get to that desperate state before I would truly turn to Him.
This indeed was the turning point in my life. I knew God was saying ‘enough is enough’ and I needed to repent and turn to Him, but where did I start? Amongst the literature I had been given there was a small booklet or tract and at the back there was what I think would be called ‘the sinners prayer’ I can remember writing it out and praying it – that was the start.
As an aside-
Up until now when ever I have been asked, I have always said that I don’t know when I was converted, but that it happened over a period of about eighteen months under the ministry of Peter Jeffrey and Clive Gouldon. However there were several things that happened after I prayed that prayer that have always puzzled me and have caused me to ask if I wasn’t converted at this point, how come they happened?
I believe the things that I experienced over the following months cannot be explained in any other way than miraculous.
For instance I was a very heavy smoker, practically a chain smoker. I knew that smoking was wrong, so one night I threw away all my cigarettes together with a gold plated lighter and prayed that the Lord would help me to stop smoking. The next morning my prayer was answered, and for the first time in many years I did not want a cigarette. He had completely delivered me from all my cravings; they had totally been taken away – and other than a small relapse a year later, I have never smoked again. There was also a transformation in my emotional well being, the gnawing sense of insecurity that had always eaten away at me vanished and I felt a strength and a security I had never known before and there was real joy in my heart. I no longer sought security in other people and I was given the power to say no to things that previously had complete control over me.
I knew that I needed to go to a church, previously Sharon had taken me to a house group fellowship but I felt it wasn’t for me. I also tried going back to the village church but that didn’t seem right for me either. I then remembered Sharon had said that I should get a Bible and that I could get one at the Christian bookshop in Leamington. So one day I went along, and there I met the owner who some of you may know – David Arnold. I can’t remember anything of the conversation other than he must have asked me if I was a Christian. I can remember saying ‘yes but I know I don’t look like one’ and then promptly bursting into floods of tears. Poor David he was so kind.
At the time he and his family were travelling over to Rugby and attending Railway Terrace Church, he must have asked me if I would like to go as well. From then on I began to attend Railway Terrace regularly with them.
Although as I say many things changed, and my life was nowhere near what it had been, it was however not what it should have been. I had been given power to conquer many besetting sins, but after a while when temptation came I chose to cling to things that I should not have.
Therefore I think the conviction of sin and lack of assurance I felt when I heard the gospel preached at Railway Terrace, was because I was grieving the Lord in not walking wholly with Him. God wanted all of my life not just part of it. Consequently the joy that I had initially felt left me and the next 18 months were hard and unhappy times. Well the Lord did not give up on me and eventually over this time He dealt with the things that were grieving him and I at long last came to gain the assurance that my sins were forgiven.
As these dark days came to an end I was granted a token of great blessing by the Lord by way of going to live with David and Fi Arnold and their family. It was as if the Lord was saying to me ‘right I can trust you now’ and all the joy that I had experienced during those first remarkable days returned.
I have only even given my testimony once publicly and until now have never written the events down. Although I have found the process of doing so very difficult, the Lord has enabled me to finally get everything down and in so doing perhaps make sense of what happened. But when all is said and done all that really matters is that I know that I am His now and that my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And although He knew me before the foundation of the world, perhaps when I reach glory I might be permitted to see the date of entry when I was born again in time.
By nature I am an anxious worrier and the Lord knew that I would need something to hold me through further times of doubting. Although the process of coming to faith in Christ was an extremely painful one I am so thankful for it because over the years when I have been tempted to doubt my salvation I have been able to look back at the person I was before Christ met with me and know that that person would never have been capable of living the life that He through his grace has enabled me to live.
Over the past 27 or so years He has steadfastly kept me, He has graciously borne with my many faults and failings and has been my rock through times of trial and distress. There have been many times when my love for Him has grown dim but mercifully His love towards me has ever remained constant and over the years He has granted me many blessings, not least my dear husband Mike and our three wonderful children Christopher, Philip and Lydia.