My name is Steve and I am the pastor of Sanderstead Evangelical Church, South Croydon. I was born in Kingston-upon-Thames, and I spent the first nineteen years of my life trying to find happiness without God. Although I had a nominal Roman Catholic upbringing, as a teenager, there wasn't much to distinguish me from the average non-religious young person. Intellectually I believed in God; experientially I wanted Him to keep His distance – except in times of trouble, of course. All this changed when I left school and started work.
My first job, at seventeen, was as a restaurant waiter. There was much that was positive about this period; yet it was also a troubling time. The more I entered the adult world, joining its social scene, doing the things you're supposed to do to be fulfilled, the emptier life seemed. I sensed how lost people were, going about their routines without knowing the purpose of life. And, as I reflected, I realised this was true of me too.
About this time, I also became conscious of personal moral hypocrisy. For example, if I saw someone doing something wrong, I would condemn them in my thoughts. Yet, when I did the same, I would proudly justify my behaviour. I tried to change. But pride and hypocrisy would always return. For the first time I became aware of an inner evil which I was powerless to tame. My conscience was in turmoil.
To make matters worse, I also became paranoid about dying. I kept thinking of how life might suddenly end, perhaps by a freak accident or terminal disease. Initially I tried to suppress this fear by 'living for the moment'. But thoughts of mortality wouldn't go. What's more, I felt sure there was an afterlife; something inside of me seemed built for eternity. What would that afterlife be like? Where would I spend it?
Now approaching my nineteenth year, I tried desperately to improve my situation. Taking up transcendental meditation, I travelled to Europe for two months, in the pursuit of enlightenment and fulfillment abroad. Of course these things didn't work. For one thing the meditation was only a sophisticated relaxation technique. It couldn't provide answers to questions about the meaning of life, a guilty conscience or eternal certainty. Neither did travelling abroad solve anything. All it left me with were happy memories and a suntan.
Essentially I came back the same person I was when I left. In fact I was more miserable now, convinced I'd exhausted all hope of finding rescue from my troubles. Where, or who, could I turn to next?
It wasn't long after returning from my travels that I met an old schoolfriend. He'd started attending a local evangelical church in Surrey and invited me to go too. Feeling I had nothing to lose, I agreed. This was to be the turning point I had been looking for.
The first thing that struck me about the church was the love, joy and peace that characterised its members. They seemed to have that elusive happiness I desperately wanted. Where did they get it? Time and again the same answer was given: Jesus Christ. So, over the following months, I started to listen to the sermons and began reading the New Testament for myself.
I now saw that the gospel of Christ offered clear solutions to the problems I'd been encountering: the emptiness of life; a guilty conscience; fear of death. I understood that God's Son, who declared Himself to be the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), could give lasting peace through His death, resurrection and life giving Spirit.
And so, one evening in 1990, I reversed a decision I'd made several years previously. I stopped trying to find happiness without God. Instead I turned to Jesus for forgiveness and life with God. I'd finally learned my lesson. Have you?
My name is Meena and I come from a Hindu background. I am the youngest of one brother and three sisters. My parents were born and brought up in India and moved to Birmingham, England, in the late 1960s.
Whilst I was growing up my mum would often go to the local Hindu temple and I would go with her. She would tell me to pray in front of the photos of different gurus depicted there. I did this but I didn’t know who I was praying to.
Sometime in 1996 my sister became a Christian. This was a very big step for someone in our family to take. When she told our parents they didn’t take it well. She had a hard time from them, and other relatives, for a long while after. In spite of this my sister would regularly read and pray with me and I would listen. She encouraged me to read the Bible, which I did, but when I read its words, their meaning was a mystery to me.
One evening my dad was angry with my sister for being a Christian. He turned and looked at me, asking if he should look for a Hindu partner for me for marriage. I told him that I couldn't answer this and the question scared me. It made me think about my future: who and in what way would I marry? What I did know was that I didn’t want to marry a Hindu in a Gudhwara anymore.
Even though I hadn’t trusted in Christ, I knew deep down that He was ‘the way, the truth, and the life’. Yet I wasn’t sure if I could make a commitment to Him yet. I had seen how family and relatives had resented my sister's faith. I assumed I would have to face the same tension if I became a Christian. At the time I was also doing well in my job and I didn't want life to become more complicated than necessary.
In 2000 I was reading John 3:36 which says 'Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.' I was suddenly gripped by the realisation that I was a sinner under God's judgment. But I was also amazed to know that the Lord Jesus had come to remove my guilt and give me new life. I asked the Lord to forgive me for my sins and I committed my life to him.
At first I was afraid to tell my parents of my commitment to Christ. But eventually I told my mum, after she asked me if I was reading the Bible. She was upset with me and tried to dissuade me for a long time. However, when I told my dad, to my surprise, he didn't react badly but seemed to accept my choice.
Since coming to know the Lord I have been constantly amazed at His love for me. In John 3:16 Jesus says ‘for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. That whosoever believes upon him should not perish but have eternal life’. Since trusting the Lord I have an inner peace and joy which the world cannot give.
When I am going through difficulties and struggles I know I am not alone: the Lord is with me at all times. I also know that one day, beyond this life, I will go to be with my Saviour in heaven. My hope and prayer is that anyone who doesn’t have this certain hope will come to find it through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
Visualise a mother telling a Bible story to her seven year old daughter at bedtime. The story is about a caring shepherd who went out in search of his one lost sheep. It ends with him coming back with rejoicing having found and rescued his straying creature.
The story made a great impression on the little girl who suddenly felt this story speaking to her: just like the sheep she was lost. And just like the sheep, she was sought out and rescued by Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He loved and cared for her so much He was willing to die for her. By the way, that little girl was me!
My name is Heather and, as a Christian, I know I have been forgiven, and reconciled to God my Heavenly Father. He has given me the gift of eternal life – life in all its fullness. I have unspeakable joy in my heart and a peace that passes all understanding.
Ever since that night I first heard that story, Jesus has been the rock and foundation of my life. In my experience, when life appears to be uncertain, Jesus remains steadfast and sure and I know that there is no clearer and perfect path than to look to the One who said, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
As I look back over my life so far, knowing Jesus the true Shepherd has made all the difference. Through good times and testing times, I have proven His peace and experienced His love. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ I can say with certainty is my story and my song. Not least during my 2003-2006 battle with cancer. Over this time I underwent two major operations as well as a gruelling course of chemotherapy that lasted several months. Even when passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death His peace and strength upheld me.
None of us knows what the future holds, but I know the One who holds the future. In Him I put my trust. Will you?