At Easter 1985 I went to a J John evangelism talk. J John said that you could take the Bible, assume it is true and act on that assumption. Test it out for six months or so, believing it completely during that time, and then you could look back and see whether it had made a difference to you. I decided to give it a go for myself.
I got a Bible and highlighted it in different colours. One colour highlighted practical instructions – these being the things I now needed to do, and then a different colour for the blessing which should follow that particular action. I found out quite soon that a lot of the Bible is written in this ‘IF you do this, then THAT will happen’ style, which is quite easy to test out in this way.
I checked things out for myself in the Bible since that is the source text although I also read Christian books as well as the Bible.
When I discovered I was supposed to pray I started a notebook with some columns for the items I had prayed for and more columns for whether anything had happened yet on that item. That’s about it on prayer – until I found it had to be ‘in God’s will’ for it to be prayed for and happen. Finding out what was in God’s will slowed me down a bit and involved quite a lot of looking up verses using my Cruden’s concordance. (A concordance is a really useful book which lists all uses of a particular word in the Bible. There wasn’t Google search back then!)
Of course after a while I came across various things I discovered that I needed to believe, for example Romans 10:8 and that was a new thing to investigate as well. I had a strange vision like experience round this verse as I saw God taking Jesus out of the tomb and restoring life to Him.
After about six months it was all going well. I was even quite enjoying it.
There was a Landrover being refurbished by the church which was due to go to a missionary in Madagascar. This clearly seemed to me to be in God’s will and I prayed it would be a blessing and get there safely and so on. So did the church. Someone in the church had spent a year replacing lots of parts for this elderly Landrover and they had repainted it and so on. Some things I prayed for were less clear, but on the Landrover I was sure i was praying in tune with God’s will, and that this would all happen.
We had the handover service in church with the missionary but then the next day someone broke into the locked garage and STOLE the Landrover. I was gutted. I’d prayed by the rules. It made me realise how much I’d come to rely on this Christian way by now.
I hung on with the believing in God thing for about a week, expecting the Landrover to be found, but nothing happened. The theft was even on Crimewatch! After nothing happened I gave up on it all and decided that there wasn’t a God after all, since it didn’t work in practice.
Two weeks later a local firm donated a brand new Landrover, because they had heard about the theft on Crimewatch. So the missionary got a brand new one, which was way better! And I…
Well, I had to go back to God and say…sorry.
Then He gave me another vision. It was like I was looking back down a valley from a mountain top. And I saw that in this journey there would be more valleys, times to trust Him followed by more mountaintop views where it all fell into place. And I said I would trust Him in the valleys from now on.
That was in 1985.
That’s the experiment, really. I found compelling evidence which is totally personal to me. In my memory there were two Landrovers donated, and the Madagascan Bishop got one as well, but the newspaper cutting only mentions one donation, so I’ll leave my evidence at that for this blog post. Can I add that my faith perhaps rests more on the sense of smugness I detected from Heaven when the new Landrover was donated, than on the fact that it was donated.
God is amazing, actually. It gives me goosebumps to relive it! Please share your stories in the comments.