NEIL BUTLER : MY TESTIMONY  


When I was at primary school, I often wondered why other people had a strange habit of going to church every Sunday. It was, as far as I was concerned, something OTHER people did. My family was never very religious and so my idea of Sunday was as the second day of the weekend and not as anything very important.

In my last year at primary school, we were taught regularly by an old Christian woman by the name of Mrs. Simmonds. She taught the class about Jesus and all the works that He did. At the time I liked the lessons, but I saw them (as, sadly, most people do) just as nice stories made up for children to hear.

When I went to secondary school, there was less emphasis on learning about Jesus. Very little was said about Him except briefly in assemblies and religious education lessons. I began to view Biblical accounts as boring and wishing that we didn’t have to hear this “rubbish”.

I soon fell into bad ways at secondary school. For about two years, I lied constantly and did very little homework. All of my friends began to desert me and I soon began to feel depressed.

In my third year at secondary school, one of my younger friends, Lucien Harris, started at my school with one of his friends. We walked down to the bus stop every day together and I showed them the ropes. That other friend was Stephen Clarke, and it was through him that the Lord started His work with me.

Later that year I began to visit Stephen’s house more frequently, thus building up my relationship with him and his family. Later that year, Lucien asked me if I would like to come along to a weeknight meeting. I took him up on his offer and, on Thursday 23 June 1994, I went along for the first time.

This meeting was held in a local primary school by the Beacon Park Baptist Church and it was run by Stephen’s parents and other members of the church.  My first reaction to what I heard there was not a good one. I often thought to myself “I wish they would stop going on about all this rubbish. God doesn’t exist, and none of this is relevant to me”.

Over the following months I began an open rebellion against God. Every week at the meeting I would try to find proof (vainly, of course) that God did not exist and also to convince other people that this was the case. Even at school I challenged people’s opinions on the subject and insulted anybody who thought there was a god of any kind. Many of the people I went around with at the time were atheists and so I fitted in fairly well with them.

However, none of them were really true friends and, after being told to “Get lost” a number of times, I soon got the message that they didn’t want me around.

At that time I was also performing very badly in terms of school work. This was mostly on account of my tendency to lie constantly. As a result, both my school life and home life became very difficult. My parents became angry with me and I lost any friends I might have had at school.

This led to me becoming extremely depressed, and I even contemplated suicide a number of times. When Mr. Clarke found out, he told me that life is often depressing if we are apart from God. Sadly, at the time, I thought to myself: “Why does he keep going on about God? He’s got nothing to do with it!”  I did not want to accept God’s existence or that I needed the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour.

As a result of the weeknight meetings, I was often encouraged to attend services held on Sunday evenings. I eventually agreed and, in late 1994, I started going along. Again, I didn’t really think much about what was said, but over the next year or so, the Lord granted me a real interest in what I heard, although I was still too proud to accept it as the truth. I also still longed for the things of earth, and would rather watch a Formula One Grand Prix than hear about God.

Despite this, the Lord continued working in my heart and, in early 1996, my attitude began to change.  As the Bible was opened and explained to me week by week, its application and relevance to my life became clearer. From that time onwards I began to take spiritual matters more seriously, and I would rather go to church than do anything else.

On Easter Sunday, my family were not at home, so I decided to go to the Easter morning service. That afternoon I went to Sunday school for the first time. I think that this has been very useful to me, because it helped me to understand what the Bible was really saying to me.

At the end of July 1996, Mr. Clarke took the members of the weeknight meeting on a week’s holiday to Wales. In the evenings, he talked to us about the Bible and our need to come to God. We also heard the testimonies of two of the helpers who were with us - Martyn Ingham and David Lloyd. This week had a tremendous effect on me, and I was determined to seek and find the Lord as soon as I could.

During the winter term, I began to find that the things of this world were dull and unappealing, and that the only true Friend and Saviour I could have is the Lord Jesus, for He never disappoints His people.  Each week, during the Gospel service, the pastor prayed for “any who cannot yet say that the Lord Jesus Christ is their Saviour”.  I knew I was one of those people, and that I needed to come to Him, repenting of my sins and asking for forgiveness.

On Sunday, December 15, 1996, I prayed my first real prayer. I poured out my heart to God and confessed all my sins. That night, I realised the full importance of the death of the Lord Jesus. I knew that He had died for the sins that I had committed and that I owed a great deal to Him. I was sure that, through His mercy, my sins were forgiven and that I was one of His people. I asked not only for forgiveness but for the strength to preach His Word to other people. The very next day, I had my prayer answered when I spoke to my friends about God, which was something I could never have done on my own.

“For it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit”

(Mark 13:11)

I was filled with wonder and amazement that God had taken pity on a person like me, when I was one of the least deserving of His mercy because of my heavy burden of sin.

From that point on, I took advantage of every opportunity to hear His Word and to speak of this to others. Since then, I have had many prayers answered, and I know that God will continue to answer my prayers in the future.

I HOPE THAT YOU HAVE FOUND THIS USEFUL AND ENCOURAGING


Home