21 Years and God is good – My Story

21 years ago, Nicholas Leslie Rona, was born. Not in a palace nor in a lowly stable. To be precise, Mr Rona was born in the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton, Hampshire, to an Irish mother and a Hungarian father, who welcomed the third and final edition to their growing army of sons.

Some of you will recognise the first two names, and then wonder who Rona is. Well I can happily tell you that my surname was Rona for the first four years of my life. Though I remember very little about my birth Dad, Raymond Rona, I know he was a wonderful man, who loved God and cared immensely for his wife and children before he died in 1994.

Love

I can’t remember a time when I have never felt loved by someone, and for that I am very thankful. My parents loved me dearly as I grew up (and they’ve kept it up somehow until the present day), and I’m told that even my older brothers showed some fraternal affection for me in my early years.

I feel enormously privileged to have grown up in such a caring family (I have forgiven them for giving me the middle name Leslie). My birth father was a loving man, and my step-dad Andrew Spear has been a wonderful model of love since marrying my Mum back in 1995 and bravely adopting a trio of cricket fanatics; my two older brothers Richard and Duncan, and I.

Family relationships are great, and I am very thankful and enormously privileged to have had such a happy childhood.

However, there is one love that has been missing from the story so far, the love that really matters in my life, the love that defines who I am and what I live for. Namely, the love of God seen supremely in the man Jesus Christ.

Missed the Point

I had heard about God’s love since being a young child, but I didn’t understand it. I read fantastic stories in my children’s Bible and heard great things He had done in my parent’s lives, but still I didn’t really get it. In fact, I completely missed the point of Christianity and who Jesus was for a number of years as I grew up.

You see, morally speaking, I was a very good kid. I went to church each Sunday, I got on with my friends, didn’t murder anyone, and never stole any lollipops or bubble gum from the local newsagents. I wasn’t perfect, as I knowingly still disobeyed my parents occasionally and told a few porkies but it was nothing compared to the ‘sins’ of the rest of my peers.

And so I seemed to think that I was heading for heaven because surely my good deeds outweighed my bad ones, and I was a lot better than most people and wasn’t hell bound because hell was for really bad people like Hitler, Judas and the Devil.

But at age 13, while away on holiday, something changed. The penny dropped. Before this, I had not understood who Jesus really was. In my mind, he was a great man, who had good teachings on life, but had tragically been killed while a young man, but that somehow forgiveness was possible through his death on the cross. Or perhaps I just thought he was some kind of make believe character like Santa Claus.

But of course forgiveness wasn’t something I needed much of because in my eyes I hadn’t done much wrong.

Jesus is absolutely the only good guy in my story

The holiday I went on was a conference explaining the message of the Bible to teenagers. And for the first time I realised that God wasn’t interested with how I matched up to my peers. He was only interested in how good I was in comparison to Jesus. And because Jesus is the only perfect man to have ever lived, the odds weren’t good. I was proud of my good deeds, causing me to look down on others, and was therefore self-righteous, and I started to become a hypocrite and quite frankly thought that God was lucky to have me on his side. Jesus has stern words for people like that (see Matthew 23), calling them whitewashed tombs and vipers, whose destiny is destruction.

This message really burst my balloon. God didn’t love my good deeds, they were as filthy rags before him. My motivation for doing good was to look good to others, gain access to heaven and to feel great about myself. I realised that I had ignored God and it was ridiculous to think that my good deeds could grant me a place in heaven. What I believed is the essence of religion, that what you do earns you God’s favour.

But Christianity is not religion, it is relationship. To be precise, it is the relationship between God and people made possible only by Jesus living a sin-less life and dying the death that we deserve for the way we have treated Him.

On the cross, Jesus took all the wrong thoughts, words, actions I had thought, said and done against Him, and he died for them, endured all of God’s anger (because a good God is understandably angry against evil) and then he did something even more incredible. He didn’t stay dead!

Jesus rose from the grave! The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is compelling (read The Case for Christ, or tune into websites like http://reason.cck.org.uk/or http://www.reasonablefaith.org or look at this short article). The Bible recognises that without the resurrection of Jesus, Christians would be most pitied because they would worship a God who is dead, and Jesus wasn’t who He said He was. But Jesus rose from the dead! His resurrection proves his power of death, sin and evil. Jesus is not the meek and mild figure sometimes depicted in paintings or on television, He is God and He is capable of leading you back into relationship with the God who made you. He is awesome, and knowing God is the greatest thing.

Human beings are made for relationship, and we’re wired to look for happiness in our lives. I don’t know anyone in my life who has said they would rather be unhappy than happy. Well, in Jesus, we have the ultimate relationship that brings everlasting joy. Happiness in found in knowing the God who made you.

I want to urge you to look into this further and not to dismiss the Bible or Jesus as fiction if you are not a Christian and never considered looking into who Jesus is. To become a Christian is not a decision of blind faith, but rather a reasonable decision of faith given the historical evidence for who Jesus is and what He has done.

Christianity – the good life?

But it is a big decision. Will you stop ignoring God and start living for Him?

I can testify that life didn’t become incredibly easy when I became a Christian. I still struggle to do things for God and regularly fail to do so. Not everyone accepts my lifestyle, I don’t feel at home on this earth, and look forward one day to being with my Lord and Saviour in heaven where death, suffering and evil will have no place. I don’t always walk around with a smile on my face because life this side of heaven is hard. But there’s still joy in times of suffering, even when I am the cause of such suffering, which is often the case. I no longer dread death, and I care more about other people than I used to because my God cares about them. When things don’t go according to plan, God is always trustworthy and His promises never fail.

The Bible tells an incredible story of a loving God who seeks out and redeems people who have gone away from Him. The best thing about it is that it is true!

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