As I grew up there were times when I had definite experiences of God and His mercy, but it wasn't until I was 23 years of age that I was Born again of the Spirit as described in (John 3:3-8) Up till that time I basically carried on living my own life to please myself, never understanding what it really means to be a christian, I was doing my own thing living for myself and making a mess of it.
Then one night I watched a program about the Shroud of Turin, which some think is the burial Shroud of Jesus, but I was curious about this and was just sitting back watching the program about the Shroud, when the thought suddenly hit me..........."What if Jesus really is true and He's coming back?!!!" It was quite a shock to my system - the fact was I was living life as if God didn't exist, and I started to catch a glimpse of what Judgement day means for those who do not belong to Jesus - it was too horrifying! - I knew I wasn't ready to meet Him. I could dimly remember the scripture that says about the wicked who run to the rocks of the mountains and cry "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" Revelation 6:15-17
I could not rationalise or wriggle my way out of it. That night I went upstairs to find a Gideon New Testament which had been given to me by the Gideons years before at school. I just had to check out what the Bible say's about Judgement Day and what happens to the wicked, I was like this for weeks reading it off and on, but I had no peace, I knew I was a sinner. I realise now it was the Holy Spirit convicting me, who Jesus promised would come. John 16:8-11.
Finally one night I knelt beside my bed, and weeping I started making my peace with God. That night I yielded my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, I knew my prayers had been heard, I had passed from death to life. A few days later while reading the New Testament I saw the awesome majesty of the Lord I had never seen before, I bowed my head and rested it on the Testament and was filled with the Holy Spirit - a power came into my life I had not known before.
This was in November 1982 I became a Christian, and it was the best thing that ever happened and I still wonder and marvel at what God did, I used to be afraid of death but now I look forward to spending eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ, its fantastic! Jesus promised that whoever drinks the water He gives will never thirst, indeed, the water He gives will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Those of us who have drunk the water Jesus gives will know the truth, the spring of water within is witnessing to us about the truth of His promise, its something the world simply does not know or understand many people demand evidence before they will believe and yet the evidence is here all along if we would but drink the water Jesus gives we would find evidence enough............Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17.
Throughout my life I had periods of drawing and painting but I never really knew how to make a living from it and what to do with it, when I became a Christian even though I looked at the gift in a new way - the gift was still an enigma and didn't understand God's will, some might say "Well how blind can you be" but I believe the Lord is the one who opens minds and hearts to understand wisdom - I also believe He is more interested in our character than what we actually do - and He was working on mine...and still is!
A number of years later one hot summers day I came inside after painting and was very frustrated, I complained to God that he had only given me half a gift as I couldn't make a living from painting - I was so uncertain about things, I had read about individuals who had allowed their gifting to take over their life and their relationship to God suffered - the Bible teaches the importance of building with silver and Gold, (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) I didn't want to make the mistake of placing the gift before the giver, as there is a problem for anybody who is gifted to allow their gifting to become an all consuming passion - one day we must give an account to the one who is both the Judge of the living and the dead.
So that day I decided to lay the gift down before God and stop painting, basically I prayed "Lord if you want me to paint, please show me and if you want me to paint - let me paint for your Glory" it was an awesome defining moment - I knew God had heard my prayer, I could sense His awesomeness and thought - "What have I done!" but I had peace, the responsibility for the gift was no longer mine, I had laid the gift down and was trusting not myself but the giver of the gift the Lord himself to show me.
During the years that followed I hardly painted except occasionally for a childrens club at church. I was fixed on trusting God to show me, so much so that when friends tried to convince me to take up painting regularly again, I would not - it became awkward at times if people wanted to talk to me about painting, and especially if they knew I could paint, many times I would have to tell people why I stopped and why I was so fixed on trusting God to show me, it was later at Youth With A Mission, God started to answer the prayers I prayed years before
In 1991, I applied to do a Discipleship training school with Youth With A Mission, (YWAM) at the Kings lodge near Nuneaton in England. I remember while I was driving my car to the Kings lodge, God speaking to me......The words came gently into my mind at first and I didn't notice as I was driving but then I became aware of these words "I have longed to do this in your life!" As I listened they began to sink deeper into me as I pondered what this could mean. As I drove closer and closer to the YWAM Kings lodge the words came over like the waves of the sea, over and over.....until I was so overcome I began to weep, and weep as I realized it was God Himself speaking. I had no idea what the Lord was meaning to do, but looking back I can see His gracious hand on my life, leading me into a deeper understanding of Himself and the gifts He had given.
During the Discipleship Training School a friend recommended a remarkable book called "Power in Praise" by Merlin Carruthers, while reading it I began recognising areas in my life I had been ungrateful to the Lord, and one thing that I realised was regarding the gift of painting - being so close to it I had never actually thanked God for the gift but now I also began realising the error of calling it only "half a gift" and was sorry. I changed my thinking and started thanking the Lord for the good gift.
This was the key which unlocked further blessing and revelation, even though to me it was still an enigma, now with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving I was asking God to show me if in fact he wanted me to paint, remembering the prayer I prayed years before and the awesome way the Lord made it known He had heard.
The Lord showed me how faithful he is by doing just that. During the YWAM DTS I went with a team to do an outreach to a local prison at Rugby, little did I know what the Lord had planned!
The Christian Union from Warwickshire University had organised the meeting with the prisoners and during it everyone was asked to draw on a piece of paper the following:
1 - Your first impression of God as a child.
2 - A turning point in your life.
3 - Your present relationship with the Lord
After we had drawn our pictures, each person in the groups were to share with the others about what the pictures mean, for me sketching and explaining the pictures about my testimony wasn't a big challenge, but the response from the prisoners made me realize just how much value the gift has - it was then it dawned on me, I realized God was using this experience to show me how I could use the gift for His Glory - The first picture I painted was based on the old Broad and the Narrow Way picture which can be seen below. Some years before my Auntie Florence kindly gave me an old copy of the picture with a booklet of the "History and Explanation of the picture" The version I made can be seen below right and painted it during the Discipleship Training School. We eventually took on outreach to Wales for 6 weeks.
Outreach Shrewsbury, Shropshire 1991/92
The Lord had indeed answered the prayers I prayed years before, and now I was to paint for Jesus sake and the Gospel! That was back in 1991, since then I have pursued this call in different ways up until the present time, and there is much more I could tell - but for now I just write this, I hope you have enjoyed reading and found this helpful.
I give thanks to God for the wonderful way He knows us and His infinite patience with me, He knows what we need each step of the way - His faithfulness and love endures forever and ever. Amen!
Peter N Millward