Here is the first in a series of articles in which some of the leaders in the Vineyard Movement describe how they came to faith in the first place. Eleanor Mumford gets the ball rolling . . .
I grew up in the country outside London, in a lovely house with a large garden. We lived happily, albeit modestly my sister and I, riding around unlike our wealthier village friends, on horses imagined out of bamboo canes and stuffed stocking heads. We were a God-fearing and church-going family for whom belief in God was never a problematic issue. My parents loved, and indeed served each other, faithfully for fifty years and for all that I remain deeply grateful.
However, I only came to a personal faith in Jesus as a student at St Andrews University where I shared a room with the godliest of girls who prayed for me daily for five frustrating years! I went to Chapel every Sunday, the place to see and be seen, and was on one occasion rivetted by a sermon delivered from John Knox’s famous pulpit, no less, on Philippians 1:21 ‘For me to live is Christ.’ This was no longer religion, this was something centred on the person of Jesus who made it personal, ‘for me’; practical, ‘to live’; possible, ‘is Christ’.
I discovered the real, deep joy which comes from knowing you are in touch with the living God — something no-one would ever exchange who has ever experienced it. Until that point I had enjoyed my life hugely but in a two-dimensional sort of way. Only when I eventually became a Christian, put my faith in Jesus, took to heart all that He had achieved for me personally, embraced all He was offering me by way of ‘life in all its fullness’, only then did I discover that there was a third dimension to living which had so far passed me by. There is adventure in living life with and for Jesus that nothing else can ever offer. And deep-down it was a life of adventure, a life that was worthwhile, a life that would make a difference in the great scheme of things, that I wanted to live.
This was no longer religion, this was something centred on the person of Jesus
So “Why am I a Christian?” Because I wanted to know that my past was taken care of, my present fulfilled and my future secure. That’s all! Because I found in the Person of Jesus someone so marvellous, so magnetic, so much fun to be around, so wise and so pleasing in every way. When Lord Hailsham first found Christ to be who He said He was, he wrote in his autobiography of ‘a laughing, joking Jesus . . . this happy and glorious man whose mere presence filled His companions with delight.’ He came to the conclusion that we would have been ‘absolutely entranced by the company of one so irresistibly attractive as a man’, so attractive indeed ‘that people followed him for the sheer fun of it’.
I find that being a Christian helps enormously when I am faced with some of the dilemmas that life affords as well as its delights. There is such a helplessness that I feel in the face of injustice or cruelty or unkindness at any level. There is a cry deep in the human heart to see justice done and righteousness prevail, and yet they so often seem so far off and so unattainable. ‘God does not pay at the end of every day, my Lord Cardinal, but at the end, He pays’, Queen Anne of France was reported to have said to Cardinal Richelieu. I have always hoped she did, for they are words that I have often found deeply reassuring. My certainty in the fairness of the Lord and His capacity to deliver absolute justice and judgment at the end of history is one of the facets of my faith I find most fulfilling.
If one were allowed to list one’s favourite doctrines, (which of course would be perfectly ridiculous) the Sovereignty of God would rank very high . . . along with the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus, the pouring out of His Spirit, the establishing of His Church, the authority of the Scriptures and so forth. Put like this, what a wealth of security the Lord gives us! But at the end of the day, I am a Christian because I love and trust the Lord completely, and have put all my faith in His Sovereignty, His being in utter control of all things at a cosmic level and knowing what is best for me at a deeply personal one. That the Lord who made the heavens and the earth, and sustains them by His sovereign breath, would be that intimately concerned with the next breath that I breathe is deeply moving to me . . . indeed, it almost takes my breath away!