How The Great Controversy book changed my life

– John Bradshaw, speaker/director of It Is Written

I began my career in radio, and it really was quite successful, but I had to do what all young New Zealanders seemed to do – I left my home, following in the footsteps of my older sister, and travelled to London, England. All the while I’m looking for meaning in my faith.

I went to Midnight Mass at the Stoke Newington church near where I was living. Nothing! It was flat, and I actually saw the priest smack one of the altar boys for doing something wrong, and I thought: Never! I’m done with these guys!

Well, that was December. Shortly after, I travelled to the Republic of Ireland. My father’s mother was born in Ireland, and I was there, trying to climb as high up the family tree as I possibly could. So there I was in Limerick, staying in a room upstairs in a pub. I went to Saint Saviours Church, convinced that I was going to find meaning in my faith; convinced that here in Ireland, this uber-Catholic country, was where I’d find meaning and relevance to my faith in God. I’ll discover Jesus, perhaps.

At Saint Saviours Church an elderly priest mumbled his way through the service. I thought it would be packed, but there were about 20 people there. I walked back to the pub and I stopped in the street, looked up towards heaven and said out loud,

‘Lord, I’m never going back to church ever again until You show me the truth.’

Perhaps it wasn’t the fault of the church – maybe it was me – but whatever it was, I wasn’t finding Jesus, and I wasn’t finding real answers to my questions.

Now, eight years before, my brother, a Seventh-day Adventist, had given me a copy of the book The Great Controversy. I started reading the introduction but never made it any further.

Four years later he gave me another copy. I decided to skip the introduction and began on page 1. I didn’t make it any further.

I wrote to him before I went to Ireland, and I said, ‘You know, Wayne, I’m looking for meaning in my faith. I feel as though I need to read this book. Can you tell me in London where I can find one?’ When I got back from Ireland to Stoke Newington, there was a parcel waiting for me from my brother containing a third copy of The Great Controversy.

So, late at night, I’d run a bath and sit in the bathtub and read my book. I started, this time, in the middle. I read to the end and then went back to the beginning. As I read ‘Can our dead speak to us?’ questions were answered. As I read ‘Liberty of conscience threatened’, questions were answered. As I read ‘Heralds of the morning’, questions were answered.

But, most of all, as I read I found Jesus, and I found the answer to my questions – imperfectly at first; later this would be developed. I don’t have to be good enough to go to Heaven! I cannot be good enough to go there. But what I can do is accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, and immediately I’m credited with His goodness, and He lives His life in me to grow me more and more unto the measure and stature of the fullness of Christ.

As I read The Great Controversy I met Jesus and accepted Him as my personal Lord and Saviour. I had thought about throwing the book across the room, because I knew if I followed what I knew to be true, my life would change dramatically and irretrievably.

There would be no more radio broadcasting, where I was paid to be a professional fool; there’d be no more rugby – that would have to go, because that was on a Saturday; there’d be no more drinking – although, to be perfectly honest, too many nights at the Prince of Wales in Stoke Newington had cured me of my drinking habit. I’d have to explain some things to my family and friends.

I didn’t know what I would do with the rest of my life. I believed there was a God who could guide. So I didn’t throw the book across the bathroom. I bowed my head as I shivered in the bath and I prayed,

‘Lord, I give You my heart. I want to go Your way. I invite You to be the God of my life. Live Your life in me, through me; let it be that.’

The next day I called the operator. ‘Hello; can I have the number, please, of the Seventh-day Adventist cathedral?’

She said, ‘I can’t find a cathedral anywhere.’

I responded, ‘There’ll be one downtown – that’s where St Paul’s is; the Baptists have a big place down there; the Adventists will have one too.’

She said, ‘I have a Seventh-day Adventist church in W1.’ (That would be the New Gallery church on Heddon Street.)

‘That’s it!’ I said. ‘That’s the cathedral.’

I called the number, and a man answered, ‘Bueno.’ I didn’t realise there was a Spanish congregation there, and a Mexican pastor answered the phone, but he was able to get a message to Pastor David Cox, who called me several days later. ‘Hello, John Bradshaw? Nice to meet you. I’d love to come and visit you.’

‘Oh, I couldn’t have you do that, Pastor? I’ll come to you.’

He said, ‘Why don’t you come out on Wednesday evening?’ and I think he added, ‘We’re studying the book of Revelation.’

Well, that was all I needed. At the New Gallery church I was accepted – long hair, scruffy beard, earrings, tatty old clothes and all – they loved me and accepted me. I made good friends, who cared for me and helped me to grow. Pastor Cox was a nurturing, biblical pastor who always pointed me to the Bible. In 1991 Pastor Cox baptised me in the New Gallery and my life has never ever been the same.

And I want to encourage you. Know Jesus. Know the power of Jesus living His life in you. And understand something about the power of the printed page. Seventh-day Adventist books had everything to do with pointing me to the Bible and to faith in Jesus, and if you can share a book with someone, even if they don’t read it at first, share it anyway. Even if it doesn’t seem to impact their life, pray about it. It’s a silent witness a person can turn to any time and find faith in Jesus. May God bless you. My prayer is that you will know the God that I got to know.

I’d like to pray with you now.

Heavenly Father, I’m so thankful for the way that You led in my life.

If You hadn’t led me to Great Britain, to England, I don’t know how I would have got from lost to found. In Your goodness and mercy You led me to the right people, the right church, the right books, the right influences that convinced me that Your love was everything. Thank You for Your great goodness and the promise we have that Jesus is coming back soon. Keep us till then, we pray. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

May God richly bless you.

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The full version of this article was first published in Messenger, October 2021.  Used with permission.

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