GOD, THE EXTRAORDINARY MAN AND THE STUDENT

She was rather shy, from a country village. It was her first time in the city of London. She hadn’t really wanted to come here, but somehow the opinions of others and circumstances had combined, and here she was, a university fresher.

On the first day she made friends with a chatty northern redhead, and they wandered round the fresher stalls together, joining a vast number of clubs which they never then attended. On the way round they found a religious stall. She hadn’t been sure about God for a long time: he wasn’t real to her, but her redheaded friend was enthusiastic and, wanting to keep an open mind, she signed up too.

Come the first Sunday, she was somewhat surprised to find that the religious nuts were inviting all the freshers who had foolishly signed up, to go with them to a church called All Souls. The shy student pondered. They seemed friendly enough and they were making an effort. Nothing to lose – so off they all went.

Our student was astonished when she got inside the church. All the students sat upstairs in the gallery, and even so, the place was packed with hundreds of people. The singing was warm and convinced. She was familiar with a country church with retired people who mouthed their way through Matins. This was an altogether different sort of church.

Then the minister got up to preach. She’d never heard of him, a guy called John Stott.

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There were no histrionics, no wanderings about, no waving of arms, no emotional appeals. Quietly, he asked if anyone in church was wondering whether God was real. He went on to describe her thoughts so exactly that she was dumbfounded, wondering how he knew. She found she was sitting on the edge of her seat.

At the end, he said that if anyone wanted to find out more, they were invited to stay behind afterwards. So once the service was over she crawled down the stairs with hundreds of others and fought her way back into church against the tide of people leaving.

And there it happened. She sat there quietly, listening, with every fibre of her being saying ‘this, at last, is what I’ve been looking for all this time. This is it.’ She felt very emotional, and was afraid that’s all it was – emotion that wouldn’t last.

She said so to the counsellor who took her to one side, when she told John Stott she wanted to find out more. The counsellor’s words never left her: ‘I have followed Jesus Christ for 17 years, and I can tell you, it does last!’

The student can now say ‘I have followed Jesus Christ for 44 years, and I can tell you, it not only lasts, it gets better all the time.’

That student, dear reader, was me. I am remembering the late John Stott, who died yesterday at the age of 90. His quiet, unemotional preaching brought thousands of people into a living Christian faith, and taught thousands more so that their faith deepened and strengthened. He was one of the most influential Christian leaders of the 20th century, with a global influence and books translated into numerous languages.

He was never starry. He hated all that. It was all about Jesus. Nothing else mattered.

Tens of thousands like me thank the Lord for you, John. The direction of my life changed completely because of you. I am sure the trumpets sounded for you on the other side.

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21 thoughts on “GOD, THE EXTRAORDINARY MAN AND THE STUDENT

  1. Wow how amazing 🙂 I am so glad you had that experience…. and yes… many, many thanks to John Stott, he sounds a wonderful man, being instrumental in the transformation of so many lives. xxx

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      1. There’s a huge outpouring of tributes from all over the world … a bit like a Pope dying, I guess! … he was a very quiet and humble man, hated talking about himself, refused all sorts of honours and preferments, and gave the royalties from all his books to a charity dedicated to theological education for pastors in third-world countries. I was sooooooooooooooo blessed to hear him!

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  2. I used to visit a minister of the church of england who lived about thirty miles away i had known him from a child and now he was getting on a bit but he was my friend whatever, when ever, his door was always open to me and he would listen to me. 0ne day i said to him that nobody could help my situation and for the first time he mentioned god when he said,”god can”, i looked at him and said “You really believe that dont you”, and he said,”yes”. I left that day seeing things differently and it was the start of many changes for the good in my life.xx

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    1. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit works sometimes through a throwaway comment, although I feel sure he had thought carefully about what to say to you. I am glad it helped, Aven.

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      1. I had seen the trust and the faith he had in god so i knew he meant it and he never lectured me about god infact i dont remember him mentioning god atall until then. I never really knew what it was that led me to go to him there must have been some one nearer i could have gone to when my x husband was beating me up but always i went to him and always his door was open to me even when i turned up battered one easter monday.xx

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      2. It was very meaningful to me too, to see other people I loved and respected who had a true faith in God, even when I didn’t have one myself.

        May blessings be upon your minister, Aven. He had a true pastoral and caring heart.

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  3. Thank you very much for sharing this story of a teacher, your teacher with us. I have never heard of this man, but from the little you wrote about him, I was able to see him as if he was standing in front of me. And I felt a sense of gratitude towards him, even if he had just shown you the wayÂ… though I knew that he had reached many people, and been able to share his faith. I know too, that his way is not the only way or the best way. Perhaps there are teachers and religious leaders who wave their arms and get emotionalÂ… and seem ridiculous to a lot of peopleÂ… but still are just the right teachers for some other people. I remember a teacher of mine, whom all the other students feared, and I learned really to love him, because I learned so much from him. How nice to meet John Stott.

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  4. I am impressed with your first remembered description of the Pastor, no arm waving, no histrionics, etc. It is so different, to, say, the vast meetings of Billy Graham, Stott’s contemporary.

    Irrespective of the religious content of your thoughts, and of course, for you, they are important in this lovely memorial, and rightly so, swooning, trancing and histrionics, would always have made me uncomfortable and suspicious. They still would.

    Being happy in ones faith and prayer can demonstrate itself so differently and appealingly from what you say, in contrast to the description now given to those who are seen to be “happy, clappy” overpoweringly attention- seeking religionists, who exclude others of the same faith because they do not respond in the same manner. It it refreshing and pleasing to hear about your memory of an all-inclusive, quiet, sincere man.

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    1. Thank you for this considered comment, Menhir. Interestingly, I had been taken to Billy Graham a year or two previously, and it had made no impact on me at all.

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