‘I developed a leanness of soul’

Tony’s story | The beautiful ministry of soul winning

“In 1974, I was an army officer, posted in a regiment in Brisbane. One night I was having a beer in the Officer’s Mess with the Catholic chaplain. I’d been brought up in the Catholic Church, but it was hard to maintain faith in the military. That night, I asked the chaplain, ‘Why don’t we see miracles today, as they did in the early church?’

I can’t remember his reply. But at that moment, a friend of mine walked in who I knew was a bitter atheist. He asked to join the conversation and I said he might not be interested. He said, ‘Maybe I would.’ Then he told us he’d become a Christian six months earlier … and the answer to my question (about miracles) was that many people don’t have the Holy Spirit with them.

We kept talking. He’d learnt a lot of the Bible in six months. I told him some of my Catholic doctrine – that I’d done a lot of penance in my time.

He said, ‘That won’t help you.’ He explained that the Bible speaks of repentance and trusting Jesus in our hearts. I suddenly knew what I had to do. I went back to my room, knelt by my bed, and said, ‘God, I’m sorry for all my sins and I invite Jesus into my heart.’

In the morning, I woke up changed. The sky seemed brighter. I went for a run and I felt lighter in myself, as if the burden of sin had been rolled away. I told my friend what had happened and we went to the chapel together and prayed. I asked the Lord for the Holy Spirit, and it felt like I was being hit with 10,000 volts. It was amazing. I was holding on to the chair, in the presence of God. It was so awesome.

Afterwards, I read Psalm 40: ‘I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire … Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.’

I knew I had to tell people about Jesus! Firstly, my wife came to the Lord. She’d been pushing our son in the stroller that same day and her bag fell off and went missing. The police returned it, and we went to say thank you to the people who’d found it. The man turned out to be a student at Bible college. He’d seen the bag on the other side of the road and the Lord had told him to pick it up. We got to know them both and they needed accommodation, so we offered them our house. Through them, my wife’s heart was softened and she became a Christian. It was a miracle!

After that, both my parents came to the Lord, then my sister. More miracles! In 1977, I decided to leave the army and go into ministry. During the next few years, we saw so many people respond to the Lord.

In 1984, though, I gave myself to the business world. Many good things happened during the next decade, but I developed a leanness of soul. It distracted me from the main game. In late 1994, I was sitting up the back of the church and I suddenly felt crushed. I wept over my neglect of God. Then, the weeping turned into weeping for souls. I hadn’t led anyone to the Lord for ten years, whereas before that it had been so regular.

That night, God refreshed me. He enabled the sharing again. People have been coming to the Lord, miraculously! First, we started running the Alpha course – 34 times in 10 years. Then, we began ‘Australia for Jesus’, to help other Christians learn ways of sharing the Gospel. We’re equipping soul winners. We have teams of believers on the streets of Australian towns. Up until this week, they’ve spoken to 80,000 people (in total), giving them a chance to know Jesus. People are very receptive! Many have prayed the sinner’s prayer. In Tamworth last week, for example, we shared with eight people and all eight people came to the Lord. It’s true as Paul says in 1 Timothy 1, ‘Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners – of which I am the worst.’ (v15)”

Tony’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

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