Tim Mander

I recall a conversation I had with a friend a number of years ago. We were sitting around a table philosophizing about life and its meaning. The main conclusion we reached was that anybody who believed in God was obviously weak willed, easily manipulated or plain simple! Belief on God, for us, defied human logic.

Eleven years down the track, that same friend is a missionary in a remote village of New Guinea and I am currently a full-time referee but also committed to Christian service. What caused this 180 degree turnaround in our lives?

I didn't believe in a "superior being" and my self-destructive lifestyle reflected that. Life never made much sense to me – living 70 years or more and then simply not existing. I couldn't come to terms with that and therefore I was scared to death.

One day I received a phone call from a friend asking me if I'd heard about another mate, Dave, who had gone "weird" – he'd gone "religious." Dave was a teacher and scientist who had, at one time shared my views that no intelligent person could believe in God. He was now telling me that he had finally found the truth, for all these years he'd been confused and dissatisfied but now the scales had been lifted from his eyes. I was intrigued but dismissed it as a fad he was going through.

One day, a friend who was now right into Christianity dropped by and we had a bit of a debate about it all. When he left, I felt that if I was going to argue my point better, I would need to know more abut where Christians were coming from. They often quoted from the Bible which I suddenly realized I knew very little about. My friend had left a New Testament behind so I started reading it. The most major transformation I had ever experienced started to begin!

When I opened the pages, I literally couldn't stop reading and I met Jesus. This Jesus Christ was a radical. He turned His world upside down. He denounced the religious leaders of the time as being hypocrites and that with all their ceremony and tradition they actually made it harder for people to come to know God.

I could really relate to that because up until then, I saw religion as a hypocritical joke. Jesus said things which I knew deep down in my heart were true. I needed to change my heart before any of my problems could be solved. Only God could do that.

I had rebelled against God and gone my own way. I was suffering the consequences of that now on earth and would in the future by being separated from God forever. Jesus died for me and paid the penalty that was on my head.

I accepted Jesus as Lord of my life and once my wife saw how my life changed, she soon followed. The changes in my life were undeniable. I had this insatiable appetite to read the Bible and things I couldn't previously believe, now were believable; Jesus healing people, Jesus feeding 5,000, Jesus walking on water, Jesus' resurrection…

Success in football is only temporary, but God's rewards are eternal. Plenty of praise and criticism (mostly criticism) come my way as a referee. It's reassuring to know that it's not what people think of me that is most important but what God thinks of me.

Now I have a sense of purpose and meaning in my life. Isaiah 9:2 says, "Those who walk in the dark have seen a bright light. And it shines upon everyone who lives in the land of darkest shadows." I was once walking in darkness but once God's spirit spoke to me through His Word it was as if a light came on.

I believe that being a Christian helps me tremendously as a referee. The peace I have from God helps me stay cool and calm under pressure. I can relate to players more effectively and keep the important things in life in the right perspective.

It is great to know there is a reason for life and that it can be very fulfilling. To top all that, I have eternal life, which to me, is very reassuring.

If you would like to know more about Jesus and what He can do for you, just click the button on the left side of your screen to change your life.