Brad was surprised by his research into ‘The Da Vinci Code’
No one would have guessed it would be a controversial fiction novel that would lead Bradley Gebhard to make the most important decision of his life.
After moving with his future wife Lee-Ann from South Africa to London, Brad recalls feeling "happy enough" and yet "I had a feeling that someone or something was watching over me."
Brad did not know whether this was someone was God, but he confesses, "I often felt that something was missing in my life, and nothing seemed to be able to fill it."
Sometimes Brad would have conversations about God with his Christian friends and family but it never went anywhere until he began reading the fictional novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
"It contained some controversial issues regarding Jesus and the Bible in general, so I decided to start reading the Bible to see what it said about these controversies," Brad explains.
"It is largely thanks to that fictional book, which could quite easily mislead or sow doubt in the minds of people looking for God, that my search for the real Jesus gained some momentum."
Brad became interested in learning more about God after discovering that the Bible contained a reliable account of Jesus' life on earth, instead of just accepting the fictional information and questionable sources presented by Dan Brown.
Then it came time for Brad to decide whether his young family should return to South Africa or move to Australia. He remembers many hours praying "asking God for guidance", and a few years later he felt God leading him to set up their new life in Australia, while his family stayed in South Africa for a time.
"Being alone, I continued to have more time to read my Bible and pray. My mother also recommended a church to me, as she had met the pastor as well as people from Challenge Newspaper there," he says.
On his first visit to this church in 2007, Brad says he finally understood who the real Jesus is.
"I was quite overcome emotionally and really felt in my spirit that God was calling out to me to come close to Him," he explains.
"The pastor asked if anyone who wanted to accept Jesus as their personal Saviour would raise their hand. I desperately wanted this but due to stubbornness, self-sufficiency or some insecurity, I was strongly fighting the urge to raise my hand."
When he finally decided to raise his hand, Brad recalls a weight lifted off him and he "wanted to explode with joy and relief".
"After the service I told the pastor that I wanted to clean up my life and live 'appropriately' before I made a commitment to Jesus. Yet he explained that God doesn't work that way, rather, you accept Jesus into your life first and then He will become the vital help needed to do this 'clean up'."
They prayed together, and Brad says he acknowledged that he was a sinner, separated from God, and yet wanted to turn away from his sins and follow Jesus wholeheartedly.
"I also prayed that I believed Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and that He rose again and I invited Jesus into my life to be my Saviour and Lord of my life," he adds.
A few weeks later Brad's family arrived in Australia and he took them to this new church, hoping to share his newfound joy and pace with them.
"Since then my wife Lee-Ann has made a commitment to the Lord and we have both been baptised to publicly demonstrate our commitment to Jesus Christ," he says joyfully.
"My life is far more centred on Jesus now and this affects the decisions and choices I make. The material things that had high value to me once are now strangely unimportant.
"My focus now is on doing what is right by God, not what the world around us expects. The struggles and temptations of life are real and ever present but I know that with these things God will always either give me the strength to deal with them or provide a way out."
In hindsight Brad sees how God directed his path to Perth, and all the good things he once considered co-incidences he now considers "God-incidences".
"God was faithful to answer – in His time - those hours of prayers I prayed in London," Brad says. "Sometimes the plans we have for ourselves are not the best and difficult as it can be, we need to be willing to let God guide our steps. We can do all things through Him who gives us strength (see Philippians chapter 4, verse 13)." •