As someone might have said ‘There’s nowt so fascinating as folk’ which is why I love biographies. I am a history buff by nature but it’s stories, especially people stories, that grab me every time.

Take Nathaniel Philbrick’s fascinating account of Custer’s ’Last Stand’. It offers the reader ‘two for the price of one’ because it shows that Sitting Bull’s famous victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn marked the beginning of the end for the Sioux and Cheyenne nations. But in telling the story Philbrick graphically highlights how Custer ‘managed to see himself as the dashing ever gallant dragoon’ while Sitting Bull ‘clung to traditional Lakota ways even though most other Native leaders had come to realise that like it or not some kind of compromise was unavoidable’. It’s great stuff or at least I think so.

I am fascinated by Biblical characters too. Take Hosea for example. He married a prostitute to highlight the fact that his people were being unfaithful to God. And of course, there was Joseph of Technicolored Dreamcoat fame who was trafficked into Egypt but triumphed over all the difficulties that came his way and ended up serving as second in command in the country. 

If I had to choose my favourite Biblical character though I would have to opt for ‘Doubting Thomas’ partly because his experience of Jesus mirrors my own, and partly because he has so much to teach those of us who are trying to persuade others to follow Him.

For example, Thomas was brave enough to ask questions. He didn’t just take things at face value, and he wasn’t too embarrassed to admit that he didn’t understand everything. We see a good example of this the night before Jesus was crucified. As Jesus tells them He is going to prepare a place for them He happened to suggest that they knew where He was going. Quick as a flash Thomas replied, ‘We haven’t a clue where you are going so how can we know the way?’. I came to faith because I was determined to ask questions and wasn’t satisfied until I had found answers that made sense. This is why I like the Alpha Course for example, and it has shaped the way I lead Bible studies. Discussion not indoctrination is the order of the day.  

Thomas was not content to go along with the others when they told him that they had encountered the risen Jesus either. He needed his own personal confirmation. As he famously said, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." And as we all know his demand for convincing proof led to the most amazing encounter with the risen Lord and this led him to declare ‘My Lord and my God’.

I was a hard-nosed sceptic like Thomas, but I eventually came to the conclusion that the evidence for the resurrection was convincing. Even so I still needed proof and so I took the advice of a good friend who challenged me to launch out in faith to see what would happen when I did. I have to admit I have never looked back, so much so that when someone asked me recently to explain why I believe I simply said ‘It works’.