My ancestor, John Wright, was a Banker in Nottingham in the 18th century who helped to finance the Industrial Revolution. He formed the Butterley Company at Ripley, Derbyshire in 1790 which mined coal, built railways, made bricks and cast iron. By 1964 I was the sixth generation of my family to join the Board of Directors for which I had been trained at Oxford, Price Waterhouse and the Harvard Business School. There was no doubt I had a brilliant career before me!
How I found God - START A BANK!
I was shocked but realised God was at work. I asked Him, somewhat nervously, what I should do next. "Surely, Lord, you don't want me to be a Vicar?" The Lord had mercy on the Church of England, they had troubles enough! But he did speak to me by the inner voice of the Spirit just three words, "Start a bank!" When God speaks, in my experience, it is short, foolish and you don't want to do it. I knew I needed money and the Lord told me to go to Scotland! It was like Moses being told to strike a rock to get water in the desert! Three tight fisted Scottish Investment Trust Directors asked me some good questions. How long had I been a banker? Did I know the money market in the City of London? Was my family well known in Norfolk? Did I have a lot of money to invest? To all these questions my answer was "No". It had to be a hopeless proposition but they amazed me by putting up the capital. I had to learn, like Jonah, that when we are obedient in foolishness the Lord does wonders.
BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU
The bank prospered and the Scotsmen sold out some fifteen years later multiplying their equity investment sixty two times. But success too soon is often fatal for our spiritual life. After three years more trouble came. There was a banking crisis with many large banks in London becoming insolvent. Our Institutional Investors, who by now controlled the Bank, thought we must be insolvent too. They asked me and my partner to resign so as to reduce overheads. I was indignant. Of course we would survive, was it not God's Bank? I was going to have a fight until God showed me that Jesus, even though He was the Son of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled himself, accepting death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him! Philippians 1:6-9. So I went quietly and learnt lessons about forgiveness, blessing those who persecute you, giving people your shirt when they ask for your coat. Again it was very good for my soul!
After Christ - DIVINE CHASTENING
Then like Joseph, in the book of Genesis, the Lord had to deal with my pride. The family business was taken over and I was fired! Like Joseph who went down to Egypt, I moved to Norfolk where I was unknown. There I became the Director of New Product Development, Acquisitions and Planning for the Food Division of the international group Reckitt and Colman at Norwich. They were very old fashioned in 1970 and evidently needed my expertise. However, even though my work was successful, after 18 months they asked me to leave. It was very good for my soul
TRIALS AND AFFLICTIONS
On my own God prospered me. I arranged two joint ventures to build plants for large British companies in Kuwait and earned good fees. Then, in 1982, I used the capital I had made from the Bank to buy a Documentary Film Company. We also started a Media Investment Bank with the Prudential and the Post Office Pension Fund. I was overjoyed to have 100% of a Film Company and 30% of a Bank. A new dynasty was being founded and my portrait would no doubt one day hang in the Board Room! But the Lord still had to deal with my ambition. The Film Union had a war with the Government and we lost 40% of our order book overnight. In three months we were insolvent so I had to resign from the Bank as well. As Guarantor of the Overdraft I was also insolvent. At the same time I had cancer and my integrity was attacked publicly in a Court case brought by an alcoholic we had had staying with us as we tried to help him with his problems. I was completely exonerated in the court case, healed of the cancer after an operation, but for two years with my wife and five children I had to exist with no regular income. Providentially we lived in a rented house or the Bank would have taken it. It had seemed silly at the time not to own a house but Godâ€™s foolishness often proves to be wiser than the wisdom of the world. During this time the Lord provided in extraordinary ways fulfilling His promise that if we honour Him with 10% of our income He will always provide for our needs. A typical example was when we hoped to send our oldest son to a Boarding School which then cost Â£1000 per term. Two weeks before the start of term we could not even pay for the uniform! But we cried to the Lord one Sunday night and on the following Tuesday a letter came from people we did not know very well saying " God has told us to send you the enclosed cheque for Â£1000"!
In November 1983 God told me He would restore me in my Jubilee Year in 1984 when I would be fifty. To keep us going until then we got a windfall distribution of Â£10,000 from a Family Trust. But to test us God then told us to give away Â£5000! Our obedience, thanks to the insistence of my wife, paved the way for a miracle. In 1984 we bought a Typesetting company for Â£5000 even though it had net current assets of Â£220,000. How could this happen? The Lord put such fear into the Sellers about the Company's prospects that they thought they would have to close the Company down and incur heavy losses. However, from the moment we bought it, stopped Sunday working and tithed the profits the Lord, who alone gives the increase, enabled us to make a first year profit of Â£166,000.
TRIAL BY JURY
This must be the end of our troubles, I thought. But in 1985 I was asked to help the brother of a friend who was building a Theme Park like Disney World around a lake in Derbyshire where I had fished as a boy. I was even Patron of the local Church.! There was no investment, no risk, they just wanted a figurehead Chairman of the Operating Company who was well known and respected in the locality. The Holding Company, in which I was not involved, which was building the Park, had the local Council as their Partners. But after a Local Government Election a new political party took control of the Council and they became â€˜hostile partnersâ€™! They delayed planning permission for two and a half years and were found guilty of Breach of Contract in the High Court. However the cost of the delay allied to terrible weather when the Park was being built meant that the Holding Company eventually ran out of money. Only eight weeks after the opening a Receiver was appointed.
THE LION'S DEN
There was no problem, or so I thought. The Holding Company had been told by Expert Advisers that their assets were worth £12 million against known debts of Â£6 million. However the Receiver sold the business back to the Council for only £2.1 million. This led to the longest continuous criminal trial in the history of the world - 17 months. It is in the Guinness Book of Records! Despite not being a Director of the Holding Company, despite the Owner saying I had nothing to do with it, I was still found guilty of carrying on its trade when allegedly insolvent and went to prison for three months. Like Daniel I was put into the Lion's Den.
JUMPING THE QUEUE
The senior Solicitor from the Crown Prosecution Service was so shocked by the Jury verdict that he very kindly said to me "I don't know what to say. I am very sorry. When this happens to most people they disappear without trace, but you won't." Where was God who promises to vindicate his servants who cry to him night and day and that right speedily? But it was a good time for me as an Evangelist seeing God do amazing things. I wrote six letters from Prison which were published with an introduction by the Director General of the Prison Service with wonderful testimonies from some of the prisoners who were converted and healed. God is powerfully at work amongst prisoners, prostitutes and gypsies - the rubbish of the world - because they know they need help. "They will go first into the Kingdom," Jesus said, so I suppose I have now jumped the queue!
THE COURSE OF JUSTICE!
Government Research has shown that after six weeks only 15% of the Jury can remember or comprehend the evidence! My Lawyers said that I would be acquitted on Appeal. But the Appeal Court said that although the Trial was too long and the Judge had summed up in my favour they could not upset a Jury verdict. They then gave twelve reasons to justify the Jury all of which were errors of fact! However they asked The House of Lords to hear an Appeal on the length of the Trial. The House Of Lords, I suspect because finding in our favour would have opened a can of judicial worms, most unusually refused to consider the matter. My only remaining option was to ask the Home Secretary to refer the matter back to the Appeal Court because of all the errors in their Judgement. He replied ten months later saying he could not interfere with the course of Justice!
THE THIRD DAY
Now, like Joseph in the Book of Genesis, we wait for the Lord's vindication so that the miracle will give me a platform to be, like Joseph, a lifesaver. Already we have waited twelve years since the Trial ended. But God has told me through an extraordinary story in Judges Chapter 20 to wait for Him to do it on the "Third Day". I could be vindicated tomorrow as The European Court of Justice has said that unfair trials are grounds for Acquittal. But when I asked the Lord He said â€˜Close your eyes, open the Bible and put your finger on a verse through which I will speak to you.â€™ I did so. It was the Sanhedrin talking to Pilate in Matthew 27:64. "Set a guard upon the Tomb and seal it until the Third Day." I understood this to mean not only the third trial but also the third thousand years, the season of the Lord's return. I was to remain buried under ten feet of judicial concrete until God raised me up. I was not to say a word or lift a finger. I was excited to get such an amazing word from God but couldn't resist asking for a word on resurrection to keep my faith alive in the tomb. I closed my eyes, opened the Bible, put my finger on a verse and read "And King Nebuchadnezzar said "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" Daniel 3:26. This was too much for me; I burst into tears.
TREASURE IN HEAVEN
All this has happened by "the definite plan and foreknowledge of God." Acts 2:23. To help me through all these ups and downs God chose for me a special wife and gave us five special children. The afflictions of the husband are often harder to bear for the wife, but Susan has been wonderful, uncomplaining, trusting and beautiful! Even my fourteen year old daughter Jemimah wrote to me in prison "Daddy, it's just like Jesus, but after the crucifixion comes the resurrection". She understood! If I had not become a Christian I expect I would have been applauded as a successful business man, following my Father and Grandfather as High Sheriff in my home County, but ended up in Hell. Instead, thanks to God, I now have treasure in heaven and wait for God's goodness in the land of the living which he promises, with afflictions, to those who know Him. In all this I have learnt to obey, to trust and to give thanks in all circumstances. The joy of the Lord has become my strength, but it has been no easy ride. It is a hard way that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Copyright. John Wright