Billy wrote this testimony in 2019 – we hope you’ll be inspired by reading his story.
I was brought up in a very happy Christian home in Fraserburgh, Scotland. I was always at church and never missed a Sunday. I could not have wished for a better upbringing or family. It was the best!
I was never any good at school. I always thought my way was the best way, no point in arguing with the teacher so I just let it take its own course. But my mum always said if you’re not going to school you’re going to work. I did like working – I always had a job before and after school, firstly as a paper boy then on to work in the butcher’s delivery. At 15 I was shipped off to sea as a cook on my Dad’s boat alongside my brothers. Life was good at sea but horrendous on the back out! As soon as I got a bit of freedom and I didn’t have to go to church, I never went back. I thought these new opportunities were more exciting than church life, probably like many guys my age back then.
Over the years we did very well at fishing, but I always wanted more. It wasn’t enough for me to have a good career, get a house, wife and kids and just live content. I always wanted more and started some other businesses – some succeeded and some didn’t. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was constantly craving new things in my life. It was the same with relationships – they never worked and I always blamed other things but my problem was that the grass was always greener elsewhere. I was always searching.As I got older into my 20s, I started to go further afield in the world. I was drinking heavily, partying hard and womanizing any time I was home from sea. If there was something to do that was wrong, I would find it. I was never satisfied.
Searching for more
I was becoming very unhappy. I had a good life on the outside, but I was sad on the inside. At 30 I had a bit of a breakdown and I felt that life was pointless. I told my family I wasn’t going back to sea and wanted to find something new. I moved to Spain and did even more partying than before – it was a complete excuse to live a life of excess! I was young, had plenty of money and was living in a millionaire’s playground. I always found it easy to make money and fell into a mad life of new friends and new places to party. After around 18 months of going out every single night, I was becoming deeply unhappy once more. Yet again what I had was not enough, I wanted more. I’d seen the high life and wanted to make even more money so I could find happiness again.
I ended up moving to Dubai to explore a business opportunity with a friend. This is when life really took a turn and in a very short space of time. I ended up becoming very successful on the back of the world property boom. I was right in the thick of it. Making millions and spending millions, my life became one of pure excess and waste. Over time I’d become a very self-centred person, thinking I could do whatever I wanted without facing any consequences. I could buy my way out of any trouble.
From the outside I had everything – a number of luxury cars, houses, boats, everything that the world deems a success. I lived for years in one of the best hotels in the world thinking it was normal to have the whole top floor to myself with staff on hand to do everything for me.
I’d even go on holidays by private jet and in the eyes of many I was leading a life that others would dream of. I really had got to the top of the ladder, or so they thought. Although I couldn’t get anymore the downside was that when I was alone, I was sad. I was trying to buy happiness. There would not be a day that went by that in the back of my mind I thought, “there must be more to life than this”.
This is your life
My 40th birthday arrived, and I was going to have a huge party. I didn’t know that this would be the start of the change in my life. I now look back in amazement knowing that all the time God had been with me keeping me safe. I really should have been dead with the number of stupid things I’d had done over the years.
My friends had made me a “This is Your Life” book which was presented to me on stage by a big TV personality. The night was full of all the great and crazy stories of my life. Yes, I had led a privileged life and had achieved many things. I had everything and had been everywhere, but I still kept thinking “there must be more to life than this”. I wondered why nothing I had ever seemed to be enough.
On one of the pages of my “This is Your Life” book my mum had written a verse from the Bible. Reading these words would lead to a huge change within me.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3: 5-6
It wasn’t until a couple of nights later when I was reading the book again that the message of this verse struck me like never before. I sat on the balcony of my hotel and cried my eyes out. How had I got it so wrong? I prayed that night for the first time in years. I asked God to change something so I could be happy again. I was the complete opposite of that scripture – I never trusted in the Lord, all I did was think of myself. I never acknowledged God in all the things he had blessed me with, and I went on paths that were crooked instead of straight.
This message was from a mum and dad who had lived their lives by this verse and enjoyed the happiest lives I knew of. I however had turned my back God and was the unhappiest person I knew. Something had to change.
Discovering something more
God answered my prayers. Over the next year and a half, I lost everything I’d ever worked for and more. In a Muslim country where the law is somewhat different, I found myself thrown in jail in the desert and had my passport confiscated (that’s another story!). I eventually returned to Aberdeen in huge debt and was living in a house that the bank was in the process of repossessing. Seemingly I wasn’t doing anything successful with my life. But I wasn’t unhappy anymore! I’d visited City Church with a friend a few times and they said there was an Alpha course starting up. I knew I should go along and something within me drew me there.
By week six of Alpha, I knew my life was never going to be the same again. I decided to completely dedicate my life to walking on God’s path instead of my own, and that whatever my future held I’d make God the centre of it. It wasn’t easy to change all of my ways, I didn’t realise how bad I was until I started trying to be good! But in everything I prayed that God would help me through, and God answered every single time! Sometimes it wasn’t the answer I wanted but He always answered. Little did I know that five years on I would be leading Alpha groups each term at Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London, the home of the Alpha course!
Alpha was the key that opened the door of a new life to me. Alpha taught me what Christianity really was, and it wasn’t the life of rules and regulations I thought it was. Instead, I found out it was a life of love, a life of giving, a life of prayer, a life of asking for God’s will every day. But ultimately, I found it was a life of contentment, knowing that in every single day and every single moment God is there with me to help me through. No question, He’s with me daily. It’s been a tough few years, and in truth I would not be here today if I hadn’t gone on the Alpha course and discovered an unshakeable faith.
Life now is very different. I’ve been blessed with a new home, a new business and a new life. But this time God is the centre of it all!
Billy very sadly passed away of terminal cancer in the summer of 2020, however his legacy inspires us to keep pressing on, to keep holding out the hope of Jesus to those struggling in darkness. Thank you for joining us in this ministry.