These are the notes prepared for the evangelistic address I gave at Alessandria on the evening of Wednesday 13 September 2000. Inevitably, they don't match what was actually said on the evening, but they give a reasonable idea. Various parts are missing, as I knew them well enough, and only needed the prompt for when to use that material. Eventually I hope to fill out those details for you...
It is much longer than a traditional sketchboard message, because it was the entire content of the evening, but it is based on one of the standard sketchboard messges passed down over the years. The picture was unchanged, but I added the business with the candle.
Before the meeting started, I lit a standard white candle and hid it behind a small prop on the stage.
I have done a number of translated talks, but this one worked the best from a technical point of view: not only did the pace and style of the interpretation match my own, but we managed to get a bit of interaction between myself and the translator alongside the message, and this added another level of variety to the evening.
If we want to know the answer, we first have to be clear about the question. So, what is the problem?
I meet very few people who admit to being happy, very few people who will say they are satisfied with their lives.
And of those who say they are happy, most of them when pressed will admit they are not really happy, just content. They are usually content because they have given up hoping for anything better.
Of course, happiness means different things for different people, but for most of us it includes these three things:
Has anybody read the stories about Sherlock Holmes? Can you remember anything he said?
"Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains - however improbable - must be the answer."
We must face up to the possibility that there is no answer. But if there is an answer - or even if there might be an answer - it is surely worth spending a little time to discover what it might be.
A friend of mine was telling me a story recently. He was sitting in an aeroplane, and started talking to the man next to him.
After a while, they started talking about questions of faith, and my friend asked what the man thought happens to us after death...
If you ask around, many people will tell you they know the answer. Many people will tell you that to find the answer, you must do this:
Perhaps if I study very hard, and get lots of certificates and qualifications, I will find peace, purpose and a delight in life?
Some people tell us that science will give us the answer. Is this possible? The problem is that science only deals with things we can measure and record with our instruments.
We know the universe exists - most people consider that to be a fact. There are only three possibilities:
Science alone gives us no purpose, no values and no morality. Let me explain what I mean...
Science and the past - the candle...
Scientists have been working on the theory of evolution for over a hundred years, and it still cannot explain many of the facts we know about life. As a scientific theory, it either explains everything, or it explains nothing. As a scientific theory, evolution does not yet work. That is not my opinion - if you read the scientific journals, that is what the scientists who are working in the field say.
Evolution cannot explain everything, so it can explain nothing.
Even if evolution were true, it would still give no direction, no purpose.
Knowing about God is not enough.
Material success is not enough
George Bernard Shaw - another Englishman - a real one this time! - George Bernard Shaw said many wise things.   One of them was this: There are two great tragedies in this life. One is to lose your heart's desire, the other is to gain it.
For some people, they are always working to get just a little more money, just a little more financial security, and they never quite make it. They can own a fleet of cars, a nice villa in the hills, several swimming pools, but they feel just as insecure, just as worried about the future, as when they had next to nothing.
The examples of Howard Hughes and George Harrison...
Other people work hard and become rich. And one day, they turn round and realise that they have achieved everything they set out to do. Yes, there are more deals to make. Yes, there are more companies to take over. But they have done it all before - it is just more of the same.
These people have 'arrived' - they are rich, they are powerful, perhaps they are famous. But they then discover that they are just as far from being happy and fulfilled as when they started out. They have aimed for success, they have achieved it - now what?
Perhaps I need to work hard at improving myself spiritually?
But which religion? There are so many!
All religions require commitment and dedication - sacrifice to gain a greater good.
There are many religions in the world, but they all fit into one of three categories - they are either philosophical, materialistic or historic.
Some philosophical religions are based on reason, some on revelation, and some on a moral code...
So there is no reason to choose any religion - perhaps, with the exception of one.
Political revolution is not the answer.
Failed relationships is not the answer.
The problem with revolutions...
Is there no answer? Should we just give up? Many people do just that.
But there was one revolutionary who delivered the goods. One man who succeeded in bringing about a real change that was so profound and so far-reaching that the world is still trying to understand and come to terms with it - two thousand years later. You know who I am talking about - the man who was known in His lifetime as 'Jesus of Nazareth.' Later, he was described as 'The Christ' - which means 'The Annointed One,' and today we know him as 'Jesus Christ.'
Jesus was born and grew up in a society where all the things we have been looking at were very evident. Some people devoted themselves to studying the holy books, seeking to understand God and the world He had created so they could get to know Him. Others worked themselves so hard, trying to deserve God's blessing
Others were just out to make money, and got rich by exploiting the weeak and the gullible around them.
Others were committed to political revolution, to overthrowing the civil authorities.
And others had just given up, feeling that there was nothing they could do.
Jesus looked at all these people He talked with all of them, came to understand them, and he arrived at a very profound conclusion concerning their situation.
He started speaking in public, and to every one of these people He told the truth. To each one of these people He said: "You're wrong!"
You think that...
But God is not a million miles away from you.
He is very close.
In fact, He is right behind you.
All your efforts are taking you further away from Him.
The group of people who were closer to God, closer to what they wanted than any other, were those who had given up, those who knew that they were incapable of achieving what they desired.
Instead, what you have to do is...
To each of these people, He said: You have to turn around. You have to stop trying to achieve happiness your way. You have to turn away from the life you have been living and follow Me.
He taught that you can know God in a personal, intimate way, as your loving Heavenly Father, but for this to hapen, you have to follow Jesus, trust Him, believe Him, obey Him.
Very few people in human history have taught such a ridiculous thing.
Over the centuries, Jesus has been the one man nobody could ignore.
He has captivated the hearts and minds of people across the world. Whether they follow Him or not, everybody admires Him.
Every respected Historian in the world agrees that Jesus was a historic figure.
If you want to believe that the stories about Him were not true, you have to explain the historic facts.
I have met many people who do not believe that the historic records are true, many people who do not believe that the four Gospels are an accurate record. But I have not met a single person who can explain what really happened if these documents are not substantially true.
I am not asking you to believe that these documents are the infallible, inspired Word of God. Simply take them at face value - as the written record of people who wanted other people to know about some historic events.
If someone like the Jesus we meet in the Gospels really lived and really died, and the people who knew Him best were convinced that He had come back from the dead, and were convinced that the message He brouoght was the most important message in the world, and gave the rest of their lives to telling people about Jesus and His message... well... don't you think that this message might be able to offer you the answers you seek?
Isn't it worth finding out for yourself whether or not it is true? After all, what have you got to lose?