Everyone in this world wants to have an abundant life; the kind of life that is full of freedom, peace, and hope. Imagine living in a country as a slave, with no respect for human rights, lacking peace, and without hope.
My story begins in Duhok, Northern Iraq, where I was born into a nominal Christian family. We were known as Assyrian Christians – one of the minorities in Iraq. By ‘nominal’ I mean we were known as Christians in name only. Our family was faithful in attending church every Sunday and adhering to other church practices. However, those beliefs and practices never gave me any peace within, nor did I have the assurance of Heaven or the forgiveness of my sins. I was not a ‘real’ Christian.
I suffered persecution from my peers throughout my childhood and into my adult years, because of my last name which was Jewish. In elementary school, the teachers would call my name and verbally abuse me, profaning my lineage with insults like ‘Jew’ and ‘Traitor’. Physical abuse was also common. I was often spit upon, kicked, and treated like refuse in many other ways.
Religious Beliefs and Spiritual Thoughts
As a nominal Iraqi Christian, I thought no one could know for sure that he would be in heaven if he died. I believed that we would stand before God one day and He would then decide, according to our deeds, where we would spend eternity. That was frightening to me. In my early teenage years, I often dreamed that I had died and was lost forever in hell, with no hope or second chance of repentance. I would wake up terrified and so thankful that I was still alive. I would cry to God to forgive my sins. But all those dreams and resolutions would be forgotten as soon as the sun arose the next morning. I would continue my life the same way each day – as a sinner.
Too Busy for God
In my young adult life, I became very busy; in fact, too busy as I would rarely think about eternity. Music had become the focus of my life. I was the keyboardist in a very famous band in Baghdad called The Bright Band.
Iraqi Wars and Fleeing the Battlefield
After eight years in the army during the Iraqi – Iranian war, my country then decided to invade Kuwait and start another war. I was forced to join the Republican Army, and I was transferred to the battlefield. I had a leave for six days from the battlefield before the war started on January 17, 1991. I took my wife and son to Northern Iraq and we stayed in a small village for safety. I was stranded from my unit and ended up being branded as a deserter.
This put me in danger of immediate execution, so I fled; hiding from village to village. The mayor of the village, in which I was hiding, announced that all deserters must immediately leave and return to their army base or face execution in front of their families.
Something More Serious for Everyone to Face
Let me pause in my story and ask you: What would you do if you heard such an announcement – that tomorrow morning at 8AM you would be executed in front of your family? Yes, facing the death penalty is horrific beyond imagination, but there’s something much more serious: leaving this world to an eternity without hope is far more horrifying.
Praying to God
I couldn’t sleep that night, nor could my wife. I cried out to God, and prayed for three things; an end to the bombing, a pardon for the deserters, and a discharge from the army. Amazingly, that was also my wife’s prayer to God that same night.
God answered all three requests. At 5:00 AM, a radio newscaster announced that the President of the United States of America would call a cease-fire at 8:00 AM. It was March 3, 1991, when Iraq accepted the cease-fire. Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq during that time, gave a pardon and a discharge for all the deserters. I thanked God for answering my prayer – even the prayer of a lost sinner. I returned to Baghdad and I was released from the army without any charges.
Fleeing Iraq in Pursuit of a Safer and Better Life
However, I didn’t want to stay in Iraq any longer so our little family gathered up our few possessions and we left.
We travelled to Jordan, hoping that I would find freedom, peace, and a bright new future in one of the countries as refugee.
Good News in Jordan
When we arrived in Jordan, I heard that there was a gospel meeting for Iraqi refugees in one of the evangelical churches. My wife and I went. It was the first time in my life that I heard a clear message of salvation from God’s Holy Word, the Bible.
Although I was thrilled by the message, my problem was that I had never taken the Word of God for myself. I had always believed that Jesus came to save ‘us’ but never thought that He came to save ‘me’. I believed in Him as ‘our’ Saviour but never ‘my’ Saviour. I thought that if I repented and God erased my past sins, that I could then keep the rest of my life clean. I thought I needed Him to do His part, and then I would do mine, but I failed.
Five Minutes after I Die – Where Will I Be?
I never thought that a person could know for sure where he would be five minutes after he died. But when I heard the Word of God, it was so clear:
“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”
1 John 5:12
The Word of God said that I could have eternal life, not by my works, prayers, baptism, or anything else, but by having the Son of God. I asked myself, “How could I have the Son of God?” The answer was in the Word of God: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Revelation 3:20 I understood that the Lord had been standing at my heart’s door for almost 32 years of my life and all the things that happened in my life were God’s efforts to come into my life – His voice speaking to me.
I read from Romans Chapter 5, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly … But God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us … For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son . . .”
When I looked at these verses, I asked myself, “Is there anything else left for me to do in order to be saved?”
The Lord Jesus, on the cross, cried,
“It is finished.”
No Longer a Nominal Christian
I believed His Word and needed nothing more. I started reading the Bible and taking each word and each promise to myself. Yes, I was saved in 1992, when I trusted the Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for me. I was no longer a nominal Christian or a mere professor of Christianity – I was a possessor of God’s wonderful salvation and eternal life. God saved me from the physical death penalty in Iraq when my wife and I cried to Him. God is at work in your life as well. God’s desire for me back then was to bring me to the full blessing of the spiritual salvation from eternal death when He forgave my sins. That’s His desire for you too.
As a result of that, I have peace with God:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Finally, I had hope and assurance that I would be in heaven one day when I understood from the Word of God that there is no judgment left for me. When Christ died on the cross, He bore my judgment there to grant me righteousness before God. The Lord Jesus Christ said:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that hears My Word, and believes on Him that sent me, has everlasting life,and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
We immigrated to Canada as refugees in 1996; I am enjoying freedom, peace, and a better future in this country. Moreover, the spiritual freedom, peace, and hope which I received in 1992 from God through the Lord Jesus Christ, are beyond the capacity of human comprehension. I have forgiveness of sins, peace with God and the peace of God, as well as assurance of heaven as my eternal home.
I thank God for the great things the Lord has done for me. I now have peace. Do you?