My head ached and felt heavy on my shoulders as I struggled to wake up and to focus. I wondered how I had ever gotten home alive from the drunken revelry of the night before. During the day, I worked on my residency at Universite Saint Joseph, one of the finest medical colleges in Beirut, Lebanon. Each night I drank and caroused with women.
Born in the Republic of Lebanon, I attended church-affiliated schools. I excelled academically, but if grades had been given for morality, I would have flunked. I was often transfixed with terror at the thought of dying because my religious education had given me no comforting answers about my eternal destiny.
After being graduated from medical college and completing my residency, I went to the United States and studied to become a urologist. I was drawn to southern California, where I began my medical practice. Los Angeles seemed like a candy box to me: pleasures and carefree living abounded, and I participated in all of them.
One evening in February, 1987, I was without plans — this was unusual since my calendar was usually filled with parties or medical work. As I pondered my options, I abruptly felt a strange urge to open the Bible. I was shocked that I should have such a desire and muttered, “Where will I start?” Going to my bookshelf, I was amazed that I was actually going to open a Bible. Unsure where to begin, I hastily phoned a somewhat-religious young woman whom I had dated and asked her. She answered in one word: “Romans.”
Quickly I ended the conversation and entered my bedroom with the Bible. As I read, I found myself gripped by the opening verses. It struck me that this passage had not been written for the first century alone but for me too. I was disquieted when the writer seemed to be discussing my sins. Almost every one was listed! Even more disturbing was my discovery that God hates sin. Thus it was a relief to arrive at Romans 3:23 and read, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 “Well,” I sighed, “at least I am not alone in this terrible condition.” Nonetheless I went to bed feeling spiritually lost.
In the morning I went to work as a professional urologist, but inside I knew myself only as a moral failure. The words of the night before dominated my thoughts all day.
After work I rushed home to read further. When I came to Romans 5:8, I found these encouraging words: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 Then my attention became riveted on Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 Instantly my dark mind was illuminated. The word “gift” Romans 6:23 in particular stood out brightly. It didn’t make any sense to me. I knew that I had sinned. I knew that I deserved death. “So why did God offer me a Gift?” I pondered.
Not wanting to miss the offer of this gift, I immediately knelt at my bedside in true submission to God for the first time in my life. In awesome reverence and with the Bible in my hands I repeated the words, “The free gift of God is eternal life.” Romans 6:23 God filled my heart with such joy that a fountain of tears burst forth; then I went to bed and drifted peacefully to sleep.
The next day I started a practice that has been a habit with me ever since daily reading God’s Word. That same evening I picked up the telephone and called my girlfriend. I told her that I could not see her anymore because what we had been doing was sinful. As I hung up, I knew that a radical change had taken place in my life.
A few evenings later I came home from work and told myself that it was time to clean up the moral sludge from my apartment. The videos, magazines and pictures all the filth had to go. I stuffed my former treasures into a large garbage bag and tied it shut.
As I headed down the hallway of my apartment building, I experienced my first spiritual warfare. It seemed as if a voice were threatening: “If you throw away that bag, I’ll kill you.” My heart raced as I struggled toward the trash chute, the threat following me.
I reached the disposal door, and trembling but determined, I lifted the bulging bag to the opening. Straining with the load, I pushed the bag, and it plummeted noisily down the shaft. Immediately the voice stopped. Still alive, I knew that I had won my first spiritual battle.
I was now committed more than ever to cleaning up my life. I wanted to study my Bible, to meet with other Christians and to pray. It was evident to my friends that I was a changed person. Within a few weeks I started to tell as many people as would listen about my new faith. I bought Gospel tracts to hand out, phoned some people and wrote to others.
A short while later God led me to an evangelical church with an Arabic group, I gave my testimony there, and was baptized.
How glad I am that I, a doctor who needed the Great Physician, met him and accepted his gift of forgiveness.