“At the end of my rope”. Maxim

MY TESTIMONY - WHEN I WAS AT THE END OF MY ROPE.

“My name is Maxim, and I have been a Christian for six years. I was born in the Sverdlovsk region, east of the Ural Mountains in a closed Soviet city. Our city was a “nuclear shield” for our country. Of course, at that time, people were not able to hearabout God in alot of “closed cities” like my home town. (Even now, we still have some “closed cities”in certain regions. These cities are called “closed” because of enforcement officials guarding them as special cities). We could not even think about God's existence. We did not even have an Orthodox church or a chapel in my home town. I had seen churches and priests or reverends only on television or in other cities of our country. But I remember when we were children asking ourselves questions from time to time. We would ask each other if there was something up high and if anybody lived in this heaven. I asked my mother if there was a God. She answered that probably God existed.

After17 years of my simple childhood had passed, I moved to Izhevsk where I entered Udmurt State University as a student in 1983. Since I had been strongly involved in sports before moving to Izhevsk, I became enrolled in the Physical Education Faculty of the university, specializing in the art of Eastern wrestling matches. My days and months were spent in the usual student tradition of training, studying, and resting.

Then in 1985, a change seemed to have come into the country from the government. We heard new terms like "retransformation" and speeding things up. To us, the terms conveyed lawlessness, anarchy, and permissiveness. By that time, our sports collective was strong and well organized as a team. Some of us decided to take the first steps toward disobeying the law. We succeeded with these first attempts, and suffered no consequences for our actions. We explained our actions away by saying we were only robbing what had already been robbed. We began to experience a new ideology, just as the Bolsheviks had in 1917.

We were establishing a new set of principles to live by. Sports began to have second place in our lives, and materialism and financial gain began to take first priority. Our motto became "I want everything immediately!" At that time, it did not occur to me that I was a criminal and was involved in committing crimes. Everything seemed to be running so smoothly for us in the beginning. Later, we all had police records because of all the crimes we had committed. Some of my friends got arrested and put in prison, and the others kept committing crimes, not realizing they would also be put in prison later.

We were fulfilling the words of scripture without knowing it. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says: "The sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil”. (Eccl 8:11, NASU). Because at that time we had no real government ruling the country, and because there was no real enforcement of the law, we were going through a strong spiritual vacuum politically. We were all trying to fill up this vacuum based on things that were right in our own eyes. We were all going our own ways rooted in sin. There is truly only one way to go without stumbling, and that is the route of following Jesus, but we did not know or believe in this route.

And we, in following our own devises, got caught up in fighting with others who were like us. With some of these groups, we reconciled or ended up becoming unified, but, as is true in history, there are no real winners in these situations. People on every side ended up dying, and ended up in cemeteries. No one can escape the eventual fate of death. And Satan rejoices, because hell is filling up with souls who never come back to life and freedom again.

As Jesus said in Luke 16:26 about the separation in hell after death from life on earth or in the kingdom of heaven: "And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.” (Luke 16:26, NASU). And we cannot escape from this verdict either. After death, following a life of evil and wickedness there will be a gap between those who died in sin, and those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. Wickedness will be judged and finished in the end. Only the Lord God is eternal..

At about this time, I was experiencing the end coming to all my philosophical standards and to our seeming success in our old ways of life. My family had come apart, and a lot of my friends had died. I felt fear for the first time, and a sense of hopelessness. These sensations seemed as though they would stay in me forever. All my past bravery had disappeared in the twinkling of an eye, and I began to think about committing suicide. I tried my best to push these thoughts away with vodka, but my past hung over me without mercy,

. During this time, I decided to go visit my friend at his place of work. As we talked, I told him about my life, and all I had been through in my past. He listened very attentively to me. And then he told me that he was regularly attending a church and he invited me to go along with him. At that time, I was not concentrating on what he had asked. It was only after being home later that I reflected on what he had said. And I was feeling that I was only living in darkness, and this darkness was getting darker and darker and darker. I sensed this darkness in those around me, and in my inner state. So, one Sunday, I decided to go to church. I did not know what kind of church it was, what kind of people were there, but I did realize that the God who was being worshipped there, was Jesus Christ.

I originally went to the church to discover what was there. But after I came and stood up in the congregation with other people, I realized that I either needed to belong there and stay on or not to live at all. It was the necessity of my life. And so, for the next five months, I attended all the Bible studies held by the church, without missing a single one. Soon I started to realize that Jesus Christ was alive, that he created me, that he loved me and needed me. I also realized that he was almighty and all powerful, and that he would never ever betray me and would always help. He is the only one who gives us a future and a hope.

At about this time I realized that I needed to start reading the Bible on my own. Before this I was only listening to the words from the Bible during services and studies. I also realized that I had never prayed to Jesus alone. That evening, having faith in His existence, I said my first prayer. Probably, that prayer was not too beautiful and did not have too many interesting words, but it initiated my personal relationship with God.

Another time, as I was lying down with my eyes closed, I sensed that I was being transported in to another realm altogether. At this time, I saw “someone” standing in front of my eyes, looking like a huge triangle (as big as a nine story building). That “someone” told me to reject Jesus, but I refused. “He” repeated his demand and I refused again. Then I was attacked by some strange creatures, which started to beat me. They, of course, defeated me and I started to lose my conscience. Suddenly, somebody’s warm and strong hand supported me. “They” disappeared immediately, as they saw Him behind my back. Next moment, I was again in my room. In the morning I was in the state of agitation, mixed with fear. I understood that Satan and his demons came to me at night. I also realized that the One who supported me was Jesus Christ.

Searching for an explanation I went to my pastor. We were talking and meditating. He gave me a picture of all that had happened that night. He told me how it was connected with my past and what was going to happen in the future. During the conversation my pastor asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus in my life. I answered that if God could forgive me I would do it for sure. As I prayed, I felt that the burden of darkness and sin was taken away from me. Tears were flowing out of my eyes, as I immediately realized the renewing power of forgiveness, coming from the cross of Calvary. I realized, that the One, who created this world can accept me on the basis of the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

From the moment of my repenting until now, I am very thankful to God, that He preserved me at the edge of the cliff, and gave me a new way of life, one that I am still walking in even now.”