Gun-toting gambler and a new role of the dice
For Spyros Metakidis gambling was his ultimate 'high'. Though he prayed for 'good luck one day he was asked "Do you love Jesus"?
Greeks are notorious gamblers. Names like "Nick the Greek" and "Archie Karas" are legendary and infamous for their gambling lifestyles.
Spyros Metakidis grew up in northern Greece and began gambling as a teenager. He came from a wealthy Greek family so he didn't need the money, but he enjoyed playing cards. People warned him about gambling, but he didn't listen. By the time he turned 26, he had gambled away most of his inheritance, and was bankrupt. Humiliated, he decided to leave Greece and emigrate to South Africa.
Gambling gave him a high that nothing else could. He loved the sight of the cards on the green cloth, and the smell of tobacco and perfume. He once won 30,000 Euros.
But the gambling lifestyle brought its own dangers. He carried two guns to protect himself from other gamblers, as it was risky carrying large sums of money around in the small hours of the morning. But Lady Luck was like a siren, or an evil spirit, luring him on to destruction.
Gambling had him in its grip
Sometimes he won, sometimes he lost. He was psychologically addicted to gambling. It was destroying his life and destroying his marriage. The powers of darkness were dragging him down to moral and social degradation.
Nevertheless business was good in South Africa. He worked his way up to become the Managing Director of a printing company. One day a young man called Gregory walked into his print shop. He asked Spyros to print some Christian posters. Spyros took an immediate liking to him and quickly offered to print them at a discount.
"Why? Are you a Christian?" asked Gregory.
To Spyros religion was more of a superstition. He often went to church to pray for good luck, and sometimes blamed God if he lost. So he glibly replied, "Yes, of course I am a Christian."
Gregory wasn't convinced and asked. "Then do you love Jesus?"
Spyros was somewhat confused by the question, "What do you mean?" he asked. "How can you love someone who is dead?"
Gregory then boldly declared, "He is not dead. He's alive! He died for your sins, but He rose again from the dead, and He loves you."
This immediately put Spyros on the defensive, "Why did He die for me? I didn't do anything wrong."
Gregory sensed the opportunity and said to him, "Jesus Christ can set you free. He can forgive you for everything you've ever done."
His words penetrated Spyros' heart. He felt very uncomfortable, yet he wanted to believe him. But he felt in a difficult position. He tried to steer the conversation in a different direction so that he didn't appear so foolish. He started shooting awkward questions at him. But Gregory would not be sidetracked.
"May I pray?" he asked. And Gregory prayed a personal kind of prayer such as Spyros had never heard before. It was a prayer for his salvation. It was the first time he'd ever heard his name being brought before God in a prayer.
Spyros thought it appropriate to offer him a donation, but he refused.
When he left and Spyros was alone, he locked the door of his office for some privacy. He needed to think. What if what Gregory has said was true? What were the odds of it being true? If there were just a 1% chance of it being true he had to take that chance!
He cried out, "God, I don't know if you exist or not. But that man said you are alive. I'm asking you to forgive me, a sinner." He began to cry. He hadn't wept for 25 years! He wept before the living God and poured out his heart, confessing each sin that had been torturing him, one by one, for two to three hours.
Slowly his distorted character straightened out, and the burden of guilt lifted. He was a different person. He felt he had finally "hit the jackpot"! He didn't know what to say, except, "Thank you God." He walked home floating on air. Now he knew God was alive, and He was loved. An incredible peace flooded his soul.
Spyros went on to establish an evangelical fellowship for Greek speaking people in Johannesburg. Opportunities to share the gospel with his compatriots were multiplied. His children have all come to faith and are actively serving the Lord in various parts of the globe. Spyros and his wife, Fanoula have since returned to their birthplace in Thessaloniki where they are energetically spreading the good news that faith in Christ can bring hope and salvation to despairing, needy sinners.