Nathan Scharf had a hunger for God that could not be satisfied. In spite of the prosperity in his life, he got addicted to alcohol. At his lowest point he felt so miserable that he felt a desire to commit suicide. Then an old question came up “Wouldn’t you give Him a chance?” He found salvation when he came to Jesus as a sinner.
I was raised in the Jewish tradition and educated in the Jewish law. My mother and I loved each other very much and when I would come home from school I would ask her, “Mother, why am I different to the other boys? Why do they scold against me and laugh at me?” My mother used to take me in her arms and comfort me. She knew what it meant to be persecuted, because she came from the ghettos in Russia. Her parents were killed in front of her when she was just thirteen years old. Later on, she had to work very hard in a bakery and had a very difficult time. However, she told me once that the Messiah would come to redeem us, the Jews. That was what she lived for. She told me, “Nathan, when you have no strength left, you have to ask the Most High for wisdom.” Now I was often without strength and then I would call to God for wisdom as my mother had taught me.
On Yom Kippur, the Day of Reconciliation, we would stay for 24 hours in the synagogue. I would sit downstairs with my father and my mother would sit on the balcony. Beside me my father would wring his hands and call out aloud to God for forgiveness of sins. On the balcony I would hear the voice of my mother above those of the other women. After the day of fasting mother would ask father, “Father, do you feel anything better?” “No, Rosa”, would be his reply, “the same old heartfelt grief is still there”. It was the same every year and finally I didn’t want to have anything to do with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. After all, He didn’t listen to the prayers of the ones I loved so much.
Hunger for God
When I was about nineteen years old, I met Mary. She was not a Jew and went to church on Sunday. I soon understood that if I then wanted to be with her, I also had to go to church.
I remember that as a boy of eight years old I once sat on the pavement outside a church. Inside the people sang “The old rugged cross”. There was something in this song that impressed my child’s heart and I listened with my ear against the door. Shortly afterwards, a man came outside, looked at me and said, “For the synagogue, walk down this street and then turn left”.
The unconscious hunger for God was not satisfied at that time and also not when I went to church with Mary. She was a faithful attendant of the Church, teacher in Sunday class, sang in the choir, but didn’t know the Lord Jesus as her personal Saviour.
Wouldn’t you give Him a chance?
Then there came a young man in the life of Mary and me. His name was Johnny. He was only sixteen years old, but a real born-again Christian. He spoke with us about Jesus until we were nearly fed up with it. Sometimes he would put his arm around me and say, “Nathan, Jesus loves you. Wouldn’t you give Him a chance?”
Addicted to alcohol
Mary and I married, I started a business and God gave me a time of prosperity but then came the day that I drank a glass of gin for the first time. In spite of my love for Mary and our three children, this one glass led to another and after some time I could not give up drinking. I tried many things to break the addiction, but nothing helped. I even went to our rabbi, who said to me, “Nathan, it is time that you also help in the synagogue. Everyone needs to contribute one’s mite.” He loved me, but had nothing more to offer. My wife hated my drinking and in her despair she started to pray, really pray, with all her heart. She started to realise that she was a church member, but not a Christian. The Lord was merciful to her and after some time she came to believe in Jesus as her personal Saviour.
Deception and desperation
I will never forget a booklet that I read that told me to repeat daily five times the words “think good”, “do good”, “be good”, “I am good!” When I read that, I threw the booklet in the garbage bin. It was the biggest lie that I had ever read. I knew that I was the same dirty sinner as the day before.
My desperation grew. I was 34 years old and had a flourishing business. However, in December 1946 I stood in a hotel room with a revolver in my hand. It was as if Satan told me, “Mary and your children will have forgotten you soon, end yourself, pull the trigger.”
Then, from very deep within me the thought, “Nathan, you have tried everything and it failed. Why don’t you give Jesus a chance?” came to me.
On January 5, 1947 it happened that I stepped into a church. The speaker that morning didn’t look especially well to do. He was tall and skinny and his clothes were worn out, but his face was shining. He seemed the happiest man that I had ever seen. At the end of his sermon, he invited people to come forward and give their heart to the Lord. It was as if I was lifted out of my pew and I ran to the front. I said, “In the Name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If Jesus can do something for me, let Him do it.“ I came to Jesus as a sinner and He treated me as a sinner. I was redeemed.
Who tells them?
The next day I stood on the street in front of my own shop and stopped people, not to do business, but to tell them about Jesus. I just couldn’t keep it to myself! The workers in my shop shook their heads, one was Catholic and the other Methodist, and they thought I was overdoing it. Yet who had to tell the people about the Lord Jesus, who else than the redeemed children of God?