I want you to think with me for a minute. Imagine it’s Sunday, the singing portion of the service has ended and your pastor has just taken the stage to bring his message. Are you with me? Can you picture that?
Good…now imagine that as you’re listening to your pastor you hear a commotion at the back of the church. It sounds almost like a fight. People are yelling and a group of men from the government have interrupted the service and have begun arresting everybody. You try to escape out the side door, but they catch and cuff you as well.
You’ve been arrested for your faith in Jesus. Your claim to be a Christian has just landed you in jail and your only hope for escape is to renounce that faith, to deny you’re a Christian.
You might be thinking, “That’s crazy. That would never happen to us.” You might be right to think that way in America, but this is precisely what worries me.
Are you oblivious to the fact that this is happening elsewhere in the world?
Recent happenings in Iran have caused a global stir recently as pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was arrested and charged with “apostasy” from the Muslim religion because of his faith in Jesus Christ.
His sentence? Execution.
This could happen in a matter of days, maybe even hours. It is a travesty of human rights and even illegal according to Iran’s own Constitution as stated on this website:
Iran’s constitution sanctions Christianity as a legitimate minority faith and asserts that Christians are allowed to freely carry out their religious rites. Article 23 asserts that no one may be “reprimanded simply because of having a certain belief”.
In the face of such injustice, suffering, and persecution Pastor Youcef has been a model of faith. He has not recanted, nor do I believe he will. I do, however, pray for God’s intervention to preserve his life. We need more people with faith like this.
I want to be a person of faith like this.
The truth of the matter is that this is happening all over the world. Youcef is not alone. There are more martyrs for Christendom today than ever before. But in America we are completely blind to this.
This is what this blog is all about – counting all things loss for the sake of Christ and his kingdom and glory. This is the kind of faith I long to see as the norm in America. It’s here in pockets to be sure. But it’s not nearly a prevalent as it should be. My fear is that it will take conditions like those in Iran and elsewhere to manifest itself here at home.
What would cause a man, in the face of certain death, to say as Martin Luther once said,
I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.
I think the answer is the key ingredient missing in the American Christianity today. Too often I find it missing in my own Christianity. It’s the belief that Jesus Christ is worth more than all the treasures of this world combined.
Safety won’t satisfy me. Security won’t satisfy me. Comfort won’t satisfy me. Money won’t satisfy me. Human relationships won’t satisfy me. Fame won’t satisfy me. Success won’t satisfy me. It’s not even that they won’t satisfy me. It’s that they can’t.
No, only Jesus can satisfy me.
Pastor Youcef understands this. He knows that to threaten his life is of lesser concern than losing Jesus. Even life itself won’t satisfy us without Jesus. What’s more, Youcef understands that God is in control of this situation and He has promised that though they may kill him, not one hair on his head will perish (Luke 21:18). He has been able to say with the Apostle Paul, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21) and “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8).
Further still, Youcef understands that the Bible promises things like this will happen to Christians. In a letter Youcef wrote to his congregation he cited the following verses.
1 Peter 4:12 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
Matthew 5:10 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 9:26 – For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
And we are all familiar with Romans 8:28, which states that God works all things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
There is still time. Youcef’s candle still burns. Act now while there is still time. You can do so by visiting this website and emailing the Ambassador of Iran to put an end to the senseless suffering of Pastor Youcef. Also, pray for God to move in favor of Youcef in this situation. Ask Him to soften the hearts and change the minds of the decision makers.
You can read the full letter Youcef wrote to his congregation here.
We need more Youcef Nadarkhani’s in this world. We need more Youcef Nadarkani’s in America.
We have a lot to learn from brothers like him.