I’m praying for Pastor Saeed Abedini. You’ve probably read that the married father and former Muslim left the United States to travel back to his native Iran to build an orphanage and see his parents. Abedini was arrested last year and charged with undermining Iran’s national security and trying to convert young Muslims to Christianity. He was sentenced to serve eight years in prison.
The American Center for Law and Justice reported that Abedini was moved to what’s called the “deadliest” prison in Iran. As his wife Naghmeh is set to testify about her husband at a congressional hearing tomorrow, I asked God to give the pastor strength to endure his confinement and persecution. I added my voice to many Christians praying for his release. I hope God gives Abedini the peace of knowing that all things work together for good to those who love God. Those of us God predestined, His elect, are called according to His purpose. Even as we suffer the consequences of sin, we’re justified by faith through grace, and also glorified. It sounds strange to us at times, but God is being glorified in Abedini’s plight.
It’s one thing to recite Romans 8 and understand the meaning of the words as we sit in our heated houses filled with plenty of food and comfort. It’s quite another to say and believe these words while suffering. As it stands, Americans living in this country won’t have to decide whether to deny Christ or die. We don’t yet face prison for preaching and sharing the gospel. Yes, the godless seek to push us from the public square and “shame” us into keeping our faith in the closet. Yes, they impinge on our religious liberty. The homosexual lobby definitely encroaches on our freedom of conscience to reject perversion. But compared to what Christians in Muslim countries face, what we deal with is small. And we already know the prince of this world is a defeated foe.
I try to imagine myself in Pastor Abedini’s and other persecuted Christians’ shoes, and it’s difficult. I’ve never known anything like it. I suspect I’d be paralyzed with fear, my whole body weak with terror. Can you imagine it? What persecution have you faced? I don’t have a single anecdote to share.
Iran and Syria are the two places on the planet I’m 99 percent certain I’ll never visit. “But,” you ask, “La Shawn, what if God calls you to go?” I’d like to think that if God called me to go to a country that imprisons and kills Christians, He’d also equip me with the kind of courage I presently lack. I’d think of Romans 8 and pray on it constantly. Let’s pray for Pastor Abedini and others suffering in the name of Christ:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace …” (Numbers 6:24-26).