Seth Udinski, FISM News
Late last month, an Iranian pastor was released from captivity in the hands of radical Muslims after initially receiving a death sentence more than a decade ago.
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was released on February 26, shortly after several other believers who had been held captive were also released.
Christian persecution watchdog Middle East Concern (MEC) said in a statement,
Their pardon hardly addresses the injustice of the original sentencing and suffering that the men and their families endured. But we are glad for their sakes that they are free and with their families again.
Pastor Nadarkhani was originally arrested in 2010, when he was sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy. His death sentence was lessened several years later. Over the next decade, he was subsequently placed under arrest and released. This latest release came after almost five years in jail.
The pastor has been labeled an “enemy of the state” by Iran. Christians live in grave danger in hardline Muslim countries, where the Christian faith is seen as a direct attack against Islam.
Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List said,
Christian gatherings in private homes have been denounced as ‘illegal groups’ and acts ‘against national security,’ while many churches continue to be closed. Converts from Islam to Christianity bear the brunt of religious freedom violations, carried out by the government in particular, which sees these Iranian Christians as an attempt by Western countries to undermine the Islamic regime. Leaders of Christian convert groups, as well as members of other denominational backgrounds who support them, have been arrested, prosecuted and received long prison sentences for ‘crimes against national security.’
Author’s Biblical Analysis
Christians should be both encouraged and spurned on to action from this report.
First, we should praise God for this pastor’s safe release. As we have seen so often throughout history, God responds to the prayers of His people, coming through to rescue them so they can continue to faithfully serve Him. God has acted in this way in this situation.
Second, we cannot become lazy in our fervent prayers on behalf of the believers in the most dangerous parts of the world. We must continue to pray for them.
Ultimately, we should pray for the good news of Jesus Christ to be spread forth throughout all nations. Very often we see the Lord do this not apart from persecution, but through it. We should pray that no matter what happens, the gospel goes forth.
Next, we should pray for God’s sovereign hand of protection to cover the believers who stand in the fire of persecution. As God did for the three faithful Israelites in Daniel 3, we must pray he will guard his people against attacks.
Additionally, we should pray that God would strengthen our own conviction for the gospel and the truth of Jesus Christ. Friends, I say this often because I believe it to be true: the day is coming (and for some of us it has arrived) when we will come face-to-face with outright, “old-world” persecution.
What do I mean by this? For many of us who grew up in 20th century America where Christianity was still at least accepted, and in some cases widely popular, the “persecution” we have faced, while legitimate, is far tamer than that which our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world experience on a daily basis.
I believe those days will soon be behind us because Christianity is — like it was in Ancient Rome and like it is in present-day Iran — rapidly being shoved to the margins of society and is being viewed by societal elites as dangerous against the American state.
We need to be ready. This is why it would do us well to pray fervently, above anything else, for God to fill us with courage and conviction as we come to the reality of needing to give up everything for Christ. Will we answer the call?
By God’s grace, we can. Let us pray for boldness, conviction, and a love for Christ that drives us to live for Him no matter the cost.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 16:25