FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS,
volume 14, number 8, February 19, 2015
Shortly after returning from an amazing eight day trip to Iran a number of years ago, Wini and I met a young Iranian couple (here we will call them Hamid and Sara) in Connecticut where we were planting a church. We hit it off immediately. We had them over to eat and I showed them the several hundred photos which our team had taken of their beautiful country. We shared with them, right up front, that we are Christians and spoke openly to them of Christ’s reality and power in our lives. We told them that they too should consider the claims of Christ. Sara always resisted, saying that she was a Muslim and was not interested in Christianity. She did say, however, that Islam is a very dark religion. Hamid, on the other hand, was open to me coming by his house and studying the Bible with him. I remember telling him of Cyrus, the Medo-Persian king, (that is his ancestry) who was so favorable to Judah’s return from the Babylonian captivity. Every time Wini would speak of Christ, and Wini spoke of Him most every time they were together, Sara always kindly but firmly resisted, saying, “I am a Muslim, and could never consider Christianity.” Soon Hamid and Sara had their first child and we were like parents to them and grandparents to their child. Hamid made a point to call me on Father’s Day. They attended church a few times and regularly participated in our annual International Dinner. Sara won first prize one year for the best food with her delicious Iranian dishes. We met thirty or forty of their Iranian friends and had cookouts and parties with them on several occasions. We also spoke of Christ with them. We attended an Iranian New Year’s party with at least one thousand Iranians at a facility at the University of Connecticut. We loved our Iranian friends. They reminded us of southerners-very friendly and hospitable.
Hamid and Sara eventually moved to the D.C. area and before they left, we had a going away party at our house with forty or fifty of their Iranian friends. I got into the festive mood and was doing my best to dance in Iranian fashion. A year or so later we were in D.C. and spent a couple of hours with our friends, and while with them Sara asked Wini, to her surprise, if she would find her a church to attend. Obviously we were thrilled. One Sunday after church Wini was talking with Keren Braddock about our friends. We knew that she and her husband, Demetrios, and their children had moved from the very area to where Hamid and Sara had moved. Wini wanted to know if they could recommend their former church as a good place for our friends. Amazingly Keren said that her church had a Farsi speaking service every Sunday afternoon. We were thrilled and put Hamid and Sara in touch with the pastor and his wife. Wini spoke one day at length with the pastor’s wife who told her testimony-how she had grown up a Muslim in Iran, had come to the United States to study. Her roommate was a Christian and was always speaking Jesus to her, and inviting her to church. Her hairdresser was also a Christian and was speaking of Jesus to her as well. When the woman’s brothers found out that she was moving toward Christianity, they came to her town and sequestered her for several months, forbidding her to have anything to do with Christians. After they felt confident they had removed the temptation of following Christ, they found their sister a Chinese roommate, convinced that the Chinese girl would be an atheist. The first night they were together her new roommate shared Jesus with her too! She had become a fervent Christian in China. Finally this Iranian Muslim woman called on the name of the Lord and was saved. She met a godly Iranian pastor and they were married and now serve their church faithfully.
Sara began attending the church every Sunday with her young daughter. She was amazed and encouraged to hear God’s praises sung in her own language. She did not know this was possible. About a year later, in the midst of Iranian unrest and the consequent crackdown on it, Wini was talking on the phone with Sara. She asked how her family was, and found that Sara’s brother had been beaten by the police. Wini said that she would pray for him. Sara interjected, “Well, I want you to pray for me too.” At that point Sara said that she had been depressed, and Wini told her that only Jesus could help her. Then Wini asked if she could again explain how she could know Christ personally. Sara replied, “I have a little flicker in my heart for Jesus and I want it to become a flame.” Our Iranian friend called on the name of the Lord and is walking faithfully with the Lord Jesus to this day. We spent the night with them three years ago when we left Connecticut to settle in Birmingham. Her husband is not there yet, but she is praying for him. In fact she was reading a solid Christian book in Farsi on prayer when we spent the night with them.
Now, why have I told you this story? Many westerners are working under a terribly misguided impression-that in order to share Jesus with a Muslim you must spend lots of time getting to know that person, to gain his trust, to “win the right to be heard.” That is not true with a Muslim nor is it true with anyone else, for that matter. Muslims do not respect weak, fearful people who are unwilling to stand up for what they believe. They respect people who are straightforward and honest. A couple of years ago our friends Jim and Carolyn Hasson were in England with Dale Cutlip and Globeworks International engaging Muslims in street evangelism. Carolyn was speaking to a young Pakistani Muslim woman about Christ when her brother came up to Carolyn, raising his voice at her, telling her to leave his sister alone. Carolyn said to him, “How old are you? I am old enough to be your mother. Doesn’t your religion teach you to respect older people? Why are you talking to me in such a disrespectful way.” He backed down and she continued her conversation. Others I know, who have done extensive evangelistic work in the Muslim world, say the same thing. They say that you must go right at Muslims with the gospel. Never insult their faith. Never mock Allah or Muhammed, but speak directly to them about Christ. They generally will listen.
Remember this-Muslims, or any other person of any other religion, cannot see the true Christ. There is a veil over their eyes, preventing them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. They are not our enemies. They are victims of the enemy, and that enemy is the devil, a liar from the beginning. What will it take for God to remove the veil from the eyes of Muslims? Be sure of this-it is happening frequently all over the world. Millions of Muslims are coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You will not hear this from CCN or Fox News but it is nonetheless true. First, you must pray diligently for Muslims you know, asking the Holy Spirit to remove the veil over their spiritual eyes. Second, seek out Muslims. Do not fear them. Most of them are nice and hospitable people. I could tell you countless stories of being on the receiving end of gracious people from Muslim nations. We have numerous times been with our friend Linda Dewey who has given and received remarkable hospitality from an Iraqi refugee family. And when you meet Muslims and have a meal with them, pray in the name of Jesus. Speak openly of your faith. Show them the beauty and excellency of Jesus. Listen to them. Care for them. Love them. Don’t wait around for the “perfect opportunity” to share Jesus and His mighty deeds. Go for it! You will be encouraged by their openness to hear the reason for the hope that is in you