We can learn a lot from the beheading of 21 Christians in Libya last February.
In February of 2015 many of us watched in horror as an ISIS video showed 21 Christian men in orange jumpsuits lined up to be beheaded on a beach in Libya. Since then we have learned of similar atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians. I have made it a point to pray for Christians around the world who have been imprisoned for their faith and for those whose lives are in danger because of their bold stand for their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope you are doing the same. If I were in their place, I would want to know that other believers cared about me and were praying for me.
My point, however, is more specific than just praying for them. It is how we should pray for them. In a previous article I listed some specific and biblical ways we should pray for persecuted believers around the world. I have also often mentioned that the underground church in China doesn’t consider a pastor truly qualified to lead unless he has spent at least three years in prison. The pain that we try so hard to avoid is that which God uses the most.
Today I’d like to focus on the believers in the Middle-East who are not in prison, but whose lives are in constant danger because of ISIS. I had been praying that God would be their Rock of Escape, their defender and their refuge. I saw their deaths as senseless acts of barbarism that God abhorred.
AS I SEE IT
This all changed as I read the latest issue (Sept. 2015) of the magazine published by The Voice of the Martyrs. It included an article about how the families of the martyred men in Libya had responded to the gruesome deaths of their husbands and fathers. As they were interviewed, they responded in a way that changed my whole perspective. One of the wives (now widows) responded to VOM’s questions in a way that typified most of the families of the victims. She said that she learned of her husband’s death by watching a Christian TV channel. When she heard the news before seeing the video, she was very sad, but after seeing the video, she was comforted. Her comfort came not from the way her husband died, but by what she saw on the lips of all the victims. They were mouthing the words “Lord Jesus Christ” in Arabic.
She was proud that her husband had stood firm in his faith and would not deny his Lord. She was equally proud because his firm stance made all the Christians around the world proud. She believed that God allowed the deaths of all the men to send a message to everybody who is far from God to return to Him. The ordeal made her faith stronger and has encouraged her not to fear anything or anybody. She doesn’t cry for her husband because God is a God of comfort and love. Her husband is in a better place, so tears should be for her and her family, not him. Finally, her message to the people of America is to join her in praying for the members of ISIS that God would open their hearts and their eyes to see the glory of God.
Now you can understand why my prayers have changed. Her comments made me think of how Paul’s imprisonment actually helped spread the gospel and encouraged other believers to speak the word of God without fear (See Phil. 1:12-14). But what Paul said in 2 Cor. 4:12 really takes on new meaning: “So death works in us, but life in you.” While he was speaking about the death of the “old man” and the flesh, the result is the same. The death of the 21 Christian men resulted in new life for their families. Yes, there is tremendous pain and loss, but their unwavering faithfulness awakened a new determination and courage to carry on.
Yes, I will continue to pray for deliverance, if it is God’s will, but I now am praying that God will use whatever happens to strengthen His church and bring glory to Himself. Also, if these families can pray for the members of ISIS, so could I.
GOD REVEALS HIS GLORY