Years ago, our oldest daughter got us interested in the ministry of Voice of the Martyrs. Quite honestly, I don’t think we’ve ever been the same. I’m not saying we’re suddenly super spiritual or anything, but every time I get to thinking my life is difficult, my ministry is difficult, etc, I simply remember folks like these. Here is part of the latest VOM email I received yesterday.
Before they gave their lives to Jesus in 2006, Fawzi and Nadira were both Muslims living in a majority Muslim village. After they became Christians, Fawzi, a farmer, continued to work for a Muslim landlord. For years he and Nadira actively ministered to others, offering their home for prayer meetings and sharing the gospel. In the daytime Fawzi worked in the field, and in the evening he visited and prayed with local Christian families.
In 2009, a Muslim man asked Fawzi to come and pray for his sick mother. When local Muslim leaders learned that Fawzi was visiting and praying for Muslims, they were infuriated…The Muslim leaders and other fanatical Muslims began harassing Fawzi, blocking his way when he tried to attend prayer meetings. He was beaten seven times and once was forced to cut wood all night in the forest.
In September 2009, several Muslims showed up at Fawzi's house. Fawzi gave his Bible to his 7-year-old nephew and said, "Today they will kill me; please hold my Bible and keep it with you." At gunpoint, one of the Muslims told Fawzi, "Today I will shoot you if you don’t accept Prophet Muhammad as the true prophet." Fawzi replied, "I cannot do this. If you want to shoot me, do it. I will accept being killed, happily, but remember if this is not from Heaven, you cannot kill me."
Rather than shooting Fawzi, the Muslims filed a false robbery report against him. The police arrested him and held him for 13 days, and the Muslim leader paid the police to beat Fawzi until he returned to Islam. Every day, the police hit the bottom of his feet with sticks, dragged him across the room by his beard and lashed his back and buttocks with a leather strap. He was told the beatings would stop if he would accept Islam, but Fawzi remained firm in his faith.
When the police realized that their efforts were futile, they registered the false robbery report and sent Fawzi to the district jail in another city in October 2009. Fawzi's wife, Nadira, borrowed money from relatives to hire a lawyer, and Fawzi was released on bail in January 2010.
Nadira was joyful to have her husband home, but her joy was short-lived. That evening the village leader came and forced them out of their home, telling Fawzi, "Today if you don't leave this village I will shoot you and your wife. Get out of here."
The family left and their struggles continued, though they eventually found a Christian brother who has reached out to them. Here’s the point. This is what many in the church have endured down through the years. This is the sort of sacrifice and commitment Jesus had in mind when He warned us of the cost of following Christ.
What about the American church? We whine about what kind of music we have in church, we argue about this and that policy at our church business meeting, we fight over who gets to use the nice million dollar building God blessed us with. Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters are willing to die for their faith, and many are actually dying!
I wonder how many of those who whine and complain in the American church would be willing to endure what this family has endured. I wonder if our commitment is truly to Christ or to our own little “kingdoms” we’ve built in His name. I wonder how a little persecution would change our outlook on what's important. A little perspective would be a wonderful thing for most of us.
Don’t get me wrong. I know there are some serious doctrinal issues that we should “fight” for. I know that we should do things orderly in the church and that we should be good stewards of what God has given us. But once in awhile we need to open our eyes to the bigger picture, realize how truly blessed we are, and fall to our knees in thanksgiving for our blessings and in prayer for our persecuted brothers.
Jesus calls us to sacrifice for Him, to take up our cross daily and follow Him. When was the last time you truly sacrificed for Him? Just how firm is your commitment to Christ? As for me, this is a daily challenge to live for Him and His glory above all else. May God give us each the strength to do just that no matter what.