Hope in darkness

For Christians in the Middle East, the future must look hopeless.

Will the day come when Christianity is extinguished in the region? I don’t think so.

I was reading this week about an Assyrian Christian priest whose flock in northern Iraq is melting away in the face of the lightning Sunni jihadist invasion over the last couple of weeks. Like other Christians from ancient denominations in the Middle East, this priest’s church members are trying to get out of the country.

A visitor to the Middle East these days must find it hard to believe that Christianity once dominated the region before the rise of Islam. In some ways, it is amazing that some Christian churches managed to hang on after the Muslim wave swept across the Middle East and North Africa and into Europe.

Still, in the last 40 years, the Lebanese civil war, the Iranian revolution, the Iraq war and other conflicts have forced many of the remaining Christians to leave.

But where Christ is active, there is hope.

Our son visited Lebanon for a couple of weeks a year ago and found a lively outreach to Muslims by local Christian believers. Christ is breaking down seemingly impenetrable barriers to Muslims through dreams. Our son reported that some Muslims are becoming believers through dreaming about Jesus and seeking out Christians to explain their dreams.

Iran is one of the toughest countries in the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ, but I read in Christianity Today recently that house churches are springing up throughout the country.

Some pastors are being jailed but that hasn’t stopped Iranians from becoming believers. You can read more of that at this link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/september/monday-is-for-missiology-whats-going-on-in-iran.html.

In fact, persecution is one of the greatest ways to spread the Christian faith. The story of the early church in the Book of Acts is proof of that.

God said in Isaiah 55:11 that his word that goes out from his mouth “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”.

The word of God will find a fertile home in the hearts of people in the toughest places in the world – as long as there are strong believers ready to sacrifice everything to talk about Jesus.

This is a caution for me. I live in a free society, and I don’t have to sacrifice everything to talk about my Lord. But, like many believers in our country, I am often silent when the door of opportunity opens.

May we Canadian believers be as strong and bold as the persecuted believers in other parts of the world.

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