In the past several weeks, I have shared lessons of gratitude from the persecuted church: The persecuted church is thankful for the Gospel and knows its power—so they share it with others, often at great risk to themselves. The persecuted church is thankful and desperate for Jesus’s presence—so they seek Him daily, they love what He loves, and they obey His commands.
This third lesson in this series is about having gratitude for something the persecuted church has very little of: freedom.
We are free in the West. Many of us use that freedom to indulge ourselves in a self-centered life seeking pleasure, comfort, and entertainment. But we are called to be different. We are called to be in this world but not of the world (John 17:14–18). Unfortunately, we Christians have become “one of them,” and living as “one of them” has become so normal for us that we do not even recognize it.
We are so used to our freedom that we no longer value it. We take it for granted, assuming incorrectly that the whole world is “just like us.”
We must know that much of the world does not enjoy our freedom. In addition to dictatorships in China (1.4 billion people), Russia (143 million), and North Korea (25 million), most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims live under the bondage of Islamic regimes and the dark spirit of Islam.
We have over 2 million brothers and sisters in Iran. Most of them have come to Christ in the past 10 years. Yet 98 percent of them have never been to a church of any kind (neither building churches nor house
churches) even once. They do not have freedom. They do not have our resources. Yet they are living for Jesus. They are sharing the Gospel despite the high price of persecution (losing jobs, arrest, torture, jail time).
They desperately need our support. We must stand with them and help them transform Iran into a Christian nation. They are ready to live and die for Jesus, but they need our help.
What should we do? First we must change our mind about Muslims:
- We must decide to love people who are Muslims. “God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). God loves Muslims. Therefore, we must love them. If we hate Muslims or fear them, we are not loving them and we are clearly out of sync with God’s heart that loves them.
- We must see Muslims as victims and not as terrorists. Almost all Islamic people are Muslims not because they choose it, but because they are born into a Muslim family.
They are captives. They have all the characteristics of a captive: they have no choice, they are forced to stay in captivity and do the will of their captors, and they will be shot in the back if they walk away.
We must have compassion for Muslims. Millions of Muslims are recognizing that they are in captivity and are asking, “Is there a savior?” and “Does anybody care?”
- We must seek God’s plan for Muslims. The world does not have an answer to Islam advancing in Europe and America. Islam is not just a religion but a political system as well, and western governments do not know how to counter this. Islam demands more than the religious goal of converting the world to Islam. It also has political and militaristic goals. By Allah’s command in Quran, Muslims are to take over the political system of the world—by force if needed.
The world does not have a workable plan, but the Lord does.
If we ask God, “What is your plan for saving Muslims?” I am sure He will not be shocked or unnerved with that question. On the contrary, He will show us His plan for saving Muslim, and He will open our eyes to see what He is doing to make that happen.
I can imagine that after explaining His plans and what He is doing, He will confront us by asking, “Will you join me? Will you have my heart and mind for Muslims? Will you obey my commandment to go?”
America is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the history of the world. We must use our freedom and power to do God’s will and not to pursue a narcissistic life style. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48, NIV). According to the Bible, one thing is clear, one day we shall stand before the Lord and give an account of the resources and the freedom He has given us in the U.S. (Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10).
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13, NIV).
We live in a free and wealthy country. Let us use our freedom and wealth to do His will. Let us ask Him where He is working and invest our God-given resources to advance His Kingdom.
Christians spend 98 percent of their income on themselves. American Christians spend 95 percent of offerings on home-based ministry, 4.5 percent on cross-cultural efforts in already reached people groups, and .5 percent to reach the unreached. We can do better. Let us start today.