06 July, 2014
I received the following in one of those emails that has been forwarded dozens of times and somewhere along the line, the original author who did the adapting of this story was left off, so I do not know who to give credits to. Whoever the author, this was so good that I had to pass it on.
Adapted from Live/Dead - The Story by Shawn Smucker
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Act 7:59–60
I recently heard the story of an Afghan man who was living in Iran. We’ll call him Ibrahim. There are more than a million Afghans who live and work there, a lot of them having migrated south during the Soviet war in the 1980s. They speak basically the same language as Iranians do, although it has slight variations and is called Dari. Some Afghans are born in Iran, but people of Afghan heritage are not permitted to receive citizenship there, so even those who are born there are considered outsiders.
Ibrahim became a Christian in Iran after hearing an evangelist preach on the television. He was extremely sick, and his doctors gave him no hope for recovery, but while he watched the Christian television show he became saved and healed. This just happened in the last year or so. He ended up coming to Turkey, where, for the first time, he saw a New Testament. Imagine reading the words of Paul for the first time, so close to some of the cities he had visited during his journeys.
About the time Ibrahim arrived in Turkey, his father and mother found out that he had converted. “We don’t have anything to do with him anymore!” his father exclaimed to his mother. “Do you understand? Your son is dead. He has denied the faith.”
Time passed, and eventually Ibrahim was able to call back to Afghanistan to speak with his mother. She was so upset when she heard his voice on the telephone. “How could this happen?” she asked. “How could you leave the faith?” Ibrahim told her the story of how he had found Jesus. He talked about being “born again.” When he used that phrase, she became silent.
“Mother, what’s wrong?” he asked her.
She sighed. “When I gave birth to you, I had a vision of an angel that came to me on a horse. The angel talked to me about being ‘born again,’ but I had no idea what the angel meant, and as the years went by, I put it to the back of my mind. But here you are, talking about being ‘born again,’ and now I finally understand what the angel was trying to tell me.”
They spoke for a little while longer, and Ibrahim’s mother professed faith in Christ.
Two months ago Ibrahim’s father killed Ibrahim’s mother after learning she had become a Christian. He burned her to death.
I heard this story from an American man who lives and works in Turkey. He knows the people involved, and he knows firsthand the price that many Iranians pay when they decide to follow Jesus. So many times we embark on a new journey with God only to turn back in fear or mistrust. We can’t see how things will work out. We’re not sure how the financial pieces will fall into place. We can’t envision how God will provide. Time and time again, both in stories about the early church and in stories from Iranian Christians, we see people who didn’t let fear keep them from moving forward. After Stephen’s stoning in Acts 7, I’m sure there were many who turned away from the faith. Their fear was simply too great.
Thankfully, the execution of Stephen didn’t deter every Christian from moving forward in Christ. In fact, many more joined the Christians in spite of Stephen’s death, perhaps because of it. The same can be said of our brothers and sisters in Iran— they are moving forward in spite of threats to their freedoms and their lives. Even after the interrogations, the beatings, and time in jail, they return to the streets and continue to share the gospel.
List the thing or things you believe God is calling you to do or be. Next to that list, make a list of the fears that keep you from moving forward with that call.
Offer those fears to God and ask for courage.
Then, one by one, draw a line through each fear.
Begin to focus on your call rather than on your fears.
Trust that where God has called you, He will make a way for you.