Where Spiritual Growth and Physical Suffering Intertwine
On March 20, Iranians celebrated a new year, 1391, in accordance to the Persian calendar. For many Iranian Christians, the date means nothing more than another year spent behind bars. Yet, at the same time, ICC is reminded that the Gospel is being heard throughout the country in a way the Iranian church has never seen before.
“On the ground, we’re moving forward and talking to people daily. This month alone, we had over twenty people come to Christ,” an Iranian church leader told ICC. “Persecution is also on the rise daily and inside has become more and more volatile.”
Despite growth, the year was also defined by the church as a period of immense persecution. More than 44 Christians had been arrested and another five Christians – who had been arrested in previous years – remained behind bars, including Youcef Nadarkhani, a pastor on death row for apostasy.
Throughout history, the growth of the church and the suffering of Christians often occur simultaneously. It reminds us that the Gospel’s ability to redeem the hearts of mankind is not of our own doing but is the work of God. As much as we sometimes try – and fail – to rely on our own strength, it is in our weakness that He is made strong:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Clinging to these promises in Scripture, many within the Iranian church exemplify this message today. Rather than fleeing persecution, they endure it by running the race set before them and fixing their eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2).
“[We] have accepted persecution and are using it to our advantage,” said an Iranian pastor. “In fact, the church is thriving under persecution.”
Note: over the past few days we have informed you about the 35 Christians imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for praying at a private home. Here is the latest update about their situation:
Our brothers and sisters continue suffering under harsh conditions in Saudi Arabian prisons. I recently talked to one of the prisoners who recounted to me that the Saudis are endangering their lives by placing convicted murderers in their prison cells. The Christian prisoner said, “The convicted murders could hurt us and we are concerned about our safety. Please continue pressuring the Saudis to release us.” The prisoner also said that two of the female Christians are still in pain due to the forceful strip search when they were jailed three months ago.
Please continue praying for the release of the prisoners and for God to give them grace to endure the hardship during this trying time.