As I held the 2-month-old baby girl and listened to the translator, I prayed. It was December 23; we had brought food for the family of five. Always hospitable, the Syrian refugees insisted that we come into their home for coffee. The living room/ bedroom was the size of a king size bed. Nevertheless, this family was fortunate the father had a job. Many refugees lived in homes made from scavenged trash.
The most memorable part of the visit was the gesture the father made as he spoke. He made a cutting motion with his right index finger from the back of his neck to the front of his throat. I did not need the translator; he was speaking of a beheading.
I have an emotional connection to today’s question: Why does God allow Islam State of Iraq and Levant to kill Christians? (ISIL is now more accurate than ISIS, because the terrorist group occupies more locations than Iraq and Syria.)
Throughout scripture, the faithful were tormented.
God has not changed (Hebrews 13:8, NIV) God has always allowed His people to die for their faith. (Luke 11:48-50, NIV)
“They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:37, 38, NIV)
God reminds us that death for the Christian is a reward.
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39, 40, NIV)
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mathew 10:28, NIV)
Jesus predicted persecution and execution. (Matthew 24:8-10, NIV)
The oppression of the believers caused them to scatter across Judah and Samaria spreading the truth about Jesus Christ as they went. Satan’s attempts to quench the Holy Spirit was used by God to create churches. (Acts 8:1-8, NIV)
Although the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:57-60, NIV) did not immediately lead to Saul’s conversion. Perhaps it was one of the examples that Paul remembered when writing “God uses all things for His glory”. (Romans 8:28 NIV)
If we think that becoming a Christian is get-out-of-trouble-free card, then we have misread the scripture. Matthew 5: 10-11, 44; John 15:20; 2 Corinthians 4:8-10; Romans 5:2-4; 1 Peter 3:14-18.
God is using ISIL to stir the hearts of Arabs.
Many Muslims are starting to question their religion. They know in their hearts that ISIL’s behavior does not honor God.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20, NIV)
The activities of ISIL are softening the hearts of many to receive the seeds of the gospel.
This oppression motivates people to move to areas where the gospel is preached unhindered. As refugees flee, they are encountering believers. Rather than the evangelists traveling to those who have no knowledge of Jesus, the seekers are coming to them. When the evacuees arrive, desperate for hope, they are more receptive to the New Testament.
When I visited a Syrian education center run by an Arab evangelical church, I saw children crammed into small rooms eager to learn. There is a waiting list, but no room. When talking with Syrian refugee families, most will tell you that they need food, shelter, medicines, and clothing, but their critical need is an education for their children. This center teaches: Arabic, French, English, Math, Science, and Bible lessons. The center speaks the Truth into the lives of these families who are fleeing war and searching for security and peace.
This oppression motivates people to move to areas where the gospel is preached unhindered. As refugees flee, they are encountering believers. When the evacuees arrive, desperate for hope, they are more receptive to the New Testament.
God is using ISIL to wake the Western Church.
When you think of the Middle East, do you think of people Jesus died for, or do you think of the price of oil? Before ISIL gained their power, most Christians ignored the war in Syria. Even now, much of our prayer life is concerned about our comfort in the West rather than the protection of the innocent.
As refugees flooded Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan the first four years of the war, the West didn’t seem to notice the strain on these host countries. Now that it’s affecting Europe, the world is on alert. Hundreds of men, women, and children were killed on the trek to Europe before the picture of Aylan made international news. Now that we know, we are responsible to pray. “…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: 48b, NIV)
Has God used ISIL to get your attention?
Will the threat of ISIL change your heart toward the Arab people?
Will you pray for salvation for all people?
Do you care that followers of Christ are persecuted in the land of the Bible?
Pray specifically that Arabs will have dreams and visions.
Pray that women will learn to read and will have Bibles.
Pray for the children experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Pray that government leaders will stop ignoring the holocaust that is occurring.
Pray that when the war ends and Syrians return to their homeland, they will return with the hope of Christ in their hearts.
Pray that God will work in miraculous ways, revealing His glory.
Give to Christian organizations that not only provide humanitarian aid, but also spiritual counsel.
These are wonderful resources:
http://www.persecution.com/ This is the location of The Voice of the Martyrs
http://www.livesofsaltandlight.org/ (This is the organization sponsoring the Syrian Education Center)
http://www.paintedorange.org/syrianrefugeswallsandfear/ (This is a post concerning the fear Christians are experiencing concerning ISIS and more)
◊ Did you learn anything from this post?
◊ Did this post present a unique point of view? Please comment below.
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