Google ‘Iranian Pastor’– you don’t even need to know his name– and you will find dozens of stories about a Christian minister in Iran facing the death penalty because he refuses to renounce his faith and deny his Savior.
The pastor’s name is Youcef Nadarkhani. He has a wife and 2 sons and a host of charges against him, including multiple counts of rape and something Iranian officials like to call ‘security crimes’.
There is some outrage around the world, especially since the rape and security crimes are quite possibly trumped-up charges. Believers everywhere hear his story and pray for his release. They pray for peace and safety for his family and his church. They pray that he will stand firm in Christ.
But what if God says, ‘No’?
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
II Timothy 4:6-8
The apostle Paul wrote this, probably from prison. He had kept the faith while he lived and soon after writing this he would die for it.
The very death that looked like victory for his enemies turned into a triumph of unspeakable sweetness for Paul. The church that should have been crushed sent down ever deeper roots and even longer branches that stretch around the world and across the centuries. The Vine binds saints from the ages together and it can’t be destroyed and our fellowship can’t be broken. Pastor Youcef, wherever he is and whatever his future holds isn’t alone and he isn’t defeated.
Whether he lives in Christ or dies to gain he can say, and we can echo him:
“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
II Timothy 4:17 & 18
Amen Brother Youcef. You are in our prayers.