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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Reaching Out While In Chains

"Yet, What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later."
  (Romans 8:18)

Sometimes the trials and tribulations that we go through in life result in us becoming self-centered and we spend a lot of time feeling sorry for ourselves. Instead of the trial drawing us to closer to God, in some cases we turn away in bitterness and anger.
This however was not the case in the life of a very courageous Iranian prisoner. Two years ago, Farshid Fathi, a pastor of the house church movement in Iran, was arrested and put in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. His crime? Apostasy and evangelism. Farshid left Islam and became a follower of Jesus Christ. This is illegal in Iran. He was sentenced to six years in prison, leaving behind his wife and children.
The conditions in Evin Prison are both psychologically and physically cruel. There are beatings, tortures and rapes reportedly committed by guards and officials behind these walls. It would be easy for Farshid to give in to his circumstances and spend the time being depressed and bitter over the trial he is enduring. Yet that is not the case.
On December 14, The world was shocked and saddened when a crazed gunman walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut and senselessly massacred 20 elementary students and 7 adults. The news of this horrible tragedy traveled around the world and reached the ears and eyes of Farshid Fathi. Shaken and saddened by this awful tragedy  Farshid responded with the love and concern of a pastor. He composed a letter to the parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary students expressing his sorrow over their loss.
He began his letter by identifying with their pain saying, "When I imagine how hard your pain is, I forget my sufferings."
Pastor Fathi reminds me of the great Apostle Paul who spent much of ministry writing letters of encouragement to the church while in prison. Paul exhorted Christians to rejoice in their sufferings instead of being bitter and to trust in the lord.
Expressing his love and sorrow for their pain, Farshid sympathisized in his letter by saying, "I believe we will have enough time in heaven with our lovely children forever. There is no gun there, there is no prison and there is no pain."
 Paul encourages us in Romans 8:18 that our present sufferings are so small and trivial compared to the glorious future that awaits us in heaven..
We can learn a valuable lesson from Pastor Fathi. In the midst of our suffering and pain our focus should be on the promise of Scripture and not ourselves. Farshid understood there are other people in the world who are undergoing severe trials that need our prayers and love.
Pastor Fathi reached out in love and prayer while in chains. What will be your response?