From the Voice of the Martyrs January 2017 newsletter, (www.persecution.com)
A pastor from an Islamic country in the Middle East recently shared the story of Shani, one of his church members. Shani’s husband was the leader of a house church, until one day when he simply disappeared. For three months, Shani had no idea where he was. The authorities who had taken him had filed no charges against him, and he wasn’t allowed to see a lawyer or his family.
Shani was left alone, worrying about her husband and about herself. She knew her husband was strong and that his faith would endure even if he were tortured. He would never give up names of other Christians or details about their secret gospel work.
But Shani was afraid she wasn’t that strong. “Dear God,” Shani prayed one night, “please don’t allow them to find me. I can’t handle torture. I cannot handle a jail cell. I’m not strong like my husband. If they torture me I’d probably give up the names of every single Christian. I might even deny my faith completely.” She prayed that prayer, then went to sleep.
Shani was awakened at 6 a.m. the next morning by someone banging on her door. When she looked out the window, she saw two police cars in front of her home. “God! I told you that I can’t handle arrest and torture,” she prayed. “And this is what happens? Whatever happens now, God, it’s your fault.”
The police took Shani to the local jail, which was filthy and smelled like a sewer. She had grown up in a wealthy family and had never been in a place like this.
In the middle of her first night in jail, the guards pulled her out of her cell and took her to an interrogation room. The interrogator across the table from her looked very angry.
“Why do you talk about Jesus to Muslims?” he demanded. “Don’t you know that is illegal here? You are not permitted to evangelize.”
The only thing she could think to say was, ‘Dear God … Lord.” Then she suddenly felt God’s presence and peace.
Shani looked up at the interrogator. “I have a right to evangelize,” she said, “and I’m happy that I’m evangelizing. We’re supposed to evangelize. This is a commandment from Jesus Christ. Everyone needs to hear this Good News. You need to hear this Good News, too. God sent me here to tell you about Jesus. You are a poor man. I feel bad for you. You don’t have peace, you don’t have joy, you don’t have hope. You don’t even know why you are alive. The only way to the truth is Jesus Christ. You are an interrogator now, but one day you are going to stand before the ultimate judge, Jesus Christ, and He is going to examine you. Without Him, there is no hope for you. And Jesus is going to ask you, ‘Why did you do this to My servants?'”
The interrogator was shocked by her bold words. “I see,” he replied. “I know exactly who you are now. Your punishment has just increased. Go back to your cell, and I’ll deal with you tomorrow.”
As Shani was escorted back to her filthy cell, she prayed, “Oh, Lord, what did I do? How could I have been so stupid? Why did I even say all of that stuff?” After further thought, she decided she would apologize to the interrogator and take it all back. She decided she would say whatever he wanted her to say.
The following night, the guards again dragged her out of her cell and into the interrogation room. Despite her plan, she again felt the Holy Spirit’s guidance and began to share the gospel with her interrogator. The third night, it happened again. Each night, Shani entered the interrogation room with the intent of apologizing to the interrogator, and each night she instead boldly proclaimed the gospel.
After the third interrogation, Sham went back to her cell hoping to give her mind a rest and fall asleep. She hadn’t slept since her arrest and she was exhausted. In the middle of the night, she heard a knock on her cell door. To her surprise, it wasn’t a guard. It was the interrogator. Shani was terrified. Was he coming to beat her or even to kill her because of her disrespect toward him?
“Don’t worry,” the interrogator said calmly. “I will not harm you. I want to ask you for a favor. Would you pray for me tonight?” The interrogator entered Shani’s cell with tears in his eyes.
“How did you know that God sent you here at this particular time in my life?” he asked. “The past three days I’ve been going through hell. How did you know that my life is so crazy, so messed up? I tried everything in my religion and I could never find peace. I learned today that the only Savior is Jesus Christ. Please help me to be saved.”
The interrogator stayed in Shani’s cell for three hours, and before he left, he placed his faith in Jesus Christ. He then ordered the release of both Shani and her husband on the secret condition that they agree to meet privately to disciple him.
Maybe you have prayed prayers like Shani’s: Lord, I can’t handle cancer. Lord, I can’t work for this difficult boss even one more day. God, I can’t handle this rebellious teenager. Lord, I can’t endure the betrayal of my unfaithful spouse.
Shani told God she could not handle arrest, and that under torture she might give up the names of other Christians, or even deny her faith. And yet this timid, fearful woman boldly shared her faith with her interrogator and everyone else in the room. A frightened woman who thought she might deny her faith, ended up leading an enemy of the gospel into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Pastor Wally Magdangal is a Filipino Christian who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested for his Christian ministry in Saudi Arabia and sentenced to death. But God miraculously intervened, and Pastor Wally is still alive and serving the Lord today.
As he shared his story with us, Pastor Wally said something profound: “Until God is finished with you, you are invincible.” Until God says your time on earth is over (and He is the only one who can make that determination), you cannot be stopped. We don’t have to live in fear of persecution, Muslim extremists, medical diagnoses, or anything else. It’s not about us anyway; it’s about God and His power in us. Because of God’s power in us, we need not be afraid.
Luke 12:11-12 — (Jesus said), “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
Luke 12:4 — (Jesus said), “I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.”
Joshua 1:9 — Have not I commanded you? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be dismayed: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
“Lord, help me.” –Matthew 15:25b