It is far too easy for American Christians to hear of the imprisonment and brutal treatment of Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran and just be complacent about it. After all, we are not being imprisoned for our faith, and shouldn’t Pastor Saeed have known that Iran is a dangerous place to begin with?
Attitudes like that will betray a brand of “Christianity” that is shaped more by lifestyle than by worldview, more by culture than by God’s Word.
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us, “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (13:3). Our thoughts and prayers are to be
with our brothers and sisters suffering in prison for their faith as if we were right there beside them. Why? Because we are a part of the same body, the Body of Christ. And the Apostle Paul makes it clear that when one part of the body hurts it effects the entire body, even if halfway around the earth (1 Corinthians 12:26).
When Peter was imprisoned in the early days of the church, Luke tells us, “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.” (Acts 12:5). Peter was imprisoned for the single fact that he was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was sharing good news that would change the hearts and lives of men and women if they would believe. But that was seen as a threat to the “security” of the existing authorities, both religious and civil.
The church did not merely go into a helpless mode when Peter was kept in prison, but rather they became very active in prayer. Luke says the church “fervently prayed to God” on Peter’s behalf. The church believed that they served a God who is greater than Herod and that their God could deliver Peter if He so willed.
That is the call and challenge to the church in the United States and around the world today. We must be in “fervent” prayer on behalf of Pastor Saeed. He is a part of our body. He is our brother in Christ, and if he is hurting then the whole body is to hurt with him and hold him up to our Heavenly Father.
Pastor Saeed was working with orphans in Iran. Granted this work was because he is a follower of Jesus and seeking to obey Him, but it was also for the good of the Iranian people, not to undercut them in any way. It is somewhat ironic that the charges against him are for “attempting to undermine the national security of Iran by gathering with fellow Christians in private homes.”
There are several things that we need to be praying for in this situation.
- Pray that God will bring about the release of Pastor Saeed. Whether he does this in the miraculous way He did with Peter in Acts 12, or through the efforts of the ACLJ and diplomatic channels, is not the issue. But we have to realize that God’s ways are not our ways and His are always best and right! As Paul says, “Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways.” (Romans 11:33).
- Pray that, while imprisoned, Pastor Saeed will bring glory to God through his suffering. The Bible teaches us that we are to seek God’s glory in every place we find ourselves. In extraordinary circumstances like this but also in everyday, even mundane, things like eating and drinking (1st Corinthians 10:31)
- Pray that God will use Pastor Saeed’s circumstances to see many come to know Jesus Christ as Lord. Paul saw this happen while imprisoned in Rome. Paul tells the church at Philippi that “ Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,” (Philippians 1:12-13) God uses situations that we see as negative to spread the gospel.
So perhaps God is going to use this horrible situation for the Abedini family to awaken the church in America to the real persecution and attacks that exist against Christianity in other parts of the world. Perhaps God is wanting to wake us from our slumber, our comfort, and be challenged to intercede and be involved with other parts of our “body” in very different and very dangerous parts of the world.
God was not caught off guard by Pastor Saeed’s circumstances; and God is not helpless to use these for Saeed’s good and for the good of the church, and for His own glory.
May we Christians be sensitive to all that God is doing, and may we be obedient to His call to strengthen the body of Christ, the church, to face the spiritual warfare that is very real in our world. And may we stand in His grace, His truth, and wear the spiritual armor that Paul spoke about in Ephesians 6:10-20.
Let’s do battle in prayer for Pastor Saeed and the Abedini family and for God’s church around the world.
This article was written by Bill Haynes, Sr. Pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Somerset KY.
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