Following Jesus and Counting the Cost
22 Jan 2018
Arab World Media is a ministry of Pioneers, based in Europe. They tell this story:
Jesus’ teaching continues to powerfully transform lives today – as it did his first followers in the Middle East. This testimony illustrates how the good news is changing hard hearts in the Arab world and enabling people to follow the Messiah despite great personal risk.
God is looking for people like you
Faiz* spewed hate and insults down the phone into the ear of Khalil*, a member of the Arab World Media team. He ranted for several minutes until finally pausing for breath. The team member took advantage of the pause to say, “You are very zealous for God. I am sure he appreciates the zeal you have for him. God is looking for people like you. You are special.”
That response surprised Faiz. “Why aren’t you insulting me?”
“Because I am a Christian, and Christ calls us to love all people,” replied Khalil.
Faiz listened as the team member shared the gospel. This battle-hardened fighter from Daesh (Arabic term for ISIS) broke down in tears as he heard for the first time about the God who loved him enough to come and die for him.
“Please pray for me. I’m stuck here with ISIS, and I can’t find a way out. I hate what I’m doing and I can’t take it anymore. I want to escape, but I don’t know how. Please don’t call me, as everyone here watches everyone else, and if they found out that I’m listening to you, they would kill me. When I get a moment alone, I will call you and listen to what you have for me.”
A life-changing decision
From time-to-time, Faiz secretly called the Media team. During his third phone call, he was ready to make the dangerous decision of following Jesus. He committed his eternal destiny to Christ, knowing the immediate risks that this would involve.
Sure enough, a few weeks later, the team received this shocking and chilling text message from Faiz’s phone:
“I killed Faiz last night because I found out that he had left Islam for Christianity. Muad*”
Muad was another ISIS fighter. It was likely that Faiz had chosen not to deny his Saviour when confronted about his new faith, and paid the ultimate price.
What would Jesus say?
Some months later, a man identifying himself as Muad made contact with the team again. The tone was different this time. His heart seemed to have softened.
“I’m very confused. I grew up as a Muslim. I joined ISIS, and I have killed a lot of people, both Muslims and non-Muslims. I grew up learning the Islamic Sharia law from primary school to university. I am beginning to ask myself, why do we kill people not in agreement with us? Do people from other faiths act in the same way?”
Muad had been searching online and came across Arab World Media’s Arabic website.
The team member explained that this aggression was not in all Muslims but was evident in people’s violent expression of Islamic belief.
The responder provided wise counsel to this searching soul: “To see if a faith is from the true God, take note of what it instructs people to do. If it exhorts people to truly love one another, it is from the true God.”
Muad was amazed and intrigued by this Christian faith. “What does your faith teach about enemies? What if someone is a Christian but wants to convert to another faith? Do you kill them?”
Muad was astounded to hear what Jesus said on these subjects. He learned how the Messiah explained in the Sermon on the Mount about the need to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors.
Muad had a lot of reflection to do as this new teaching challenged his deepest convictions. The responder encouraged Muad to take the time to read the Gospel of Matthew for himself and come to his own conclusions.
A brief life makes an eternal impact
The following day, Muad texted the team with the most remarkable news…
“After reading the Gospel of Matthew, and listening to what you have shared with me, I have decided to commit my life to Jesus. After praying, I felt that I was born again and filled with a great sense of joy and peace. I have never experienced this before in my entire life.”
It is likely that Muad is the person who killed Faiz and sent that threatening message to our team. Although Faiz’s life was tragically cut short, his story of redemption powerfully portrays the living words of Jesus:
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’ (John 12:24 ESV).
Praise God that in the midst of violence and hatred, the love of Christ is still able to reach and change lives like Faiz and Muad.
Pray for God’s living word to impact even more fighters, leading them to sacrificially follow Jesus and leave the way of violent Islam espoused by ISIS.
*Names have been changed. Only stock images have been used.