Key Verse: Heb 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Here are a few personal testimonies of how God has been experienced in our modern days. Enjoy! (There will be no assignments, unless you would like to share your own testimony with us.)
I am the seventh child out of fourteen. We live in one of I the poor, densely populated areas, where Muslims and Christians live together. I grew up in a Muslim family. My father worked hard to make ends meet, working day and night to earn a living. We boys used to spend most of our time hanging around on the streets. Hunger would motivate us, in many cases, to steal loaves of bread or bottles of milk that had been distributed early in the morning in front of the closed shops.
As a child, I was not fond of education. Before long, I was kicked out of school. I still remember very well a pious Christian lady who used to gather the children off the street to give them Sunday school lessons. She used to teach us about the love of Jesus Christ for all people, show us spiritual films, and read us passages from the Bible. At the end of the meeting, she would give us candy and drinks. She treated us very kindly and gently; therefore, we would feel ashamed of ourselves had we done anything improper before her!
There were no children's activities provided by cultural institutions or clubs, only that loving lady. As a boy, I enjoyed the Christian festivals on Christmas and Easter. They were joyful occasions for me.
After being kicked out of school, I started to work as a laborer in the seaport and some other places. Yet I was living in a big vacuum. It was a terrible vacuum. I was lonely with no friends or companions to care for me. I was brought up in a family with one foundation-the love of money. I was materialistic. I was enslaved by money.
Being kicked out of school had a negative effect on me. I took refuge in alcohol to forget my problems. I tried to find solutions in gambling and drinking. I saw life in terms of having fun and collecting money. My brothers joined the trades and started to make good money; I was green with envy so I decided to start my own business. I managed to open a small shop, and money knew its way to my pockets, but I had no peace or tranquility.
I felt a deadly emptiness for six years. Family problems began to surface. My brothers and sisters had marital problems, my father grew old, and my mother fell ill. All the problems rested on my shoulders. In 1982 I was up to my ears in debt. All the constant pressures of the various problems led me to a severe depression. Finally I collapsed in 1986.
Looking back at my life before the collapse, I realize I was an alcoholic. Between 1982 and 1984, I drank heavily and frantically. In 1984, I traveled to France to get treatment for severe psychological problems. I was treated for a month and then returned home. I was shocked to find the shop and the business I established completely demolished.
In August 1986, I began to feel a terrible pain in my stomach and other parts of my body. I became unconscious and had to be hospitalized. I was in a serious condition; the mechanism in my body nearly stopped. For over two weeks, my friends and relatives visited me in the hospital, expecting me to die soon. One of them was a Christian clergyman. I still remember him for his love and humility. Some other Christian friends also visited me and prayed for me.
At this time, the nurses went on strike in my hospital and they had to get rid of the patients who were not seriously ill. I, however, had to remain in the hospital. After seven teen days of medical treatment, I became hysterical, jumping out of bed and attacking all those around me. I cut the oxygen tubes and soon lost consciousness. Physicians thought that my end was coming.
Doctors examined me and after an hour they decided that I was dead! They called my family to come in order to issue my death certificate. While I was in that condition, I saw an intense light touching me, and I heard a voice three times saying, "Stand up!" I saw the person of Jesus Christ. He appeared to me through that great light.
My family brought a casket to take my apparently dead body from the hospital. Whatever my condition, weak or dead, after Jesus appeared to me, life surged into my body and I recovered. When doctors came and saw me, they were shocked. They wrote a medical report and described my case as "a very rare, freak, inexplicable case"! I am sure it was Jesus Christ who restored me to life. He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6).
I left the hospital in a feeble condition, but I was newly born, for I came to believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I told Him, "Lord, if You want to give me life, let it be for the glory of Your name." I became, once again, childlike. I began to see everything from a new viewpoint. I wanted to be with Christian brothers. When I walked on the street, people would point at me and say, "He was dead but now he lives."
In fact, the Lord Jesus has changed my life. One day I was walking by a bookstore. After some hesitation, I knocked. A gentle lady opened the door and welcomed me in. Among the other books, I saw a Bible. I remembered the Christian lady who used to teach us at Sunday school classes when I was a boy. I thought this lady might know something about her, so I asked. She said, "Of course, I know her. She is in a nursing home, although she may be dead by now."
I decided to visit her the following day. I entered the place to see a woman sleeping on a chair. I remembered the songs of Sunday school, and I started to sing. She opened her eyes and asked, "Who are you?"
I answered, "I am Sayed. Do you remember me? It was thirty-five years ago." I told her my story and how I became a Christian.
She said, "Great, but be careful, Sayed. Be faithful in your life with the Lord!"
I started my walk by putting my faith in Jesus Christ. I started to read the Bible and experience real life with the Lord. I was so thirsty. I used to read to quench my thirst with the Word of Life. With all my weaknesses and shortcomings, I could see the Lord restoring me. It was God who gave us the promise, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). He also said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).
Experiential fellowship with God is really great. When I sought God, I had an unimaginable inner peace filling my innermost being. I can really identify with the father who said about his prodigal son, "`For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate" (Luke 15:24).
I once was dead, but now I am alive; I once was lost, but now I am found.
Used by permission In The Den of Infidels The Voice of the Martyrs www.persecution.com, p. 67-71.
b. I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life
Zahid Pakistan ' circa 1986
"When you catch the infidels, beat them! Allah will be pleased," Zahid encouraged them. The crowd of young men, the youth group of his mosque, waved their sticks and iron bars and cheered in agreement. Zahid's arrogance and hatred swelled: He felt he was doing well as a young Muslim priest. His parents would be proud: He had rallied a rather large group for this outing and they were nearly ready to go. Within minutes they would be combing the streets of their village for Christians to ambush.
Zahid had a proud heritage in Pakistan. His father and older brother were Muslim priests: As expected, Zahid had followed in their footsteps: Shortly after he was assigned to his first mosque, his hatred for Christians began to show itself as he rallied his followers against them.
To Zahid, as to many Muslims, Christians are heretics and should be punished. His government is becoming more influenced by Sharia law in some provinces. Sharia law calls for the death of anyone found guilty of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed or the Koran. To these Muslims, rejecting Mohammed's teachings by becoming a Christian is the highest form of blasphemy.
When their fervor peaked, Zahid led his group into the streets. It was not long before they found a group of young Christians to attack. As the mob descended. upon them, the young boys ran, one of them dropping his Bible. One of Zahid's group stopped, picked up the Bible, and opened it to rip out its pages. Zahid had always told his followers to burn all the Bibles they collected, but this time Zahid felt strangely compelled to keep it and study it in order to expose its errors to the people of his mosque. He quickly snatched the book from the man, encouraged him to chase the fleeing Christians, and tucked the Bible into his shirt for later.
Zahid reported in his own words what became of keeping that Bible:
"I was reading the Bible, looking for contradictions I could use against the Christian faith. All of a sudden, a great light appeared in my room and I heard a voice call my name. The light was so bright, it lit the entire room.
"Then the voice asked, `Zahid, why do you persecute Me?'
"I was scared. I didn't know what to do. I thought I was dreaming. I asked, `Who are you?'
"I heard, `I am the way, the truth, and the life.'
"For the next three nights the light and the voice returned. Finally, on the fourth night, I knelt down and I accepted Jesus as my Savior."
Zahid's hatred was suddenly gone. All he wanted to do was share Jesus with everyone he knew. He went to his family members and those in the mosque and told them what had happened to him over the last four nights, but they didn't believe him. His family and friends turned against him. They called the authorities to have him arrested so he would leave them alone about this Jesus. According to Islamic teaching, Zahid was now considered an apostate, a traitor to Islam, a man who had turned from his faith and accepted stupid lies. Thus, he was a criminal.
Zahid was locked up in prison for two years. The guards repeatedly beat and tortured him. One time, they pulled out his fingernails in an attempt to break his faith. Another time, they tied him to the ceiling fan by his hair and left him to hang there.
"Although I suffered greatly at the hands of my Muslim captors, I held no bitterness towards them. I knew that just a few years before, I had been one of them. I too had hated Christians.
"During my trial, I was found guilty of blasphemy. According to the Sharia law, I was to be executed by hanging. They tried to force me to recant my faith in Jesus. They assured me that if I cooperated there would be no more beatings, no more humiliation. I could go free.
"But I could not deny Jesus. Mohammed had never visited me; Jesus had. I knew He was the truth. I just prayed for the guards, hoping that they would also come to know Jesus."
On the day Zahid was to be hanged, he was unafraid of death as they came to take him from his cell. Even as they took him to his execution and placed the noose around his neck, Zahid preached about Jesus to his guards and executioners. He wanted his last breaths on earth to be used in telling his countrymen that Jesus was "the way, the truth, and the life." Zahid stood ready to face his Savior.
Suddenly, loud voices were heard in the outer room. Guards hurried in to tell Zahid's executioners that the court had unexpectedly issued an order to release Zahid, stating that there was not enough evidence to execute him. To this day, no one knows why Zahid was suddenly allowed to go free.
Zahid later changed his name to Lazarus, feeling that he too had been raised from death. He traveled in the villages around his home testifying of his narrow escape from death. Many of the Christians did not trust him at first. But soon they saw his sincerity and received him into their family. They now assist him as he travels from village to village preaching Jesus as "the way, the truth, and the life."
"I live in a land ruled by the false teaching of Islam. My people are blinded, and I was chosen by God to be His voice. I count all that I have suffered nothing compared to the endless joy of knowing Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life." Zahid
DC Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs. Jesus Freaks. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Albury Publishing, 1999, p. 52-55. www.persecution.com
c. Tortured into Christ
One night last October I was visiting the house church of my friend. I guess you could say I was looking for God. My girlfriend had run off with a richer man, and my heart was full of schemes of revenge, some of which were quite violent.
But at my workplace I was befriended by a man who invited me to a religious meeting.
At the meeting there were about fifty people present. A real mixture. Some looked quite wealthy and well dressed. I could not help noticing there were many attractive young women there also. They were singing and clapping without fear. And then a man who must have been about forty began to speak from the Bible. I remember him talking about prayer and the words "ask, seek, knock."
Then the police burst in.
There were seven officers, and they went to the man who was speaking.
"This is an illegal meeting," they declared. "You are all under arrest."
The police had a swagger about them. Clearly they thought they had complete control over these people's lives. My luck was really out. They picked five of us (including me), plus the pastor, and hauled us down to the station.
My friend tried to intervene on my behalf, saying, "He is not one of us." But they paid no attention. As we were swaying against each other in the van, he leaned over and said, "If you get into real trouble. call on Jesus and He will help."
At the station we were all placed in separate rooms. "I'm not a Christian;" I said to the two interrogators. They just kept smoking and replied, "Okay, have it your way, but you are a criminal. Besides, we will know soon enough if you really are a Christian or not."
I asked them, "How do you mean'?" He said simply, "When we beat Christians up, they don't curse like the others." Then his face changed, and he barked orders at me. "Stand up, feet together, arms straight out by your sides. Put your knees together and half crouch." I saw what they were up to. They were putting me in the crucifix position. After five minutes, I was shaking with the effort of holding my arms at right angles to my torso, and my thighs were giving way, too, in the crouch position.
One of the interrogators began burning his cigarette into the palms of my hands. I was so shocked I screamed and collapsed on the floor. At once they both pounced on me, kicking me with their shoes. I could hear the crunch of ribs breaking.
The amazing thing was, at that moment, I prayed, "Jesus, if you are God, get me through this." Immediately it was as if my body was a sluice for cool water. And with the coolness came a rush of compassion for my interrogators. To be honest, I said to myself, "What a stupid thing to feel for these horrid men who are beating me." I knew this was the force of Jesus within me, but it did not make sense.
The torture was not over. They strung me up by the thumbs, and that was awful because both of them dislocated.
In the morning they let me go with a warning. "Don't you dare go to a Christian meeting again." But I said to them, "Before I go, I want to thank you."
They echoed, mystified, "Thank us?" I said, "Thank you for making me a Christian. Your cruelty forced me to call on Jesus, and to my surprise, He came into me and gave me compassion. I see you not as powerful men, but as sad sadists fighting a losing battle for your self-respect."
They were stunned. Again, so was I. Who was this speaking through me? It was as if a new spirit of boldness as well as love was flowing through me.
Now I am free. I only want to do one thing-tell others about Christ. I intend to get some Bible training, and then I will depart for another province to spread the Word. All China must hear of Jesus. If I live to be eighty, then I have fifty-five years left to spread His Gospel. That's not too long to reach the whole country.
I expect I will be tortured again. But since I was tortured into Christ, I can, with His help, endure being tortured for Christ!
Open Doors, Brother Andrew with John & Elizabeth Sherrill, The Narrow Road, Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001, p. 73,74.
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