Youcef Nadarkhani has been released after three years in an Iranian jail. He had been on death row; at times it seemed his execution was imminent. The pastor was arrested in October 2009 for challenging the requirement that all children be taught the Qur’an. In September 2011 he was tried for apostasy.
One news source stated that the Iranian government has “bowed to international pressure over the pastor’s imprisonment.” But there’s far more to the story. The American Center for Law and Justice coordinated a Twitter campaign titled “Tweet for Youcef.” It mobilized more than three million people to pray for the pastor and tweet their support. In a pre-social media world, he would likely have been executed. But God is using current technology and global intercession to move nations.
It is urgent that Christians continue to fight the enemy on our knees. More than 45 million believers died for their faith in the 20th century, nearly twice as many as in the previous 19 centuries combined. Christians are jailed in Iran and other nations for doing just what Pastor Youcef did—standing publicly for Christ. And events in Iran indicate the urgency of our continued intercession for that troubled nation.
For instance, the International Atomic Energy Agency has now received reports that Tehran has developed computer models for calculating the yield of various nuclear weapons. One expert says this step is “critical to the development of a nuclear weapon”; it is typically accompanied by physical tests of components for nuclear arms. Iran’s leaders have claimed their nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes; these revelations indicate that something far more ominous is at work.
But be encouraged: “God shapes the world by prayer” (E. M. Bounds). Like Pastor Youcef, the Apostle Peter was jailed for his faith by enemies bent on his execution. Like Pastor Youcef’s supporters, Peter’s fellow believers rallied to his cause: “Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5). That night, an angel released the apostle from Herod’s jail (vs. 6-19). And the King defeated the king: an angel soon struck down Herod (v. 23), “but the word of God continued to increase and spread” (v. 24). Today, two billion Christians remember Peter’s courageous witness and seek to emulate his faith, but who remembers Herod?
Let’s thank the Father today for Pastor Youcef’s release. Let’s continue to pray for fellow believers who are risking their lives to follow Jesus. And let’s join them by making Christ our King. Scripture testifies that “his dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. . . . He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth” (Daniel 4:34-35). Can he do as he pleases with you?