Under a Death Sentence
Many of us have become acquainted with Meriam Ibrahim through the news. Meriam, a lovely, 27-year old Sudanese woman, was sentenced to death by hanging because of her Christianity, considered apostasy under Shariah law. We have prayed for her release and grieved with her husband, child and newborn. Meriam has shown rare courage and God-given strength by refusing to renounce her Christian faith.
While Ibrahim has been released into the US Embassy in Sudan, her future is still uncertain as the government threatens to bring other charges against her.
How Will I Respond?
How will I respond if/when I face this kind of persecution? Will I fold, or will I allow God to give me the strength to stand? We have some historic precedents. In the Old Testament, Daniel’s three friends were given a choice to bow down to the image of King Nebuchadnezzar or be thrown into a fiery furnace. They refused to worship his image, speaking boldly to the King: “… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)
In his anger, the king ordered the fire to be heated seven times hotter than normal–hot enough that the guards who carried the three friends to the furnace were killed instantly. (Daniel 3:22)
What courage. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego trusted their sovereign God. Their faith was not based on His freeing them; they were committed to serving God whether they lived or died.
Grace When Needed
Corrie ten Boom, survivor of Ravensbruck concentration camp, once asked her father what it would be like to die. Here is how she recounts it in her book, The Hiding Place:
“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. ‘Corrie,’ he began gently, ‘when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?’
“I sniffed a few times, considering this.
“‘Why, just before we get on the train.’
“‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need–just in time.’”
Persecution can be subtle, as when my friend was mocked in a creative writing class for writing about her faith. Or it can be direct, as in the case of Meriam Ibrahim. My life was threatened when I ministered in the inner city of Los Angeles. I’m no hero. I’m terrified by the thought of persecution or torture. But I have told this to my God and said, “If it comes to that, give me your strength so that I remain faithful and true to you no matter what the circumstance or threat.” God has promised to supply our every need. I can only trust that, if and when it is needed, He will grant me the grace and strength to stand for Him. And therein lies my hope.
How About You?
Do you ever fear the possibility of persecution for your faith? How do you deal with that? I’d love to hear from you.