Many of us face trials because of our Christian faith. But usually the worst treatment we are likely to receive is being excluded, mocked or insulted. For Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the ramifications of making a stand for his faith were far more serious - he was sentenced to death.
Fervr featured an article in October last year, outlining the case agains the Iranian Christian leader. But now, after a couple of years of praying and lobbying by Christians and world leaders (including Barack Obama), we are pleased to let you know the Pastor has had his charges reduced, and has been released from prison.
The background story
Pastor Youcef was arrested on October 13th, 2009, after protesting the government's decision to force all children, including his own Christian children, to read the Quran.
He was initially charged for protesting, but then things became more serious when he was charged with apostasy (abandoning the Islamic faith) and evangelism to Muslims. In 2010, he was sentenced to death.
The Pastor had the opportunity many times throughout his prison sentence to 'get out of jail free' by renouncing his Christian faith, and saying he didn't follow Jesus. He refused, and was willing to face his death sentence.
But now, the Iranian authorities have dropped the charges of apostasy, and the pastor has been set free. Shortly after his release, Youcef wrote a letter thanking his supporters. In it, he said "I want to express my gratitude to all of those who have supported me, openly or in complete secrecy."
Are you ready to suffer?
The story of Pastor Youcef is inspiring ... but it's also a big challenge for us. I have often wondered what I would if I was put in a similar situation. If someone gave me the choice of "say you're not a Christian, or you will die", what would I do? What would you do?
It's important to say that whilst being mocked, excluded or insulted for being a Christian isn't the same as facing a death sentence, it can certainly be very difficult and painful. All suffering for being a Christian is difficult.
When Paul wrote the book of 2 Timothy, he was also in prison. His words encourage us, no matter what trials we may face for our faith:
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,
Are you ready to suffer for the gospel?
Let's continue to encourage each other to endure in our trials, and to keep our eyes on the prize that awaits all those who put their trust in Jesus:
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:3-4)