Throughout the world, and in particular, the Persian Speaking World, many people are striving to receive a prize far more precious than any medal given at the Olympics. The training they undergo daily is intense. These are men and women of all ages from varied backgrounds with different abilities, education and talent, but they have one thing in common. They are followers of Jesus Christ. They forget past achievements and strain toward what is ahead. They press on to the goal to win the prize for which God has called them to in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13,14)
We want to share the story of a believer in the Persian Speaking World in hopes it will encourage you as it has so many others . . . .
Hassan* is married and has two children. He is certified in a respected trade but was often unemployed and the family struggled financially. The worry for providing for his family when there was no work depressed Hassan and made him bitter. When his wife complained there was no food, Hassan would beat her. He was very unhappy with his life.
Then, 17 years ago, Hassan’s co-worker became a Christian after hearing the Gospel on the radio. He shared the Gospel with Hassan and quoted Bible verses. Hassan did not believe in God, but he became curious. After three years Hassan gave his heart to the Lord. God transformed him into a hopeful person, kind father and dedicated husband.
God miraculously provided steady work for Hassan for 11 years so he could take care of his family and even have extra to help poor believers. Hassan shared the Gospel and was active in the local church until it was closed by the authorities. Hassan then invited friends to their home and started a house church. He knew he was called to evangelize and distribute Bibles.
One day the secret police raided Hassan’s home and confiscated all the literature. The entire family was taken to the station. Hassan’s wife and children were scared. Thankfully, they were released after one day, but he was incarcerated and interrogated. As is common, he was accused of being anti-government and a spy. He was beaten, threatened and pressured with visits from non-Christian friends and relatives, but Hassan did not deny his faith.
Hassan was placed in solitary confinement. He was told that his wife and children would be killed if he did not recant. Hassan told them, “Everything I have, including my family, is from Jesus; I am willing to surrender all to Jesus.” Hassan’s brother, who was cooperating with the police, was “arrested” and imprisoned with Hassan. He tried to persuade Hassan to stop evangelizing. He told Hassan he would lose his job and not be able to provide for his family.
Finally, after a year and a half in jail, Hassan was persuaded to share the Gospel only with those who asked him about Jesus and was released on bail. Even though his wife and children were fearful, Hassan never lost hope and faith in Christ.
Before long, Hassan was arrested again. When he went to court, other believers were there, also waiting for their sentence. They were stressed and afraid.
Hassan was the first to take the stand. Boldly, he looked at the judge and said, “I was hopeless until Jesus gave me life and hope. Why should I deny my Savior? Because of Jesus I am not a drug addict, nor am I anti-government. All I want is to share God’s love with everyone.” Then he asked the judge to read the New Testament he had for him. The other believers took courage from Yousef’s example and decided not to deny their faith and gave glory to God.
When the judge pronounced Hassan’s sentence, he respectfully told him he had no choice but to demand that Hassan pay a penalty in order to be free. After a few weeks in jail, Hassan made arrangements to pay the penalty and was freed. Hassan continues to serve the Lord with all his heart.
*Name changed for security reasons.