Martyrdom: Theory vs. Reality
29 November 2013
In a couple of previous articles — see Breaking the Islam Code and A C-5 Critique — I've quoted from the book Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim by J.D. Greear. I was so impressed by what Mr. Greear had to say that I put this book at the top of my Recommended Reading list.

In the last chapter of the book, Mr. Greear gives some important and practical advice about facing the reality of persecution and martyrdom which he learned from personal experience:
I have never felt the full terror of Muslim persecution, but I have felt some of its tremors. My experiences are not even worthy of being compared to the terrible price that some missionaries to Muslims have paid, but I know firsthand that success in these "unreached" places will come only at great personal cost!

While serving among a Muslim unreached people group, my team attempted to distribute a newly translated New Testament, both in written and audio form. This would have been the first copy of the Bible our people group would ever have seen in their native tongue. To accomplish the task, we brought in four volunteers. I met with these volunteers, delivered the Bibles to them, and helped them plot their 21-day journey.

On day four, a mob of close to 2500 people converged on them. The police "rescued" them from the mob and put them in prison. The mob demanded that the police release these four men so they could kill them. The police refused, and a minor gun battle ensued. The police prevailed, and in protest, the mob burned the cars of both my friends and the chief of police.

My friends did not speak the local language, and the police did not speak English. The process was stymied, they told me, until a policeman emerged who greeted them in English. He said, "I am the only man here who speaks English. I have been informed about what you were doing, and I must tell you that I am honored to meet you. I am a new Christian, having been one now for less than a year. I was transferred up to this area, against my will, about four months ago. I will do whatever I can to help you."

This policeman contacted the U.S. embassy, which sent a helicopter to extract the men. When the helicopter arrived, however, the people in the crowd that was now camped out in front of the police station started shooting at it, and the helicopter had to withdraw. At this point, the Christian policeman hid the men in the back of a truck, smuggled them out of the area, and had them flown out of the country.

In the process of these events, detectives from the national government came down to investigate the situation. A link was quickly established between the imprisoned men and my team, and the government people came for us. My neighbor, a "governor" of considerable influence in the region, flatly refused to turn over any of our team members to them, saying he took personal responsibility for our actions. The mayor placed me under a type of house arrest (for my safety) until the uproar had subsided.

The one thing I remember most clearly about this whole situation is how terrified I was. I did not react with the bravery I always imagined I would. It is one thing to say you'd give your life for Christ; it is quite another to think someone is about to take you up on that offer. Throughout those fearful days I pleaded with God for some type of promise that he would keep me safe. But he never gave me any promise like that. What he did remind me of was that my salvation had come through Christ's death, and that the salvation of Muslims would come through ours. I knew God was asking me to make one simple determination: Was the spread of the gospel worth more to me than my life?

It was during this time that I think I first understood what Paul meant in Romans 1:16 when he said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for the Jew first but also for the Greek." "Not being ashamed of the gospel" was Paul's somber declaration that he believed the gospel coming to the Romans was worth more to him than his life. "Not ashamed" means "not unwilling" to pay the ultimate sacrifice for the spread of the gospel.

Eventually, the fervor subsided in our region and the investigation was dropped... though I'm still not sure why. There was more than enough evidence to implicate our team and the nationals working with us. My neighbor, who had stepped in to protect me, knew I had copies of the exact same "book" the team was passing out. My only explanation is that God must have confounded the investigators and kept the door open for our team to continue to work in peace.

The New Testaments and gospel recordings the team gave out became famous in the region. The Islamic police had set about to recover all the copies handed out, but they were able to track down only a few of them. Today, the work of Christians in this people group continues and is now thriving under the lead of a strong team of national believers. God brings the harvest through the sacrifices of the church.
For more vital insights which will help you face your Islamic future, see Preparing For Martyrdom and Sticking Our Necks Out For Muslims.