There are thousands of books published on a regular basis, and finding one worth reading is often quite difficult. Personally I am very selective with what I read, with author and/or topic being very important. One of the benefits of modern technology is the ability to listen to a vast variety of audiobooks here in Bolivia, in that I am able to rent audiobooks from my local library in the US via internet. Sometimes a book looks interesting, but turns out to be quite a disappointment, and I will often simply stop listening. That said, I think I have found a very interesting book that will likely intrigue you too.
May I recommend: “Captive in Iran: A Remarkable True Story of Hope and Triumph amid the Horror of Tehran’s Brutal Evin Prison” by Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, published by Tyndale just a couple months ago.
“Captive in Iran” was a joy to read, even as it often brought tears into my eyes and challenged me personally. These two women of God, Maryam (pronounced “Miriam”) and Marziyeh (pronounced “Marziah”) converted to Christianity over a decade ago in Iran, but were arrested by the Radically Islamic Iranian Regime for (1) converting to Christianity, which is illegal for any Muslim according to strict Sharia Law, and (2) promoting their faith through giving away Bible’s and running a house-church. These two “crimes” had them pegged as apostates, deserving execution. Their imprisonment, in one of Iran’s most cruel prisons, lasted 9 months. The book details their struggle to understand God’s will for them, their battle to be freed of these inhumane charges, and their pursuit of God and joy in Him in prison is simply remarkable.
I do not want to give away the whole story, but I want to share one part of the book that really stood-out to me. Near the end of their time at Evin Prison they were brought to a somewhat kind judge, through the finagling of their lawyer, and he was prepared to set them free unconditionally, because of mounting international pressure. What the judge needed was for them to water-down their declarations about Christianity and their condemnation of Islam and the Iranian Regime. They would not. Their lawyer though, being very well-known and respected, spoke in their place. He said that these two women accepted Christ as they also accepted Mohammed and the Qu’ran, essentially softening their previous declarations. Their release was near at hand. Yet as the lawyer finished his flowery speech, one of these brave women stood-up and said “No, we do not agree with these declarations”. They realized that to have him speak these lies, was to speak for them, and therefore they would be rejecting Christ in accepting such a lie, even if just a small one.
The judge and the lawyer were flustered, aggravated, and even angry with these two women. Here they were trying to help them, but they would not injure the name of Christ so as to lower Him to the level of the despicable and cowardly Mohammad. Therefore the judge could not help them, and they must then go and stand before higher judges on the case of apostasy. So close to freedom, yet they would not take it.
An inmate later asked them how they could turn down freedom over and over when it was so easy for them to find. Many others asked the same thing. They responded in many ways, but the central theme was: “If we reject Jesus Christ in even the slightest of ways, we would be rejecting and denying our very selves. He is our all. To deny Him would be to kill ourselves.”
Reading in Galatians 5 this morning, I was struck with a similar thought from the Apostle Paul: “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (Galatians 5:5, ESV).
We eagerly await not fame, or honor, or wealth, or happiness; these are things which this world gives us in little bites, but always leaves us longing for more.
No, we eagerly await “the hope of righteousness”. We eagerly await the day when we shall be raised into heaven with Christ, resurrected and transformed, for “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself”(Philippians 3:20-21). This world is and never will be enough. We await perfection, utopia by and with God forever, we await the fulfillment of all the great and wonderful promises that God has given to His redeemed children.
This life is not enough, it can never fulfill my deepest desires and needs, for as C.S. Lewis said, “I was made for another world.”
I may not be blessed with the opportunity to show my love for this truth in the ways in which these two brave women of God were privileged to do, but nevertheless I am encouraged to believe in Christ and let my life be shaped by this truth, that this life is not the end, but the beginning.