Evil in the world is nothing new. Attacks on God's people are nothing new. Thankfully, centuries ago God provided a pattern that holds true today.
An angel warned Daniel of a time to come, a time when an evil ruler would draw many away with flattery. This was fulfilled quite literally during the evil reign of Antiochus Epiphenes and yet foreshadows the pattern of many evil men through the centuries.
The response also foreshadows what can be true of you, and me, and any people of faith. The angel promises that people who have a personal, knowledgeable relationship with God would do two things:
1) Stand firm
2) Take action
So often we focus so much on the first promise ("stand firm") that we lose sight of the second ("take action"). The awesome thing about this passage is that as we accurately and intimately know God, we will be equipped to stand firm - not to be swayed by flattery and lies of evil - AND take appropriate action. We will know what actions God is calling us to take, and we will have the courage to take them. When we do, we'll see God come through! When Antiochus was at his worst, a group of individuals from the Maccabees family rose up, stood their ground, and fought back. God miraculously sustained the light in the temple for 8 days when the oil ran out (leading to the feast known today as Hanukkah), and Antiochus was pushed back as the Jewish people reclaimed the temple and their land.
Today, because I know my God, I am praying and advocating for Pastor Saeed Abedini. I am asking God to intervene in his situation because I know my God: He identifies with those persecuted for His name's sake. He is compassionate and merciful. He hears the cries of a woman in need and two children who desperately miss their daddy. He has a purpose for everything we go through, and I'm sure He has used Saeed mightily in prison. But He also places limits on what He allows to happen to us, and I am firmly believing that He will release Saeed for His glory when those limits are reached. I'm praying that will be soon.
This isn't a political issue for me. Hebrews 13:3 tells us to remember the prisoners and those in chains because we, too, are in the body of Christ. So today I remember Pastor Saeed; Kenneth Bae; Asia Bibi; and hundreds of thousands of nameless, faceless individuals who are suffering because they love Jesus more than their lives. I'm praying they will know how to stand firm and take action. And where I can, I will join with them in God-ordained actions. In that context, below is the email that I sent to our congressman, senators, and President Obama. I pray for God to hear my prayers and those of others, and work whatever miracles He determines in this matter.
We are writing to appeal for your visible and vocal support of three American citizens held hostage in Iran. Robert Levinson, held since 3/9/2007; Amir Hekmati, since 8/29/2011; & Pastor Saeed Abedini, since 7/28/2012. It is appalling that any nuclear "deal" would not have the release of our citizens as a precondition but, if news reports today are to be believed, that is exactly the case. (www.freeallthree.com has more information on all these hostages).
Thankfully there is still a way you can show your support. We would like to ask your visible support of Naghmeh Abedini as she protests outside the White House at noon on Saturday, March 8. Naghmeh has been a tireless supporter of her husband and other persecuted Christians, as well as the two other US citizens held in Iran for political reasons. Sadly she has stated that while she anticipated fighting Iran for her husband's release, she didn't anticipate fighting her own country. She has even said she feels "abandoned" by her country, especially as the president has not called her even in the midst of deciding not to make her husband's release a condition for talks and deals with Iran. This should not be the case!!
Naghmeh realizes she is risking arrest. A group of pastors and other Christians are supporting her in the weeks leading up to her protest by risking arrest themselves outside the White House every Monday at noon. Those of us unable to be in Washington have committed to pray and act on Mondays, in part by reaching out to our legislators and asking you to join Naghmeh on March 8. Please help her realize her government has not abandoned her. See www.istandwithnaghmeh.com for more information.
Thank you for your service to Arkansas and your consideration of this request.