A Modern Day Paul in Iran
Before he became a believer, the Apostle Paul dragged Christians out of their houses to imprison or kill them. A modern day Iranian named Taher was no better; he even threatened to kill his own family because they became Christians. Like Paul, he received a vision of the Lord that turned his life upside down.
Taher was the last one anyone expected to convert to Christianity. He was well respected as a Haji, a pilgrim who had made the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. His wife was a Haji-eh; she had also made the pilgrimage. So when his daughter came to Christ, Taher was very angry. When his wife became a believer in Christ, he grew even angrier. When even his son turned his back on Islam and accepted Christ, his anger turned to rage.
He tried to force his family back into Islam in every way he could. He quoted the Koran; he forbade them to visit the church; he beat them; and he threatened to inform the secret police. At one point he even threatened to kill them with his bare hands. His efforts were to no avail. His family didn’t leave Christ; instead they left him and fled abroad.
After the initial anger over his family’s flight subsided, Taher began to feel lonely. In his growing despair, he memorized Koran verses and focused on Allah, whom he served so passionately. “Please show me your face,” he begged. The resounding silence made him doubt. What if this god he was serving didn’t exist after all and his family was right? He didn’t know if he should believe Allah or Jesus, the Bible or the Koran. In desperation he cried out, “I will believe in the God who reveals Himself to me.”
The living God answered his prayers through a dream. In his dream, a man riding a donkey came toward him. He had never seen the man before, but the man hugged him and said, “I will clean you from all your sins; you are free. I will give you rest. Believe in me.” Taher asked, “But what will happen if I sin again?” The man on the donkey replied with the same words, “I will clean all your sins.” Then the man on the donkey left, leaving Taher dumbfounded. Another man approached him in his dream. “Do you know the man on the donkey?” the man asked. “No, I don’t, Taher replied. “He is Jesus Christ,” the man said. “He cleans your sins.”
Taher woke up and mulled over the dream. When he went back to sleep, the same dream played before him. Waking up a second time, he became afraid. He had served Allah for 45 years. He was a Haji. How could he leave Islam? But when he finally fell asleep again, he had the same dream a third time. Waking up from this third dream, he could not escape the conviction that Jesus Christ was the only true God.
Taher was now convinced that Jesus is the true God, but he was unsure what he should do next. Everyone in the church knew what he had done to his family, but he realized that he had to visit the church he had forbidden his family to attend, the only place he knew that could tell him more about this man on the donkey. He cautiously entered the church. The Christians present were astonished and at the same time afraid. Wasn’t he the man that threatened to kill his own wife, son and daughter because they accepted Christ? One of the church leaders stepped forward. “How can I help you?” he asked. The answer was unexpected. “I want to pray, go to church and give my life to Christ,” Taher said, “but I don’t know how.” The leader was amazed and unsure if he should trust Taher; he could be a government spy. “I saw Jesus in a dream, I saw his face!” Taher explained.
As time went by, the church leaders started trusting him. Taher was like a baby: eager to learn more and more about Christ. After a discipleship period, he quickly became involved in ministry work, risking his life for Jesus. When his family, who had been praying for him ever since they left, heard of the transformation in Taher’s life, they praised God for answering their prayers and happily welcomed Taher back into the family. Taher now lives abroad with his family, rejoicing that they can worship together without fear.
Father, we stand in awe at how You drew Taher to Yourself out of the darkness of sin and false religion, out of persecution of Your church. We praise You that You have raised him up to know You, to have a new heart, to be strengthened through Your Word and to be reunited with the family he almost destroyed. Thank You that they are living in religious freedom now, gathering as a family with the saints to worship You freely in Spirit and in truth. We pray for those left behind to nurture and disciple others in Iran who come to faith in Christ. We pray Your protection over them as You grow Your church there. And we pray for the day when all Christians in Iran can gather freely to worship You. In the name of Jesus who brings spiritual freedom to the captives. Amen.