An Iranian Muslim encounters the living Word
By Afshin Javid
Afshin Javid in Iran, age 14
I WAS BORN into a Shiite Muslim family in Iran. At age 12, I began to fulfill my duties toward Allah: praying, fasting and reading his book every day, doing all I could to make him happy. In my teens, I joined the Hezbollah militant group; three years later, I had to leave Iran.
At age 17, I was in Malaysia; I was arrested for possession of 30 illegal passports, and imprisoned. My Sunni Muslim captors asked me to teach the Koran, and to lead the mosque in the prison.
In the Koran, it is believed that there are good and bad jinns, or genies and that it is not taboo to use their powers. I had gained powers from these spiritual forces; and one day, while I was reading the Koran in my jail cell, a dark spirit appeared that was more powerful than I could handle. I tried sending it away or fighting it, but I had no strength.
I read the scriptures and called the Shahada, the statement of faith, but nothing helped. I cried out: "God, would you help me?" and I heard a voice saying, "Bring the name of Jesus." I felt like I was drowning; without thinking, I said "Jesus, if you are true, help me!" Before I finished, everything was back to normal.
That was not the point of my conversion rather, the point of my confusion. I wondered: why would Jesus Christ help me, when I believed in Muhammad? That question ate at me, until I couldn't stand it anymore.
I knew the problem could not lay with me, because I believed Islam so deeply that I was willing to kill for it. I prayed and fasted for two weeks, and asked the same question again and again. I said to God: "I want to know if there is one way to you, or many different ways. I want to know the way you have called me to."
After two weeks without an answer, I was upset and decided God didn't exist and if he did, he couldn't hold me responsible at the Day of Judgment, because I had asked about him and he didn't respond. I told him that, from then on, I would follow my own desires. It felt as if I'd drawn a line for God on the ground.
It was then that the cell was filled with his presence. Simultaneously, I felt all the weight of my sins and how I deserved to die. I cried out: "Forgive me!" I repeated that again and again, until I felt a touch on my shoulder and a voice said, "I forgive you." At that very moment I felt forgiven; and the burden of my sins was lifted off my shoulders.
In Islam, we are never sure of our forgiveness in the present; we must wait until the Day of Judgment to know if we have been forgiven. I asked: "Who are you, that you forgive me and I feel forgiven at this very moment?" He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life."
I asked, "What does that mean? What is your name?" He said, "I am Jesus Christ, the living God"; and the moment he spoke those words, I fell on the floor as though I had no bones in my body. Tears flew from my eyes. All my emotions ran through me at once I had lost total control.
I was sad and happy; I was angry, yet joyful. Sad because I had been away from the house I belonged to; joyful to know where I belonged to have the knowledge of truth. I was angry that they had lied to me, and I had wasted so many years trying to please a god you can never be sure of.
I cried at his feet. Two hours passed, until he said "Afshin, look up." I saw images of people from all over the world; I could see their sins, and was overwhelmed. I said, "Lord, I live amongst all these sinners." And he said, "Afshin, how easily did I forgive you?" I said "Very easy, Lord." He replied, "I can forgive them as easily but who is going to tell them?"
Go tell them
I said, "Me, Lord I will go, I will tell them." He said, "Go, tell them; I'll be with you." I ran from the cell, while the Lord stood there.
I told some of the other prisoners how I had become a Christian. But it didn't go as I'd hoped; Malaysia was still a Muslim country. Some accused me of having gone mad; some called me an infidel. But the Lord's presence protected me.
I told people stories of how Jesus had done many miracles; but after awhile, I asked myself: "How do you know these stories are true?" I decided that, if I told stories for the glory of God, it didn't matter if they weren't true.
But then I felt rebuked. I felt him say, "I am the God of all truth; I don't need lies to be glorified." I said, "I don't know where these stories come from, I just tell them as they come to mind. Would you send me a Bible? I will read that, and I will tell it according to the stories that are written."
The next day, a fellow prisoner approached me, looking at me in a strange way. I knew he was a convicted murderer and I stood ready to fight, filled with anger. He looked me straight in the eyes, and said: "This is for you, this is what you asked for," and handed me a book. Nothing was written on the cover, but I knew what it was.
The wrong Bible
I snatched the Bible from his hand, ran to my cell and held it close. I cried, kissed the book and said, "Thank you God, you're so great. I prayed, and you gave me what I prayed for." I thought, "This God is so almighty, he's so prompt to answer the prayers of his people."
When I opened the book, I realized that God had made a mistake he had sent me the wrong Bible! It was written in a language I couldn't read. I said "God, thank you for sending me this Bible, but I cannot read this." I felt him say, "Read it." I said, "You know I cannot."
I was prompted in my heart: "Read." And I said, "I cannot. I'll wait, and tomorrow you'll have someone send me a Farsi one." He said, "Read this book now."
I knew I had to show God I couldn't read it, to get him to provide me with the Farsi Bible. So I ran my eyes over the words, expecting God to notice that I understood none of them; but then I found myself actually reading and understanding every word!
I found someone who could read and understand the words, and told him what I thought it said. He asked how I understood English. I replied, "Is that the language that I understand?" So, now I could read and understand English; yet when I tried to read an English newspaper, I couldn't. I picked up the Bible again and I could read and understand.
How was that possible? The Lord said to me: "You asked to read the Bible, not the newspaper." I was amazed; for when I read the Bible, every story I had told about Jesus Christ was there in the exact same details.
The living Word
As written in the Revelation, the whole world will pass away but not one word of this Book will perish. Muslims were told that the Bible had been altered, and I'd never considered how foolish it is to believe a human could change the words of the living God. The Lord had proven to me that was his living Word.
People say how great it is that I have seen the Lord; but I respond with Jesus' words: "Blessed are you who have not seen, and yet believe." I am a man of little faith. God in his mercy and grace chose me according to his will, to show himself to me for his purposes. I am the least of all, the chief of all sinners and for that reason, God has chosen me to bear one message: that he is able to forgive all sinners as he has forgiven me. As Christians, we must realize the weight of responsibility of this message that is upon our shoulders.
The Lord Jesus said: "You are the light of the world, you are the salt of the earth." I ask myself always: "If I am the light and people are not coming from out of darkness to the light, how bright is my light? If I am the salt of the earth and the whole earth is rotting away, how salty am I? Am I good to be trampled upon, or preserved?
I ask the Lord for help and say, "No more am I satisfied with a mediocre Christian life. I want to see your kingdom come, your will be done. I want to see your name be hallowed in the life of many, and to witness for you according to your purposes."
May God's grace, mercy and love guard your heart. May his word burn like fire within your bones, so that you would not be able to keep quiet. May today be the day that you make a new covenant with the Lord, and say: "Have me all, have me all."
Afshin Javid is a pastor at Vancouver Christian Fellowship.
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