By Brother M —
Iran started the year with a bang. On January 3rd, Trump killed General Solemani. A week later, Iran shot a commercial plane down—and millions of young Iranians filled our streets in protest. Then Iran shot 11 missiles into Iraq—pushing us even closer to the brink of war. Every man in the country waited for the word.
The whole nation spent forty days in mourning, and right as we came out of that period, COVID-19 slammed—and I mean slammed—into us. As if that wasn’t enough, we had an infestation of locusts in the south, and it wasn’t small. Think biblical proportions. A couple months after that, Tehran experienced a strong earthquake. And then we had over 13 mysterious bombings including Natanz, Parchin and Bushyr—and this only catches us up to July!
My nation has upwards of 82 million people in it. COVID-19 hit us early, and hard. All I can say is the figures the Iranian government has reported (450,000 total cases and 26,000 total deaths) are significantly low balling the toll the virus took and is taking.
As soon as the wave of the coronavirus began sweeping across our country, we in the Iranian underground church fasted as a body for forty-two days. We needed to hear from God. We needed to know what He was doing so we could respond appropriately. It is our conviction He is preparing new wineskins for a new wine; some things hit their shelf life when 2019’s last moments ticked away. Some things weren’t meant to carry into 2020—and that means we shouldn’t take them into 2021 either.
As I’ve met with pastors and leaders of the US church through Zoom over the course of the year, everyone is staring slack-jawed at their nation’s social upheaval, civil unrest, and medical crisis of 2020—but nearly no one is fasting. And few are doing it corporately.
Is it a wonder the American church feels disjointed and disunited? On one hand, American Christians are rallying around social and civil justice issues. On the other hand, American Christians are rallying around their constitutional rights to simply gather at all. And those two groups are increasingly at odds with the other. And even though I’m in Iran, this affects me. And we affect you. Why? Because we are all one Body. If one part is hurting, the whole Body feels the pain.
It is good and right to pursue racial and gender equality. It is good and right to pursue a fair and just society. But are these issues the north star by which we guide our lives? Of course not.
The north star is Jesus, and the bottom line we will be held accountable to is the time and energy we devoted to leading people to Jesus. But hold your stones. I would be the first to say that includes social and civil justice pursuits. And I would be the first to say those issues, important as they are, are still secondary.
Why? Because we do not love just for the sake of loving. God doesn’t. He loves with intention. Consider the familiar words of John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but would inherit eternal life.” That. So that. Would. He loves with purpose. He loves with intention. And He’s playing for eternity.
So should we.
We get one life. The apostle Paul could not have said it more clearly: everything we give ourselves to will be judged in the fire of Jesus’ coming. Everything. If it isn’t yoked to eternity, it’ll burn up. We won’t take it with us. But if it is yoked to eternity—if we labored in such a way that we built, established, encouraged love for and allegiance to Jesus in people’s hearts—it is gold that’ll not only survive the fire, it’ll shine forever.
So America, I ask you this: Are you being discipled by Jesus, or by coronavirus and Black Lives Matter? Are you discipling people to Jesus, or are you making disciples of this year’s events? If the latter, what will you do when the winds change?
The only eternal Word is Jesus, who is the Word of God. I can tell you firsthand after years and years of seeing the Gospel take root in the Islamic Republic of Iran: the Holy Spirit will sort the secondary things out. They’re important. They matter. And He’ll give you the power to forgive your enemies. He can heal your land.
Incredible things are happening in Iran, to and through Iranians, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And we don’t have the freedom you have in America! But I’ll tell you this: I’ll take the Iranian Islamic regime over democratic freedom any day. I mean that.
Why? Because the Holy Spirit is breathing on persecution we are enduring as disciples of Jesus in Iran, and the Gospel is sweeping through our country with more might and power than COVID-19!
Iranians are going to crowd out the sea of glass. We’re going to need a lot of seats at the table at the Wedding Feast. We have plenty of injustice in Iran, and God sees it, and He cares. And He’s dealing with it, and He will deal with it. But we aren’t discipling Iranians to solve temporal problems in this temporal age. We’re discipling for eternity.
Fight the good fight. So many of you are willing to die on the proverbial hill for what you believe, and I love that. But die on the right hill. There is a time and a place to invoke your constitutional rights; Paul did it. But Paul did it because he was caught in the act of spreading the Gospel, and he invoked his right as a means of spreading it further.
Don’t get distracted by social justice movements and neglect making disciples to the only One who can actually solve our problems. And don’t fight so hard for your right to gather that you neglect to actually spread the Gospel.
Lean in and ask the Lord what new wineskins look like for your neighborhood, your city, your state, and your country. What old wineskins do you need to leave in 2019? What changes should you and your community make now to meet 2021 with strength as a disciple who makes disciples? That’s our command. That’s our commission. We are disciples who make disciples, or we’re disobedient.
You have the freedom to preach the Gospel where you are. We don’t. We’d really hate to see you squander your rights for anything less than eternity. Get your eyes on the King and His Kingdom coming—and keep them there. We love you. We’re for you. The church in Iran is praying for you. We’re on the same team. And we’ll see you in eternity.
M. is the Director of Global Catalytic Ministries. He lives and serves in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Meet M. and his ministry family in Sheep Among Wolves Vol. II. Support the leaders of the Iranian disciple-making movement here. Sign up for resources on how to make disciples who make disciples here.
 THE WIRE: BREAKING: US airstrike kills head of Iranian Quds force and senior Iraqi Hezbollah leader at Baghdad airport, January 3, 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.faimission.org/wire/breaking-us-airstrike-kills-head-of-iranian-quds-force-and-senior-iraqi-hezbollah-leader-at-baghdad-airport
 THE WIRE: Massive protests across Iran after regime admits to downing commercial airliner, January 12, 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.faimission.org/wire/massive-protests-across-iran-after-regime-admits-to-downing-commercial-airliner
 THE WIRE: Insider Report: Iran in turmoil amidst COVID, explosions, crackdown on Christians, July 13, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.faimission.org/wire/iran-turmoil-covid-explosions-crackdown
 Matthew 9:17
 Ephesians 4:4
 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
 1 Corinthians 3:15
 1 Corinthians 3:14
 Acts 22:22-29
 Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8