WEEK 1: IRAN
With a repressive government, faltering economy, rampant drug abuse and fractious relations with the West, many Iranians are running out of reasons to hope.
But did you know that Iran has one of the fastest-growing churches in the world? People are hurting and looking for answers – creating a crucial and unprecedented opportunity to share God's love. SAT-7 is meeting this timely need through its Farsi-language teaching and worship programmes, as well as through a committed audience relations team.
The only true hope for Iran is that its people will come to know Jesus. Over these first few days of Advent, let's join with Iranian believers and pray for God to move powerfully in Iran.
“We wait in hope for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.”
Advent is a time of waiting. Our attention is focused on Christmas Day and the much-anticipated moment when we share a feast, fun and gifts with the people we love. That waiting, followed finally by a burst of joy, echoes the world’s long wait for the promised Messiah.
Across the Middle East and North Africa many are only too familiar with waiting: Syrian refugees aching to go home, women yearning for change in their status and treatment, children longing for the re-opening of their schools.
No matter how endless the wait may seem to an excited child, Christmas Day has a habit of arriving. But how do we wait “in hope” for bigger breakthroughs that are desperately wanted but in no way guaranteed?
Perhaps the answer is to keep our eyes fixed on the One who kept His promise and came to live among us. Thank God that He offers all who believe – wherever in the world we live – the certain hope of one day being reunited with Him.
“Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’”
Matthew chose the Persian term “Magi” to describe these travellers from the east, and tradition holds that they came from Persia – or modern-day Iran. An arduous journey and questioning by a hostile authority brought them finally into the presence of the royal child.
Iranians today who follow Jesus and long to celebrate His birth also face close surveillance and high risk. Waves of arrests and attacks sadly only worsen in the run-up to Christmas.
But, just like their Persian predecessors, growing numbers of Iranians are finding themselves compelled to seek out God’s Son, regardless of the dangers along the way. The Magi brought their treasure to the new king, and were rewarded with wonder when they came face to face with Him.
Pray that many more across Iran today would be prompted to begin their own personal journey to find and worship the King.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Iran is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a follower of Christ. Many meet secretly in each other’s homes, and many more are utterly isolated. Informers are vigilant and ruthless, and believers cannot even risk raising their voices as they worship. People lose homes, jobs and even custody of their children because of their faith.
But the country is also home to one of the fastest-growing churches on earth. Iranian Christians may face violence and intimidation, but their faith is spreading quickly and widely. We know that more than 1.5 million people watch our Persian language channel regularly.
SAT-7 programmes act as a lifeline in bringing teaching, encouragement and longed-for fellowship directly into the homes of believers under pressure across Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
Please pray that God will use our broadcasts to inspire viewers with the strength to be joyful, patient and faithful in the face of affliction. Praise God that, while it may not be audible here, not a single prayer or whispered word of worship is missed in heaven.
Truly the work of SAT-7 is a great service to believers in the Lord like me who are under pressure and persecuted. When I see these servants of the Lord I am truly filled with joy, as I hear the right explanations of the Word of God… A number of us believers in the Lord have this message for you: if they close down our church and we have no access to our leaders, you, our dear heroes, are standing for us. You are feeding us with the best, and if it was not for you perhaps our faith might have been extinguished.”
“What strength do I have, that I should still hope?
What prospects, that I should be patient?”
Reeling from grief and physical pain, Job’s question is not rhetorical. It’s a visceral cry from the depths of suffering. Whatever our circumstances, we’re likely to be familiar with loss – maybe through mental strain, bereavement or personal crisis. Sometimes that experience leads to a loss of hope itself.
Our fellow believers in Iran, who risk losing livelihoods, friends or family members because of their faith, also struggle with seemingly hopeless situations.
A gifted and resourceful man, Job learned through his experiences that the hope he longed for was not to be found in his own strength. But he did find an answer to his question, and it interrupts a list of his woes with startling clarity – and hope: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)
Little in life is certain, but Job finds that God’s faithfulness is unfaltering. Pray for all those living with loss or fear today to find true security in the hope that only God offers.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
The voice of the long-awaited Messiah, quoting from Isaiah, declares the purpose for which He came: to bring freedom to all who are trapped, and release into the fullness of life in Christ.
Drug and alcohol addiction in Iran is rife – and only getting worse. Numbers of addicts have more than doubled in the last six years. The damage to those who become dependent, and those who love them, is incalculable.
SAT-7 PARS documentary Crystal Death highlighted this human cost, but also celebrated the testimonies of those who, even in the depths of addiction, have found healing through Jesus.
This has prompted viewers to share story after story of people miraculously set free from dependency, like Pooneh, below. Praise God for His power to heal when all hope seems gone, and ask for many more to find release through Him. Is there anything you need freedom from at this time? Ask God to reveal it to you, and to break its chains over your life.
My husband has been sober for three months, thank you for your prayers. Please continue with your prayers for him. May he stay strong and sober and may the Lord use him to serve others in the same bondage and glorify the Lord.”
“How lovely is your dwelling-place, Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord.”
The intensity of the Psalmist’s longing for the Lord’s house is captured powerfully in these words. In contrast, it’s all too easy to take for granted our own freedom to gather with our church family.
But Christians in Iran share this yearning to be with other believers in “the courts of the Lord”. Earlier in the year, SAT-7 PARS programme A Girl’s World invited children to send in pictures of their hopes and dreams. One young Iranian viewer’s drawing showed people simply going into a church – expressing her heartfelt desire to one day worship God openly with others. Another viewer wrote in to ask, “Since we have no churches in our city, what should I do next to learn more about Christ?”
Thank God for the freedom we enjoy to worship, and ask that the children of Iran and their families will also soon be free to celebrate their love for God in His courts – safely, openly and joyfully.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
Many Iranians feel they are living in a “land of deep darkness” today. International tensions are rising, human rights abuses are rife and many young people are leaving the country. The national currency is in freefall, making imported goods like medicines prohibitively expensive, and slashing the value of people’s savings. With the worst drought in 50 years and summer temperatures reaching 45-55°C, water shortages and power cuts have triggered violence. People are increasingly fearful and in despair about the future.
SAT-7’s programmes are created to reflect the light of the Gospel directly into homes across Iran. One viewer wrote, “Every day the programmes give me energy, strengthen my faith, and bless me – especially the teachings such great people provide. They give me a ray of hope in this darkness.”
Pray for hope for all Iranians exhausted by these pressures. Ask that God would bring an end to this suffering and cause a new light to dawn across the country.