God’s Promises Are Stronger Than Fear
“Two days ago the police raided our house. They took away all the Bibles and Christian books that we had in the house,” says Lazar, a church leader in Uzbekistan. The roots of communism seem not to have withered yet. Uzbek Christians are balancing between fear of surveillance, intimidation, and imprisonment, and faith in God’s promises.
The penalty which Lazar may receive for possession of the “illegal books” he had in his house is a prison sentence of fifteen days or a hefty fine.
“I would prefer a prison sentence,” says Lazar. He knows comparable cases when fines equivalent to over a year’s salary were imposed. Leila, his wife, seems bewildered by her husband’s response. “I don’t want you to go to prison,” she responds.
Lazar counters, “The Pharisees persecuted Jesus, but still He went on with His work. The evening after the raid, I read Psalm 91. God is my refuge and my strength. I can hide in Him. I don’t want to allow myself to be governed by fear, because that doesn’t help you at all. After my arrest, one of the neighbours telephoned me. ‘Lazar,’ he said, ‘we’ve packed our things and we’re ready to leave for Moscow. Should we go?’”
Lazar can understand this, but he resolutely teaches his church members to take a different approach. “We must oppose people who are sowing fear. God’s promises are stronger,” he emphasizes. “We have difficulties, but we believe that God is with us and that His promises are stronger than fear.”
Still, this fear may suddenly take a grip on you if you’re in the middle of a situation of direct persecution. A few days later Lazar suddenly says, “I’m leaving the city tonight. My lawyer has advised us to take a break. It may be the case that another raid is conducted on our home. We can’t cope with this now and so we’re leaving. Please pray for me and my family.”
In the space of a few days, Lazar struggles with the horribly hard hand of the regime and with the values of his faith. He’s balancing between fear and faith. Pray that the fear which the government is trying to sow shall not take root in his heart.
A few weeks later, Lazar reports that he and his family are back at home. But the problems are not over. Legal proceedings have been taken against him and he has been threatened with death by the authorities.