God Has Big Surprises Planned for the Middle East

by | Feb 23, 2011 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

What the Holy Spirit did in
the former Soviet Union in 1989 will happen again in Islamic nations.

I’m old enough to remember when the
Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Freedom protesters danced in the streets in Eastern
Europe and Communist regimes fell like dominoes. A huge door of evangelistic
opportunity opened in a region where Christians had suffered unimaginable
persecution.

The fall of the Soviet empire caught most
Christians by surprise. Even though many believers on both sides of the Iron
Curtain had been praying for a spiritual breakthrough, few expected the entire
region to open so suddenly. Many American Christians remained
suspicious—especially those who had warned that Yury Andropov was the
Antichrist. (Oops! Wrong again. He died after being in office for only 15
months.)

My
Bible says Christians are called to take the gospel to every nation—and Jesus
calls us to bravely preach His message no matter what obstacles we face. He
does not call us to be wimps, pessimists or fear mongerers.”

The collapse of Communism was one of the
greatest social and political shifts in my lifetime. But when it happened I
remember receiving a strong impression from the Holy Spirit, like an elbow in
my side. I sensed the Lord say that I would live to see the day when the Arab
world will also open to the gospel.

Fast forward to 2011. Today we are
witnessing what some journalists have called Youthquake—a freedom movement in
the Middle East that is being engineered by young Arabs. Time magazine announced this week: “The protests rippling from one
end of the Middle East to the other are the handiwork of a new generation of
men and women who have known little political freedom in their lives—and are no
longer willing to wait for it.”

The youth movement that erupted in Tunisia in December spread to Algeria, Jordan, Yemen,
Egypt and Sudan in January. Street protests and Facebook campaigns spread the
fervor to Palestine, Iraq, Bahrain, Iran and Libya this month—and the
pro-democracy contagion shows no signs of slowing. One young activist in Iraq,
Muntazer al-Zaydi, explained the events of the last two months in this way:
“Young people watch satellite TV and ask why Americans can elect new leaders
every four years but they cannot.”

What’s astounding about this movement is
that it has absolutely nothing to do with the U.S. military. American leaders,
in fact, were as surprised as the rest of the world when Arab regimes began to
fall.

The Christian naysayers (especially those
who make lots of money by selling end-times hysteria in their books and blogs)
believe this is all the work of the devil. They insist that militant Islamists
are poised to take over every Arab country to pave the way for the Antichrist.
Everyone has the right to be a pessimist, I suppose, but I don’t believe the
Bible is a pessimistic book. It’s full of hope.

My Bible says Christians are called to
take the gospel to every nation—and Jesus calls us to bravely preach His
message no matter what obstacles we face. He does not call us to be wimps,
pessimists or fear mongerers. My Bible says Christ’s kingdom will increase, and
that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters
cover the sea (see Hab. 2:14). God wants us to have a victorious mindset about
the future. After all, we are on the winning team!

A few weeks ago I spent time with Natasha
Shedrevaya, a Russian evangelist who has planted more than 300 churches in the
former Soviet Union. The daughter of an atheist, Natasha believed there was no
God until she met a tiny group of Pentecostals who were persecuted and
repressed by their government. After she met Christ the Iron Curtain fell, and
she began braving sub-zero weather in Siberia to preach the gospel in her
homeland.

I believe this same evangelistic fervor
will one day be common in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran. The same freedom
that began spreading in Russia in the early 1990s will eventually influence the
darkest and most repressive Islamic nations. Christians in the Middle East have
been praying for liberty, and God has heard their cries.

This does not mean we won’t encounter
difficult challenges in the days ahead. Paul the apostle wrote the Corinthians:
“For a wide door of effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9, emphasis added,
NASB). When doors of freedom and opportunity open, the devil accelerates his
attacks. We can be sure that Satan will not give up the Middle East region
without a fight.

But I’m not afraid of the Middle East
uprising of 2011. God’s hand is all over it. I’m preparing myself for even more
of His surprises in the days ahead.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His newest book is 10
Lies Men Believe
(Charisma House).

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