“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
I suspect that many Christian believers, like myself, have been profoundly grieved by the actions of ISIS (or Islamic State) in the Middle East and North Africa. Their sheer wickedness, malice, and lack of compassion, justice or mercy must be truly terrifying to all who fall into their hands. The photographs and videos of the murders (not ‘executions’) of their victims show a form of evil incarnate that we would prefer to believe to have disappeared with the fall of Nazism in 1945.
So how does this square with our biblical belief that God works for good in all things? Can God work for good in the actions of ISIS?
For the last week I have been ministering in the Middle East. At one event I was privileged to listen to an Arabic brother who is a key leader in a highly effective evangelistic outreach in the Islamic world. He shared about the increasing number of Muslims who are turning to Christ. Then he made a statement that floored me. He said, “The numbers of Muslims who contact us, asking to receive Jesus Christ as Saviour, go through the roof every time ISIS carries out any kind of high-profile atrocity. In fact, ISIS are proving to be more effective than Billy Graham or any well-known evangelist when it comes to adding growth to the Church of Jesus Christ in North Africa and the Middle East!”
It turns out that ordinary Muslim people, by the thousands, are rejecting the image of their religion that they see reflected in the actions of ISIS. If this is what an ‘Islamic State’ looks like, then they want nothing more to do with Islam. And what is the most radical and obvious way in which a Muslim in that part of the world can demonstrate that they have broken with the religion in which they were raised? Quite simply, by embracing Jesus Christ and becoming part of His Church!
Of course, none of this lessens the suffering of the victims of ISIS. This does not restore murdered children to their bereaved parents, or take away the agony of those who have been tortured or butchered. Yet it remains true that God is at work, even in the man-made hell created by violent Islamic fundamentalism and religious intolerance.
God does indeed work in all things for good. He still turns tears to laughter, darkness to light, and defeat into victory! Jesus is still building His Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.