By Bob Paulson for Decision magazine, copyright 2014, view at:
Saeed Abedini, who is serving an eight-year sentence in a brutal Iranian prison for his Christian faith, came to Christ at age 20. A devout Muslim at the time, he had found a Bible and started reading it. One night, he was awakened three times by a voice that said, “Saeed, I am coming soon. Go preach My Gospel.” The third time, the voice was accompanied by a bright light shining through Saeed’s bedroom window. Trembling and sweating, Saeed said, “I will do it.” At that moment, the light moved away, and he saw what appeared to be the back of Jesus exiting through the window.
Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, recounts her own family’s arrival in the U.S. when Naghmeh and her twin brother were 9. The two siblings had wondered how to find God, and one day Naghmeh’s brother came to her, shaken and moved. “I’ve found the God we’ve been looking for,” he said. He had seen a vision of Jesus.
More and more, Christians are hearing stories of Muslims, especially in the Middle East, coming to faith in Jesus Christ partly as a result of having a vision or a dream.
“I can’t explain it,” said Franklin Graham to a group of pastors on March 25. “I’m not even going to attempt to explain it. I just tell you, it happens. God is at work in that part of the world in a great way.”
Missions expert David Garrison, a former missionary to Libya and author of A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is Drawing Muslims Around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ, sees this phenomenon as part of a larger move of God in the Muslim world.
“We’d be very hard-pressed to nail down specific numbers,” Garrison told Decision, “but certainly hundreds of thousands have walked away from Islam and come to faith in Jesus Christ. We’re even getting reports from the war-torn areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, that many of the Taliban and Mujahedeen, who for generations have been embroiled in warfare in the name of Islam, are simply saying, ‘This cannot be God’s perfect will for people, for mankind.’” As a result, Garrison said, when they encounter Christ through a dream or vision, followed by hearing the Gospel explained on a radio or satellite broadcast or through Scripture translation, many come to salvation.
Naeem Fazal, pastor of Mosaic Church in Charlotte, N.C., says a supernatural experience played a role in his coming to faith. He grew up in a Muslim family in Kuwait, and he had come to the U.S. to attend college. While he was mainly interested in meeting girls, his older brother, who had come to the U.S. earlier, had put his trust in Jesus Christ.
Naeem made it clear to his brother, Mahmood, that he was not about to convert to Jesus Christ, but he did agree to accompany Mahmood to meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the college. After one meeting, Mahmood challenged Naeem to pray that God would reveal Himself to him. Three nights later, as Naeem lay in bed, he was suddenly aware of the room becoming unnaturally dark, and an evil presence seemed to sit on his legs and grab his shoulders. The door creaked open and a second, even more fearsome, presence entered. Naeem felt sure these were demons who meant to kill him, and he cried out, asking Jesus to save him. The beings disappeared.
Some time later that night, he felt someone shaking his shoulders and at first feared it was the demons again. Instead, he saw Jesus and understood Him to say, “I am Jesus. Your life is not your own.”
What should Christians make of such spectacular stories?
“Believe them,” says Aileen Colemen, a nurse who has served for nearly 60 years at the Annoor Sanatorium, a hospital for lung diseases, in Mafraq, Jordan. “I feel very strongly that God is using supernatural experiences with people here as a revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ to them. Right from the days of the Old Testament, God spoke through visions and dreams. So it’s not something new.”
Experts add that if God gets someone’s attention through a dream or vision, it does not in any way diminish the responsibility of believers to communicate the Gospel.
“The tragic thing,” Garrison said, “is that unless someone is there to tell them what the dream or vision means or to present to them a Scripture in their own language so they can read it and hear it and understand it and then find the Jesus of the Bible, they’re left with this haunting sense of, who was this? What does this mean?”
Coleman tells the story of a man who came to the hospital in Mafraq some 20 years ago and said he had seen a vision of someone telling him: “If you want to know the truth, go to Mafraq, find the white-haired lady and she will tell you the way of truth.” Coleman’s co-worker, Dr. Eleanor Soltau, had white hair. She called a male evangelist on the hospital’s staff who led the man to Christ.
“As literate, believing Christians, we don’t need dreams and visions,” Coleman said. “We have the written Word. But so many of these people who have a dream or a vision or a supernatural experience have never read the Word. So it’s very important that we take them to the Word of God.”
Nabeel Qureshi, a former Muslim, said during his college years he diligently studied both Islam and Christianity in an attempt to discern which was true, and three dreams helped to push him toward Jesus. Still, his Christian friends played a crucial role in his conversion. Qureshi has this advice for believers:
“Love the Lord Jesus with everything you have, and love your Muslim friend as yourself. Not as an acquaintance, not as an evangelism project, but as yourself. Let them see your love for God and what He has done for you. Most Muslims who are devout do not love Allah per se, but rather are devoted to the system of Islam. Show them the difference.”
By James Kushiner, Director of The Fellowship of St. James/Touchstone magazine:
…During the conference I attended, several individuals cited numerous instances in the Middle East of Muslims converting to Christ after experiencing visions or dreams. One family appeared at the door of a church saying that Jesus appeared to them and had instructed them to be baptized. They were baptized.
Such things are happening all the time. When a Muslim says Jesus appeared to him in a dream and told him to get baptized, what can one say?
Modern Westerners have relegated the operation of dreams to either the mechanics of neuroscience or the fuzzy operations of psychology, Freudian or otherwise. In other words, dreams have no supernatural importance.
But Scripture attests to the role of dreams (see passages below for just a few of many examples). With dreams, caution is always in order, just as thoughts and imagination are tricky and malleable faculties to be carefully tested. But dreams are used of God. To reach Muslims.
So consider these things when you hear about the Middle East. We’ve heard proposals for relocating Christians from the Middle East. The Christians there do not all want to leave; they remain a Christian witness. A monumental spiritual struggle is taking place: Christians are martyred while converts are also being won to Christ. Haven’t we read of such things before–in ancient Rome, Asia Minor, Persia, in tales of the ancient martyrs and early church? Spiritual forces are at work this very day, and souls are at stake, much more so than even political boundaries and maps.
Genesis 28:10-13a — Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac…
Job 33:14-15 — For God does speak—now one way, now another… In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears…
Matthew 2:13 — When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Acts 9:3-6, 10-12 — As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him,“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do…”
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
O God, who made of one blood all nations to dwell on the face of the whole earth, and who sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those that are near; grant that all people everywhere may seek after you and find you. Bring the nations into your fold, pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten your kingdom; we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–George E. L. Cotton (1813-1866), Anglican bishop of Calcutta