Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God Is at Work in Iran, Day 2

Episode Resources

Watch Sabrina's story.

Leslie Basham: Sometimes God uses a bad medical report to get our attention.

Sabrina Aslan: My youngest was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and I was in some kind of trauma.

Leslie: Sabrina Aslan found comfort and strength in a radio program that teaches the Word of God. She says it was like a spiritual IV.

Sabrina: God was working in my heart, and He was teaching me, like drip, drip, drip. And those teachings were just penetrating in my heart and changing my heart.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Wednesday, May 18, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Have you ever felt like God was calling you to do something impossible? Maybe you could tell that if you didn't do that particular thing it would be disobedience?

Well, as you listen to our guest today, you're going to get a refreshing picture of what it looks like to be obedient to the call of God. Even though it felt uncomfortable and scary, even though they couldn't see what the outcome was going to be, they trusted, and they obeyed.

Albert and Sabrina Aslan are originally from Iran. Yesterday we heard the powerful story of Albert's interrogation for his faith in an Iranian prison. If you missed it, I hope you'll listen at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now today we're going to focus on Sabrina's story. She knows what it's like to step outside of her comfort zone and take on a big assignment.

Sabrina Aslan came to know Jesus at a young age.

Sabrina: When I was ten, I heard the gospel from my aunt. She heard the gospel from some missionaries back many years ago in Iran. She was born again, and she just told me that even though I was born in a Christian family, I needed Christ as my Savior. She introduced me to the gospel, but it took me some years, almost to when I was thirteen years old. I went to the youth group of one of the evangelical churches in Tehran. And, again, I heard the gospel, and I surrendered my life to my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Nancy: While Iran was still a predominantly Muslim country, in those days there was more religious freedom than there is now.

Sabrina: We could go to church much more freely. We even had conferences, retreats, but eventually the governments closed all those doors to people, especially Persian-speaking churches.

Nancy: Today, churches in Iran meet together in home churches or the few remaining traditional churches. The average Iranian doesn't know what the Bible teaches about Jesus or anything about the gospel.

Here's Sabrina's husband Albert Aslan.

Albert Aslan: There is a thirst. There is a hunger for something apart from Islam because the fact that Islam is able to reshape itself, even to the point that, whenever it's needed, to change its doctrine. This deceiving approach within Islam has been exposed. And so many people inside Iran who had the great hope in Islam that would be the real answer, now they have come up to the conclusion that, no, it's not.

Nancy: As a result, says Albert, disillusioned Muslims are turning to other places for answers: atheism, drugs, prostitution. For some, even the ancient gnostic religion of Zoroastrianism.

Albert: Within all of these reactions, one of them is coming to Christ.

Nancy: Sabrina told us that those dynamics have affected Iranian women, too. Of the nearly 80 million people in Iran, 60% are young people, and over half of the university students in Iran are women.

Sabrina: So education in Iran is very important, and right now, for women, much more important. So they are struggling between Islamic culture and Western culture. Some of them are really fed up with Islam, and their tendency is to go with Western culture to feel that freedom that Western culture or feminism can give them.

There are so many women activists over there that are fighting for the rights of women, which is good, but ultimately they need to be changed from inside. They need God. They need the gospel which can transform their lives from inside.

Nancy: Sabrina points out that the same holds true for women from other Islamic countries, too, not just Iran. So that's the backdrop.

We tend to think of countries like Iran completely closed to the good news of salvation in Jesus, but the Aslans know better.

In 1996 Sabrina and Albert were married, and they accepted an invitation to move to the United States for Albert to pastor an evangelical Assyrian congregation, but they never forgot their homeland.

Then they entered a new season of trials.

Sabrina: In 2008, my youngest one was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and I was in some kind of trauma. One of my friends introduced Revive Our Hearts to me as just a resource to just listen to and get comfort.

Nancy: Sabrina's son underwent brain surgery and rehabilitation. It was a long hard road to his full recovery. During those days, Sabrina faithfully listened to Revive Our Hearts, and she found that what she was hearing was changing her life.

Sabrina: God was working in my heart, and He was teaching me, like drip, drip, drip. And I know that those teachings were just penetrating in my heart and changing my heart.

Nancy: She didn't realize that the steady intake of God's Word through Revive Our Hearts was actually preparing her for further ministry.

Sabrina: I didn't know that He was going to call me to another kind of ministry to women. One of the things that God is using is Christian satellites that broadcast twenty-four hours a day Christian programs. So many people are coming to Christ through those programs.

One of the satellites, which is SAT7, asked me and my husband to get involved preparing some episodes for them.

For years, God had put in my heart the feeling that I had the calling to teach—especially making connections with women on a Bible study basis or just one on one. I was so blessed with that kind of ministry. Based on that, the satellite TV asked me to prepare some kind of programs for them for women.

Nancy: Sabrina knew this wasn't going to be easy.

Sabrina: It was a big deal for me, and I didn't see myself adequate for that job. I just didn't want to do that. Really, I didn't want to do that.

Nancy: But God spoke to Sabrina through His Word.

Sabrina: Once when I was reading the Scripture, I was reading about the part when Jesus was asking Peter, "Do you love Me more? So feed My sheep." And He asked that question, like, three times, and I was thinking that these questions are just for me and for women back in Iran or the foreign-speaking women around the world.

Once I remember I was reading from Joshua in my daily reading, reading from chapter 2 when the two spies are going to Jericho and they met Rahab, and Rahab said something to them as a woman that was just like a touch of Spirit to me. She says, "We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt and what you did to the two kings of Amorites."

And then she continues in verse 11, "And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted, neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath."

She has heard that message about the true God forty years ago, forty years before, and it was as if she was talking to me that, at the time I heard these things about the true living God, I was a little girl. So she was talking to the spies, "Where have you been all these years? I was waiting for you guys to just bring the salvation, bring more about your God to us."

And that kind of question just hit my heart. It seemed that somebody in Iran, behind the walls of Iran, like Jericho, is talking to me. "We have heard about Jesus through satellite, through radio, through so many things, but where have you been? Where are you guys? Why don't you bring this message for us?"

And I couldn't stand it. So I knew that this message needed to be sent to these people. They need it.

Nancy: Sabrina spent a lot of time in prayer, and when it was clear that the Lord was in this, she said:

Sabrina: By faith, "Yes, Lord, I'm ready to do that." But I had to prepare forty segments for that kind of program, and it was really hard for me.

Nancy: As she prepared the video teaching segments, the months of meditation on God's Word during her son's recovery really paid off.

Sabrina: At the time I was listening to Revive Our Hearts. For years I had been listening to Revive Our Hearts. And Nancy's teaching and whoever was on Revive Our Hearts was teaching me during those years was all in my mind. I was just praying that God would just help me to transfer those messages. And basically, I could tell 50 – 60% of those messages were just shaped by Revive Our Hearts in my mind, and God was just giving me grace to do that, to be just a vessel for transferring that message to women.

I even named the program Azana Rosene, which is True Woman. So I see that this is an open door.

Nancy: For Albert Aslan, Sabrina's husband, there was a similar ah-ha moment.

Albert: Many years ago a friend who used to be one of our students in the Bible studies back in Iran, called me from Iran. We know him very well, and we respect him. He was now the teacher where I used to preach, and he grew up in our fellowships, in our studies. He said, "Albert, do you have time? I want to raise some concerns."

I said, "Yes, of course."

He said, "Do you believe you have the gift of teaching?" It was kind of weird to me because many, many years I had been teaching this person, and now he's asking if I have the gift of teaching. I said, "I guess so."

Then he said, "Do you remember the passage of the Scriptures when Jesus was going to feed those 5,000 men with the bread and fish?"

I said, "Yes."

He said, "Do you remember Jesus took the bread and the fish and blessed them?"

I said, "Yes, I do."

Then he said, "I have noticed that Jesus didn't give the bread to the people. People didn't receive the bread from the hand of Jesus. Jesus gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples spread the bread."

I said, "Yes, of course."

Then he said, "You told me you have the gift of teaching."

I said, "Yes."

He said, "So you have the bread in your hands, the bread which is blessed by the Lord Himself, transferred into your hands. Can I ask you not to keep it for yourself, for your own congregation? Can I ask you to transfer it to a broad audience?"

He was talking about this newborn, underground church, and he explained to me, "They need solid biblical teaching, otherwise this church, which is growing fast, is flourishing, is going to turn into a chaos. They don't have the right teaching. So if you believe you have the gift, you have the bread, share it, send it. The church here needs that message from you who believe you have the gift."

And I did. He then gave me a word of encouragement. He said, "Forgive me for talking that way because I do believe you have the gift of teaching. I do believe your teaching is correct and biblically based. That's the reason I'm encouraging you. Please, share it with the growing undergrown church."

So that was something I cannot forget, and within the course of time, now we realize, yes, that's the message. We shouldn't ignore it. We shouldn't take it for granted, and we should act upon it. That's God's calling to us to this ministry. And that was one of the other reasons led both of us, Sabrina and I, to be one-minded, although we love the pastoring we did for seventeen years. But God is redirecting, shifting our ministry, targeting Muslim-background believers to grow them into solid biblical teaching.

Nancy: Now Albert and Sabrina lead a preaching and teaching ministry to Persian-speaking people from Muslim backgrounds. With the help of social media and satellite broadcasting, God's Word is penetrating the hearts of many men and women who are turning from Islam to Christ.

Here's what God promises in Isaiah chapter 55:

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, [God says] but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (vv. 10–11).

That's true even in countries we might consider closed to the gospel.

Sabrina: I am sure that God has a plan for that area. The media is just giving us bad news about killing, about fighting, about genocide, which is true, but God is doing His plan and His job, His work despite all of those situations. God has His own people over there, and He provides for them to be saved.

I just remember one of the psalms which says that all the work in the storm and the earthquake, but there is a river over there that goes in and just makes people joyful, and its branches just give them hope, and God is helping them. So I think the church and the people of God are just like everything is in the storm and the earthquake and everything like that, but the Spirit of God, God's Holy Spirit is doing His own job for His people.

Albert: They say Iran is a closed country. I say, "Not to the gospel." They say Iran is closed. I say, "Not to God," because nothing can prevent God from entering the prisons, the walls to save the lost sheep. So God has His own, even in Iran, as He has proved it, and He continues doing good.

I tell you, God is doing amazing, amazing things inside Iran. If we from the West have the wrong perspective, I would encourage the Western people to study the history. What does the history testify about the church within ages? Under fears, enemies of the gospel, the church survived by the power of the Holy Spirit. And wherever there is darkness, the light of the gospel shines forth much stronger and edifies the church.

So if this is the lesson we learn from history, how come we say Iran is a closed country, they are an enemy, and nothing can be done? Excuse me. You cannot do it, but God can do it, and God is doing it through media, websites, satellites, radio, sending the gospel inside Iran or through those who are being saved from within. God is using them. So don't listen to the media. That's one side, and that's a distorted story of what is happening.

I don't say there is no pressure. I don't say there is no persecution. There is. In 1994 and 1995, I guess, there were eight people who were prominent preachers, pastors who were killed, murdered, and we do believe it was a plan of the government. So there is persecution. Even today we have believers from Muslim backgrounds, not Assyrian and Armenian backgrounds, but from Muslim backgrounds who are in prison because of their faith. We know that.

So we don't deny the fact that there is persecution, but it doesn't prevent us from saying, "God is at work. God is able to do and accomplish His own perfect will, and He's doing it in a mighty way so that all the glory goes to Him and Him alone."

Nancy: And Sabrina exhorts us to be faithful to plant the seeds of God's Word because the results can be glorious.

Sabrina: I remember that Samaritan woman. She was in Samaria. Again, this verse was in my mind. In the ESV, it says that Jesus had to go through Samaria because there was a lady over there, and she needed Jesus. She didn't know about it, but she needed Jesus. And Jesus had to go there. And He saved her, and through her, the whole village, the whole city was saved.

I just wanted to encourage people who are listening that we have to take it serious that whenever we give this message to one person that is needed, that one person can be a source of salvation for so many others, for other people.

Nancy: I hope you'll check out the video version of this story at ReviveOurHearts.com. And then share the video with someone you know who doesn't realize that there's good news related to Iran.

When I hear Albert and Sabrina's story, I'm so grateful that Revive Our Hearts could have a role in encouraging them in the important work they're doing.

When their son was in a medical emergency, Revive Our Hearts was there for Sabrina, thanks to listeners who helped make this ministry possible. From the beginning of Revive Our Hearts fifteen years ago, God put it on the hearts of some individuals to significantly carry the cost of launching this ministry, and they said, "You need to have an audience who will then take over and provide for the ministry's needs."

So these few major donors have been decreasing their amount of support year by year as listeners like you have stepped up and become partners in this ministry. Well, now the funding from those initial donors has come to an end, and we really need to make that difference.

If you believe in what God is doing through Revive Our Hearts, would you help to pick up that mantle? You can do what those friends did. Help Revive Our Hearts call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

Now, the month of May is when we do major work on our budgets. We evaluate what's come in over the past fiscal year and what we can commit to in the year ahead. In order to end this budget cycle in a healthy position, we have some big needs.

Now, some friends of the ministry know how important this time is, and they're doubling the gift of every transcript reader here in May. This is an amazing opportunity to be able to spread Revive Our Hearts digitally around the world.

You can help make sure we make the most of these opportunities. You can visit a special site that we've set up just for you. It's ReviveOurHearts.com/donate/transcript/, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Now, today we've seen a beautiful example of what it looks like to step out in faith and obedience and respond to the call of God. Tomorrow we hear from our dear friends Crawford and Karen Loritts about faith and obedience in another arena: the marriage relationship, as they talk about keeping your marriage vows.

But before we're done today, I want to pause and ask: What about you? What is God asking you to do? What might it look like in your life to step out and trust and obey God? You probably don't speak Assyrian or Farsi, but what is God equipping you to do to advance His kingdom where He has placed you? If you don't know, you can start thinking about it today. Read God's Word. Pray. Ask Him to show you what He has for you.

Whether it's as simple as taking a friend out for tea, or talking to that neighbor about Jesus, or as ambitious as starting a women's ministry in your local church, I can guarantee you one thing: Even if it's uncomfortable, if you're truly walking in complete faith and humble obedience, it will be so worth it. You will never regret it.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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