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Death Threats on Text Messages

A story from Malawi

“We will kill you, and it will be easy.”

The text message glowed ominously on Philip’s* phone. Those were words he’d heard before. Many times, actually. They were always a little different, but they had the same goal: fear. Death. Philip scrolled through the previous messages from this number.

“We will kill you this year.”

“We will kill you this month.”

“It is not against our religion to kill you. We will do it.”

“For us to kill you is not an issue.”

Pastor Philip sighed and prayed. These messages had started when he appointed one of his students and church members to run a church in a neighboring village of Malawi.

It was expected, he supposed. The man he had trained and appointed had once been one of these radical Muslims who were now sending him death threats.

A few years ago, Philip had trained several members from the churches he helped to oversee to be missionaries through the Live School curriculum. These trained believers then went across Lake Malawi to evangelize and plant churches among the Muslim villages across the water. One of the men they brought to the Lord was a leader within the radical Islamic group.

When this man was saved, he asked to be trained as a pastor and missionary himself. So Philip took him under his wing, helped train him through Live School, and then appointed him to shepherd a church.

And that’s when the persecution began. The radical group began harassing, threatening, and persecuting the man who had deserted them and their Islamic faith. They tormented him to the point that he had to flee the country.

After they had moved the “deserter” out of the way, the radical group came after his teacher, Philip.

When Philip first received the death threats on his phone, he went to the police to show them the messages.

“We know who they are! We can find them and stop them!” the police said. But that’s not what Philip wanted.

“I didn’t come to you so that you could arrest them. I wanted you to know so that, if one day you find that I have been killed, you’ll know perhaps what happened,” Philip said. And with that he left.

Philip also showed the text messages to one of his Muslim friends.

“I know who these people are! I can take you to them!” his friend said.

“No,” said Philip. “I don’t want to know who they are. I don’t want to stop them. I just wanted to show you so that you would know that this sort of thing is going on.”

And the death threats had continued ever since. But Philip didn’t fight back. He didn’t try and confront them. He didn’t take up arms or bring in the law. He simply waited upon the Lord.

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“We will kill you, and it will be easy.” Philip looked down at his phone again.

And as he read the words, the still small voice of the Lord came to him, reminding him of the truth of Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

The Lord told Philip for the first time to text his persecutors back, and He gave him this word:

“How can you kill someone who is already dead?”

Philip pressed “Send” and the simple yet profound question made it’s way to the phone of his persecutors. How can you kill someone who is already dead?

After that day, Philip never received another death threat.

He continues to preach and train his church members to go out preaching the Gospel without fear.

For what do they have to lose? Their old selves have died and their lives are now hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). All hope, all reward, all satisfying love is in Christ and even death cannot part them from that.

+++

“Fear not,” Philip told me as he explained his story. “Why should we as believers fear?”

It calls to mind several Scriptures:

“And do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.” (Matt. 10:28)

“Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36)

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6)

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer…Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim. 1:7)

We may never receive death threats or be thrown in prison or killed by the sword, but any time we take the gospel to others, we will be persecuted, we will be thwarted, we will be opposed. The enemy will never want the good news to go out and people will often deny it.

But Philip’s words and testimony to us are the same as the Father’s: Do not fear.

What will you lose in sharing the gospel? Reputation, comfort, security, money, success, material possessions, dreams, expectations, free time, maybe even your life.

But what will you gain? The crown of life, power, love, self-control, faith, the help of the Lord, the Father’s good pleasure, the privilege and joy of bringing the good news of Jesus to the lost who before could only fear death.

Do not fear. Only obey and continue to bring true Life to those who are in slavery to the fear of death.

 

*Name changed for security reasons.

Written by Anna Wilson