As I got further into Todd Nettleton's When Faith is Forbidden: 40 Days on the Frontlines with Persecuted Christians I became increasingly relieved that I was reading to review and did not have to read only one chapter each day, especially during the stories which were shared over the course of a few days. Each day begins with a Bible verse, then Nettleton shares the experience of a believer he has met while traveling around the world for Voice of the Martyrs before offering a reflection on what he just shared, a prayer for the reader to pray, a spot for the reader to journal, and then concluding with an excerpt from his own journal.
The biggest takeaway from reading through When Faith is Forbidden is how powerful the stories which Nettleton shares are. There would be moments when I would have to stop myself from moving on to the next day's story without reading the reflection, prayer, or journal excerpt. Some of the stories focus on a single event in the believer's life (their conversion or a moment of persecution or of answered prayer) and others were overviews of everything the believer has gone through as they have lived out their faith under the constant threat of persecution. Some of the stories contain the believer's real name and at the beginning of others we are told that a different name is being used for their safety. Each story reveals how important the Gospel is to these men and women, and to hear them continue to describe how beautiful it is, even as they bear physical and emotional scars which they received because they believe Jesus is Lord, is inspiring and challenging.
As if the story of a man who was still wearing the jacket which had bullet holes in it from when his car was ambushed or the woman who was in prison and had her husband testify against her would not be enough to cause the reader to reflect on their own understanding of their faith, Nettleton chooses an aspect of story he has shared and asks the reader directly how that theme might be found in their own life: "...do we expect God will allow us only comfort, prosperity and earthly success?" (72), "Is there someone you've been trying to rescue whom you should instead choose to listen to, laugh with, cry with, and pray with?" (158), "When's the last time you bolted out the doors of your church seeking someone who needed to hear the message from God you'd just heard?" (242).
Another thing which I appreciated about this book was the inclusion of excerpts from Nettleton's own journal entries. These range from serious reflections on what a persecuted believer had just shared and how they challenged him to evaluate his own faith or comical stories such as the time a flight attendant told him to not practice opening the emergency exit during the flight. Nettleton writes in a relaxed manner which honestly reflects the surprises and challenges he has faced when he has visited with persecuted Christians. His willingness to share journal entries which reveal areas where he was challenged to grow in his faith or moments when he was uncertain about his surroundings allows the reader to be honest about their own faith as they hear these testimonies from Christians about what it looks like to follow Christ in their country.
I would recommend this devotional to anyone who is wanting to learn more about some of the experiences of Christians around the world, and to be inspired and challenged by their witness. This devotional reminds not only of how knowing God can change someone's life but also how He is present even in the most challenging of situations.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Moody Publishers through their blogger review program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255