As I write these first few words (originally on Saturday, 9/16/17), I just heard that Nabeel Qureshi has passed away at the age of 34 with complications due originally to stage 4 stomach cancer. I first heard the news through Justin Taylor’s site here. If you want a good overview of his life and some of his accomplishments, I would recommend Taylor’s site above as well. Nabeel converted from Islam while a student in medical school, and is best known for his book “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” which became a New York Times bestseller. He also wrote “No God but One: Allah or Jesus: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity” and “Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward.” He held an M.D. degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an M.A. in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an M.A. in religion from Duke University and had entered into the MPhil and the Ph.D. program at Oxford University. Nabeel, obviously, was a brilliant guy given his academic credentials, but he was also a powerful speaker and an apt apologist. Ravi Zacharias wrote a really moving tribute about a final visit that he, and the entire RZIM team, made with Nabeel in May of this year and you can find that here.
WHY AM I WRITING ABOUT NABEEL QURESHI?
When I first heard about Nabeel’s cancer at a local State Board of Missions Conference on Islam here in Alabama, I was absolutely floored and greatly disturbed by this announcement. I have, since, followed Nabeel over the past year as he has posted updates on his vlog about his condition. As I have watched, I have had one thought that lends itself towards the skeptical: “Why would God take a young man, with a young child and wife, who also had such promise to work mightily for Him for the next 50+ years?” Nabeel was, in my own words, one of God’s young generals with a very promising future ahead of him unto the Glory of God. Logically, in my own mind, it doesn’t make sense to take a man, equipped as he is, to carry the Word of God and be a shining light for God. But what do I know about the plans of God? Does God need me as His counselor on how to run the universe? Do I presume to know more than God and have more wisdom than He does? Do I claim to care about this world more than God? Certainly, I am quite presumptuous to think that my own measly sovereignty and wisdom surpasses God’s. Nabeel’s short life may be a puzzle to me, but God knows what He is doing. What “puzzles” are there in your own life that you are finding it difficult to make sense of? What evils are staring you in the face right now that give you difficulty in seeing the face or the grace of God?
SCRIPTURE TO HELP COMPREHEND SUCH A DARK PROVIDENCE OF GOD
Romans 11:33-36 provides help to these “dark providential puzzles” that we encounter in this broken world:
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
God is unsearchable and his ways are “inscrutable.” One person said that for us to attempt to understand fully what God is doing is like trying to explain quantum physics to a 3-year-old. Whatever difficult and dark circumstance is over your life right now, we must drop it into the Romans 11 “inscrutable bucket” and trust that God knows what He is doing even if we don’t.
Isaiah 55:8-9 also provides more support in this unsearchable God:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God’s ways are not irrational, but they are above rationality. The difference is that the first is against logic and the other is beyond the finding of logic.
GEORGE MUELLER TRUSTING GOD IN THE DEATH OF HIS WIFE: “NO GOOD THING WILL HE WITHHOLD…”
I think that we must put dark circumstances like the death of Nabeel Qureshi, as well as a million other instances, into the hands of God, just like George Mueller did in the death of his wife. Here is an account of the 19th century pastor, George Mueller, on the death of his wife and trusting God:
The last portion of scripture which I read to my precious wife was this: “The Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory, no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Now, if we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have received grace, we are partakers of grace, and to all such he will give glory also. I said to myself, with regard to the latter part, “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly”—I am in myself a poor worthless sinner, but I have been saved by the blood of Christ; and I do not live in sin, I walk uprightly before God. Therefore, if it is really good for me, my darling wife will be raised up again; sick as she is. God will restore her again. But if she is not restored again, then it would not be a good thing for me. And so my heart was at rest. I was satisfied with God. And all this springs, as I have often said before, from taking God at his word, believing what he says (emphasis and bold added-source)
Do we believe that God will withhold “no good thing” from His children, even if it does not look or feel like a “good thing”? Do we believe that even the most painful and agonizing moments of our lives could be God “withholding no good thing” from His children so that, thereby, He may sanctify us? The countless lives of missionaries, who have suffered far more than we in the West in the 21st century do, testify that this is the truth.
GOD USES YOUNG, BRIEF LIVES!
God does not always take all His soldiers at a young age, but there are notable ones that church history has highlighted that John Piper mentions in his Robert Murray McCheyne biography here:
For example, Jim Elliot, who never published a book during his life, was 28 years old when he was killed in 1956. But his wife Elisabeth Elliot captured his life and mission in Through Gages of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty which were published within two years of his death, and are still in print today shaping the mission and history of the church.
Then there is David Brainerd, the missionary to the American Indians in the 1740s. He never published anything and died when he was 29 in 1747. He would have quickly passed out of human consciousness, since hardly anyone knew him, except that two years later Jonathan Edwards captured his life and diaries in The Life of David Brainerd, which has become one of the three most influential books in the history of modern missions.
Then there is Henry Martyn, the missionary to India and Persia who died in 1812 at the age of 31. No one would know of him today except that four years later, John Sargent wrote a record of his life and rescued his journals in Memoir of the Rev. Henry Martyn, B.D. And so generations of students, especially in Britain, were inspired to take up the challenge of missionary work.
Piper then gives his talk on the marvelous life of Robert Murray McCheyne who died at the young age of 29 as a Pastor in Scotland. We must not despair should we think that God has not used us unless we live to be 85; God can, and God does, often use those whose lives are young and brief.God can, and God does, often use those whose lives are young and brief Click To Tweet
LESSONS TO LEARN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE DIED YOUNG
What are we to learn from the young life of Nabeel Qureshi, and from these other young men who died so young? First, God can use you for mighty deeds in His Kingdom while you are still young. We must not think that God will use us only when we are “spiritually mature” or when we are “older,” but we must realize that God can use us right now while we are young. Second, do not wait until you are 65 to write a book on “what your life was about.” Why not write that book right now? Nabeel wrote his book at age 30. How old are you now? Do you think that God couldn’t use your book or your testimony or your class or your seminar to influence others for His glory? We limit God if we think that He couldn’t use our lives right now. If God uses our lives it really says less about our own ability and more about His ability to use anyone. If God uses our lives for His kingdom, it is a testimony to His greatness and power, not ours.
So, this is where I must leave the evils in this world that perplex me: In the hands of a Sovereign, all-good, all-wise God. I could name many of the ills in this world that befuddle me, but for today I’ll leave the short, God-glorifying life of Nabeel Qureshi there in God’s hands. It is also quite obvious from history, and from Nabeel’s short life, that God can use anyone, no matter how many years they are on this planet.
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