As I wrote earlier, a converted Jew from Tehran, Behzad Pakizegi, led me to Christ during my freshman year in college. For the next three years he invested himself in me, teaching me not just by his words, but mostly by his life, what it means to be a follower of Christ. God greatly used Behzad to radically alter the trajectory of the rest of my life. We’ve been friends now for over forty years. So when I heard the news last month that he was admitted to a hospital in San Diego for triple-by-pass surgery, it hit me hard.
Just before he went into surgery, my youngest daughter, Laura, who has never met him, asked me if she could write him an email. She did. After reading it, he told me that words cannot express how much her email meant to him. Reading it will give you a glimpse into how this dear, life-long friend and brother in Christ, not only greatly impacted my life but also Laura’s life–without ever meeting her. If you’d like to read it, click here: http://bit.ly/1eCr7Gr
His surgery was very successful and he is now recovering at his home in San Diego. He asked me to share a special word of thanks to all of you who prayed for him. He said he felt greatly humbled and thankful to God when he learned how many people were praying for him, most who had never met him, from all around the world. He asked me to share with you that the Lord heard and mightily answered your prayers. He said, “Steve, I cannot believe it. In this whole process I have never felt any pain at all. I have never even needed one Tylenol. It’s been an amazing miracle.”
Tonight was the first time we’ve been able to have an extended phone conversation since his surgery. We talked for about an hour. It was wonderful to hear his voice, and to laugh and pray with him again. I told him that soon after his surgery, I opened my first bible from 1973, the one I owned during the first 3 years of my Christian life while he was discipling me. It’s hard to believe that bible is now over 40 years old. I remember devouring it like a starving man during those early years with Behzad. And it looks like it. You can even see the imprint of my 18-20 year old hand on the cover. All you must do is slightly push the side pages, and it smoothly opens to those tattered, pen-stained sections where I feasted most.
I had forgotten, and so had Behzad, that after discipling me for three years (1973-1976), just before he returned to Iran, he wrote me a long note on the first blank page of that bible. I had been facing some difficult trials, and now I was about to be without the man who led me to Christ and had always been there for me during all my tumultuous first-years as a follower of Christ. At the end of our conversation tonight, I asked him if he wanted me to read it to him. He did. And as I read these words he wrote to comfort me more than 40 years ago, God providentially and mysteriously used them to bring great comfort to him.
The picture above is of that page in my old bible. The text below are the words Behzad wrote. He and I are praying now, that the Lord will use these words to providentially and mysteriously bring great comfort also to you.
My dearest brother Steve,
There are no words to use to properly express the joy of my heart for having you as my brother in the Lord. “A friend loves at all times. And a brother is born for adversity” (Prov 17:17). “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov 18:24).
Over the past year I have rejoiced for the way the Lord has been working in your life. I praise his name for you and the way he has used you to touch the lives of many people, including myself. This has been much encouragement to me because I have seen the Lord produce fruit through you and this has brought so much gladness to my heart. (Phil 1:1-6 & Col 1:3-6 both express my heart’s desire.)
As I am writing this, I am reminded of Psalms 110:10 and 112:1 where we are reminded that as we trust and reverence the Lord we are blessed beyond expression. Always remember Psalm 37:4 & 5. Commit it to your memory and meditate on it often, for I have drawn much blessing out of his promises here. As you come across some mountains in your life you will be able to draw much comfort from Psalm 34 & 37. They are full of wonderful promises. Keep claiming them.
I praise the Lord that through his Holy Spirit, he has bound us together eternally. And whether together, or far away across the oceans, we are united in him. As I leave for now I’d like to leave you with the thought of becoming like him (Rom 8:29) as you put Matt 22:37-39 and 2 Tim 2:1-7 into action. I want you to know that you are very dear to me and I love you very much.