And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
He’s the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder of Hamas—the Palestinian organization internationally condemned for its terrorist efforts to resist Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. His father now sits in an Israeli prison for his leadership and coordination of suicide bomb attacks.
The son, Mosab Hassan Yousef, followed in his father’s footsteps, participating in uprisings and buying weapons for Hamas.
But only for a season.
Upon his own arrest by the Israelis, the younger Yousef was approached by his captors with an offer: they’d lighten his sentence if he’d work for Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, as an agent within Hamas. At first tempted to double-cross his captors for Israel’s violence against Palestinians, he nevertheless took their offer after witnessing the horrid torture he says Hamas committed upon its own people.
Once he became an operative for Israel within the Palestinian resistance, he exposed Hamas’s plans, foiled assassination attempts, and thwarted sleeper cells. He even convinced his own father to accept a partial truce with Israel. His employer deemed him the most reliable agent Israel had.
The “Son of Hamas,” (which also happens to be the title of his newly released book) infiltrated the highest echelons of Hamas leadership and provided valuable information to the Israelis.
But only for a season.
You see, he met a British cab driver in Jerusalem who gave him a copy of the New Testament and invited him to a local Bible study with other Christians. “I found that I was really drawn to the grace, love, and humility that Jesus talked about,” says Yousef. In time, he placed his trust in Christ, “convinced by Jesus Christ as a character, as a personality. I loved him, his wisdom, his love, his unconditional love. . . . I see that when he does exist in other Middle Easterners there will be a change.”
As you would expect, there has been a personal cost—first to his defection from Hamas, and then to his embrace of Christianity. His father has officially disowned him. Islamists continue to issue threats. The son’s response? “That’s not the worst thing that can happen to you. . . . Palestinians have reason to kill me. Some Israelis may want to kill me. My goal is not to defeat my enemy. It is to win over my enemy.”
That the Lord brought Mosab Yousef to Himself (and through the simple gesture of a cab driver!) bears further testimony to His will and power. But it also speaks to His willingness to persevere in us and with us throughout our earthly sojourn. As Mark reminded us Sunday, there is something we cannot start and something we cannot finish: God’s salvation, His forgiveness and transformation of us. On the basis of God’s interest and ability to convince Mosab of the truth of Jesus, Mosab may also have confidence that God will persevere in him.
Yet when anyone seeks to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, the struggle against our idolatries still takes a toll—shakes our confidence in His love.
Do you ever have an uneasy feeling that He’s washed His hands of you out of fear that you’re too much for Him to change? Does your heart’s entanglement with sin lead you to believe you are a lost cause, to fear that He is not patient enough to endure you?
In an anonymous letter to a doubter of the early second century, the author, self-identified only as “disciple,” summarized our hope:
By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!
We persevere in God because what is corruptible in us has been exchanged with what is incorruptible in Christ. His work is the basis of our confidence that we shall persevere.
The Lord brought Mosab to Himself, despite the killer’s zeal for vengeance. The Lord brought you to Himself, despite (perhaps) your lack of zeal for anything but yourself. If God can turn us to Himself, despite our arrogant protestations, can He not continue to conform us into the image of His Son for all time?
Your heart is deceitful and desperately sick, Jeremiah warns (17:9). Yet Jesus confirms in His Word and work that you are loved more than you can imagine, Those twin truths form the only explanation for why Christ would die for us. They also explain why God will not give up on us. He persevered for us so that we shall persevere in Him.
Mosab, your heart—what might they tell us?
He is not done with you.