Just a few hours ago, I found out that Nabeel Qureshi had passed away. Qureshi was a convert to Christianity out of Islam and has written 3 books, "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus", "No God But One: Allah Or Jesus", and "Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward". My friend Richard Bushey gave me a copy of the second one in the list last year when we went to the state of Georgia together for The Christian Apologetics Support Group Get Together. I've been wanting to get his other two books, but I've been struggling financially for the past 2 years and need to pinch every penny I can. I just can't accumulate books as quickly as I used to. But I hope to have read all of Nabeel's work soon.
Prayers For Nabeel, The Problem Of Evil, And Unanswered Prayer
When Nabeel announced that he had stage 4 stomach cancer last August, I started praying for him immediately. I prayed for him very often throughout the past year, and many other members of the body of Christ did the same. We prayed for a miracle. We prayed that God would miraculously cure Nabeel and bring him out of this. He did not, but this isn't astonishing. God never promised to heal Nabeel, and he hasn't promised any of us our next breath. You may read tomorrow that Evan Minton was killed in an automobile accident, that I died in a collision with a drunk driver. Psalm 139:16 and Job 14:5 tell us that God has numbered our days. The skeptical world would love to take Qureshi's death as an opportunity to proclaim that prayer doesn't work, that God is not a healer, that miracles don't ever happen, but Qureshi's lifespan was pre-planned by God. God knew before The Big Bang how long he wanted Nabeel to live.
Moreover, recently, I listened to a sermon by pastor John Hagee which reminded me of the importance of not letting your disappointment turn to distrust. In Daniel 3, we read of the historical account of King Nabuchadnezzar commanding the Israelites and Babylonians to bow to an idol. Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego refused and as a result, they invoked Nebuchadnezzar's wrath. Nebuchadnezzar said "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace." (Daniel 3:14-15). Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego responded "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (verses 16-18). Then we read that Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the fire, they called out to God, and He rescued them. God performed a miracle. It is impossible to be inside of a furnace and not burn up. No laws of nature or precise conditions will prevent something inside of fire from being burned. God overrode the laws of physics to keep the fire from harming them. God saved them just as they asked, but pay close attention to their words beforehand: "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods..." (emphasis mine). They were well aware that God might allow them to perish in the fire, but they were also aware that He could rescue them from it, and they had faith that whichever God decided, it was the right decision. If God intervened, they would live to see another day. If God didn't, then they would be forever remembered as martyrs for YHWH.
Hagee's point: Ask for a miracle, but be open to the fact that God might say "No". Ask for a miracle, but don't get angry at God if He doesn't give you one. Ask for a miracle, but don't get angry with Him if He turns you down. Ask God to save you, but continue to praise Him even as your body turns to ashes. I've got an entire 8 part series on the problem of evil and suffering coming up, and in part 5, I talk about how suffering and hardship can actually shape moral virtues in us. In part 2, I talk about "The Butterfly Effect" and how every single event that occurs in history sends ripples throughout time that can have a profound impact the future. Perhaps God allowed Nabeel to die because somewhere at some point in time, something of enormous good will occur that wouldn't have occurred had God saved Nabeel's life. It's pointless for us to speculate because we don't know the future. But God does. He sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10 cf. Psalm 139:1-4). Only he knows whether what happens to Nabeel will bring about a greater good. It's not for us to figure out God's plan, it's up to us to trust that He knows what He's doing! "Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5). Why does Proverbs 3:5 tell us to not lean on our own understanding? Because our understanding is limited. Our understanding is finite. Our understanding, when compared to God's is like the understanding of an Earth Worm in comparison to Albert Einstein's. "Great is The Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit" (Psalm 147:5). I'm going to trust God with my tomorrow because He knows what's going to happen. I don't even know what's going to happen in my life two hours from now, but God knows what's going to happen in everyone's life from start to finish! Why lean on my own understanding when I can lean on God's understanding?
My series on the problem of evil and suffering is scheduled to start posting in 4 days, so I won't go into this anymore. But my point in saying all this is to say that the skeptical community would be wrong to think that God's inaction in healing Nabeel is a strike against the credibility of the Christian Worldview. It's not. We prayed for a miracle. God said no. But we will not rail against the Almighty. We trust in His goodness, wisdom, and love. He is good, we are not (Romans 3:23, Mark 10:18), God is omniscient, we are not (Psalm 193:1-4, Isaiah 46:10, Proverbs 3:5, Psalm 147:5).
One good that I already know that has come from Nabeel's passing is that he has inspired me. Not once did I see Nabeel bitter or angry at God for allowing this cancer to develop in Him. In every vlog, he praised God and put his hope in him. Though he was scared (as anyone of us would be in that situation), he had peace. He trusted that God would heal him, but He knew that God would do the right thing no matter what.
In his final vlog, he said "For example, the doctors have decided no more calories for me for a few days and if that means bad things happen then bad things happen, ....So, it's looking pretty grim. I could really use your prayers. If we want the Lord to come through and do a miracle, it needs to happen in the next few days. If there is something that I am kind of wrestling with through all this is its where does my faith need to be verses I, as a believer, and a real person, where can I actually find my faith? In other words, do I need to perform? Do I need to say I am going to have this level of faith right now? Honestly, I don't think so. I think God understands where I am right now and He comes along side us in that and He loves us and He gives us His strength."
Look at those words! Read those words carefully! He was dying, and he knew it! He knew that it very well could be the end for him, yet he still hoped in God. He hoped for a miracle, but He resolved to trust in God no matter the outcome. I want to have a faith like Nabeel's. I have no idea how I would be in that situation. I would hope that I'd have the same attitude as Nabeel's, but would I? Nabeel has inspired me. If He can still praise God even in the face of death, surely I can find faith in the storms that I'm currently facing, minuscule compared to his. Nabeel could say alongside Job, "Though he slay me, yet I will hope in Him." (Job 13:35). If Nabeel and Job can do it, so can I. So can I. So can you. Perhaps that's why God took Him. Perhaps He wanted to demonstrate that no storm is too difficult to face if He is by our side. Proverbs 18:10 says "The name of The Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe", Proverbs 14:26 says "In the fear of the Lord, there is a strong confidence, and His children will have refuge.", Psalm 73:26 says "My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Nabeel is proof that God is a strong tower, God is a fortress for us to take refuge in, God can be the strength of your heart though your heart fails! If Nabeel can praise God while drowning in cancer, I can praise God while drowning in poverty! Hallelujah!
Nabeel Is In Heaven, So He Has Never Been Happier
Finally, let's not forget where Nabeel is. Nabeel is in Heaven. Nabeel is seeing the face of God for himself. 2 Corinthians 5:8 says "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with The Lord." The Bible teaches that man is more than a physical organism. He has a soul, or rather, as C.S Lewis put it "You don't have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body." When Nabeel's heart stopped beating, his soul exited his body and was accompanied by angels to paradise. If you are a believer in Christ, when you are away from your body, you will be at home with The Lord. This is one reason why I'm inclined to think most instances of ghosts are either demons, lost sinners, or hoaxes. God would never leave some of his children to walk around an old mansion for centuries as a disembodied spirit. If you're absent from your body, you're going to be at home with The Lord.
Nabeel is singing God's praises right now. There's no such thing as "soul sleep", "sleep" is just a metaphor in The Bible for death because the body's physical posture is the same in both instances. You're lying down with your eyes closed when you're asleep, and you're lying down with your eyes closed when you're dead. Nabeel is conscious and alive right now. Jesus said to the thief on the cross who believed in Him "TODAY you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43). When someone puts their faith in Christ, they go to be with him on the very day that their heart stops beating. Nabeel is not suffering anymore. Nabeel is not sad anymore. Nabeel will never again experience sadness, fear, anger, sorrow, heartbreak, or doubt.
Moreover, Nabeel will come back to this world. God's will isn't that humans exist as ghosts for all eternity. How do I know this? Because he's going to return us all to a state of physicality some day.
"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 15:51-56
Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies." (John 11:25). Nabeel believed in Jesus, therefore he has eternal life. He will be raised from the dead when Christ returns. His coffin will be empty someday. Jesus tomb was empty because He conquered death, and because Jesus' tomb was empty, Nabeel's will be too. Because Jesus' tomb was empty, mine will be too. Jesus IS the resurrection! He IS the life! If you trust in him, you will live forever even if you're a corpse for a little while. Death is temporary. It has no power. Christ has broken it's power.
Nabeel, and all who place their faith in Jesus, will experience a glorious intermediate unembodied paradise (2 Corinthians 5:8, Luke 23:43), but some day, we will be raised from the dead just as Jesus was raised from the dead. We will be given imperishable, indestructible bodies. Bodies that won't age! Bodies that won't get bruised! Bodies that won't give out! Bodies that won't develop cancer! Bodies that won't have brains riddled with mental disorders like OCD, autism, Alzheimers, schizophrenia! We will have perfectly functioning brains! In one sense, God hasn't said "No" to our prayers to heal Nabeel. God will heal Nabeel at the resurrection! God will heal everyone who trusts Him at the resurrection, even if He doesn't heal us in this earthly life. “Truly I tell you, said Jesus, “- no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and to receive eternal life in the age to come..." (Mark 10:29-30).
It's an odd thing when a Christian loses a brother or sister. We mourn, we treat the event as a tragedy, but it really isn't. If we could experience what Nabeel is experiencing right now, we wouldn't want him to come back. We would like to go with him. Christians mourn at funerals for themselves, not for the dead. We don't weep for the dead if they knew God. We mourn because we'll miss them. We mourn because we will have to live in this world without them. We mourn because we have no idea when we'll see them again. We mourn, but we don't mourn like those without hope.
"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words." - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
A Message To Any Non-Christians Who May Be Reading This
If you are unbeliever reading this, I urge you to trust in Jesus like Nabeel did. If you were to die tonight, you would not be where Nabeel is. You're a sinner in the sight of God. How do I know this? His word tells me so; "All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God" says Romans 3:23. "No one is good but God alone" (Mark 10:18). You might be a better person than your neighbor, but your neighbor's moral character is not what you're to measure up to. You're to measure up to God's moral standard and He says that you haven't. What is sin? Sin is a moral crime. God is a just and righteous judge, so He must punish those who break the law. God is love though (1 John 4:8), so He doesn't want to punish you. The Bible says that God became a human being (John 1:1-3, 14) and took your punishment for you (Isaiah 53, Romans 4:25, 1 Corinthians 15:3). Jesus took upon Himself the punishment that you deserved. He shed His blood to cleanse you of your wrongdoings (Hebrews 9:22). All you have to do is place your faith in Him, asking you to forgive you of your sins, and you will be saved. "For all who call upon the name of The Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath abides on them." - John 3:36
We are saddened at the death of this great Christian Apologist. Nabeel's family will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. I will pray for them every day. God said that He is close to the broken hearted and binds up the wounds of those crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). I'll pray for Michelle Qureshi and their daughter, and I'll pray for all of those who were close to Nabeel.
He fought the good fight, he finished the race, and he kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).