Ahmed is an Islamic high school student involved in sports.  Finding himself in the religious season of Ramadan, he decides to continue participating in the sports program while observing the daytime fast from food and water.  This has not been easy due to extreme exertion and heat this time of year.  His unusual choice caught the attention of reporters.  (For more, see link provided).

This story resonated with me because I can identify with Ahmed.  As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, I am acutely aware of peculiarities that keep me apart from the approval of the general public.  Sabbath observance comes to mind.  I applaud those that stand for their personal beliefs even if it’s countercultural, and even if I don’t agree with them.  Ah, the beauties of religious freedom!  Sad to see it’s erosion in America…but moving on….

Growing up, I heard of youth that excelled in sports who were Sabbath keepers and the lengths they went to stay away from games and practices during Sabbath hours (from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night).  Some sacrificed their chances and careers for the sake of what they knew to be right.  Others were allowed exemptions and praised for their commitment to a higher calling than their sports passion.  In some cases, God appeared to alter circumstances so that games, championships, practices, etc. were changed from
Sabbath hours.  These youth, and often observers too, believed God honored their choice to obey Him above all else.

Society is so much about self-preservation, looking good, not being an inconvenience, and making excuses for bad behavior.  However, when someone follows personal convictions that are contrary to this norm, they are deemed ignorant, an obstacle to be challenged, or dangerous—a threat, a risk, a liability, a lawsuit ready to happen.  These are some of the responses I saw to this article.

What really got me was his last quote:    “If it’s my time, it’s my time,” Ahmed Elshaer said. “If not, God watches over me.”

Wouldn’t you consider this a high level of commitment expressed by this teen?   Whether you agree that fasting for Ramadan is worth dying for a not, consider his level of surrender.  Sounds a bit like Queen Esther, “If I perish, I perish.”  We respect Esther for taking a big risk, going against stringent rules of decorum, for the sake of her personal beliefs and the lives of her people.  We believe that God honored her choice and used her in a mighty way for His plans.

Is God relegated only to Bible times?  Can He honor whom He chooses?  Does He appreciate the faith exhibited by this young man?  My Bible says God is no respecter of persons.  He has no favorites.  He yearns to find faith on the earth and declares it is a pretty rare thing.  (Luke 18:7-8)

There will come a time when I will have to choose to follow God’s way no matter what may happen to my life.  My life is hid with Christ in God and there is a resurrection and Second Coming which I look forward to with eagerness.  Society does not get this and never will.  If I’m not willing to follow God’s way now in little things that make me uncomfortable around my friends or neighbors, will I be able to risk my life when the time comes?

Right now I have a neighbor that doesn’t seem to like me.  Ever since I invited her to a women’s dinner at our church, I have felt like she considers me a threat.  I don’t like that feeling.  I have been as conciliatory, casual and gracious as I know how, and still I feel her coolness and judgment.  My guess is that she has been hurt by church people before and doesn’t want to get too close.

Yet her rejection of me is nothing compared to the scrutiny Ahmed is facing, and nothing compared to the persecution ahead for God’s true followers.

It’s so tempting to cave and be someone I’m not around those who act like my neighbor.  It would be easier to stop being nice, stop
reaching out, stop caring because I’m hurt.  But if I don’t exercise faith now, how will I during harder times?  These experiences build on each other and make me stronger.

A little discomfort really isn’t going to kill me.  In contradiction to our culture, that’s what Ahmed is saying too.  He reminds us that children are starving to death every day.  He’s just not eating and drinking during daylight hours.  He’s not really deprived.  His choice to abstain reminds him of others who have it worse.  Remembering the least of these is God honoring.

So what about you?  Do you think God honors this level of commitment? Or do you think it is foolish and unnecessary, or worse? What would you do if you were in his place? What would you do if you were his coaches?  After you read the article for yourself, share a comment, please.


Photo credits:

Image: winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net