“So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have taught you today, even you.” (Proverbs 22)
One of my inmate “parishioners” from #CCC came to me last night in a fret after my fledging “Advent Message” on the “Consequences of the Incarnation” Today, he goes before a federal judge, and faces possible sentencing from 10 years to Life for the “consequences” of Fed Drug charges. He has ever been the model student and believer for months, and states that about 10 months ago God changed him. “Something happened.”
In my numerous years of prison ministry I have seen brokenness and I have seen the con of the con man. Jailhouse religion really abounds. It takes wise discernment to sense the heart and I do so imperfectly. I have had my share of disappointments and affirmations. But in this case this man has sat faithfully under the sound of the preached word for several months or years, and on multiple occasions I have witnessed his honest non-verbal wrenching and wrestling and grimacing with the hard gospel truth of repentance and faith, of dying to self and of cross-bearing; of discipleship and following the Christ of Scripture regardless the cost. We pull no punches but lay out the full-orbed Gospel truth of man’s guilt and God’s just wrath satisfied in the substitutionary work of Christ and Christ alone. We don’t peddle the word of God as many, nor do we offer a soft-sell faith of easy believism, but rather we preach the blood-stained, old rugged cross. We teach, “ Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but do not do what I say?”
My pupil is a voracious reader and has a cell full of quality Christian literature we have given him. Screwtape and Pilgrims Progress are some of his favorites. Greg Steele and I have taught him for months. Week by week as I have observed him, I believe he believes. I believe he understands. And I wonder what God has for him? We prayed. I counseled. His fears of today are real. He was troubled about the “why” of his fear (he perceived this as a lack of faith and not a mere attack of faith), and anxiety wondering why faith seemed to have fled him in this near hour of darkness. (Doesn’t faith always stress us in trial?) He then remembered the Garden and how Christ struggled. My inmate parishioner ultimately prayed in like manner, “Thy will be done.” I encouraged him to boast of his weakness that Christ might be manifest and perfect His power within him. I reminded him that Lewis states in Screwtape that having courage is not the same as feeling courageous. A man of courage acknowledges his fears and chooses to do the right thing regardless of fear. The Word instructs us in the right thing. Courage is a plan of action implemented, it is not a feeling; it is a directed course of action. The right thing is to not be anxious but to pray the Lord in acknowledgment of fears, with thanksgiving, and with the expectation of peace. Courage finally trusts God with the results though they may not be as desired or prayed. He believed that.
I think we as free men and believers do well in application of the following. My experience says there are many repentant brethren incarcerated for past transgressions who yet suffer consequences for their wrongdoing of another past life. They love the Lord and serve Him with painful gladness today. They miss family and friends yet their faith flourishes. They need your encouragement by prayer. These men want to be as a Joshua. They want to be as Joseph. They need your prayers.
I also steered him to Psalm 27 and 139 in further counsel. I told him the Psalms are for comfort and instruction in trial. Pray for him. He is a good man who erred. The Father knows his name. The Son too. My desire is for leniency but more so for His continued usefulness as we really don’t know what God has in store for him.
“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”Hebrews 13:3