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Day 31

Friday, January 4, 2019 -

I just listened to an affirming message by Tony Evans, someone I’ve met and respect, that God puts us in certain situations as a test, where we must decide whether we are going to trust God and do the right thing, or disobey and ignore the position that God has given us to indeed make a difference in someone’s life.

The context is Esther. She was faced with a choice of obeying God, speaking out on behalf of the Jews, and thus risking her life, or – remain silent, which would result in the annihilation of all the Jews. But Mordecai warned her, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews.” Each one of us faces his or her own destiny. And that destiny will always involve a test whether or not we are willing to risk everything to be a blessing to others and obey God, or do what is merely best for us – not willing to take risks by faith. Everyone who is called of God will have these tests. God gives us a purpose and destiny. When we’re called for a purpose there will be risk we must accept by faith. It will be a spiritual conflict. A risk of faith is taking a step without being guaranteed an outcome. Mordecai’s trust ultimately was in the Lord, and he told Esther, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows you have not attained royalty for such a time as this.”

You see, God always has other options. He could have used someone else. God doesn’t need you, but He wants your obedience. Tony Evans calls it “spiritual entrepreneurism.” There was no guarantee God would protect Esther’s life. But she was obedient.

What did she do? She had the Jews fast for three days! And God delivered in the most miraculous way.

Esther could have ignored God’s true purpose for her and she could have gone on with her comfortable, indeed luxurious, life hoping she’d never be found out. What great lessons here. I pray I will always be willing to make the right choice no matter what the future might bring!

We in the church have become too comfortable in our lives. Proverbs 30:8 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that is my portion.” Americans today are fabulously wealthy and comfortable in so many ways, and it has made us think too introspectively, less altruistically, and we are unfortunately less dependent on God Almighty for our daily needs. We don’t really have any needs that we cannot meet in and of ourselves so it seems. Maybe we need to take a radical risk of faith – whatever that may be which God has nudged us to do. We need to embrace some “spiritual entrepreneurism.” Perhaps it means giving half of your income to help take the gospel to the unreached through the thousands of poor missionaries that have been called to such a purpose from those nations where you and I cannot go?

I received a letter today from a volunteer at Advancing Native Missions, telling me my incarceration motivated him to read Gulag Archipelago and Bonheoffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison. He said, “One short paragraph of Bonheoffer strikes me as being pretty universal: ‘It’s a strange feeling (he writes) to be so completely dependent on other people; but at least it teaches me to be grateful, and I hope I shall never forget that in ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we give to others.’”

I’ve been burdened particularly for those who are about to be released from our unit, that I cannot let them leave without sharing with them the transforming power that God can give them through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. So I made a concerted effort to talk to the one leaving in about three weeks. I’m not sure anything I said to him made any difference, but I pray I planted a seed that will ultimately yield fruit when the time arises. Pray for “J.”

Please also continue to pray for my ultimate release in God’s perfect timing. I haven’t called home yet today, but yesterday was very difficult for Kathie and William at home, and for me here in prison. Some things really discouraged me – Satan I’m sure! Please pray we all maintain our patience and wait on God to act whenever He deems. I am very homesick –, especially for my wife and family. But I want God to use me in whatever circumstances I find myself, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

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