Sunday, January 20, 2019 -
Recently I’d seen reviewed or advertised in a Christian magazine a book about knowing what God’s will is for one’s like. But last night I just finished reading Francis Chan’s book about the Holy Spirit entitled “Forgotten God.” He’s got a chapter in the book he calls “Forget About His Will for Your Life.”
I’ve never really thought about this before, but “There are very few people in the Scriptures who received their life’s plan from God in advance (or even the five-year plan, for that matter),” reminds Chan. He continues, “I think a lot of us need to forget about God’s will for my life. God cares more about our response to His Spirit’s leading today, at this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we must submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions.” Obedience is the key!
How profound, I thought! All my life I’ve been impacted by this phrase: “God’s will for my life.” It torments so many young people just out of high school or college. Chan says “it’s easy to use the phrase ‘God’s will for my life’ as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience.”
I thought about my own life and about the fact, as many times as I’ve read through the Scriptures, nobody but Christ Himself had revealed to them, that I could recall, God’s long-term plan for their lives. What is important is that we’re obedient on a day-to-day basis, asking the Holy Spirit to lead and direct us on a daily basis. God promises many times to never leave us nor forsake us! He sent His Spirit to indwell us, and it is to the Spirit’s daily leading we must surrender. But it means “we’ve got to be all in” when it comes to surrendering our lives to the Father. This means every part of our lives – including every possession or person He’s entrusted to our stewardship.
The idea of us “trying to discern God’s long-term plan for our lives” can so easily be a cop-out, one which I confess I have been guilty of since I’ve been in prison – trying to figure out why God has me here and what He has in store for me when I get out. Who cares? All that matters is that I allow the Holy Spirit to work through me each day, that the fruit of the Spirit is evident in me, and I carry on with holiness being evident in me wherever I am.
So this morning, I prayed if CJ came around me, that I would have an opportunity to share Christ with him. God answered that prayer immediately once I had prayed it. CJ came and sat down across from me like last week when I first met him.
Today, he began telling me about his crime (cashing a forged check for $500), and why he did it, the fact that he was badly hooked on drugs. I told him so many who get out of prison go right back to their addictions. But only Jesus Christ can truly deliver him, and that changed the entire conversation to the things of the Lord. You see, CJ had been arrested with his girlfriend, who’s done her time. Both of them apparently grew up in Christian homes, but the girlfriend truly gave her life over to the Lord after getting into trouble and had been “after” CJ to do the same ever since. CJ’s been in and out of jail his whole life. I had already told him, “You’re either all in, or you’re out.” He told me how she’s “all the way in,” and keeps telling him God has a purpose for everything, even his incarceration. CJ knows the truth, apparently, but is not ready to give his life fully to Christ. He told me there are some issues in his life he has to deal with first. Upon me asking him what they were, he said the issues were private. I told him, since we work the same days, in the same place, that he knows where to find me if he wants to discuss them. Pray for CJ, a clean-cut looking 32-year old, that he’ll be back for more discussion about how God can radically change his life. I believe it is God who drew CJ to me last week and today, and whether or not I see his life transformed, God had me there to reinforce what his girlfriend’s been telling him, that he needs to surrender his life to Christ wholeheartedly and fully!
I frankly have struggled with why God would allow me to be placed in this prison. I know He must have a purpose for allowing it – particularly since I broke no laws – because I am still here. Why did He not bring about that last minute miracle Kathie and I were expecting? And I know, as inadequate I feel as a witness, or a missionary in this place, that God can use me in that regard, as long as I am willing. God wants willing hearts from those He desires to use.
And so it dawned on me for the first time today, that God chose me for this purpose. He picked me out of everyone else to come to this place to be a light for Him – as unqualified as I am. I’ve never been trained to deal with criminals, be they bank robbers, thieves, drug dealers or sex offenders. I cannot relate to any of them. I’ve led a very sheltered life, and have always been pretty much around only Christians. Yet here I am, the most unlikely person God would ever pick to represent Him in a place like this. Very inadequately suited for the task!
My cellmate, “J,” told me last night about his conversation with his brother, where he’d referred to me as “the missionary guy who was his bunkie.”
I said, “What did you call me?” He repeated it, and I pressed him as to why he called me a missionary.
I told him, well, actually, I’ve been involved with missions work my whole life, that it is my wife’s and my passion. I’d actually been “ordained” as a missionary, whatever that means, and I’ve been involved with Advancing Native Missions since its inception, with the purpose of helping to meet the needs and fund indigenous missionary movements taking the Gospel to the remaining unreached people groups.
As a matter of fact, Oliver, our president, had just sent me the amazing number of unreached people groups engaged was surpassed by 50%, placing it now at 752! Praise the Lord! But now here I am myself, being thrust into the life of a missionary on the front lines of a people group itself, the many incarcerated felons within our prison system. So pray for me. I am willing, but I feel inadequate (Phil. 2:15). Pray God will use me to the maximum. We do serve a mighty God! Praise His holy name!