Have you ever spent time in jail or prison? Have you ever experienced life behind bars? This past weekend, I spent 12 hours in a federal prison and experienced something I will never forget…
My time in a federal prison was spent visiting an inmate who is serving a 10-year sentence for various financial crimes and fraud. He was a first-time offender and had never spent a day in jail before this conviction. He has now served 6 of his 10 years and talked about life behind bars and what he has learned in the process.
I was amazed to hear him say that he felt getting arrested was a gift from God. He went on to share how prison time was God’s grace in his life and has resulted in a beautiful experience. Wow! Not your typical response from a prison inmate. Why the gratitude in the midst of such a dark place? Here is what he said…
“Every day I’m confronted with the fact that I have hurt a lot of people in order to be put in this place. I had lived a life that was self-serving, without any regard for others. At first, the feelings of sorrow and regret were overwhelming, but now it is a beautiful reminder that the goal of life is to serve others and not myself. This is how God designed it and I had been missing it all these years. I have been humbled in prison and I needed it.”
As I sat there and listened, I was humbled to hear a grown man reflect on his culpability. Rather than playing the victim card or transferring the blame, he was willing to face the painful reality of his crimes. In doing so, God used that time of suffering to change him. Being humbled is never easy, because it is dying, of self, yet it is where God wants us to be in order to experience His power and strength.
James 4:10 – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Metaphorically speaking, we all live in a prison of “self” and usually avoid facing it. We try to rationalize our way out or pull the victim card in order to avoid the pain of humility. As a result, we experience little spiritual progress in our Christian walk, and we wonder why God isn’t working in our lives. The key to the Christian life is to put others first.
Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Warning! This will be painful and give the illusion that you are losing. But in reality you are winning, because you are stepping into a supernatural process with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 12:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I’m looking forward to the day when I get to go back to prison to visit a man who is on a journey with God. Even though he finds tremendous encouragement from my visits, I have found his life and perspective to be a profound encouragement to me.
That is how God works when we are willing to put others first!
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