“Indeed we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9 NASB)
Our monthly trip to the prison went well. Most of the time Tracey and I are joined by one or two others, this time it was just us. Let me say, it is never really just us, but I’m sure you get my point.
We started out singing a few songs from the hymnal’s: Victory in Jesus, There’s something about that name and I love you Lord (and I lift my voice). At first many of the ladies didn’t seem to be into it, so I took the opportunity to share with them how singing a song, or hymn in the midst of temptations or troubles, can help alleviate the stress. If the Spirit of God lives in you He is always pointing to Jesus, and he truly is the only one who can give comfort where it is needed the most. The scriptures tell us to “sing and make melody in our heart to the Lord.” I told them tonight is the time to let that melody out of our hearts through our mouths.
After our singing time I felt the urge to tell a couple jokes and then it was Tracey’s time to share. Of course she didn’t want to be outdone, so she shared a joke of her own. The ladies all had a great laugh but then it was down to business. Tracey talked to the ladies about the trials, temptations and struggles we all go through as Christians. She read several verses to them from 1 Peter, James and finished up in 2 Corinthians by telling them about how we are to share the comfort God gives us with others who are in need of comfort of their own. She pointed out that the comfort Paul tells us about in 2 Corinthians 1 didn’t originate with him therefore wasn’t really his to keep. You see God works through us to and for others.
It wasn’t until Tracey finished up with 2 Corinthians 1:7 that I knew what I was to read. Since everyone already had their Bible open to that chapter I went ahead and read vs. 8-9 pointing out how Paul gave us an answer right there to the question of “why am I struggling so much?” He said, “so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”
Paul had already said to them “He comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort wit which we ourselves are comforted by God…if we are comforted, it is for your comfort…” Incredible! Paul understood what most of us are still learning and that is God is for the other person. Once we are his he moves in and begins to transform our thinking to line up with his, and his thinking is always for the other person. So Paul could say whether we are afflicted or comforted it is all for “Your” comfort.
I simply love how God puts things together if we let him. After talking to them a bit about our struggles really being for others I moved on to show them in 1 John 5 and Revelation 12 how the devil has the whole world deceived. For the most part people live their lives as though they are independent beings and everyone is separate from one another when the truth is we are never “just ourselves.” According to Jesus we are a branch, and we didn’t just become a branch when we joined up with him. The truth is God created human beings to be branches from the beginning it’s just that in Adam all of us joined ourselves to the wrong vine.
Jesus tells us in John 15 “I am the true vine…” I asked the ladies why Jesus would add the adjective “true” to this statement. Why didn’t he just say, “I am the vine”? One young lady spoke up saying, “Because there are other vines.” That’s right! I said, “You see Adam partook of the wrong Tree in the Garden many years ago which joined he and the whole human race to the false vine. Once we are joined, by faith, to Christ we are brought back into the true vine and become a partaker of the Tree of Life.
Of course in a thirty minute time period there are many other things talked about, but as the time to wrap things up came to a close I shared a story with them about a man who was drowning. There was a group of men on a river bank bathing and doing laundry when one of them went out just a bit too far and started to drown. The man who noticed this wasn’t much of a swimmer but he knew one of the others were and looked to him to help. He saw that the good swimmer had already noticed the drowning man but made no move to help. Finally the good swimmer went out into the river, grabbed the drowning man, and brought him to the bank. The other man came to him and scolded him saying, “You saw him struggling, why didn’t you go out there and get him sooner?” The good swimmer said, “You don’t understand. If I had gone out there sooner he would have grabbed me and we would have both drowned.”
As long as God sees us struggling he knows we still have a little bit of independent effort in us and he waits. While this seems cruel to the one struggling it is really for our own good. “It is so we will learn to not trust in ourselves but God who raises the dead.”