“I went to church on the outside, and even read my Bible, but it was only after coming to jail that I started depending on God. While I was on the outside I depended only on myself.” This is what one man said to the group last night in Bible study.
With all the talk in Christian circles about how we should read our Bible’s more, go to church every-time the doors are open, pray more, give more, witness more etc. It all still comes down to one thing. Are we depending on God?
We have been making our way through Romans and last night we were in chapter 4. This chapter is all about Abraham and what we can learn about being justified, or made righteous, with God from what we glean from his life. The Bible tells us “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness.” It wasn’t anything Abraham did himself it was all about God giving Abraham a promise and Abraham believing Him.
God’s promise to Abraham was that he would have an heir and not just any heir but an heir by which the whole world would be blessed. For those that know the story you know that Abraham, and Sarah his wife, attempted to help God out at first by coming up with a plan that involved Abraham and Sarah’s handmaiden, Hagar. Seeing how Abraham and Sarah were so old, Sarah suggested that maybe the way God would fulfill His promise would be through the union of Abraham and Hagar. Well, this of course didn’t turn out so well because while it did in fact produce a son, Ishmael, he wasn’t the one God had promised.
Without retelling the whole story here let me just say what God was promising Abraham involved something that was absolutely impossible apart from God himself performing it. You see Abraham and Sarah were well passed child-bearing years and yet God was going to give them a son. The scripture tells us Abraham “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken…” In other words even though Abraham couldn’t see how in the world he and Sarah could have a child, he simply believed God. We are told Abraham “being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”
It seems God simply wants us to believe Him and yet more times than not it requires us to get backed into a corner before we will. As we talked about faith, and how God is the God of the impossible, I had the guys turn to Psalm 139. As we read through the Psalm we stopped for a moment to let verse 5 soak in. It says, “You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me” (NIV). Wow! God wants us to believe Him; because He wants what is best for us, so much so He will even back us into a corner so we might finally look to Him. This is what God wants from us and exactly what these men in the jail are discovering and it lights up my spirit to hear them tell of how they are trusting God now like never before.
I realize many think this is what is commonly known as jailhouse religion but for me it is God speaking. While many want to discredit the people in jail saying, “just wait till they get out again, then we’ll see if it was real or not.” All I can say to them is okay. When it comes right down to it most of us are foxhole conversions in one way or the other aren’t we? I mean for me it was addiction for you it may be a lost job, a sick loved one, a death in the family or any number of things. The truth is the gospel is a message for the desperate and if you haven’t found yourself desperate yet more than likely you aren’t ready to receive Christ. Just as this man said, even though he went to church and read his Bible, he never really depended on God until he was locked-up and hemmed in by God.