REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on October 5, 2014.
Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
“The Power of God to Change Worthless Lives”
Philemon 1:11 (NIV)
“Onesimus . . . formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.”
I used to teach and preach at the CERESO prison of Chihuahua while living and serving in Mexico during the 2000s: at first, every week, later, once a month. A comical thing happened one Sunday as our group was entering the prison building in order to have our service there. An inmate named Javier met us by the entrance door, for he was released that day, but when Javier motioned to re-enter the prison with us, the guard swiftly rebuffed him. All Javier wanted was to not miss the Sunday service! This ex-drug dealer, who served 12 years in a prison known for trying to rehabilitate inmates, was so changed, upon embracing God’s love expressed in Christ, that after his release, the largest Baptist congregation in the city made him their custodian. Javier’s story reminds of me another convict whom I read about many years ago.
Ron Sharp was an ex-con, ex-drug addict and a dealer! He was only 25 years old when he was sentenced to 25 years for armed robbery of a drug store. He didn’t get much education, and was tested at the fifth-grade reading level in the prison. Twenty years went by after he was paroled when Sharp again found himself in prison. But, “unlike the 75 percent of ex-prisoners who return prison” for recommitting crimes, Sharp was back, this time, as an invited guest. At that time, he was a Regional Director for Prison Fellowship Ministries who oversaw $1 million each year and directed 12 employees and thousands of volunteers. This man, who could not read, “supervised men and women who had master’s degrees!” Sharp, who became a believer after getting out of the prison, was using the leadership ability he once used in the drug world, for rebuilding the ruined lives of prisoners. He had already personally mentored some 75 ex-prisoners over the past 20 years.
This is what God’s power can accomplish: completely and thoroughly transforming wasteful lives. The apostle Paul was under no doubt that one reason God chose him was because his life clearly demonstrated that no one, regardless how bad, was outside of His power to be transformed. Paul confessed that he was the “worst of sinners,” because “formerly [he] was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” of the Christian faith. The apostle felt that “for that very reason [he] was shown mercy so that in [him], the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and received eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16 NIV).
Many moviegoers have chosen “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994), which, at the end, shows two ex-inmates about to enjoy a life on the beach with stolen money, as the best movie ever. No, that flick isn’t as good as “The Javier, Ron and Paul Redemption” that shows how God can transform anyone to be fit for His kingdom work, including Onesimus, a runaway slave who stole from his master, but after his conversion to Christ, became a useful servant to the Lord!
Many are locked in prisons without bars because we continue to make self-centered decisions that keep us away from the abundant life that God wants for us. Turn to Christ today. Begin with a confession and repentance; and then plug yourself into a church or Christian group that can mentor and encourage you. Do it today!
Prayer: Dear Father, awaken me from my despair and apathy to smell and taste the real hope available in the redeeming love and power of Jesus Christ. In this new year, help me to make tangible and concrete steps to live up to the potential You have vested me in Christ. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 10