Poor Man, Rich Town

Image by xcode via Flickr

How many times as Christians are we asked to help or serve and our response is “I’m not gifted in that area”?  Well I can tell you I have certainly hid behind that line several times in my life.  Several times over the past couple years I have been asked to get involved in prison ministry and I have resisted.  Well last night I finally did answer the call and visited the Green Bay Correctional Institute and spent an hour with about 30 inmates who have committed their lives to Jesus.

The weeks leading up I was praying and thinking about what I should talk about and how I might be a blessing to these men, some who face a life of imprisonment.  My frustration grew as I didn’t hear clearly from God on what He wanted me to share.  So I went in not knowing what to expect or what I would share with them.

The moment they walked into the room I knew why God had me there.  It wasn’t about how I could be a blessing to them—I was there to let these inmates bless me!  As they walked into the room, I saw these men who by our standards have so little hope, filled with peace and the joy of the Lord.  It really humbled by in so many ways.

I shared with them that on the outside many of us Christians worry about what is happening to our jobs or retirement incomes instead of placing our trust in God to provide.  As I experienced the joy in the hearts of these men who have almost nothing it caused me to question how I would react if suddenly I lost everything of earthly value.   If I found myself broke or unemployed or imprisoned because of my faith, how would I respond?  With despair and self-pity?  Or with the peace and joy these men showed?

But I think the biggest lesson I learned was how selfish I can be at times—and how my selfishness prevents God from blessing me.  For years I resisted invitations to speak to prisoners, hiding behind the busyness of my life or claiming I was not called to do it.  And last night I went in there wondering how I could be a blessing to these men—unaware that God was preparing them to bless me with a very important message and challenge:  How would I respond if everything I owned of earthly value were taken away from me?  If I had nothing left but my relationship with God?  Would I give in to the ways and worries of this world?  Or find my strength in Jesus Christ alone?

It also taught me once again to thank God for everything He has given me—a great wife, wonderful children and a job I truly love.  But to never place those things above God in my life.  How will we as Christians respond if one day everything of this world is taken from us?  If we have nowhere to turn but to God?  A question worth asking ourselves as the world’s hatred of God’s Word becomes more and more evident.