Lindsey has been doing such a great job writing in the blog, that I haven't posted in a while, but I thought of something I wanted to share and thought I would. Today I had the opportunity to go and visit one of our church members who is currently residing in our local jail while he awaits his trial. I was really looking forward to this visit, because he is a young man in his early 20's who was very active in the church throughout his youth. This is the generation that many are saying have "graduated God" when they graduate high school. I met him for the first time just 2 weeks ago at church and today I got to spend some time with him. I got to hear this young man talk about praising God he was in jail so that he could be taken away from the negative influences and given time to focus on God. He was placed in jail and the very first night he overheard a group of men having a Bible study. He asked to join in and now he starts every day with prayer and a Bible study. He is thankful to be in jail so that he could be able to worship, be encouraged, and learn more about God while in jail. Just days before he was arrested, this young man was crying at the altar for the first time that he had darkened the door of a church in over a year and a half. Fortunately, God heard his cries and had him arrested for things done prior to Sunday removed him from the bad situations in his life and put him where he could be ministered to.
When leaving the jail, I was excited about what God was doing in this young man's life and then my phone rang. I am not an entirely naive man. I believe that God has gifted me with certain abilities that help me to discern others intentions and their heart. So when I answered my phone, I heard the voice on the other end say, "We'll see how long his joy lasts once they let him out. Jailhouse religion is never lasting religion." I understand what this person was saying. Often though, I think we forget how mighty our God is, how much He loves His children, and just how much He loves His own holiness. Our God writes in Hebrews 12:6-11 that he disciplines those that he loves and even though we may not always want it, "afterwords it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." If we give our lives to Him, he will let us stray and sin for a time, but his righteous discipline is coming. Our sin is an affront to His holiness. I sometimes think that we look at the frailty and fallenness of man and we only see what a believer was, not the one who stands in their place now. I think that we take the view that God can't work in their lives and we may even secretly hope that they fall again because we wonder what would happen if God really did do something miraculous in their lives. If God changed their hearts and we saw it happen, we might be confronted to change our hearts too. We might be forced to look in the mirror and that might be a faith a bit more personal than we really want. I thank God we do have a personal faith though. That Jesus experienced the awkward teenage years, the betrayal of a friend, the sadness of the death of a loved one, the joy of seing someone come to freedom from the death through sin, the joy of knowing God, the feeling of talking to an eternal being more powerful than you can ever comprehend and so much more. When I get to talk to this same man every time I lift my petitions and praises, I know He not only cares, but understands how I feel. While it is possible that this young man could stumble, revert back to old, sinful ways, possibly foolishly battle God more...I know my God loves him and will discipline him again. What's more? I can appreciate someone who talks about their brokeness over their sin, who weeps over their mistakes, and sees joy in God's discipline. I believe that man is doing what Paul speaks of in Philippians 2:12-15 when he reminds us to, "...work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world." It is possible that he may fall, but I say let's encourage our brother and step back to watch God work.