In celebration of Prison Fellowship’s 40 years of ministering to prisoners and their families, we will be taking a look back at the early days of the ministry and remembering the people and the stories that have helped to make Prison Fellowship the nation’s largest prison outreach. The following reflection was originally released as a daily devotion of Lutheran Hour Ministries, and is reproduced here with permission.
I, Paul, want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel that I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. – Galatians 1:11-12
In our message yesterday on The Lutheran Hour, I spoke about faith in Christ, its power, its purpose, its direction, its blessing, but I talked about “false faiths” too. The kind of thing that makes you feel like you are on the right track and then suddenly everything falls apart and you are left picking up the pieces from a misplaced trust or a misguided allegiance or confidence.
That’s what life was like for Chuck Colson. You remember that name, right? He was Richard Nixon’s bulldog, even hatchet man. If something needed to get done politically, he was the man to call because it would get done no matter the cost or even the collateral damage. That, of course, all came tumbling down in the Watergate fiasco of the Nixon administration and Colson went to jail because of it. But it was there where Colson met Jesus by grace through faith and his life changed forever because of it. He learned that when he was weak, in Christ he was strong. He learned the power of serving—not just politically winning. He learned that there was an eternal life to be lived, and he thanked God no matter what price he paid this side of heaven. He thanked God he received this gift of life—this forever eternal life just in time.
Now, some of you might be thinking, yeah, another jail house conversation just to look good for the parole board. But you couldn’t be more wrong. As he was leaving prison, one of the inmates said to him, “So, Colson, you’re leaving us, huh? I guess this means we’ll never again see the likes of you in here again.” Little did that inmate know he would be seeing much more of Colson in the days, months, and years to come. Colson had learned that God didn’t abandon him in his need and now, as a Christian, he couldn’t leave behind the men whom society had all but forgotten.
You see, when in prison, for whatever reason, an inmate suddenly realizes their life to people on the outside world is almost of no value. They are forgotten, even if they’re forgiven. They are alone like they’ve never been alone before. Colson determined that no one in that prison would be forgotten if he could help it and so he began coming back to share the Word of God, to pray, to encourage, to counsel anyone in that prison who would have him. Prison Fellowship started with him, with a commitment to go back and give what he’d received, and the ministry Prison Fellowship has grown from that simple commitment to “love as he had been loved by Christ Himself.”
When false faiths unravel, Paul teaches us to be ready to share the Gospel of Jesus: a Good News that only God could create, a Good News that only God could sustain, and a Good News of forgiveness, life and salvation that anyone can receive by grace through faith in Jesus. False faiths always give way. Only the things of Jesus hold. Let that hold you today too.
Used by permission of the International Lutheran Laymen’s League/Lutheran Hour Ministries, all right reserved.