I have a friend, William who has been incarcerated for 12 years. He was wrongly accused of a terrible crime and sentenced to 20 years without parole. One would think he had murdered someone or burned down a house but it was nothing even close. This friend of mine has been in prison since 2004 and watched his daughter grow up through letters, pictures and occasional supervised visits. About a year before he found out about the charges (the incident had occurred years prior), William came to faith in the Lord and was excited to live a live centered and focused on Jesus. He became involved in our church, was a hard worker and would lend a hand to anyone in need.
Though my friend wasn’t imprisoned because of his faith, he has a thing or two in common with Paul who was unjustly accused. To be honest, our family worried quite a lot about William’s faith when this initially happened for two reasons. First, he was a new believer and second, he was being imprisoned in Mississippi so visitation and support from his newly found church family would be impossible.
But each and every time I read Paul’s letters to the churches I am reminded of William because William surprised us all! Instead of shrinking back, giving up and throwing in the faith towel, William pursued Christ with the little resources he was given in prison. His faith is put to the test each and every day from knowing he is unjustly serving a harsh sentence and missing his daughter to being bullied by others around him who don’t want to hear his “preachin”. And William would never admit it because he is too modest but he is changing the minds and hearts of those around him. There have been prison guards who act differently today then they did before. There are family members and friends who look at his example of faith and ask William how? William has opportunities each and everyday that most of us never will and instead of being angry and unfruitful, he listens to the Holy Spirit and speaks when he is prompted. There are still very tough days for him. But his faith and perseverance inspire m
12 I want you to know, brothers,[e] that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard[f] and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word[g] without fear. Philippians 1:12-14 ESV
There are times our family talks with William and he encourages our spirits and other times we encourage him. He has truly learned to be brought high and down low. He has a purpose and a calling he wouldn’t wish on anyone else but knows he is right where the Lord wants him.
Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. Philippians 1:19-22 ESV
I have not seen William in 12 years but we have written back and forth hundreds of times and have speak on the phone several times per month. We are continuing to pray for his early release and that the governor would pardon his sentence. We are praising the Lord together that he is God’s messenger in a very dark place that is in need of the Light.
Dear Lord, thank you that you who began a good work in each one of us (including Williams) will be faithful to complete it! Even when our circumstances appear differently than we hoped or dreamed, you are loving, faithful and merciful. Strengthen each one of us to do your will and avance your kingdom through your sweet gospel message! Amen.