QUESTION: Imagine you have been invited to speak about God’s faithfulness to a group of prison inmates. What would you tell them about their situation? What hope do they have? Write an outline for a one-hour message including Scriptural references and personal experiences you may have had.

· God is faithful. Man is not faithful.
· God is also able, so He is faithful and able.
· There are many men who are able, but only a remnant are faithful.
· God will use a faithful man and make him able.

Ability can be fostered and practiced, but character is built. It is built on faithfulness. In order to be successful, we must have good character. What I believe in my heart will always determine my conduct because my beliefs determine my choices. The choices that I make will lead to actions on my part. What I choose to act on is what I have faith in. My faithfulness will determine my character. Why is that? Well, we only believe what we do and faith is belief in action!

Many of you can look at your situation and think that it’s hopeless. “I’m stuck in this prison and I can’t do nothing! My family needs me and here I am all because I did something foolish!”

There is hope. The Word tells us that God can use for good what the devil meant for evil, if He be glorified (Romans 8:28). We must recognize our need for a Savior, humble ourselves before God and repent of our sins. Believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who paid the sacrifice for those sins that we may receive forgiveness from the Father, begin to obey His Word and submit our will to Him. He will turn it around. James 5:19-20 tells us, “My dear brothers and sister, if someone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” To whom much is forgiven, much forgiveness is required!
Let’s look at an example in Scripture…

Acts 9:1-27
We read the account of Saul, a devout Jew who was persecuting Jesus’ followers. He was dragging people out of their homes and throwing them in prison, men and women alike, for believing in the Good News that Jesus, the Messiah, has come. He had the approval of the authority over him to do this. He went to great lengths to get that approval, all the way to the high priest! So, in Saul’s eyes he was doing what was right and justified.

And then God steps in…

Saul had an encounter with the Living God! Jesus shined His Light from heaven and surrounded Saul. He fell on his face. The Word tells us that every knee will bow on heaven, earth, and below the earth and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil 2:10-11). Jesus gave Saul an order. Saul obeyed. Humility precedes blessing. Obedience brings blessing. Saul obeyed.

When we are lost and running on self-will, our vision is cloudy and limited. We tend to justify our actions based on what culture, tradition, or society says is acceptable. Saul was doing just that, but God chose him. God starts on a positive, never a negative, and He finishes on a positive. Dr. Ed Cole tells us that constancy, loyalty, and strength mark faithfulness. Saul had each of these attributes; they were just misdirected. So, God intervenes and decides He can use Paul for His purpose by giving him NEW VISION. He blinds him. Saul becomes dependent. Ananias, chosen by God, prays for Saul. He laid hands on Saul and he was healed, regaining his sight. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and made new. The Word tells us that immediately he got up and was baptized, which was an external sign that he was changed.

What God found in Paul was the boldness, zeal, and confidence that he had all along. God gave him new vision. God directed his sights toward His Son and Saul became Paul. He immediately began preaching the Good news and testifying to the Glory of God. He wanted to meet with new believers and gather and fellowship, but they were afraid. They just didn’t believe that he had changed! Paul was the Saul that was dragging Christians from their homes wanting to kill them. Who is he to profess that he is changed? Who is he to teach me about ‘good news’? But Paul had a witness to his witness, a man named Barnabus. Each of us who has lived a life full of addictions, crime, anger, sexual exploits, curses and other evils will need an ambassador, someone who can account for us. We need someone who has witnessed our transformation, who was there when we were transfused in our anemic soul with the Blood of our Savior. Because family, the hood, play cousins, friends, and the like will not believe it until it’s proven. We first put our trust in Jesus Christ. Manhood and Christlikeness are synonymous. Be discipled! Be accountable! Trust a mentor! Someone’s life depends on it…not just yours, but those you care about.

God starts with the positive:
Saul WAS:
1. Proud, bold, and zealous
2. A man of discipline
3. A man of order
4. Believed in authority and obedience

God TRANSFORMED him:
1. Humble (on his face before the Light of the Lord)
2. Obedient (to Jesus’ command to go and wait in the city)
3. Blind (to the world)
4. Dependent
5. Chosen (for His Glory)
6. Touched (Ananias, transfer the Holy Spirit)
7. Made new (healed)
8. Strengthened
9. BOLD, ZEALOUS; His pride became CONFIDENCE

GOD FINDS GOOD IN EACH OF US AND WILL USE IT FOR HIS PURPOSE! STARTS ON A POSITIVE AND ENDS ON A POSITIVE!

The Bible reminds us of His faithfulness time and time again. This same Paul who was killing Christians later writes in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” God is faithful!

“The Lord your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live! …Then you will again obey the Lord and keep all his command that I am giving you today. The Lord your God will then make you successful in everything you do…” (Deuteronomy 30:6-9) Don’t miss out on God’s Promises because of disobedience. We can never gain through sacrifice what we have lost through disobedience. God is faithful. He wants us to turn to Him. He created us to love Him. Won’t you do that today?

Our household (my husband and I) had been dysfunctional for years. I mean YEARS! We struggled with addictions and past hurts. I got sober in April 2004 and my husband (we were not married at the time) lived in Texas. Even though I got “clean” I still felt dissatisfied, irritable, and discontent. There was a void and an unrest in me that presented itself as misguided anger and anxiety.

My husband returned in 2005, we married 2 months later and life was “peachy” for a season. Circumstances were ‘under control’ and our life was running fine, as everything was going just as WE planned. Then, BOOM! He falls back into his sin and I found new temptations. The next few years were filled with anger and resentment. I tried to control and babysit and manipulate every situation to suit the time. “If I let him drink beer in the house then maybe he won’t disappear.” “If I just let him smoke marijuana, then maybe he won’t seek out the hard stuff.” “If I hold all the money and hide my purse and the keys, then he can’t run away.” I HELD HIM HOSTAGE!

We moved to Texas in 2009 knowing that something had to change. I knew that MY attitude was not right. I knew that I was wrong and I was not capable of changing my husband. Honestly, I didn’t believe that what he was doing was any way directed at me. I knew he was miserable and I didn’t want him to feel like that. I wanted to help him and I tried everything…EVERYTHING. I began going to church after his cousin kept asking me and asking me and I kept saying NO, “but don’t stop asking!” One day, I said yes. The teaching was on order…order in the home. I recognized immediately that my home was not in order. I began to repent to God for sins that I didn’t even know were sins! I cried and travailed over being prideful, controlling, disobedient, unfaithful, fearful, rebellious, self-reliant, independent, murmuring, provoking, and much more. I recognized that I needed a Savior. I had truly done everything I KNEW to do, right AND wrong (I realized now!), and my life was still a mess. I gave my heart to Jesus Christ. I gave Him every piece of my broken heart and He gave it back to me new, softened and permeable, ready to receive what He poured out for me at the Cross: GRACE. The Bible tells us that it is the Truth that sets us free. But, if no one tells us that Truth then we remain in bondage. We cannot change people, only God can do that. What we can change is our response to God and to people. There is freedom that comes when we surrender our lives completely to Jesus Christ, giving Him full authority over every aspect of our being. We are completely in the will of God and obedient to His Word, and that brings security. With that Promise, there is no guarantee that pain, trials, tribulation, temptation, persecution, and troubles will not come. Resistance builds strength. He promises us that He will not give us more than we can bear. He promises that what we go through is no different that what others have experienced. He promises that He will show us a way out! When we keep our eyes on the things of heaven and not earth, the eternal and not the temporal, the matters of life that we once found to be devastating is now sandpaper that refines us.

Through reverence, there can be restoration. When a home is restored, the first thing that has to happen is the walls are torn down and many times a new foundation has to be laid. The same must happen to us. Walls must come down, and a new foundation must be laid. Many of us have a cracked foundation. We’ve been taught the wrong way and led in the wrong direction. It’s okay to turn around and start over! We don’t have to do today what didn’t work yesterday. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know!” Or “I’m wrong!”

Paul wrote much of the New Testament and was on fire for the things of God. He talks of what he calls a ‘thorn in his flesh’, a messenger from Satan that kept him from becoming proud. Here is what he says in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10:

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My Power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Amen.

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