Prison Bibles, Cancer, and Salvation

February 24, 2022

Richard was a drug addict and in prison for aggravated burglary. To help cope with feelings of guilt, he began attending prison chapel because it helped him feel better. He liked the chaplain who offered him a Bible. He liked the Bible because he and the other prisoners found the thin pages useful for rolling their own cigarettes.

One day he tore out a page to have a smoke, but an ‘inner voice’ told him he should read the page. It was from the Gospel of John, and he found it “captivating”. It allowed him to go to sleep in peace that night. The next day he read more, and tried to visualize what this Jesus looked like. The only image which came to mind was of a statue of Jesus on the cross, in a nearby church. The image seemed to come alive in his mind, and Jesus seemed to look at him and say: “Richard, I did this for you.”

Richard was deeply affected by this, and offered his life to Jesus. He slowly began to experience healing of his addiction until he was completely free. Today, Richard is a pastor who works with addicts and former prisoners.

Our Christian faith is an outward directed faith. From the very beginning early Christians sought to tell unbelievers about the Good News of Jesus Christ and convert them to the faith. Who are the people you know who have no church, or no faith, or may be an inactive member of your church? Think about co-workers, neighbors, family members, or a struggling friend. Imagine how their lives would be different if they practiced a new found Christian faith regularly in a community of faith.

Nicky was not brought up Christian, and when she was old enough to decide, she chose to be an atheist. Her disbelief, at least in part, stemmed from her brother requiring chemo and radiotherapy for cancer. She had a Christian friend at school, but wasn’t interested. One day she was diagnosed with cancer on her knee. She decided to pray even though she didn’t believe because that is what she saw her friend do. She asked God to heal her and then she would look into Christianity. Her cancer treatments were successful and so she started to challenge her Christian friend for answers to difficult questions. She found the answers to be “annoyingly good”.

Then a second lump formed, this time in her wrist. And this time she went to her friend’s family for help, and, after prayer, the lump and the pain disappeared. She understands this isn’t proof of God, but found it convincing enough to choose to believe.

The apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22). We can be all things to all people as well, responding to the needs of those around us, and sharing the source of our Good News, that some may find the great power of God’s salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. This may require us to break out of the safe circle of friends we are used to. If you do, it will forever change the lives of those you reach out to. It will certainly change your life as you will be drawn closer to God through your witness to others.

Many Christians think it is enough to witness to their faith by doing good deeds. Do you rely on your deeds too much to be your only form of evangelism? How often do your deeds measure up to the perfect example of Jesus Christ? How often do you fall short? As food for thought, think about how often you drive like Jesus would drive. Is that Christian bumper sticker the best witness of faith?

When was the last time you invited a friend to church? Do you have any friends outside the church? Where can you go to meet some people who need a church home? Do you know all your neighbors? Who can you add to your prayer list that has no faith or church home and ask God to open doors to tell them about your faith? In the spirit of the great apostle Paul, I challenge you to let people know the source of your joy, hope, and love, and to invite them to find the Good News of Jesus Christ.