Summary: In order to be blessed by God and be used by him, we must be grounded in the Word, confident in God, cleansed from unholy habits, and gentle with our adversaries.
The Life God Blesses
Almost five years ago we started sending free copies of my books to prisoners across America. Through a partnership with Prison Fellowship, we have distributed tens of thousands of copies of Keep Believing, What a Christian Believes, and An Anchor for the Soul. The response has been overwhelming. To date we have received well over 10,000 letters from prisoners. The letters have come from almost every prison in every state. If you stacked up all the letters, the pile would be over 12 feet tall.
Most of the letters fall into two categories: The first group comes from prisoners who are already saved and write to say thanks for the free book. We also hear from prisoners who trusted Christ after reading the book we sent them. We don’t often hear from prisoners who read the book but haven’t yet trusted Christ. But last month we received two letters on the same day from prisoners on opposite sides of the country who were in exactly that situation. Here is a portion of the first letter:
I am writing to you today after I finished reading your book What a Christian Believes. As a Muslim I had very limited knowledge about Christianity until I read your book which took me step by step toward understanding your religion.
It seems very obvious to me now that Christianity really stands for peace and righteousness and that I had a great deal of confusion about the fundamentals of Christianity. I still have unanswered questions and I have hope that my search will answer it for me.
He goes on to ask if I know anyone who could talk with him “and perhaps answer some of the remaining questions I have before I leave the U.S.” He added that he would write more details about himself after he heard from me. I did write him back and am waiting to hear from him again.
The second letter comes from a man in jail in Seattle, Washington. His situation is quite different.
I did something real bad, I got on drugs and killed my family. I hope to ask you what I must do to be saved. Please help me to know God, like in your book, An Anchor for the Soul, it is so good for me. Am I like Jeffrey Dahmer and Mother Teresa. (That’s a reference to an illustration in the book.) I need God in my life, please help me.
He then lists the crimes he was convicted of: “Two charges Aggravated Murder and 1 Attempted Murder.”
I need you, Mr. Pritchard, to send me some of God’s words like the Anchor for the Soul book, because I can read this, I have only a 9th grade education in school. So help me to read your books, sir. God bless you, Mr. Pritchard. Please help me.
Then he added, writing on the side of the page, “O Sir, I have no money and no family. Please help me.”
I wrote him back as well and have yet to hear from him again.
As I think about these two remarkable letters coming from men on opposite sides of the country, from vastly different backgrounds, yet both seeking in their own way to know the Lord, I am struck by three facts. First, there is no sinner beyond the hope of salvation. Think of these two men—one a Muslim, the other a murderer. One man follows a different religion; the other murdered his family. Is there any hope for these men? Thank God, the answer is yes. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. There is no man who has sinned so greatly that he cannot be saved. Second, there are hungry hearts all around us, often in the most unlikely places. Jesus said the fields are white and ready for harvest and he declared that the harvest fields are plentiful but the laborers are few. There are hungry hearts all around us, if only we have eyes to see them, ears to hear them, and hearts open to reach out to them. Third, we can reach those hungry hearts if we are willing for God to use us. This is where the message of my text today becomes so powerful. Paul is writing to his young protégé, Timothy, to encourage him to be strong in the face of the difficult times to come. He wants him to know that God can use him if he will make himself available to God.
“If we are willing.” Are you willing to be used by God? Or do you prefer to spend your short life on planet earth filling your days with things that don’t really matter? I am sure that all who read these words would say, “I truly want to be used by God. And I want to live a life that God can bless abundantly.” If that is your answer, then read on because this powerful passage reveals the pathway to blessing and usefulness for all who are willing. Verse 21 even says it explicitly when it challenges us to be “useful to the Master.”