Read: 1 Corinthians 3:5-9; John 4:28-30; John 4:39-42
This week, I enjoyed listening to an archived interview of Chuck Colson speaking with James Dobson. Mr. Colson who is now with Jesus has authored many books, including his memoir, BORN AGAIN. Colson's life was so visibly transformed by Jesus that even skeptics who didn't believe he had changed were largely convinced as they watch the fruit that God produced in what had been a hardened life and heart. Let's remind ourselves for a moment of a bit of Colson's "before picture."
Colson was Richard Nixon's special counsel and hatchet man who admitted to having said that he would ‘run over his grandmother if it would get Nixon reelected’. He was a man who enjoyed wielding power, and he was part of the Watergate Seven. He was eventually charged with obstruction of justice, but God was at work in his life. Colson resigned a month before Nixon did, but the wheels of justice continued to spin. Enter Tom Phillips. A prepared vessel in the hand of an awesome God. Out of this man would flow Living Water at just the right time so that Jesus could fill Chuck Colson's broken cistern. One evening, while on vacation, Colson went to visit his friend, Tom Phillips. In his humble and persistent way, Phillips asked how he was doing. Colson was open with his answer; therefore, Phillips related how he had heard the Good News of salvation at a Billy Graham crusade. It was then that he had realized that though he was very successful, in reality he had nothing. He then read from C.S. Lewis' book about the sin of pride. That really got to Colson; yet, when asked, he said no to praying with his friend. It was time for him to leave. This is what happened next as recounted in BORN AGAIN:
Outside in the darkness, the iron grip I’d kept on my emotions began to relax. Tears welled up in my eyes as I groped in the darkness for the right key to start my car. Angrily I brushed them away and started the engine. ‘What kind of weakness is this?’ I said to nobody . . .
“As I drove out of Tom’s driveway, the tears were flowing uncontrollably . . . I pulled to the side off the road not more than a hundred yards from the entrance to Tom’s driveway . . .
“With my face cupped in my hands . . . I forgot about machismo, about pretenses, about fears of being weak. And as I did, I began to experience a wonderful feeling of being released . . .
“And then I prayed my first real prayer, ‘God, I don’t know how to find You, but I’m going to try! I’m not much the way I am now, but somehow I want to give myself to You.’ I didn’t know how to say more, so I repeated over and over the words: Take me.”
Colson's life began to change radically. For example, he was urged to plead guilty to a lesser charge than obstruction of justice. If he had agreed to that, he might not have gone to prison, but he would have had to lie. Something he was unwilling to do; therefore, he spent seven months in Maxwell Prison.
In the interview that I alluded to earlier, Colson related how broken he felt when he first entered prison. His wallet and identification were taken, and he became known as #23226. No longer did he wear expensive suits. Instead, he wore prison garb.
Yet, while incarcerated, Colson made a promise. He would not forget those who remained confined when he was released, and he kept that promise through the establishing of Prison Fellowship, a ministry now which has changed the lives of so many prisoners and their families.
Back to Tom Phillips. He never told anyone about his interaction with Chuck Colson. The only reason anyone ever heard his name was because Chuck Colson related the story in his memoir. Phillips knew that God is the One to Whom the glory belongs. He is the One Who makes the seed grow. In 2019, Tom Phillips died, having outlived Chuck Colson by seven years. Can you imagine the joy of their reunion and how much praise poured out of them as they rejoiced in all that their Savior had done in and through each of their lives? Two men who planted and watered because of God's grace alone. God received the glory for the things that He had done.
Aren't these two men's lives a picture of what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9? The Corinthians had been elevating one man over another. How sad that divisions and factions had become a part of the church because they had forgotten that each person, no matter how gifted, isn't worthy of glory because only God truly changes a life. Only He makes the seed that is planted and watered grow and bear fruit. I love that the Lord uses all kinds of folks to plant and water. Look who He uses in John 4. Unlike those who are being overly lauded in 1 Corinthians 3, John introduces us to the Samaritan woman. No one was arguing about her worth and giftedness. It is likely that she had to draw her water from Jacob's well at a time when other women wouldn't be there. Yet, isn't it wonderful that Jesus made Himself known to her as Messiah and used her to call the Samaritans so they could see Who He was? Once again, the qualification of the one being used wasn't the issue. No, it was the One Who wanted to introduce Himself to her and then pour out through her. How great is our God!
Back to the organization Chuck Colson started in 1976, Prison Fellowship. Many know that they have given countless gifts to the family members of prisoners through Angel Tree, a Christmas ministry. In addition to this, they have a special Easter emphasis. For many years, Chuck Colson spent each Easter inside a prison, telling those who were bound about Jesus. What a joy it is to know that, though it might look different this year due to the virus, many will once again have the opportunity to come to know the One Who loves them supremely, 2 Corinthians 8:9. Many who are known by a number will learn that there is a personal Redeemer Who knows their names.
Lord, as we begin this week prior to Easter, we thank You for saving us. Show us how to plant and water the seeds that have already been planted. Please, in Your time, cause those seeds to grow.