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Chuck Colson writes of being invited to preach at tough old San Quentin Prison, an opportunity he greatly anticipated and carefully planned for. Three hundred of the 2,200 inmates had agreed to come to chapel to hear him. But just days before his arrival, officials uncovered a hidden cache of weapons, and the prison was immediately locked down with inmates confined to their cells.

When Colson arrived at the prison chapel, he was disheartened to find that only a handful of men were able to be present, and they were mostly Christians. His spirits flagged, for he was looking forward to evangelize and preach to the unsaved. Struggling with despondency and a lack of enthusiasm, he though to himself, I’ll just give a short devotional of ten minutes or so. I can’t preach my heart out to this crowd.

That was when he spotted a video camera in the far end of the room. He then thought, “Maybe this is being recorded for the chapel library. I’d better give it my all.”

He felt convicted on basing his attitude on the size of the crowd and focusing on the outer circumstances rather than the leading of the Spirit. With a new resolve, he preached with fervor as if the place was filled.

Later, he mentioned to the prison chaplain of his disappointment of being unable to preach the gospel to the three hundred men who originally was going to show up.

“Didn’t you know?” the chaplain asked. “because of the lockdown, the administration agreed to videotape your sermon. They’ll be showing it to all the inmates tomorrow on closed-circuit television in the morning and again in the afternoon.”

In actuality, that sermon was aired almost a dozen times in the following weeks. The lockdown allowed him to preach to 2,200, not just 300, all who heard the gospel.

Colson recounts the lessons learned from the incident:

  • Mother Teresa got it right. God calls us to faithfulness, not success.
  • When our goal is to change society, we often fail. When it is simple obedience to God, He blesses our efforts more than we envision.
  • We should not grow weary in well doing, for we shall reap a harvest if we faint not (Galatians 6:9).

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