Conversely speaking, I would venture to say, “that no one has more gratitude to express than the one who has been rescued.” Everyone has a story to tell, an experience that has altered their life forever. Some are good some are bad but they are all profound in their own way. How we interpret those experiences, and our willingness to share them, is our legacy. We can make a difference in this world even if it’s only one person at a time. I am no different and I would love to share one with you now.
Excerpt: “Remember the Prisoners: He Came to Set the Captives Free:. Chapter 19
This time, on my knees, face down on my mattress, I said the hardest words I’ve ever said. I cried out, “God, I am sorry for who and what I am. I have lied to you and not kept my sacred vow. I have cheated and stolen and done abominable things in Your sight. I am deserving of death but have mercy on me and save me from my enemies. I have made a complete ruin of my life and the lives of those I’ve touched. Please forgive me. I can’t take this anymore. I can’t go on living like this any longer. Please God … Do whatever it takes to change me. I am Yours; I belong to You. Take me; make me wholly Thine. Search me, try me, prove me, and remove any way of iniquity from me. Separate me from myself and restore me unto You!”
I was finally ready. I had run from God for forty years. I had made His Holy Spirit chase me all over creation and bear witness to the horrible, rotten things I had done. To think of what I made the Holy Spirit watch me do broke and still breaks my heart to this day. But I was finally ready to do whatever it took to get right with God. I was scared because I knew God would answer me. And when you say, “Do whatever it takes,” that means you’re letting go of all control and putting your trust in something beyond your understanding. It’s total faith. You also know that having the filth from your life that you’ve so dearly held onto is doubtlessly going to be painful.
The Devil immediately comes rushing in like a flood to cast doubt and fear in your mind to keep you bound. We’re supposed to make confessions to God with our mouths, so I went to naming all the sins I could think of. I didn’t want some decaying corpse of sin to come rolling out of the closet just when things started to look up, and I was trusting God to get me out alive and put me back on track. So I went to confessing this and confessing that. And you know what? It felt great. But then here came the Devil whispering, “Oh no. Don’t admit that out loud. God will hear you, and He’ll never forgive you for that one. Besides, you still have dirt you could get charged for. Don’t admit that!”
But immediately the Holy Spirit told me, “Remember the words the Lord has spoken to you in His Holy Book.” First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” By this time, God was firmly replacing doubt with trust. I knew I desperately needed a Bible, so I asked God to somehow bring me one. So the chaplain came by my door. My heart started pounding when I saw him. He represented hope. He embodied what I needed most: God. He was a man of God and was an encouraging sight.
He said, “Can I do anything for you?”
I jumped up and ran to the door. With my heart pounding and a lump in my throat, I said, “Yes. I would like a Kenneth Copeland Holy Bible, Prisoner’s Edition!”
But his response was like a punch in the stomach. He said, “We don’t have whole Bibles. I might be able to find a fragment of one or maybe a New Testament, but no way a whole Bible. Care for a Daily Bread?”
I felt like I had just been run over by a truck, but I was happy to have any Scripture at all, so I thanked him for the Daily Bread devotional booklet and took one. Then something inside me said, “Finish asking him. You didn’t finish your request.” I thought for a moment as he gathered his briefcase, getting ready to leave. Then it came to me. I said, “Oh, ya chaplain?”
“Yes?” he said.
“New King James, please,” I said.
He said, “What?”
I said, “The Kenneth Copeland Holy Bible, Prisoner’s Edition. Make sure it’s the New King James version please.” He just kind of looked at me funny, put his stuff down, withdrew a piece of paper, and wrote my request down. Perhaps it was just to appease me. The look on his face was like, Didn’t you just hear what I said? We don’t have any whole Bibles here of any version. But he said, “I am not promising you anything.” And with that, he scurried off before I could ask another impossible question.
After he left, I thought, That was strange, that afterthought about what version I wanted. That voice told me I hadn’t finished my request. I was adding another requirement to an already impossible task. Oh well, I thought. At least I had a Daily Bread. I hopped back up onto my bunk and savored the day’s devotional. I read it over and over, enjoying the testimony accompanying the Scripture verse. I read all the days prior, but didn’t dare advance one page, as I didn’t know when I might see the chaplain again, and I wanted a fresh new encouragement for each day.
I can’t convey to you the amount of encouragement and peace I received each day from that little booklet. Each morning I couldn’t wait to look into it and search for hope, and each day I wasn’t let down. That is how much power the Word of God has. That is why it is the only book in the history of man that can actually change your life and circumstances: because it is alive.
As the day passed, the face of the chaplain faded from my memory, but that nagging question remained. Why had I been so specific about what version I wanted, especially after he’d told me there were no Bibles at all? The day dragged on into night, and time stood still as it often does in the hole. I struggled to go to sleep, as I had tried to sleep through the day as well, waking up only to eat and then to try to sleep my time away. Sleep finally came, and so did my rubbery pancakes, gluey oatmeal, and worthless hard-boiled egg. I ate and went back to sleep. Around ten or eleven a.m., I was jolted awake, and something told me to turn around. I didn’t have a cellie at the time, so that wasn’t it. I looked to the door, and there, on the trapdoor of the food port, was a black book. It was thick too, with lots of pages and reading to kill the time. What is it? I thought. It can’t be! I jumped down, ran to the door, and slowly reached out and grabbed it.
I stood there, staring in disbelief and amazement. There, in my hands, was a brand-spanking-new Kenneth Copeland Holy Bible, Prisoner’s Edition in the New King James Version! My vision blurred as my eyes began to water. I blinked the tears away, but they kept coming because I knew without a doubt that God had visited me. He hadn’t cast me off for breaking my vow to Him. He still loved me and cared for me and had performed a miracle for me to give me hope. Most of you know that when a guard or staff member responds to your request and tells you “no” or “highly unlikely,” it’s as good as dead. But here my great need of God’s Word was well within His will, and His Holy Spirit reminded me to finish my request so there would be no doubt when the answer showed up that it was from God.
God was teaching me trust, not just trust but to trust in Him alone. He knew my needs and would supernaturally meet them. What I needed most was Him, just Him. And He is found in the pages of the Holy Scriptures. It is there where He reveals Himself in the heart of man and woman. He has brought me to the place of trust. He told me, “If you can trust Me for your salvation, you can trust Me for everything.” The place of trust is where you learn total dependency in God. I had tried it my way for forty years, and all I had to show for it was loss, ruin, and imprisonment. It was time to try it God’s way. He lovingly stripped everything away from me. He removed all outside sources of support from me so I would know and see that all things come from His hand.
I began to devour the Word of God, and something amazing happened. I was beginning to see patterns emerge and like-minded themes appear in different books of the Bible. From the Old Testament to the New, passages were being connected deep in my spirit, and understanding was born.
I’ll never forget the day He opened my spiritual eyes. Up until then, I had read parts of the Bible, and it was always good and encouraging. It even made me make that vow, but I still didn’t know Him. He was still distant, beyond my reach. There was an invisible barrier between us, or like a fast-moving car goes by, you turn to see it and catch a glimpse of it just before it disappears behind a building. You think you recognize the car, you think you see a friend, but you can’t be sure because it disappears from sight too fast. It was like that.
But that time things were different. That time something broke into the spirit realm. That time I was ready, and when I sought God with all my heart, He revealed Himself to me. It was like finally getting how to do a math problem or ride a bike. It was that moment when you finally caught something that had been eluding you forever. It was like learning how to whistle.
I remember the epiphany hitting me like a ton of bricks and then all that weight being lifted off at the same time. The Holy Spirit opened my heart, and while reading the Scriptures, I said, “This is all about Him! This is all about Jesus! This whole book is about Him.” From that moment on, things were never the same. I had something special happening inside me. I now had an inside connection. I wondered whether all people who read the Bible understood it like I understood it now. I mean, I was really getting it. It all made sense: the Old Testament sacrifices, the tabernacle in the wilderness, the Passover, the exodus, everything.
That was eleven years ago and Jesus is still opening my eyes to new and fresh revelations daily. There is no substitute for know God, to truly know Him and to be known by Him. Have you shared your experience lately? Has your story helped to change a life for the better recently? Do you know what your story is? And most importantly, are you willing to pull it out of its box and share it, even if it’s uncomfortable? Somebody out there is counting on you to relate to their current circumstance and bring them hope in their time of need. Will you be courageous enough to meet that need? Until next time, take care and God bless in Jesus Mighty Name. Amen.
Rev. Joaquin R. Larriba