Andrew Brunson shares about his time in a Turkish prison and what he learned about intimacy with God, fear of God, and love for God during his imprisonment. Below is a lightly edited transcript.
I grew up in the ARP church. I expect there are some ARPs here. Actually, I grew up in Mexico, so it wasn’t quite the ARP church, it was a little different, but it was the ARP mission. So that was my heritage
There are—I think—58 people in my family tree who were in ministry in the ARP church. So my roots go very deep there. And we went out to Turkey with World Witness. And then in 2010, I transferred to EPC and have been with them since. So my roots are in the reformed tradition and since they haven’t kicked me out yet and I am still in the reformed tradition.
I assume a number of you are preparing for pastoral ministry. I just want to tell a story that Robert Coleman would tell at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School of a pastor and an evangelist who went up into the woods together and they were staying at a cabin. And in the morning, the pastor wakes up and he hears this yelling outside. And he opens the door of the cabin and he sees the evangelist running across a clearing in front of the cabin and behind him is a great big bear. And he’s just running from him.
And he says, “Open the door, open the door.” The pastor has a door open: “Come on, the door is open.” So, the evangelist runs towards the door. And just before he gets there, he steps aside and the bear runs in and the evangelist says, “Hold him there. I’m going to go catch another one. He’s all yours.”
So, for all of you going into pastoral ministry, I’ve been called to pastor. I have done pastoral work. I don’t think of myself as a pastor. It’s not my primary gifting. And I have a great respect for pastors. It’s a very difficult job, very demanding.
And you will be challenged in many ways. I was glad to have the opportunity to come here today because so many of you are going into ministry and you will be in a position of leadership and where you’re shaping and directing. And this is a—I think we’re going into an increasingly difficult time, and you will be ministering in those and that environment in a different way. When I came out of seminary in ’92, there was—it was just different. There was less hostility to Christianity. We’re going into a more difficult time overall. And you are going to be leading churches and encouraging believers to be faithful to the Lord in that environment. And it’s going to be difficult for you. And I want to speak about that a bit and then have some time for questions and answers.
So, I do think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand for Jesus, to stand for truth. And this has really hit me since I came back from Turkey. I was isolated for a couple years and that came back and I was just shocked at the acceleration in this area. And one of the great challenges is going to be speaking truth.
Everyone seems to be broadcasting their own truth. That’s this generation. It’s my truth. Your truth. But speaking truth means saying about everything, what God says about it. And this is where you’re going to be especially challenged and especially in the areas of holiness and morality. And there is a spiritual battle going on behind many of the issues of our day. Who is going to define truth? Who will define morality? Who will define identity? And God claims this right for himself. And Jesus said that when you stand for truth, when you stand for him, that people will call you evil. It’s not enough to disagree with you. They will say that you’re evil, you have bad intentions. You’re a bad person and you’re evil. And we’re already seeing this and it’s going to get much worse.
The Bible already says that those who desire to live a godly life are going to be persecuted. And I think what we’ll have in the states—maybe people won’t go to prison, but there is increasing marginalization. People will look down on Christians. There will be an attempt to silence them. We’re already seeing it. And it may move ahead. We’re already seeing this, but I think it’s going to become more intense where people will be in a position where they will lose prestige, lose a job, lose opportunities for study and maybe worse. Because truth is offensive and many take offense at Jesus and there is clearly an attempt to silence his voice. The political classes, the media class, the business class, increasingly most of academia. They don’t want tolerance only—they want you to celebrate values that are actually against the Bible. And as I said, it’s not enough to say that you’re wrong. And Jesus said that this will happen. People will say that you’re evil. Even though Christians are the most loving, generous, kind people in the world, this is what they said about Jesus, too.
I don’t know if you realize I’m a convicted terrorist. I actually am a convicted terrorist. I was convicted of terrorism in the Turkish courts. It wasn’t enough for them to say—I wish that they had said, that they had accused me of what I really did, you know, starting churches or preaching the gospel. I would have been very proud to carry that.
But no, they had to say that I was evil, that I was a terrorist. They call me a spy priest, the dark priest. What were some of those? I can’t remember. Anyway, things like that. My favorite was “Rambo priest.”
You know, they said I was head of the CIA in Turkey, then the CIA in the Middle East. And they said that I was gonna become the president, you know, the director of the CIA, if only I had been successful in the coup. So there were all kinds of terrible things that they were saying—that I’m a military spy.
And they basically, instead of saying this man is a missionary who’s been spreading the gospel. They said that they portrayed me as a traitor to Turkey, someone who hates Turks, someone who wanted to cut the heads off of Turks and just giving a very dark, evil view of Christianity. And of course, by doing that, by painting me in that way, they were painting the whole church in Turkey with the same brush.
So, the question is, are you ready to be called evil? Are you ready to be despised? Are you ready to be marginalized? And as you go into churches, maybe some of you already are in church ministry.
Or you’re young people. I have a real burden for this next generation, for my kids. My kids are 18, 21, 23, and for their generation, are they ready to stand? Are they ready to be called evil? Are they ready to stand against the Twitter mob when they get attacked? Are they willing to lose their jobs? Are they willing to be denied degrees at the universities they want? So, we need to teach that persecution is coming. We need to teach how to stand when it does come.
Because the main danger from persecution is not being ready for it. If it’s not part of our worldview, if we don’t expect it, then we don’t prepare for it. And then when it comes, it blindsides us. And Jesus taught about this. He said that persecution is coming and if you’re not ready for it, then it’s very dangerous. And many will actually not stand. And some of you are gonna be challenged in this area.
Jesus talked about four areas that are especially dangerous or the results of not being prepared for persecution. One is that many will be deceived. And some of you are going to be challenged in this area. Some of you will be tempted to compromise the teaching of the gospel on the teaching of the Bible so that you don’t have controversy in your churches within the church. Because that really happens a lot; you’ll get a lot of negative feedback from your church, but also from outside the church. And people are going to be looking for teachers that will justify compromise, that will allow them to escape hardship.
And this was a problem in the early church. Obviously, Jesus severely warns the churches in Revelation because they tolerated teaching that justified compromise. “Do I offer incense to the emperors as a god? Even if I don’t really believe he’s a god do I do this? And in that way, I won’t be seen as a traitor.
“Or if I don’t do it, the Roman government will see me as disloyal and they can even kill me.” Everyone who wanted to work, to be part of a guild, they had to participate in the feasts that they had.
That often included idolatry and sexual immorality. “If I don’t go, I may not be able to work if I don’t participate, I may not be able to provide for my family.” And so, teachers arose in the church who say, “it’s OK, it’s OK, it’s not a problem.”
And notice that one of the main areas of compromise that Jesus addresses is in the area of sexual immorality. And that is one of the main issues the church is dealing with now.
So, the early church faces great pressure to compromise and many teachers, many leaders, many pastors justify taking the easy way out and Jesus addresses them in a very harsh way—I would say—challenging way.
But the heart of man is the same then as it is now. We had an opportunity to talk with Jack Phillips. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him—this baker in Colorado. here were a number of believers who supported him, but—and I don’t know that he says this publicly—he says what really surprised myself, few pastors were supportive.
So I’m not pushing for pastors to become culture warriors. I don’t want to be a culture warrior. But how many pastors are going to back away from standing for truth because they want to avoid controversy? And I don’t mean just truth as Reformed theology. I mean morality, I mean the standards that God has, and the exclusive claims of Jesus. How many will back away to avoid that controversy? And if the pastor is not willing to take risks—I’ve been reading about this and hearing about this—how few pastors are willing to actually stand for, I mean, put forward biblical standards and challenge the people in the church, especially the younger generation. If they’re not willing to stand, if the leaders aren’t willing to stand in these areas, how can they expect the people in the pews to do it?
Another thing that will happen if we’re not ready is that many will react from fear. And some of you are going to confront fear. You’re going to be in situations where you’re fearful. And I know what fear is. I’m an expert on fear now. I had faced danger before, we’d been in difficult situations, Norine and I. But the threat of being in prison for the rest of my life—the Turkish government wanted three life sentences for me in solitary confinement—I was very afraid. I was afraid I would wither away and die in a Turkish prison and terrible isolation. One day, my cellmate pointed out the newsfeeds scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen and he said, “Look, look, Andrew, it’s about you.” And it said, “Priest Brunson to go on trial. Prosecutors demanding life in prison.”
And I just sat there numb. I thought, “They’re really going after me. They really want me—to put me in for the rest of my life.” And that night, my reading program had to be happened to be Psalm 118. It’s one of my favorite psalms. And I read that night, just sitting there with fear and numb. And Psalm 118 says, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” I thought, “Wow, I can think of a lot of things that man can do to me.”
And fear is real and we prepare ourselves ahead of time so that when we are afraid, we react not from fear, but from the right perspective. If we react from fear, the instinct is to run away. If someone had opened the prison door for me the first year that I was in prison and God had said, “Andrew, I want you to stay,” I would have said, “I can’t.” And I would have run away. I would have done what Jonah did.
So the reason the military is more effective than a mob is because soldiers have been trained to stand to be disciplined even when they’re afraid. To not run when you’re persecuted, when you’re flooded with fear, you have to have an anchor in place, something to cling to when the instinct is to give in. And I’m thankful now that I didn’t have a choice in prison.
Because, as I said, I would have run away and I would have missed out on a lot of what God wanted to do and what he wanted to do through my situation to raise up a worldwide prayer movement that is gonna change that region, to change Turkey.
It took me almost a year to reach the point where I would exert my will in a disciplined way. And every day to submit myself to being in prison, if that’s what God’s plan was for me, if that was the way that he wanted me to serve. But it took me a year of battle before I got to that point.
So my point is we need to prepare. We need to prepare.
And after a year of fighting these battles, I did come to a point where I was strong enough to stand before hostile judges, hostile media and declare the supremacy of Jesus. But I went through many, many battles, through a lot of training to reach that point.
Jesus also said that if we’re not ready when persecution comes, many will fall into drunkenness and then immorality. This is a way of escaping, of self-medication. And the last is that many will be offended. And this is a big one.
And I think that everybody in this room is going to struggle with offense toward God. At some point in your life, there will be a disappointment. You’ll experience a silence of God. You won’t understand why he doesn’t intervene in your life when you’re expecting him to. I certainly struggled with offense toward God a great deal in prison. I had been pursuing the presence of God for many years and I was surprised when I had no sense of his presence during the two years I was in prison. And I went through a lot, a big struggle with this, and had to deal with offense. And you’re gonna face this, many of you will, especially as you go into ministry, the hardships in ministry. And as persecution comes and many believers will be offended at what God allows, that in the midst of difficulties, they’ll think that God has abandoned them and they will be so disappointed that their heart will grow cold and they will turn away from a close relationship with God.
So I’m not here to be a doomsayer. I’m here to encourage you that Jesus warned us. He told us clearly this is going to happen and he wants us to prepare. And I want to share a couple of things that strengthen my heart and that made the difference for me in prison.
The first one is fear of God—having the right perspective. And I prayed for this so much in prison, I was confident that if I had the correct view, understanding of God’s majesty and his greatness, who he is, then I wouldn’t question what was happening. Or I would say, “God, whatever is happening to me, it doesn’t matter because you’re so awesome and great that I just submit myself to you and I’m holding on.”
But these are very abstract concepts—the greatness of God, the glory of God, you know. I thought I thought of Paul, and Paul writes about these—what does it say—these momentary, these light afflictions? You know, how can they compare with the glory that we’re gonna receive?
And I thought, well, Paul had an advantage, didn’t he?
He encountered the glorified, resurrected Jesus, and he had several visions where he saw Jesus. And he also had a visit to heaven that he describes, where he actually saw the perspective of heaven looking back. And so he could say with knowledge, with experience, “This doesn’t compare to what’s coming, guys!” There’s something so awesome. He saw the greatness of God and he said, “I’m willing to press on. It’s worth it! I leave everything behind for this—to run after Jesus.” And I said, “Oh, God, if you would only let me have an experience like this. Jesus, if you’ll only appear in my cell to me. Let me see your glory. Let me see your greatness.” But it didn’t happen.
It’s harder for us, if you don’t have that kind of encounter. I still want that encounter. I’m asking him for it. But if you don’t have it—until you have it, then it’s harder—we have to cultivate it.
That’s the point. You have to work at it. And seek it. God says—he said, “I will put the fear of me in their hearts so that they do not depart from me.” The idea is if we don’t have that fear of God, we’re more likely to slide away from him when hardship comes.
So I just ask for this so much. Every day, every day I prayed, “Lord, you said that you’ll put your fear in our hearts so we don’t depart from you. Unite everything in my heart to fear your name.”
And I went after this every day. So don’t wait for persecution to come to start doing this. Do it now and teach it to your churches when difficulties come. You will likely be afraid. But what will you fear more? Will you fear the consequences of standing for God or the consequences of not standing for God?
Will you care more about God’s opinion? Or that of the people in your church. Your denomination, maybe? The media mob and the answer is going to depend a great deal on how much fear of God is in your heart.
Now, the most important thing that I want to emphasize today is what Jesus emphasized in this, the first commandment. You know what the first commandment is—the most important commandment, I should say. To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus said this is the most important thing you can do.
So in 2007, I started to run after God in a new way. I’d already been a missionary for 14 years. At the time we’d started some churches already, I had a Ph.D.
And the reason I’m saying this is because we were already established and ministry had some results and we had a lot of training. But I became hungry for more of God. And I want to encourage you. There’s always more of God.
Somehow in the Reformed tradition, we kind of shy away from running after the presence of God. I don’t know why, because it’s not any part of Reformed theology. But somehow the culture that we have, we tend not to get people running after presence and wanting to experience the presence of God. We’re focused so much on our minds. But however far along you are in your walk with God—Don Fortson is older than I am. There’s still a lot more of God that God wants to give to him. I hope there’s—I know there’s a lot more for me. So I keep running after more.
So we began to spend a lot of time just seeking God’s face. And I began to hunger to experience his glory. And we set pursuing intimacy with God as our main value, trying to hear his voice, seek his presence, learn to live as sons and daughters. And we did church planning. We were involved with refugees, started a house of prayer—different activities. But our main goal in everything we did was to seek intimacy, to seek God’s presence, to love God. And everything in our lives—living godly lives, living for the kingdom, relationships, how we do our jobs—everything flows out of this intimacy. And if the relationship with God is right, then everything else will eventually come into the right alignment. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will come into the right perspective and alignment in our lives.
So I had run after God’s presence for years. I had tasted his presence and I was focused on intimacy with God. But even so, prison really tested me. It tested my love for God. And the question was “Would I survive prison? Physically, but more so would my what my heart survive? Would my relationship with God survive?”
And at one point I had broken very badly. I was suicidal. And I read something that sobered me up about how many Christians go into a valley of testing. And the valley of testing is full of skeletons and of dry bones. These are believers who have failed in their time of testing. It doesn’t mean they’re not going to heaven, but it means that they’re missing out on the assignments that God planned for them on an inheritance in this life that God wanted to give to them, to use them for.
And they end up going to heaven, but they don’t have fruit. They have a life with no fruit. And I started to plead with God. “Oh, God, I’m just broken right now. I’m suicidal. I have no hope. But God, I don’t want to end up a skeleton like this. I want to come out of this. I want to remain in you and not lose my relationship with you.”
And I came to a decision. This was a turning point for me. I realized there was very little I could do to fight for my freedom by that point. But I know I can fight for my relationship with God, because I was losing it. I was losing that friendship with him. And I thought if I lose this, if I lose my relationship with you, then I’ve lost everything. And I had to fight. I had to take the initiative because love and intimacy and endurance—they don’t happen automatically.
And I told God almost defiantly because I was very offended at him at that time. I’m not offended anymore. I told him, “Whatever you do or don’t do. I will follow you. I’m not letting go. I’m going to fight for this relationship.
And that was a turning point for me from the first year into the second, which was when God began to rebuild me. So I had made a decision years ago to pursue God. But now I was doing it in a very—I was doing it in very different circumstances. I was cut off from all Christians. I prayed alone. I worshiped alone. I was facing years in prison. But as much as possible from that time on, I focused my day throughout the day again and again and again. I would turn my face to him and focus on God.
So Jesus said the most important thing, the fundamental and the very foundational thing is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. To love him with all that you are. And this love is what makes you willing to stand in difficulties, what makes you willing to stand in persecution, what makes you willing to pay a price and to persevere.
And it seems so obvious and so simple, and yet somehow many of us still miss it. I’m sure that many of you are missing it, but I’ll talk about myself because I’ve missed it many times. There is nothing more important than this. Nothing more important than loving God. And this includes feeling, but it’s much more than this—it’s devotion, it’s obedience, it’s a pursuit. And it doesn’t happen automatically.
Many start out with passion, but very few pursue God long-term. Some of my close friends are no longer walking with God, and some who are walking with God are not walking very closely to him. And it’s very likely that you—there is a high attrition rate in the ministry. There is a high attrition rate with pastors. It’s very likely that a number of you are going to be knocked out of ministry if you don’t get this right.
There is nothing more important than your heart. And so much of our training, naturally, in a seminary is focused on knowledge. There’s something more important. It’s the heart.
When I was ordained in 1992 in the ARP church—and I’m not blaming the ARP church. But the main thing was, did I finish my degree and could I pass the ordination exams?
There wasn’t a lot of examination of my heart. How could they know my heart? We don’t have the mentoring-type programs that we that were—centuries ago—very important in training pastors. But the emphasis wasn’t on the heart. It was on “Do I have the right theology?” And when we—when I look at the training of missionaries going overseas—we’ve received a lot of missionaries, led a number of teams that are from a number of countries.
This is something we see again and again: there is maybe knowledge, but where is the heart? People haven’t dealt with the heart issues, often the hearts are not healed up. We’re still living as orphans in our relationship with God. And this is what we end up neglecting.
Something we focused on in our ministries as we retooled was new priorities. And in all of our ministries—and this is how I evaluate the people I ministered to and how I evaluate myself. We said, “The most important thing is intimacy with God.”
This is the most important thing. Learning to hear his voice. Spending time in his presence. Learning to soak in his presence. Where’s your prayer life? Are you spending time with God? This is what Norine would be saying if she were speaking. There’s nothing more important than setting time aside.
So let me tell you something. Remind me to come back to the four things that we emphasized. When we weren’t held together—I often forget things and, you know, I kind of go off in different directions. When we were held together the first 13 days, we were put in a room together and locked up. We had no contact with the outside world. We both had a lot of fear that was beginning to come upon us because we were supposed to be deported in a day or two and it didn’t happen. And we saw them turn away the American console. We saw them turn away lawyers, and we were isolated. We didn’t know what was going to happen to us. Norine was afraid we’re gonna disappear into the Turkish prison system as it was happening to some people at that time. What I noticed is that during that time, she was stronger than I was.
So I had all the theological training, I had the Ph.D. I’d been teaching and preaching for years. But she was stronger than I was at that period.
I want to say by the point I came out, she was stronger, but then I mean, it was so clear to me. And it’s because for years I had—it’s like the tortoise and the hare. You know, I’m running speedily. I’m really intense, you know, focused and zealous and, you know, just pressing into God. And then I kind of slack off, you know, and get discouraged and stop and then start again. What she did is consistently day after day. I mean, when we had young children, her priority was to spend some time with God. And it wasn’t that those were just full of revelation and, you know, a life-changing experience again and again. It was the steady feeding and nurturing herself with the Word, with prayer, and spending time in God’s presence seeking him. That gave her a deep reservoir so that when we were now in this very stressful, pressured and, you know, context, you know, I’m kind of falling apart and she’s just kind of pressing on.
So there’s no there’s nothing more important than spending time with God and bringing your heart into his presence.
So we have first was intimacy with God. Second, what we focused on was character and personal holiness. Third was knowledge. And I’m talking about the order of importance for us. The third was knowledge.
Fourth was ministry—ministry skills, gifts, things like that—you can teach those. if someone has all these anointings and gifts and they don’t have intimacy with God, I don’t want them working with me. They need the heart.
So I want to emphasize, don’t neglect your heart, I want to just say it again and again. Run after God. Even now, as you’re studying theology and the Bible and focused on knowledge, really, don’t neglect your heart. Because that is what knocks you out of ministry later.
It is intimacy that gives you the fuel for longevity. The challenges you’re gonna face in the future are not whether you know the truth or not. You’re—obviously we need discernment and all that—it’s gonna be issues of the heart. Are you willing to press on in difficulty and when you’re betrayed and attacked?
Are you willing to press on? That’s a heart issue. It’s not a mind issue. So I had to pursue and I keep sliding. I have to renew my passion because our natural tendency is to decrease in love. We don’t naturally increase in love toward God. We decrease. It has to be nurtured. And you have to ask for it every day. If you aren’t hungry, ask God to make you hungry.
People ask me sometimes—you know, how can I develop love for God? Well, I tell them—I said, “God, I really don’t love you like I want to. Help me to love you more or make me hungry. Make me thirsty.” That’s a gift from God. If you’re not hungry for God, ask him for it because there’s something wrong.
So I have to continue my pursuit. I heard someone tell me—my friend John talked with a man named Richard Wurmbrand years ago. And Richard had spent 14 years in a Romanian prison being tortured—terrible conditions. And he said, “John, you know, sometimes I miss that prison cell”—I thought this guy’s crazy—”because of the intimacy I had with God there.”
So then, of course, I had this vision. Yes, of course, it’s going to be great to be in prison, great time with God. But, you know, I don’t miss my imprisonment at all. I’m so glad to be out. It was terrible. But I do miss something—in the conditions of that imprisonment, the isolation and the threats and the fears that—they tested me, but they also drove me to cling to God as I never had before.
And they brought a rare clarity about what really matters. My every day in prison was consumed, especially that second year, in pressing into God and embracing him, seeking him, drawing close to him as a matter of spiritual survival. Now, I don’t have that. I’m free. I’m not—I don’t have those circumstances forcing me to run after God. And I miss being so completely dependent on him. I want to recapture that desperate seeking I had then.
So since I’m urging you to prepare yourself and then to prepare the people you serve or will serve to prepare them for persecution.
It’s very simple. A lover will endure much more than a servant. A lover will endure much more than a servant. God has many servants. But not many lovers.
Well, you set it as your goal: I want to be a lover of God. That is what most matters. A lover is willing to suffer for his beloved. It was fear of God that grew in me and love of God that fueled my perseverance, that helped me to endure.
So I’ll end with this. Towards the end of my first year in prison, I was called suddenly into a court session. I was charged with trying to overthrow the Turkish government with espionage and it carried an automatic three life sentences with solitary confinement—which is really, really hard—and no parole.
And I had been pressing into God, as I just described, for about a month and a half now, two months, I’ve been fighting for my relationship with God. And this just hit me and knocked me down. I thought, “Wow, three!” One life sentence is enough. Three, you know, it’s just, I’m really never getting out of here. And that meant I would never see Norine again, never be with her or with my children. And I’d been climbing up out of this brokenness. And this just knocked me down. But two weeks after this—which was a devastating blow to me—I wrote a song.
A song for God and just pouring out my heart. One of the verses is this: “I want to be found worthy to stand before you on that day with no regrets, no cowardice, things left undone. To hear you say, ‘Well done, my faithful friend. Now enter your reward.’ Jesus, my joy, you’re the prize I’m running for.”
This became my main prayer, especially those lines. I’m saying “I want to be found worthy to stand before you on that day with no regrets.” People say “Regrets! Regrets in heaven?” No, I don’t think we’re going to live with a burden of regret or weight of regret. But I’m going to stand before Jesus someday. And I think some people are going to stand before him. And he’s gonna say, “Wow, I love you and you can come into heaven, but you wasted your life.” And this is what I started there in my prison, looking at life sentences, I start to think, “Oh, God, when I stand before you, I don’t want to have regrets. That you gave me an assignment and I was such a coward that I ran away from it. That you gave me assignments, you had things for me to do.”
If Jesus says to me, “Andrew, there were things I had for you to do, but you didn’t do them. There was an inheritance I intended for you to try to gain. And you didn’t because you quit, because your heart didn’t run after me, because you didn’t persevere.”
And this became my main prayer. Every day I sang this, I said, “Lord, I want to live for that day when I stand before you.”
And this was a turning point for—a turnaround for me because—actually earlier I had said I was at a very low point and I said, “Lord, I give up my inheritance, whatever it is you’ve planned to do through me.” So we had been in Turkey 23 years of hard work. “So I just give it up. I renounce my inheritance, whatever it is you want accomplished through me in the future. I give it up. I can’t handle it anymore. Just let me go. I want to go back to my family. Let me be the least person in heaven. Just let me go.”
So this was a turnaround where I was now saying, “No, I repent of that. I am sorry that I thought that way. I repent of this. I was wrong.” Now I’m insisting, “I want to grab a hold of everything you have for me. Whatever my assignment is, I want to complete it. Every plan that you have for me, I don’t want a single one of them to fall to the ground.”
So I began to fight every day to bring myself to the point of submission or embrace the assignment that he gave me, I couldn’t embrace prison, but I could embrace him and say, “If this is what you want, then I want to serve your purposes.”
So I had gained a small measure of the fear of God by going after it every day. And my love for Jesus had been tested and it had grown. And this is what brought me to this point. I thought if I love Jesus, then I’ll be willing to stand for him even if it costs. And for you, if I love Jesus, I’ll obey him. If you love Jesus, you’ll obey him even if it costs. Because I love Jesus, I will serve his purposes. Because I love him, I will not be ashamed of him. Because I love him, I will pursue him.
And when I wake up in the morning. I try to start off my day by centering myself on him getting the right perspective. And I said this comes from fear of God. And it comes from love of God that’s been nurtured.
I try to say this to him in the morning: “The only thing that matters, Jesus, is what you think about me and what you will say about me when I stand before you. Nothing else really matters. There is nothing more important.
So I believe I was put through this in part to be an example of this, to challenge you with this.
Oh, that a hunger would arise in your heart for more Jesus for that intimacy with him.
Holy Spirit, I ask you now. Oh, light a flame of love for Jesus. Maybe we become passionate for you, Jesus. I asked for these students as they prepare to go into ministry and the many challenges, hardships, the tests, the persecution, even that they will face.
Oh, may they fall in love with you during these seminary years, during this time of preparation. Start a fire in their hearts that will burn and grow and grow. That flame that will grow, that will take them through, that will make them willing to endure hardship for you.
I ask for the gift of hunger to be released now to everyone in this room, the gift of thirst for you, for your presence.
Lord, I ask that you raise up from this group great warriors for your kingdom. And raise up devoted lovers. May they stand unashamed of you, Jesus. May they be found worthy to stand before you on that day with no regrets.
I want to pray over you the prayer I prayed for myself and for my family daily in prison.
“Father, God pour out on your sons and daughters the courage, the strength, the confidence, the perseverance, endurance, and steadfastness of Jesus. That we may run the race set before us. And finish well. A beautiful bride purified in the fires of faithful obedience, tested and found worthy of our beloved. Jesus, the king of glory. I bless you in the name of Jesus. Amen.”