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The Head and the Heart: How the power of the gospel became tangible to Joshua

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Joshua* felt that deep overwhelming burden constantly, the burden Jesus knew we would all, in our human frailty, be weighed down by at times. 

The burden of fear.

Finding himself in prison once again, Joshua’s faith journey up to that point had been tenuous. An ongoing struggle to really grasp with his heart the knowledge he had of Christ in his head. Fear would rise, dagger in hand, to destroy hope, and Joshua would wrestle as the anxiety would manifest itself in enormous sadness during the day, and in terrible dreams throughout the night.

“Why should things be different this time?” he wondered. His courage failed him over and over during this most recent prison sentence. He was due to leave prison soon…again. But how could he be sure he would not end up back here…again?

Daniel, a chaplain in the Darwin Correctional Centre and Victor, a volunteer chaplain for Prison Fellowship Australia, met Joshua halfway through his sentence. They would share words of encouragement, compassion, and understanding. Daniel and Victor patiently journeyed alongside Joshua, reinforcing the true freedom that comes with the Gospel of Christ. They prayed with him knowing it is an individual journey we all have with the Lord, and that only the work of the Holy Spirit can bring the knowledge of this truth to the heart.

Victor and Daniel encouraged Joshua to persevere. They assured him that concerns, anxieties, and doubts are common to all believers at times – whether inside prison or outside. Each sojourner has seasons of  ‘going deeper’ and exploring and anchoring their faith.

Then came a day when everything changed! A change that was so apparent, so evident in Joshua – His face was no longer etched with fear and sadness, but now shone with hope and possibility. Joshua had read Philippians 4:6-7 – “Be anxious about nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgivings, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God surpassing all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s encouragement had touched Joshua’s heart and it was as if a physical burden had been lifted from him.

The breakthrough had come for Joshua. The chains had been broken. The strongholds of his fear, brought down. The enormity of the power of his redemption and the price Christ paid for him, was truly grasped.  “It is like someone being in this prison here now taking my place – serving this sentence for me. And I could walk free,” he said. What he had known in his head, he now knew in his heart.

The power of the gospel became tangible: that in taking the sentence which is rightfully ours to pay for eternity, Christ has redeemed us and paid our debt once and for all. And we walk away and are set free!

And nothing can ever change that.

Joshua now faced the future with confidence and assurance. Daniel and Victor encouraged him to attend his church when he left prison and to truly live this New Life in Christ, surrounded by other believers with the fullness of the Word etched in his heart:

And I no longer am living, but Christ is living in me. And what I am now living in the flesh, I am living by faith in the Son of God— the One having loved me and handed Himself over for me.’ 

Galatians 2:20 DLNT

Yvonne Smuts, Prison Fellowship Volunteer

*Name has been changed

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