Are You Good to Go?
by Jill Briscoe
Before I got on my latest plane to go to the latest place, I stopped at Starbucks. After receiving my drink, I asked if it was a latte and the girl said, "Yes ma'am, you're good to go." She meant that I had what I'd ordered and now had the zap of energy I needed.
At the airport, they wanted to look through my bag again. Finally, the official said, "There you are, you're good to go!" She meant I had all the right things on my body and in my bags.
I was on the way to prison. Every year about this time I join a team of volunteers from Discipleship Unlimited, a work in the Texas prisons that trains volunteers from churches, and pulls together a "crusade" for three days in one of the largest facilities in the country. My assignment was to speak in five chapels, pray with the prisoners when allowed, and, with permission, actually put my hands on them and hug them (only the women prisoners, of course). Some members of the team go cell to cell, some go to death row.
Our dear friends Dallas and Linda Strom have worked officially in this huge state complex for years. Dallas had been battling cancer. Now in hospice care, he was able to come to say goodbye to his team and many of his closest friends while I was there.
Speaking through tears and with great difficulty from Acts 20—Paul's farewell to the Ephesian elders—I waited for verses 36-38 which I knew he was heading towards: "When he [Paul] had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again." Oh my! We on the team and some of the Stroms' close friends felt we were on the shore with the Ephesians.
I looked at this giant of a man, not only physically but spiritually, and thanked God for the privilege of knowing him and for this moment. What an honor to be instructed by a man of God who, according to Spurgeon, was sitting in the suburbs of the New Jerusalem.
Afterwards I said my personal farewell, and he assured me with a big smile that he was "good to go!" There was no question about that! He asked me to tell his much loved men in the men's unit that night that he couldn't come and teach them. He asked me to thank them for their love, prayers, and tears—that he loved them dearly—and, for those who knew Jesus, to be sure to follow on to know and love the Lord. This was my assignment. When I asked him what I should teach, he told me to feed them. Their freedom to gather had been restricted and they were eager for instruction. "God will tell you," he said, "they are so hungry!"
What we can do in the different prisons depends entirely on the authorities of the particular unit. Last year, my first time in this particular unit, I was thrilled to hear the prisoners' own worship team leading the singing, and I admired the beautiful Jesus mural they painted on the wall. There was also a library with Christian books and Bibles. Alpha courses (Bible studies) were being led by local church teams, and men were committing their lives to the Lord every week. When Dallas came to chapel, he was able to teach and pray with the men. When he told them he had had a serious setback medically, the men asked the guards to allow them to leave their seats and pray over him. The guards allowed it. The scenes were amazing and were repeated in the women's prisons.
But this year was different. There had been a "changing of the guards" and the wall mural had been painted over, the band disbanded, and the library was nowhere in sight. The night before the "crusade," the team had a long prayer meeting about it. The next day the warden, who was very supportive of the Stroms work, called to tell Linda that they could send a speaker and band to the men's unit! The team was "good to go."
"But Lord, who is sufficient for these things?" I asked anxiously as we arrived at the unit and began the long process to go inside. "And what do I teach for one-and-a-half hours? No small groups allowed. No interaction with prisoners."
Sitting on the platform, watching the chapel fill up, I panicked. I thought back to last year. What had I taught? I couldn't remember. What if I taught the same thing? That would be embarrassing! Oh, if only I knew, I could follow on from that teaching. I sat very still as the band continued the worship songs, and I watched the men longing to stand up to praise the Lord (not allowed), lift their arms or fall to their knees in their places (allowed). My heart ached. "Stand up on the inside;" I told them wordlessly, "He will see you!"
"Lord, I need to know what I did," I prayed desperately. I didn't know why, but I thought if I knew, it would give me my cue. In fact, I somehow was certain it would. But how could I remember? How many hundreds of messages had I used between then and now?
Suddenly, my attention was caught by a guard talking to a Hispanic man near the back. He was pointing to me and gave the guard something. The guard walked around the seats, came up on the platform, and handed me the man's Bible. It was large, dog-eared, and scribbled all over. I looked up and he smiled a wonderful, big smile and pointed upwards! "He wants you to sign it," the guard said.
I turned to the front page and there, neatly written and concisely arranged, were full notes of my teaching the year before! I looked up and mouthed to my brother in the Lord, "Thank you—you'll never know!" From reading the notes, I knew exactly what I needed to do.
Ten minutes later I was on my feet thinking, "An hour-and-a-half, Lord? I have no notes with me. You know how I need notes!"
"It will not be long enough," I heard Him say. And then, "I gave you my Spirit—YOU'RE GOOD TO GO!" What more did I need but His Spirit?
I told them the story of King David and the five smooth stones, the building blocks that made that kid a giant killer before the age of 20. Then it was on to the episode of Bathsheba. I talked about temptation and the steps up to the roof—laziness and laxness in his spiritual disciplines leading to disobedience, etc. I didn't let Bathsheba off the hook either. They appreciated that! She was lonely and she was bored and her husband was out of town. She went willingly enough, David didn't get off the roof, and neither did she. Havoc!
Then we turned to Psalm 51 and spent the rest of the hour walking through David's psalm of repentance with its triumphant climax. All sin is "big" sin. There is no sin too big for God to forgive. And there is life after sin. Even though David, a man after God's own heart, broke seven of the Ten Commandments in one night of lust, he finished up saying, "A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise," and, "Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you."We finished with a long prayer time. I led from the front—we couldn't do it any other way—but looking out I will not soon forget the picture. As the men walked back to their cells, my Hispanic friend, who had been diligently writing in his Bible the entire time, looked up at me and mouthed, "Thank you, Mother!" His smile wouldn't quit. He was good to go.
Jill Briscoe is the executive editor of Just Between Us. Additionally, she has served on the board of directors for World Relief and Christianity Today, Inc., and is a popular speaker around the world. Jill and her husband, Stuart, have three grown children and 13 grandchildren.