When you ask God for help, He always answers.
During the time I was 12 to 17 years old, Satan had tried to destroy me through drugs. When he couldn’t accomplish that, he used me to destroy someone else in an attempt to obtain more drugs. And so, in 1991 when I was just 17, I was tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 years to life.
Now, being a young man coming into the penitentiary, I looked to the veteran inmates for guidance. Unfortunately, other than showing me how to be tough, the first guidance they gave me was on how to put a needle into my arm. And so began my heroin habit and Satan’s continuing assault in trying to destroy me.
Needless to say, a drug habit anywhere, let alone in prison, leads to big trouble. And so I found myself in and out of the hole [solitary confinement]. I would be released back to general population only to be overcome with temptation and go right back to the drugs, always with the same results—back into the hole.
This uncontrolled behavior went on for years. And throughout these years the Lord was in the background, mercifully watching over me and putting messengers before me. Christians that I had never met before would approach me on the yard or in the housing unit and give me some godly advice. Others would share Signs of the Times or other religious magazines with me. I was even assigned Christian cellmates when it seemed I was at my lowest. It came to the point where I could no longer say that “this God thing” or “these Signs magazines” were just a coincidence. It was obvious that the Lord was trying to get across to me.
And so in 1998, being tired of seeing the hole and tired of the lifestyle I was living, I went into deep prayer. “Lord,” I said, “I can’t deny the messages You’ve been putting in my path. I know they are meant for me to know I should serve You, and I want to. But, Lord, I just don’t have the courage or strength to submit right now. These drugs have me so weak! Please give me time; I know one day I will give my life to You and serve You with all my heart. I promise I will!”
At that moment, out of nowhere, a voice echoed in my cell, “Now is the time, My son!” Those six words, nothing more. I was in such shock that I could not believe I had just heard the Lord’s voice, but I had!
Unfortunately, at that point in my life, I didn’t take heed to the Lord’s calling for fear of what others might think of me. Fear that I would no longer be able to use drugs or drink. Fear that if I committed, I’d slip and let the Lord down.
Fear, like drugs, is another one of Satan’s tools to keep us in bondage. And so I ran from the Lord. I was transferred to four other prisons after that, always with the same results—in and out of the hole.
Finally, in May of 2004, I encountered a group of Christians about to join hands in a prayer circle. One of them approached me and said, “Excuse me. Would you like to join us in prayer?” With other prisoners watching, I was reluctant, but I felt an overwhelming urge and need to join them. And so I did. After holding hands in prayer with those men of Christ in public, I felt so at peace, and God’s spirit came upon me. It was as though a tremendous weight had been lifted off my shoulders! After that, I repented, received Christ, and committed my life to the Lord. And there has been no turning back.
Since then, the Lord has been using me to plant seeds and bless others with my testimony—as it was in His plan all along! Glory be to God! It is a year since I accepted Christ as my Savior, and I’m now more mature because of all that the Lord has brought me through. I continue to pray for all my brothers and sisters who may be in bondage to drugs as I once was. Most of all, I thank the Lord for never giving up on me and for His mercy and love!
Though I am still incarcerated, I am now truly free! Praise God! With Him all things are truly possible.
John Christopher Martinez writes from Ione, California.