Breaking Out of Prison with Bill Kennedy
Bill Kennedy seemingly had it all. He had grown his business from $1 million to $40 million dollars in six months and was meeting with the President and other leaders. He was accused of starting the Persian Gulf War by a federal prosecutor and served 17 years of a 20 year sentence for a crime he claims he never committed. We interviewed Bill Kennedy four years ago and talked about what he learned while in prison.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Galatians 5:22-26
Kennedy shared with us what his prison experience was like and what he learned during his time.
“Well, I was in with really dangerous people. They mix white collar with hard criminals and murderers. But God began working on me. Tim LaHaye [author of Left Behind series & Kennedy’s longtime friend] had give me five chapters [of the Bible] to read. They were: Galatians 5, Ephesians 4-5, Colossians 3, and John 15. He said, ‘Bill read every one of thee chapters, every day for 30 days, and it will change your life.’ And I did that. And I started getting all the other inmates reading [the Bible] too. Then God started convicting me of sin. And every day I would read those chapters and the Holy Spirit started to allow me to see myself the way God saw me, and how a lot of people saw me. And it wasn’t a pretty picture. I went through a whole roll of toilet paper with all m tears, and I think God introduced Bill to Bill. I just wanted one thing: joy. When you wake up in prison, it feels like you wake up in hell-immediate depression. God gave me Galatians 5:22-23 and every morning for the next thousands of days, in the first few minutes of waking I’d pray, ‘God give me love, joy peace patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.’ By about 1PM that would wear off and I’d ask God give fill me with the Holy Spirit because I would start getting depressed. I started going to chapel seven nights a week and young men started coming up to me they’d say, ‘Will you help me?’
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:1
While many people will never be in a physical prison, many feel like they are in prison because of a stronghold on them from addiction or depression. Kennedy encourages and reflects on what he learned to help others.
“First I’d reiterate God is the author of all joy. God loves you. Ask God what it is that he wants you to learn? Write a list of everything you need physical, mentally, spiritually, and pray over it every day. I used to spend an hour every day in prayer. I would pray over my list and I was like a new man. Get yourself alone with God and let him go to work. Jeremiah 33:3 says, ‘Call unto me and I will answer you and show you great uncertain things.’ The Psalms are written for hurting people. They have every psychological issue in them and the psalmist said in 19:10, ‘Show me my errors, show me my hidden faults.’ We don’t know our own hearts, so we have to go to God. Realize that you cannot sin yourself into satisfaction. [My advice is to] also find some people who are good for you, and love you, and most importantly get the focus off yourself, and onto others and what you have to be thankful for.”
Be a truth teller. God wants us to tell the truth no matter what the cost. If you are having trouble deciding what to do, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. God will give you the words to say. Reflect on examples throughout the Bible of people who had integrity regardless of the consequences. Sometimes it helps to write out your thoughts or experience so that you can be truthful and convey what is important.
Help set others free. Depression and addiction can lead people to physical, mental and spiritual strongholds. Assist others in getting the help that they need. Offer to take a friend to meet with a pastor or counselor to get help. Help research resources that will help them. Many churches host Celebrate Recovery, which is a ministry committed to helping people break free from their addictions.
Get in the Word and pray. Take time this week to read and reflect on some of the passages that affected Kennedy’s life. Write down what you learned. Ask God to reveal areas of your life that need to be more like Christ and if there is any sin that you need to confess. Be willing to surround yourself with others who will challenge you to get into the word and take your relationship with Christ deeper.
To read our entire interview with Bill Kennedy click here. Share the stories that impact you with a friend!