Ron Adkins' story is proof that God doesn't give up on us if we don't get it right the first time .... or the second, or third time. Rather, He is a God of mercy, incredible patience and long-suffering.
Ron a big, imposing man, who had an on-going problem with anger and violence, was sentenced to five concurrent 99-year prison terms. However, after 15 years in jail God touched him in a miraculous way. Five years later Ron was on the outside proclaiming what Jesus had done!
"God is the God of the impossible! You want to see miracles in the church - I am one!" he declares.
Ron was actually raised in the church and made an initial commitment to Jesus when he was 12 years old. However, his life was characterised by rebellion and self-destruction from the time he was a teen and he was jailed for the first time at 19. In prison, Ron turned back to God and studied the Bible but it still didn't stick. He again went back to his old destructive ways when he was released.
In 1997, Ron fell into addictions and violence again. His marriage fell apart as a result and he confesses he gave up on God and Christianity. Then his crimes caught up with him and he was jailed again. This time for five times 99 years.
Ron says the sentence broke him. He was sent to the largest, most dangerous prison in the state of Texas, where he immediately got involved in the prison gang culture.
who you are
to Jesus”"I was bitter and angry, wanting to lash out at everyone. I wanted to hurt everybody else like I was hurt. I joined a gang because, in prison, violence equals respect and I didn't want to show any weakness. I tried to be the most violent prisoner I could be," Ron confesses.
He says he has always been badly affected by peer pressure because he didn't know who he really was. For Ron the struggle was always about finding identity and belonging.
"You are lost until you know who you are to Jesus," he says now.
Ron was deemed too violent for the general prison population and shipped to a more isolated unit where he was locked in solitary confinement for the next 13 years. That didn't control his violent tendencies though. Even chained and exercised in a cage, he found ways to cut through the fences and attack the guards or other inmates.
Ron had over 30 staff assaults recorded against his name while in prison.
In prison he copped another criminal charge, but miraculously was only given five more years when it came to trial, instead of another life sentence.
"I hit the bottom of the Texas prison barrel," he says. "However, God still had His hand on my life and in all that time the worst injury I ever suffered was a black eye and maybe a couple of broken ribs. There are men killed in prison, but God protected me."
People started sending him Bibles and writing letters, and God began dealing with Ron. People from his home church were praying for him all this time.
"Don't ever think that prayer doesn't work because those prayers are powerful and you can't even imagine what they are doing," he encourages.
Alone in his cell with nothing to do, Ron had read thousands of books on philosophy and psychology to try to overcome his anger but nothing worked. About this time, his father, who had been an elder in his church, passed away, causing Ron to reflect on what he was doing to his family and how his actions were affecting other people.
"I was so selfish and self-centered," he realized. "I had this tough identity as a 'lifer' in prison, but really the weight of all those years of incarceration ahead of me felt crushing. I knew my mother was getting older and I would probably never see her as a free man again."
He finally realized that he had no faith and didn't even really believe there was a God. For the first time in 15 years he prayed though, "If You are real, God, show me. Restore my faith."
He cried out in desperation to God and God's Spirit and power came on him again and set him free. "I'll live the rest of my life for You wherever," Ron prayed. "Even in prison."
Immediately, he says, the first thing that happened was that the bitterness and anger left him. However, he had to work through his addictions, and had to ask lots of people for forgiveness. He had quit his gang involvement prior to this but now began a nine-month programme to get out of solitary and earn a place back in the general prison population.
From 2008 – 2012 Ron never had another major discipline case, before that he had had over 200 of them.
In 2012 he came up for parole but never really thought he had a chance. Six months later, Ron was notified that he had made parole on all five sentences!
On June 1, 2012 he started serving his final five-year sentence, and was released from prison in 2017, 15 months early. During that time, Ron got to know a lot of other Christians behind bars, witnessed many miracles, learnt how to hear God, listen to Him and accept His love, and to grow as a Christian. God showed him the errors in his thinking and the wrong mindset he'd had.
"Identity is the key," Ron explains. "You have to know who God says you are. God re-created us in true righteousness and holiness, and when we live in that identity sin can't reign in our lives."
Ephesians 4:22-23 in the Bible is important to Ron as it says, "... put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
"God changes your identity by His love," Ron declares. "Ephesians 2: 4-5 says 'But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.' Even when I was in my sin, hating God and not believing in Him, His hand was on me."
As God proclaimed of Himself to Moses: "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." (Exodus 34:6-7).•