By Brent Amato, COO Gospel Justice Initiative
Consider who walks in the doors of a Gospel Justice Center: a single mother, an unemployed father, a homeless veteran; the victimized, confused, fearful, frustrated, and hopeless. All in extremely challenging and desperate circumstances; to use Biblical vernacular, all “facing a fire in a furnace” (Daniel 3:1-21).
While all Team Members have a specific role to play, Justice Center lawyers, client advocates and prayer champions all have an opportunity to provide true and comforting counsel to these clients facing a fire in a furnace.
As always, each client is unique and should be treated as such, receiving counsel that they can understand and handle; however, as always, the Gospel is the key (Luke 4: 16-21) and the Bible is a helpful textbook on such matters (Isaiah 55: 10-11). Both should be presented in some way to each client.
What questions might be gripping the minds and hearts of clients and what responsive counsel could these Team Members give them for facing the fire in the furnace?
Where is justice? Unfortunately, challenging and unfair circumstances have been an inevitable fact of life since “The Fall”, when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden (Genesis: 23a). No one is exempt from the pain and sufferings in this present world (Job 5:7a). Mindful of this, your clients can choose from a wide spectrum of responses to their plight, ranging from wallowing in bitterness and resentment to moving to a different perspective contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, leading to hope for their future (Jeremiah 29:11).
“Who is with me?”
The majority of your clients will feel some sort of alienation, bewildered by a sense of loneliness, with no one to share their burden, no one on their side. They need to know who is with them in the furnace. First and foremost, is the God Himself, who loves them perfectly and is sovereign (Daniel 3:22-25; Romans 8:35,38-39). Beyond that, hopefully there may be others in their lives who love them: a spouse (Genesis 2:18), children (Psalm 127:3, 5) and friends (Proverbs 17:17). Beyond that, they find themselves in an office of “counselors” (not just attorneys) who have their best interests at heart (Proverbs 11:14).
“What resources do I have?”
The client comes to the Justice Center because they have been unable to resolve their legal issues by themselves. Quite realistically, they view your Justice Team as their only resource. While true from their perspective, this is not true from your perspective. What might you present them with as additional resources not only for their current crisis but for the rest of their lives?
- Jesus Christ, the only true source of peace in this world (John 14:27, 16:33).
- The Holy Spirit: From a real “Comforter” (John 14: 16) to direction for the next challenging circumstances (Mark 13:11) to more profound resources for the rest of what life holds for them, such as truth (John 16:13) and character (Galatians 5:22-23).
- The Bible: Consider just what Psalm 119, focusing on God’s Word, indicates- protection (Psalm 119:116), strength (Psalm 119:25b), direction (Psalm 119:105), peace (Psalm 119:165), purity (Psalm 119:11), and renewal (Psalm 119:25b).
- Power, love and a sound mind, blessings from God, providing the antidote for the intense fear that grips all of your clients (II Timothy 1:7).
- Wisdom, a promise from God, that all people need in the midst of a furnace (James 1:5-6a).
“Where do I go from here?”
Obviously, when a client walks through your door, the only goal is survival and immediate relief from the pain and suffering.
But given the opportunity, follow-up and maybe even part of the written “Action Plan” they receive might include the following:
- Keep moving. In such fiery trials, clients can become frozen in their tracks, whether out of confusion, fear or pain. The Action Plan is to be implemented and that is why follow-up by your Team is so important. The Action Plan gives specific direction and hope, desperately needed by each of your clients. Consider the Israelites in the wilderness. They continued to move on, traveling in some fashion toward the “Promised Land” (Numbers 12:16). Stagnation is always the enemy of restoration and healing. Furthermore, the movement needs to be in the right direction. To the extent possible, clients should be moving away from evil (Isaiah 1:16c) and moving toward God (James 4:7-8).
- Reconciliation (Matthew 5:9, Romans 12:18), Matthew 5:9), 18:15-16, Philippians 2:3-4). Life is wrapped up in relationships and maybe the relief a client receives from a Justice Center should include restoration of one or more key relationships.
- Refinement (Job 23:10, I Corinthians 3:13). There may be a blessing beyond resolution of a legal issue. God is in the business of refining us for his purposes. What lessons might be learned from their “furnace” that could benefit your client going forward? That refinement might include a character trait such as humility (I Peter 5:6), faith (Luke 17:5) or patience (James 1: 2-4)
- Your client should be encouraged to tell people about their experience with the Justice Center. This will (i) make their experience more concrete, (ii) prevent doubt, fear, despair and hopelessness from resurfacing, (iii) help them be accountable for their Action Plan and (iv) provide a testimony of encouragement and comfort to others in their life with similar needs for access to justice (II Corinthians 1:3-4). Much more important than these, God will get the glory (I Corinthians 10:31).
Have you faced a fire in the furnace?
My strong suspicion is that all Justice Center Team Members have faced one or more fires in the furnace of life and personalizing these principles for the client is always the best approach.
Remember as I previously stated, this survey of questions and answers should be viewed as a “menu” for selective consumption, with each client served in a way unique to them and their circumstances.
But, all clients, with a myriad of questions, should always be led back to where these questions point: the Gospel, the real and lasting hope for the future. One day, there will be only justice and no more tears and pain (Revelation 21:1-4). But for now, trusting in God alone should be the order of the day. Trust in people, circumstances or material possessions will never fully satisfy. Always remind the client that the Justice Center in its truest sense goes way beyond legal counsel and points people to God and Jesus Christ, which is the supremely sufficient and ultimate answer to any fire in a furnace.
What a comfort it was to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to have another in their furnace! (Daniel 3:19-25). What a comfort for your clients to have you in their furnace!