The Story of Joshua Brown

“You might as well give up. There’s nothing you can do to get out of this mess. Your life is over!”

I was 20 years old and facing a possible life sentence plus 55 years for various charges, including armed burglary with battery. I had blown it for good this time.

I begged and pleaded with God to get me out of my circumstances, but nothing changed. My attorney advised me to take a plea deal for 10 years rather than risk being sent away for life.

I acted like a tough guy as I signed my name on that line. But when the officers returned me to my dorm in the jail, I cried like a baby. I’ll never forget the words a Christian inmate said to me, “It’s going to be okay. You’re going to make it.”

I couldn’t imagine how he could be right. I’d been in trouble with the law before, and I’d served a month in jail and a few days in a juvenile center. That was enough for me to know that the next 10 years were going to be incredibly hard.

Fear overwhelmed me. I wasn’t going to be okay. I probably wasn’t going to “make it.” Guilt followed close behind the fear. My entire family was suffering because of my actions. I’d created many messes for my mom and siblings to clean up over the years, but this was on a whole new level.

I believed in God and had often prayed to Him. Once, when I was twelve, a pastor told me that I had a calling on my life by God to be a preacher. It was an interesting thought, but there was no way I was going to get serious about following God, at least not then. I had too many things I wanted to do first. I’d think about God after I did all that other stuff. Only I never found an end to what I wanted to do.

Now, I was regretting that decision. Not only had I messed up, surely I’d destroyed any plans God had for my life. Why would He even want someone like me? I just knew He’d written me off for good.

To my 20-year-old mind, a 10-year sentence was an eternity. How could my life have any value or purpose if I were in prison? All I could think about was finding some way to end my miserable existence.

My road to prison began when our family’s home got robbed. We called the authorities, but when they couldn’t do anything to help us, something in me snapped. Before that, I had walked the straight and narrow. After? I couldn’t get over that someone had just walked into our house and taken what they wanted—and nobody did anything about it! I was frustrated yet amazed at the same time.

My mother had struggled to provide for us kids for years. I’d worked two jobs all through high school myself. We had tried to get things the right way, yet we still ended up with nothing. It just wasn’t right. I was sick of working so hard, and for what? I decided I was going to take what I wanted from now on too.

I know this was wrong thinking; I probably knew it back then. But to my teenage mind, it made perfect sense. I hit the streets and joined a gang.

It wasn’t long before that criminal mindset took root, grew, and choked out anything good in me. I no longer cared for anyone other than myself, nor did I acknowledge authority. I became my own boss and left a trail of destruction in my wake.

John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came into this world to give life, while Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The way I look at it, we either bring life into this world as Jesus did, or we bring chaos, destruction, and death like Satan. Every one of us is either on Team Jesus or on Team Satan.

I was on Team Satan for sure—the kill, steal, and destroy team.

God gave me countless chances to make the switch and get my life right, but I squandered every one. From time to time, I would play the part of a Christian. I’d go to church, read my Bible, and even drop money in the offering plate—drug money, that is. But the rest of the week, I immersed myself in street life, partying it up.

I ran hard from God and His call on my life. But Momma was praying back home.

She never gave up on me, not even during my years of rebellion. Day after day, she took me to the throne of God, knowing He was the only One who could help her son. Because of her prayers, I am alive, sane, and living a productive life today.

I spent my first four years in prison in the Florida Panhandle. There, I got serious about attending chapel and learning more about God. I immersed myself in religious activities, served other inmates, and changed my behavior. Many good things happened in my life during these years, but my heart was far from God.

I was a religious man, but I was not a lover or follower of Jesus Christ. I served God and others only out of a sense of duty. I was like a Pharisee—interested only in following religious rules and looking good to others. God wasn’t impressed with my religious actions and biblical knowledge; He wanted my heart. I came to know this after I was transferred to Avon Park Correctional.

There, I witnessed God’s love in action through the loving-kindness of incarcerated Christian brothers. These men were deeply in love with Jesus, and it showed. Their presence lit up that prison’s darkness; Christ in them changed the atmosphere, and that changed me.

I watched in awe as these men thrived daily, even though they lived behind bars. Their lives had purpose; hope sparkled in their eyes. I wanted what they had—a relationship with God, His hope, and an authentic life purpose. No more religious activity. And no more being on Team Satan.

God used those men to sharpen my walk with Him (Proverbs 27:17). They taught me the value of trusting God and applying His Word. They kept me encouraged and accountable. When I’d get discouraged or off course, someone would say, “Man up, brother. Remember what the Word says and who you are in Christ.”

I miss that daily fellowship with my Avon Park brothers now that I’m released. Their love restored my hope and showed me that God still had work for me to do. They were on Team Jesus.

With God’s help, I served my 10-year sentence. It wasn’t easy, but it was filled with purpose. God gave me His strength (Psalm 46:1; Nehemiah 8:10; 2 Corinthians 12:9–10) and guided me with His wisdom (James 1:5). The Lord also met my needs (Philippians 4:19).

Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (NIV). I can attest to the truth of this verse. I never lacked anything in prison. Before I could even think of it or desire it, God had already prepared it. And He never missed a detail. All I had to do was continue to seek Him and trust Him. He took care of the rest.

I was released from prison on August 6, 2019, and God continues to meet my needs. I am amazed at my life now. And to think, I wanted to throw it all away.

God has abundantly blessed me with relationships and opportunities. He has given me a beautiful wife—a mighty woman of God. In January, we are expecting our first baby.

God opened doors for me to minister at Multicultural Family Church in Brandon, Florida. I also serve on the board of directors at a nonprofit called Society-First.

Through Society-First, I advocate for the rights of the incarcerated. I am even able to minister at Avon Park Correctional. Only God could have opened a door for me to return to the prison where I resided, so soon after my release. God is good; He does much more than we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Maybe you’re ready to give up. You see no way of enduring the difficult road ahead. Just like God helped me through 10 years of incarceration, He will help you serve your time—whether in prison or elsewhere—too. The road ahead might look impossible, but let me tell you what that Christian brother said after I was sentenced: “It’s going to be okay. You are going to make it.”

Philippians 4:13 promises that if you are on Team Jesus, you can endure all things. He will help you. Don’t give up. And don’t give in to Satan’s lies. You are never without hope when you are in Christ. In Him, there is forgiveness of sin, restoration, and redemption. He still has a great purpose for your life.

You can’t see the end of the story right now, but God does. And it’s a good one. Far better than you can imagine.


Joshua Brown gives God all the glory for His redemption story and for the success he has experienced in the free world as a contractor, in his relationships, and in ministry. Today, he serves on the board of directors at Society-First and is on staff at Multicultural Family Church in Brandon, Florida.