I am learning a lot lately from a friend who by conventional definition is living in bondage; yet he has claimed power and freedom in a way that inspires and instructs me, because it transcends his circumstance. His choice to live purposefully calls to my mind similar lessons from the Israelites, Joseph and Paul.
Although God led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt, they continued to live with a captive’s mindset. They even fantasized about their days in bondage: “There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out in the desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3)
To embrace the freedom God offered came at a price: they needed to trust and obey him:
“To fear the LORD you God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees….” (Deuteronomy 11:12-13)
We tend to view laws and rules as restrictions of our freedom, not gateways to it; but God’s laws lead to freedom as they lead away from the bondage of sin. We need look no further than our own lives to know that greater freedom is found in:
- relationship with God than in seeking satisfaction in the world
- nourishing gratitude over comparison (i.e., covetousness)
- speaking life over giving voice to gossip, deceit and mischief
- seeking peace within relationships rather than tolerating discord
- offering forgiveness rather than bearing the burdens of anger and resentment
The God “who brought you out of Egypt” reminded the Israelites that to walk with God is to experience his goodness in abundance:
But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. (Deuteronomy 11:11)
What thoughts, ideas or mindsets hold you captive, deceive you into victimhood or keep you stuck? Will you invite God to transform your mind so that you may “be confident that you will see his goodness in the land of the living”? (Psalm 27:13)
I wrote about Joseph earlier this year (Big Dreams); he, like my friend, rejected a captive’s mindset. For “while Joseph was there in prison the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” (Genesis 39: 20-23)
Joseph did not wield power over his fellow prisoners; instead he was a servant leader, extending himself to help them in times of trouble, including the baker and the cupbearer. Yet even when they forgot him, God was with Joseph. Joseph held onto that truth and resisted despair by trusting the Lord’s timing and purpose.
Joseph capitalized on his situation to be who God called him to be…not at some future date, but right then and there, and each day after throughout his life.
What situations, circumstances or forces of opposition restrict you?What are you waiting for? Will you trust that God is with you, and step out in victory to walk through this day and each day knowing that the Lord works all things for good for those who love him? (Romans 8:28)
Paul miraculously transcends imprisonment, brutality and persecution by embracing his identity in Jesus, proudly describing himself as:
a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.
He explains the paradox of his situation this way:
For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.
1 Corinthians 7:22
Paul began life as Saul of Tarsus, a scholarly and devout follower of the Law, who later repents of persecuting followers of the Way and becomes not only a follower of Jesus, but one persecuted relentlessly for his beliefs, a veritable slave to his faith.
Yet even when the doors of his earthly prison cell were opened miraculously, Paul chose continued imprisonment as an act of love for the guard who arguably was both his enemy and persecutor. (Acts 16:16-40)
Paul wrote half of the New Testament, mostly behind prison walls. He shows us by example that freedom (and bondage) are a state of mind. In dismal circumstances Paul suffered joyfully for the opportunity to extend Christ’s love to others and to use his suffering for God’s glory.
Paul lived in the knowledge that freedom is found in a relationship with Jesus, who accepted the death penalty in our place, and through his resurrection broke the chains of sin and death for anyone who accepts his free, yet priceless gift.
Will you invite Jesus to reveal his purpose, his promise and his great love for you, so that you may experience the freedom he won for you right here, right now?
Will you pray that others in your life in bondage to thoughts or circumstances also will discover the freedom found in Christ alone?
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Romans 8: 18-21