1998-08-14 - Breaking Ourselves Out of Prison
Week before last we looked at some situations where we imprison ourselves, in worry, bitterness, jealousy, legalism etc. If we remain in our prisons, what do we lose? We lose the chance to live up to the potential with which God gives us for His Kingdom. We lose the chance to live up to the potential God gifts us with. Prisons hinder us from developing our gifts. Prisons of fear hinder us from being used as leaders in our churches. Prisons of worry about what people will think, hinder us from reaching out to people who need help, and ministering to people. Our families, friends, churches, communities lose the salt and light and ministry we can provide. Prisons prevent us from leading the abundant life God gives us.
(Gal 5:1 NRSV) "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
What do we do, to escape these prisons and claim the glorious freedom God has for us? I won't promise that it's easy. It's hard to give up a grudge we have held for perhaps years. It isn't easy to stop being jealous. Worry can be a very hard habit to break. Addictions can be miraculously cured, but most often are healed through a long-term process. Our self-made prisons become parts of us. But remember, we can tap the resources of a God with limitless strength and wisdom.
If we are dealing with a difficult relationship, and we just can't let go of the pain or anger, sometimes asking God to let us see the person through Jesus' eyes can be revolutionary. If we pray for that person daily, he or she may never change - though they may! - but if we pray with an open heart, God will change us and free us inside, in our hearts. He will remove the bitterness or jealousy or other pain. If Corrie Ten Boom could forgive those who killed her family, we can forgive those who hurt us. It can be done; but we must have soft and open hearts.
(Rom 6:14 NRSV) "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace."
When we are struggling with an addiction or a recurring sin, sometimes fellowshipping with others who are dealing with these situations can strengthen our resolve. For example, many people find the support of groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous to be enormously helpful in overcoming and maintaining victory over addictions. There is an accountability factor involved. When you know someone is going to ask you about your progress, it's a great incentive to stick to the straight and narrow path.
(Rom 5:15-17 NRSV) "But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man's trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ."
Worry can be one of the hardest habits to break; I know from experience! I don't want this to sound oversimplified, but actually it is rather simple. We tend to overcomplicate God's simple principles. ; ) According to author Norm Wright, research shows that after the age of 35 we each are blessed with 500 precious months. Do we really want to spend them worrying about things that won't happen 95% of the time? Have you ever known worry to help? When we find ourselves worrying about something, we need to remind ourselves that God is Sovereign, and that He loves us more than anyone. That He always has what is best for us in mind. That He will never let us down. We need to relax in that love. Easier said than done! So we need to pray to God about those very worries. Yes, He knows them anyway, but He wants to hear them from us. The Creator of the universe cares about us as individuals. He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him.
(Psa 62:8 NRSV) "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah"
Legalism is one prison in which I myself have been an inmate. Do you feel you must be at the church every time the doors are open? Do you live in a world of shoulds? If so, you could be a prisoner of legalism. But do you think a loving God wants you to live that way? Would you want someone you love to do things because they feel trapped - because they fear punishment? Sometimes we live in prisons of legalism because we don't grasp that though God wants our obedience, His love for us is unconditional. After all, Christ died for us even though we had no merit at all.
(Rom 5:8 NRSV) "But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us."
No matter what our prisons are, God's desire for us is to live that abundant life He promises us.
(John 10:10 NRSV) "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord and Zuck, 1985: (Christ) gives life which is not constricted but overflowing. The thief takes life; Christ gives it to the full. Overflowing … God wants our lives to overflow in joy, in peace, in spiritual fulfillment. You can't live an overflowing life from a mental prison.
Dear Father, please help us to truly grasp that You want our lives to be lived abundantly, overflowingly. Give us the discernment to recognize our prisons, and guide us out of them. In Jesus' name amen.