I was in prayer the other day, thanking God for delivering me from a host of strongholds, habits, desires and the like that I had at one time or another in life been bound by. I was thinking, “Man! Some of those things took forever for me to be delivered from.” It wasn’t too long after that thought entered my head that the Lord began to bring the story of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail to my remembrance. (Acts 16:22-30)
As the well known story goes, after being thrown in jail, Paul and Silas began to sing praises to God and suddenly the ground began to violently shake to the point, the Bible says, that the very foundation of the prison was shaken. The doors flung open, the chains were loosed, and the prisoners were free…or were they?!
Before y’all start screaming, “Heretic!!!” and throwing stones at me…lol…let me say that I am in no way seeking to diminish the delivering power of God! It was God and God alone that set them free that night…and it is God and God alone that can set YOU free of whatever has bound you. Make no mistake about that.
The point I’m making is although the doors of the prison were no longer shut, and the chains were no longer bound around the hands and feet of the prisoners and they were, for all intents and purposes, free…they could not live in and walk in that freedom until they got up from the place they were in and left their chains and prison cells behind.
Paul and Silas demonstrated this in verses 27 &28. Although they were freed of their chains by God’s delivering power, they (seeing a ministry opportunity) remained and subjected themselves to the authority of their captors. Had they been freed? YES! But they made the conscious decision to stay in the prison from which God had freed them.
Now…Paul and Silas did so with valid reason. They saw a ministry opportunity, and were right. They were able to minister Christ to the jailer and he was saved that night. But what’s our excuse? Often times, and Lord KNOWS I’ve been guilty of this over the years, we cry and beg and plead for God to deliver us from whatever things have bound us (anger, bitterness, lying, perversion & lust, drugs, homosexuality, pride, alcoholism…etc.)…and He has! God is faithful to His word. When we call on Him, he breaks the chains…EVERY TIME! So why, then, do we seem to remain imprisoned by our vices and strongholds? It’s because although the chains have been broken, and the prison doors are unlocked and wide open, we have made the conscious decision to stay in prison and willingly subject ourselves to our captor!
The fear of what life is like without those chains we’ve become so used to…the desire to remain because of the good times we remember in that bondage…feeling unworthy to receive and walk in the freedom we’ve asked God for and been given…all these things cause us to stand as free men and women in our respective prisons crying out to God to deliver us out of that from which we have already been delivered.
How, then, do we walk away?
First, trust God with EVERYTHING! I don’t just mean the “big things” we always focus on like our finances or our health or our safety…but I mean things as seemingly miniscule as our entertainment. Part of the reason we fail to walk away from our prisons is because the sin that binds us there has some level of entertainment and good feeling associated with it. Getting drunk with the boys (or the girls) feels good. Fornication feels good. Getting high feels good. Bursting into a fit of rage at someone with whom you are angry and cussin’ them out feels good! We don’t want to let go of the possibility of the fun we can have…forgetting that fun they produced were ONLY IN THE MOMENT…and that these are the things that, in addition to the temporary fun and good feelings, produced such a residual misery that we’ve repeatedly found ourselves crying out to God for deliverance from them. Forgetting that when sin, when it is finished , bringeth forth death (James 1:15). Instead of relying on that which we’re trying to escape from for a good time…try trusting God. If He’s God of the universe…of your finances…of your protection…of your health…is He not then powerful and mindful enough to be God of your entertainment too? If these temporary things gave you such good feeling…how much more satisfaction can the God who created fun and fulfillment produce…and His generates no byproduct of sorrow with it.
Secondly, now that we’re trusting God to make us feel even better than that we are walking away from…now we can leave the chains behind. You know the areas in which you wrestle and in which you have been bound. Walking away from those things means cutting yourself off from them. If alcoholism was your issue, stay away from the bars. Clean out the liquor cabinet in the house. If it’s lust or pornography/perversion…delete the sites off your computer and deactivate any accounts you have associated with that issue. Guard what you allow yourself to watch on television. Tell your friends that nurture that issue with their conversation that y’all need to talk about other stuff…and if they can’t get with the program then you need to distance yourself from them. If its anger…reduce the amount of time you spend with people who incite mess and thrive off of negativity and bitterness. Whatever your situation is…you know what triggers your return to “the prison”. Pinpoint them and CUT THEM OFF!!!! Ask yourself as they present themselves to you…is this moment of temporary satisfaction worth the anguish, guilt, shame, misery and bondage I know this will lead to? Is this worth my relationship with Christ? Is this worth my life?
Finally, and most importantly, we are all tempted…no matter how far from “the prison” we’ve managed, by God’s grace, to walk. We need to stay in prayer and in the Word if we are to resist that temptation and remain free. Pray daily that God will turn your heart away from unfruitful desires and toward to Him. Pray that He will open your eyes to see Him as your SOLE sufficiency…your ultimate and best source of the fulfillment of all your needs AND desires. Find and write down some scriptures dealing with your situation and scriptures about God’s delivering power and meditate on them daily. I’m a bit of a tech junkie…so I’ve emailed my scriptures to myself so I can pull them up on my phone at a moment’s notice. EVERY TIME a thought arises that reminds you of the way things used to be, or a yearning for the old life presents itself…call on the name of Jesus! I know it may sound “super spiritual”…but I’m telling you what I know. It’s the most effective weapon in the time of trouble. Don’t believe me?
Psalm 18:3 – I CALL TO THE LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.
Proverbs 18:10 – THE NAME OF THE LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Psalm 91:14-15 – “Because He loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, FOR HE ACKNOWLEDGES MY NAME. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”
Psalm 50:15 – CALL UPON ME in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.
Psalm 118:5 – In my anguish I CRIED TO THE LORD, and He answered by setting me free.
And those are just a few. God is faithful to His Word! Call on Jesus…and He’ll come to your rescue.
So make today the last day you dwell in a prison you’ve already been freed from! Get up from your misery and shame. Kick the dust off your feet and walk boldly out of whatever prison you’ve been captive in…NEVER TO RETURN!