Philippians 1:12-14, “ I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.”
Just four days short of eight months ago, I had back surgery. Just 2000 years ago, Paul was imprisoned. Both prisons were humiliating, painful, cruel and surprising. During my imprisonment, there were moments when I swear that I felt the breath of the devil as he waited for the faithful to retreat, for me to give up.
I am sure that Paul knows what I am talking about, and I am sure that you know what I am talking about…he waits for the faithful to retreat. I could no longer walk by the end of June. I had never imagined that the body could cause itself that kind of pain. I was a traitor to myself, and yet, somehow I just kept repeating, “He will use this for His glory”. Somehow…praise God. We did not retreat, Paul and I; God needed us elsewhere. God needs you elsewhere.
Prison, what does that mean to you? You might experience a physical prison, like Paul or I. The thing about prisons is that they are usually really obvious, small, stinky. They hold you back and keep you from experiencing freedom. You can probably tell me what your prison is right now; it could be a broken relationship or an emotional state that you can’t shake.
Prison can, also, be sin in our life. 2 Timothy 2:26 says, “and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will”. When Paul puts it like that, sin reflects the sun a lot differently. It blinds us with the message that you are not in control of these sinful prisons of your life, in fact you are little more than a captive…a prisoner.
The attractive part of sin is that it seems we have it under control, like we are somehow the warden of our sin. Let’s not kid ourselves, are you really in charge of it? If you are willing to be honest with yourself, then let’s take it one step further…to be a captive to sin makes us laborers on behalf of the devil (I just lost the popularity contest). What sins are holding us captive?...unforgiveness, lack of confession, refusing to be obedient, pride, worshiping ourselves and demanding what we want from the relationships in our life, regardless of the carnage that it leaves behind. Take your pick, they are all prisons.
But, according to postmodernism, everything has an upside, so prisons can also release us. Paul was released. I was healed. Relationships can be mended and sin can be forgiven. If I had to write what I feel like, prison-free and eight months later, it would be Paul’s words…modified. “I want you to know, ladies, and the occasional man, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole church/youth group/women’s ministry, and to everyone else that was within ear reach of my loud mouth that my imprisonment was for Christ; and most of us, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.”
It is funny what the prison experience will do to you and those around you. It will make you bold, and I am not afraid. I have nothing to lose; I have been in prison! It is time to free the captives, and lift each other up to escape the snares of this world. Christ desires our release so let's lay down the prisons of our lives and experience freedom.