“When they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely… He put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:23-25
“And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him… When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets… He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Acts 28:16,23,30-31
Paul was a man sold out to Christ. He lived on a higher plain, an eternal one. His circumstances always paled in comparison to his aim and drive: to make Christ known. Confinement for him was opportunity, simply where the Lord placed him to preach, sing, teach, or write. He saw the confines of a dungeon merely as bars through which the beautiful gospel could spread, and did all he could to make that happen.
It was in the very place of restriction that God opened Paul’s mind and time schedule to write to the churches, vital letters that instruct and encourage us still today. In chains and damp darkness, the resplendence of God’s mercies and blessings shone in brilliance from Paul’s soul. In lack and mistreatment, Paul learned contentment and unceasing joy in his Savior. Within impossible prison walls Paul’s singing brought hymn truths to a heathen jailer, and flooded his family with salvation. Paul seized every opportunity while confined to make known the freedom Christ offers. (Acts 16:25-33; Ephesians 1:1-3,16-17; Philippians 4:12)
When we not only recognize, but accept, that sometimes the Lord places us in earthly or physical restraints, our spirits begin to grow in new ways and put forth fresh shoots of faith. We learn that our freedom is internal, and the fount of untouchable hope and purpose.
In what difficult or restricting venue am I? Likely not actual prison, but a harsh or hard relationship, a challenging work situation or assignment, the confinement of an incurable disease? Do I realize that the freedom I have in this place is not a worldly sort, but freedom from sin’s bondage that gives impenetrable joy and unshakable peace I can from here uniquely proclaim?
From the very confines of pain, or grief, or restraint of activity and desire, we learn the secret that those Jesus has set free are free indeed. Are we exercising that freedom to trust our Lord more deeply, to grow in intimacy with Him, to speak of His fame and exemplify the beauties of His character? (John 8:36)
“My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.” ~Charles Wesley (1738)
Good Father, help me relish, wherever I am, my freedom in Christ, and take advantage of the platform it offers to proclaim Your excellencies and glory.