How easy it is for us to chafe under the circumstances that we consider to be hindrances from enjoying a full and free life: poor health, unemployment, a bad marital situation, financial setbacks, unbelieving children, and so on. But consider Paul, imprisoned for his faith and sent to Rome under guard:
Acts 28:16,30-31 – When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ — with all boldness and without hindrance! (NIV 2011)
Isn't it amazing and so like our God, to take the very thing that from our human perspective would seem to cause the greatest hindrance to Paul's ministry, turn it around, and cause it to remove all hindrances instead? Here is Paul, a prisoner for two years, continuing to preach and teach about Jesus without all the difficulties he faced during his time travelling. His movement might have been restricted, but his ministry went on unrestrained because his door remained open to all who would come to see him, and his heart remained open to the will and plans of his Almighty God.
Paul could have chosen to allow himself to become bitter, frustrated, or angry. None of us would have really blamed him! He was a travelling preacher, now unable to travel. And he was a man who, through the power of Christ, had poured out his life to witness "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8), and was now not even able reach out past his front door. Instead, Paul continued to serve, and not only has his work during this time of imprisonment impacted those who came to visit, but also his writings have encouraged and taught generation after generation ever since. Why was Paul able to continue to minister so powerfully even though his circumstances should have prevented him from doing so? Paul understood the power of throwing off all that hinders, and he continually surrendered his life and his circumstances to the One who had changed his life. For two years, a rented home and being a prisoner of Rome was the perfect combination for a powerful ministry. Life must have been tough — probably it was — but it was here that Paul proclaimed the kingdom without hindrance.
We, too, are called to an unhindered life, called to be a testimony, a convincing proof that Jesus is alive and powerful. So many of us, though, continue on in the bondage of selfish unwillingness to turn our circumstances over to God, preferring to stay comfortable, seemingly free to do as we please, even though that comfort and freedom is nothing but an illusion. So many of us carry on day after day bearing the weight of hindrances our Jesus never meant for us to bear. As Beth Moore said at a recent weekend conference, "We don't have time for bondage;" let's "do what it takes to be free!" What would happen if we all turned our faces to God, and surrendered our lives and our circumstances to Him? It would cause that broken heart to be the perfect place to teach about the forgiveness of God. Or that cancer treatment would be the perfect place to teach about the sufficiency of Christ. The unemployment office would be the perfect place to allow God to provide, and the single parent family, a showcase of God's strength. The place we are in may just be the perfect place to teach the salvation of Christ.
Prayer: Thank You, God, that You are waiting to show Yourself mighty in our lives. Thank You that we are already free, for Christ has already done the work for us. Enable us to throw off all that hinders and to surrender whatever life circumstances we are in right now to You, our all-loving God. Show us clearly that we are in the perfect place to proclaim the kingdom unhindered and to show the all-surpassing power of a life lived for You. In Christ's name, we pray. Amen.
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Listen while you read: "The Lord's My Shepherd" (Lyrics)