Paul often refers to himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:1). Paul also wrote, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner” (2 Timothy 1:8). Even into his old age, Paul rejoiced that he had been apprehended by the Lord and taken captive to his will (see Philemon 9).
Paul could tell you the very hour the Lord took him captive. He was on the road to Damascus with official letters from the high priest authorizing him to arrest Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem. Scripture says he was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). In other words, he was full of hatred, bitterness and anger in his misguided zeal for God.
But as Paul approached Damascus, “Suddenly a light shone around him from heaven” (Acts 9:3). He was struck totally blind by that light, which was Christ’s glory. Paul testifies again and again how he had to be taken by the hand and led into Damascus. In short, he was a helpless prisoner. He spent three days isolated in a room, without sight and refusing food. He was a prisoner in spirit, soul, and body.
So what happened in that room? The Holy Spirit was making Saul into Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ. As we read Acts 9, we can almost hear Paul’s agonizing prayer: “Lord, I thought I was doing your will — how could I have been so blind? You have taken away my fleshly sight and given me spiritual eyes to see! All this time I’ve been going my own way, doing whatever I thought was right. But I can’t trust my own thoughts.”
Right now, the Holy Spirit is moving throughout the world, calling all invited guests to prepare themselves and come: “All things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). Many make excuses not to let themselves be bound to the Lord. “They all with one accord began to make excuses” (Luke 14:18).
Jesus is warning us against the last-hour temptation of being enamored with this world and I urge you to yield to his voice. Submit yourself to him and pray this prayer: “Lord, I’m sick of my independent spirit and I’m stretching my arms to you. Put your loving arm around me and bind me to you.”
The prophet Isaiah says godly people dream great things, not just for themselves but for the needy. He speaks of godly people standing up for the lost and serving the outcast.
“You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply” (Isaiah 58:5-9).
What a beautiful vision of God’s glory manifesting through his people, and what a powerful corrective to our concept of how to serve him. God is calling forth a people who induce faith, defeat Satan, and spread love and hope. The destinations he lays out for us may be beyond our imagination to the world, but they cannot be to those who take on his name.
A living faith brings life-giving results. “Thus says the Lord God: ‘This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their people like a flock’” (Ezekiel 36:37). As our faith increases, so do the results that God brings.
When your dream, your ambition, your goal is fulfilled, will it be a blessing to many? Ask Jesus to lead you into the mission and purpose he has for you to serve others and bring honor to his name.
“Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
There is a supernatural element to times of corporate worship and fellowship. When we join a local body of believers and fellowship with them, we are not only obeying Scripture but we are allowing God to work in us through the encouragement and admonition of other Christians.
When a group of Christians gather together, God speaks to us through a minister or a song or other believers. God uses the opportunity to build each one up individually as he moves in our midst, speaking and touching each other — often in a different way. That is the beauty of the family of Christ. Through fellowship, we find strength and power and discipline. And through meeting together, our faith grows.
Healthy fellowship is important outside of worship services as well. Each of us should find people of like mind and values — people who will not only commit to being our friends but also will hold us accountable. People who will mentor us in our faith, help us resist temptation and pick us up when we fall. People who will be there to encourage us during times of stress and turmoil and admonish us when we are missing the boat. People who want to see us succeed in our Christian walk and whom we can encourage when they too face difficulties.
The enemy of our soul is fearsome, but our Commander-in-Chief does not leave us defenseless against him. He gives us weapons forged and tempered to bring his power to bear in the struggle.
“‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper … This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17).
Pray fervently and worship with all your heart. Stay in fellowship with other believers. And examine the Scriptures daily and put on the whole armor of God. With the weapons he gives you, you will be prepared and in control.
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
“He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He also brought me into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:16-19).
In this psalm, David was looking back after a great deliverance. He was rejoicing because the Lord had rescued him from his enemies. King Saul had put a bounty on his head and chased him relentlessly, forcing David to sleep in caves, dens and open fields.
David said of that dark time, “The sorrows of hell surrounded me, and I lived in distress. Ungodly men made me afraid. They all hated me.” But God came roaring out of the heavens to deliver David: “He bowed the heavens also, and came down … The Lord thundered from heaven … He delivered me from my strong enemy” (Psalm 18:9, 13, 17).
The enemy had come in like a flood and yet David was able to say, “God came roaring forth to pull me out of the swirling waters. He rescued me from all my troubles!” The Holy Spirit gave David a revelation that is the key to all deliverance. David could say, “The reason God delivered me from all my enemies — from all my sorrows and the powers of hell — is because I am precious to him. My God delights in me!”
“He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19).
What do you need deliverance from? From lust? From a temptation or a trial? From a problem that is mental, spiritual, emotional, physical? The key to your victory is in this verse. God delights in you. You are precious to him!
It is always good to take a step of faith when we have placed our trust in Christ. This kind of faith is to be applauded. Yet the Bible shows us there is great danger if we don’t follow up on that first step with increased faith.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
When we are in a deep struggle, things can come at us “fast and furious” and at such times we may think, “Lord, I don’t know if I can handle this. I don’t see how I can ever make it through.” At such times the enemy takes advantage, moving in with principalities and powers to try to rob, steal and shipwreck our faith.
Dear believer, this happens to every true servant of God. Peter lovingly warns us that it would happen, saying, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
No matter how long you serve the Lord, you can always be trained in this area of following his clear direction, especially in the hard places. We should never say, “That’s it, Lord, I’ve had enough.” Instead, we should say, “Lord, I don’t see the way ahead and I don’t know where I’ll find the grace to get through this, but you promised to provide it and I know you will be my strength.”
This place of true faith is the place where you find your rest — by fully trusting in the Lord’s love. God is going to bring you through and take you to a place of incredible blessing. You may have to be willing to do insignificant things and you may face tests and trials that will be hard, yet the training ground God has set apart for multitudes of his most beloved ones is where we learn his nature, his character, his blessing, and his goodness.
We are cherished by a holy God and he has a holy purpose for us, just as he did for his own Son. Therefore, we have a peace that passes all understanding, and we rest knowing his blessing lies ahead for us. Thank you, Lord!