As I was spending time with the Lord this past week, this verse really stood out for me. As most of you know who read these devotional thoughts, they are teachings from the Lord that He has lead me through in many circumstances. Sometimes I am able to share some of the more personal details, but not always. But I have yet to have Him give me a message that has not been one that He has greatly worked in my life. Unfortunately there were times that lesson may have been given more than once for me to really understand His plan. It seems, however, that when the particular devotion is written, I am again being walked through circumstances that apply to that teaching again. This one is no different. I have to thank the Lord for this wonderful gift!
One of the main things the Holy Spirit has diligently had to work with me on is viewing circumstances in my life through His eternal perspective. There are no “chance occurrences” in life. God has either sent the situation into my life or allowed it. Even if He has allowed it, and not sent it directly, there is still something very important that I need to learn. He hasn’t sent it or allowed it for my destruction, but that He be glorified!
I have been walking through some delicate circumstances lately that could have been devastating if I hadn’t learned to trust the Lord many years ago. But the wonderful truth the Lord wants us all to really learn is that we aren’t to “lean” on our past trust of God, but daily walk in trust, knowing that He is for us and not against us! (Romans 8:31) Until we really understand the truth of a particular phrase in today’s passage, the foundation of our faith can still be unstable.
What struck me this morning? “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord…” Knowing the Apostle Paul’s testimony we can easily see why he would write these words. But Paul did not write anything to lift himself up. He used himself as an example of the workings of the Lord for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Can you say you are a prisoner of the Lord? I desire to be with all of my heart. Yet because we will never be perfect while on this earth, I still miss the mark many days. But I am so thankful that as I allow the Holy Spirit to show me my errors, I can repent and God will continue to guide me into situations where He can be glorified. In the flesh I would rather run in the other direction from these situations, in the spirit I am so blessed that I can scarcely believe that God will consider me to be a vessel for His use!
Before you decide this devotion has no application for your life, I ask you to bear with me. Many of us have not been called to the level of service in which the Apostle Paul served. The truth, however, is that in whatever the calling from the Lord, it holds the same importance to God. “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:11) The Apostle Paul also realized this truth and gave us a clear demonstration regarding the members of the body of Christ. Each and every one is a needed member of the body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-27)
These verses give us greater understanding of the other verses the Holy Spirit led me to in my study. ”But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:7) “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:...” (Romans 12:6)
Please hear my heart in the area of gifts. God has given each of us gifts to be used for His glory. Do you like to help others? Do you like to open up your house to entertain others? You obviously have the gift of hospitality. Take this “gift” that is within you to the Lord in prayer. He will guide you to where and how to use that gift. It may be within your local church or it may be in the community, it could be both. But, please, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you so that you are where God would have you. If you are surrendered to Him you may be blown out of the water by what He may have you do. You are the only one who puts boundaries on what God can do, so don’t rely on a person to tell you where you should serve. Remember that serving isn’t just something that needs to be done, but something that God wants you to do to draw others to Himself. (An example could be that God is directing you to work with the elderly but you’d rather work with the children. If you should choose to volunteer in serving the children, it will be a good thing, but not the BEST thing that God has chosen for you in serving the elderly. God will not receive the glory that He is due and both you and those you were called to serve will miss out on God’s blessings.)
Other gifts may take some mentoring before you can walk fully in the grace of God in that gift. We all need to have a mentor in our lives. Again, make sure it is the one that the Lord wants for you. (If you do not have one and cannot find one in your local fellowship, please write us and we will be glad to help you.) Discernment is one of those. You may find that the Holy Spirit may reveal something to you about a person or situation. Take it to the Lord in prayer! Most of what the Holy Spirit reveals to us requires prayer for that person. The Lord may eventually lead you to send a card of encouragement or invite them to lunch, or to provide meals if that is a need, etc. But, again, God can open up doors through prayer that you could not do on your own.
Gifts of prophecy and healing are still active gifts today. But I will caution you that a great majority of them in our churches today are imitators and not from the Lord. Be very careful before joining with any group in this area so that you do not get led astray. Remember that Jesus was clear when He said, “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:30) So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.” (John 8:28) “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:10) If Jesus did not do anything on His own initiative, what makes us think that we should? If we truly “are a prisoner of the Lord” would we not want to be of the same mind?
(I challenge you to search the scriptures and see where Jesus or any of the apostles set up “schools” to teach others how to heal people. They didn’t. So while the Holy Spirit may work through one person to express God’s healing in others, it is not biblical that the person with the “gift” now teaches other to operate in this area.) Scripture does not change, it is our foundation. When the Lord spoke these words to Zechariah, they stood as THE TRUTH and they still do today! Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
The gift of teaching. The word cautions us in this area as well. “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1) This is the area of my life that the Lord, again, challenged me as to if I really was His prisoner. I was amazed at the calm in my spirit as I presented each prayer and waited for His answer. I truly was at peace knowing that whatever answer I received from the Lord, I would be ok with it. There comes a place in each of our lives when we can truly “stand firmly for truth” knowing that those in authority will not be in agreement because we aren’t “submitting” to their perceived authority. Beloved, please remember that it is the Lord God whom we are to please, not man. “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
Interestingly I never considered myself in the terms of being a “prisoner of the Lord”. I completely identify with being a bond servant. I choose to serve my Master with all my heart, with all my soul and my whole being. I can’t imagine living any other way. He is the joy and sustenance of my entire being! I count it a privilege to serve the Lord of lords and the King of kings!
This week, however, the Holy Spirit began to bring remembrances to mind of years past where I realized that I was held so firmly in the Lord’s hand even when I was not being obedient, that this phrase began to unfold and give me much greater understanding of its meaning. I knew at an early age I wanted to serve the Lord but as I entered my late teen years I took my eyes totally off following the Lord. However, it is interesting that I “worked” for the Lord when I really wasn’t “walking” with the Lord...He held me as a “prisoner” (bound to, captive) in His family despite my actions! I loved that work and God placed a precious pastor in my life to watch over me. He loved me without judgment. Several years later another devastation occurred in my life, but God placed me in another ministry and a pastor who helped walk me through the pain and circumstances!
Now you might think that I was finally beginning to understand God’s faithfulness...but that didn’t happen for several more years. This time I choose to turn back to the Lord (little did I know that the Holy Spirit was at work to protect me for what was coming). Shortly after I had turned back to the Lord and was attending church and another situation struck my family that cut my legs out from under me. Only this time, I knew that God was there holding me up, directing my steps and giving me wisdom that I could hear and followed! Amazing grace encompassed my life for the next year as we dealt with situations.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for taking me captive! A “prisoner” of the Lord is not a horrible experience! It is love, it is protection, it is security, it is provision, it is a place of safety that no matter how difficult the circumstances may be that we may face, we are SECURELY held in His hand! “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28) “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29)
Now let’s look at the 12 disciples. In the 3 ½ years they walked with Jesus they sure didn’t get much of what He was telling them. Yet Jesus prayed these words of thanksgiving to the Father before He went to the cross: “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” (John 17:6) How could He say that? Jesus tells us the key to why He could say they kept God’s Word. It was the “truth” of what they believed, it wasn’t based on circumstances and actions, but on their hearts. “for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.” (John 17:8) And what was the outcome? “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.” (John 17:12) (perish-give over to eternal misery in hell)
We are given clear understanding in these last verses of what Jesus was talking about when He said that He only did or said what His Father gave Him direction to do. He only selected the twelve disciples that His Father GAVE Him. “I guarded them…” Just as He continues to do for each and every one of us! “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
Can you think of a few others in scripture that were prisoners of the Lord? Joseph comes to mind. His brothers sold him into slavery, his master’s wife accused him falsely of inappropriate behavior and he was thrown in prison. Yet he never forsook the Lord and because of the inner peace which Jehovah had given him, he was given important positions of authority while he was both a slave and a prisoner in captivity. God even used the gifts which He had placed inside of Joseph to be used while in prison to expose the deceit and truth when two of the pharaoh's servants were accused of wrongdoing. Joseph had hope that the one who was found innocent would be an advocate for his release, but yet God allowed him to remain in prison for several more years. Believe me, not during any of these years did Joseph think that this was God’s hand on him. But after the pharaoh’s dreams could not be interpreted by his seers, did Joseph’s “gifts” become needed. The really important key here is that it wasn’t just his “gift” that was exposed, but God was greatly glorified. The Almighty God had given a pagan ruler a prophetic dream of the future. That doesn’t fit our little “package of God”. But yet, God is sovereign and can and will do whatever He desires. This pagan ruler had the resources to save many during the upcoming years of famine. Joseph wasn’t only able to clearly interpret the dream, but he was the only one who God can given the insight and ability to carry it out! Joseph became a powerful ruler, the pharaoh was the only one who had greater authority in the land!
Still, Joseph still had much to learn about God’s sovereignty in his life. I believe he struggled when he first saw his brothers coming for help. Can you even begin to imagine the emotions running through his mind? I’m sure a great spiritual battle was taking place. It was only because of Joseph’s years of leaning on the Lord and trusting Him even when he couldn’t understand why he was experiencing these difficulties, that he was able to hear and understand the scope of what God had planned from the beginning!
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:4-8)
We could go over the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel, David, Jeremiah, the Apostles Peter and John, of servants Silas and Titus and Timothy, but I think you may be gaining a greater understanding of the meaning of this term. If the Apostle Peter had not been sifted and gone through the devastation of denying the Lord three times and becoming broken beyond human ability, he could not have been the vessel that God needed to work through in building His church. If the Apostle John had not been a “prisoner of the Lord” he would not have been taken captive and taken to the Isle of Patmos as a prisoner where the Lord gave him the visions to record for the Book of Revelations.
These men were like you and me. There is a scripture that I’d like to share with you from a conversation the Lord had with Jeremiah that applies to you and me today in many aspects. Now “the word of the LORD came to me saying, before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 1:4-8)
We know from this scripture that God appointed Jeremiah as a prophet. We need to hear the Lord speak to each of us, “I have appointed you ___________ to the __________.” There are seasons in our lives and this directive from the Lord does not change in truth, but may change in location and services in our lives. But for each and every one, He has appointed you to be His representative in some capacity NOW. It doesn’t have to be a great prestigious position, it rarely is. Peter and John had no idea the impact their lives would have on the world. All they knew was that they had met Jesus Christ and He had turned their lives upside down. The Apostle Paul said it better than I could ever try to explain it: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Years ago in my quiet time with the Lord I received that verse as my life verse. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been so worth it. I love Him more today than ever. I don’t know what tomorrow will be, or the challenges that it will bring, but I know His grace will be sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).
How can I be so sure? Let’s look at a few scriptures that King David recorded that could only come by revelation! “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.” (Psalm 139:1-10)
Is your intimacy with the Lord such that you too can say this of the Lord? I agree with David, the Lord’s lovingkindness is too wonderful for me to totally understand, but I receive it! I rejoice in it and I love Him even more knowing that there is not a second in time that He is not with me and watching over me!
The next two verses give me great comfort to know that God sees everything physical and spiritual even though I cannot. As long as I keep my eyes on Him and my ears open to the Holy Spirit I will not stumble. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. (Psalm 139:11-12)
Need more proof? “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.” (Psalm 139:13-18)
Are you falling more in love with Him? When I read His Word I realize that my life is not my own. I am His and He has written the plan for my life. And it is a much better plan than anything I could ever imagine! That is why it is so important to be in right alignment with the Lord. When we truly understand the depth of His love for us, it is overwhelming. The Hebrew word in the Old Testament that is translated as “lovingkindness” in the NASB does not have a word in the English language that compares. Depending on the Hebrew source you are using it is “hesed” or “chesed” in Hebrew. Lovingkindness is the closest word in the English language to describe its meaning. It actually means loving, compassionate, relationship, mercy, faithfulness, goodness, kindness. Read the following scripture and I believe you will begin to understand His love a little more as you understand the meaning of the words. “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.” (Psalm 63:3) The psalmists repeatedly declare “For His lovingkindness is everlasting”. This can only be declared by personal revelation. Can you join in and testify of His lovingkindness? When one is a prisoner of the Lord it is a joyous declaration of His faithfulness in your life.
A prisoner of the Lord heart’s desire is to lift up the Name of Jesus and glorify the Lord at all times. Our words declare His majesty. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) We realize this truth, “But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.” (Psalm 3:3) Fame and fortune are not ours. But we have riches the world doesn’t know.
Abba Father, I love You. You are great and greatly to be praised! Thank You that You have a plan for my life. Thank You for holding me securely in the palm of Your hand even when I was disobedient. Thank You so much for loving the sinner and hating the sin! Thank You so much that You wouldn’t disown me, but instead, You took the time to teach me and discipline me in Your ways that I might be a living testimony and bring glory to Your name. Thank You for holding me when I was lost and felt abandoned by everyone else. Thank You that when I was lost, You found me. Thank You that You saved from from the overflowing waters that would have drowned me. And Thank You that You love me unconditionally. Thank You that I am bound to You for eternity. Have Your way in my life, I am Yours because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As I submitted to Your truth and repented of my sin, I was washed clean by the blood of Jesus. May Your light shine brightly through my life that others will come to know You. In all these things I pray through the blessed name of Jesus Christ. Amen!