I’ve been asked if I have a favorite Bible character. The answer is no, simply because during the various seasons and times of my life, different characteristics (both good and bad) of the folks mentioned in it have had deeper meaning to me. Jonah’s running from God, David’s sinning and Peter speaking without always thinking first have, like so many others, given me insight into my own faults and shortcomings. Likewise, the miracle of Bartimaeus receiving his sight and the transformation of Saul from being deadly opposed to Christ to Paul who goes all-in for Him have been powerful encouragements to me.
When asked if I have one particular account in the Bible that I cherish above all else, the answer is a resounding yes! It is the telling of Paul and Silas’ imprisonment and miraculous release found in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles: 16:16-34.
I encourage you to read it for yourself in its entirety, but for now here’s a brief description of the events. Paul and Silas were in Philippi spreading the news of Jesus Christ as Savior. They were thrown into prison after Paul upset some men as he cast a demon out of a slave girl these fellows were making money using.
Without trial, Paul and Silas were severely beaten and then put into the inner cell of a prison, their feet locked in stocks. Around midnight, and in spite of their pain and uncertainty of what was going to happen to them, they were singing songs of praise to God. The Bible then says that as they were, a powerful earthquake hit the area, so strong that the chains that bound them fell away.
It is what happens next that makes this account so deeply meaningful to me: Paul and Silas not only talk the jailor out of taking his life, but they present the salvation message to him! We are then told that this man and his whole family came to faith in Christ that night.
This all brings me to the point of the title of this entry: My Chains are Gone, now what? Many of you who regularly read these jottings know of my life of alcoholism. That chain held me completely in the dark and hopeless of any way out. The ‘earthquake’ in my experience was realizing the saving power of Jesus as I sat in a detox center. The chains of addiction fell away that day as I admitted my sins before Him and asked His forgiveness. I give Him all thanks and praise for it.
The journey I began those 27 years ago has led me to being an ordained minister. No one, myself at the top of the list, saw that one coming way back then! Though I was not instantly cast into a position of bearing the Good News like Paul and Silas were, I can still see the similarities in how God works. He removed my chains for me so that I would in turn work for Him. Because He chose to do this for me, I live with a peace that can only come from Him.
If He has removed the chains that bound you, won’t you join me in spreading His love that is so desperately needed in our hurting world. Share your story, take the time to invest in the lives of others so that relationships can be built. No matter what blessings you have received from the freedom granted you by God, there are greater ones still awaiting if you will only acknowledge the wonderful work God has done in/for you. These blessings probably won’t come in some material form. More likely it will be you realizing more deeply than ever how much God loves you.
The chains He removed from us make us uniquely qualified to help others find the freedom that only God can give. I would never for a second go back to the life, it you could call it that, that I was chained to. But today I remember how it was so that I can always remember the depths from which God saved me. My chains are gone. Today I willingly submit the life God transformed to Him, that He use me in ways that promote His freeing power to all who would accept it.