Prison By Providence

 : Two hands clutching prison bars

Ever suffered for somebody else’s sin?

Ever wondered what it would have been if you had gotten that which you are denied wrongfully?

Ever been distressed over the fact that your life can never be like the one you dreamed of because of no fault of your’s, but someone, something not progressing?

After doing everything you can, do you still feel like a prisoner trapped, not able to escape and perhaps forgotten?

Then probably you are a prisoner. Good news is, if you are a child of God, you are not a prisoner to your circumstances. You are not a prisoner to the people who placed you there. But, you are a prisoner of the Lord.

That is how Apostle Paul saw himself.  In Ephesians 3:1 he identifies himself, thus- “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…” When Paul is writing this letter, he had been in a Roman prison for 5 years. He was imprisoned for no fault of his, but for proclaiming Jesus. Doing the will of God, in the place where God kept him, got Paul in a prison.

You might be doing the right thing. You might be where God placed you and faithfully laboring for the Lord. This is no guarantee that the work would continue. When you feel circumstances are closing in on you, when you feel you are losing your freedom to work, remember,you are not a prisoner of your circumstances. You are a prisoner of the Lord.

The story is not over there. There is something beautiful about the sovereignty of God allowing His people to be imprisoned.

In the Old Testament, we see a beautiful story of God stirring the heart of Cyrus, a pagan king to release the people of Israel from captivity under him, so they could return to Israel to build God’s temple. Ezra 1: 1-3 speaks about this. Cyrus put it in writing that-

“Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.'” Ezra 1:3-4

Soon there was opposition to the work and we read in Ezra 4: 24 “Then work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

The work was stopped for ten years. What do you do when you know God has sent you and you are in the will of God, but the work of God is opposed and you feel helpless?

The story gets interesting when the Jews write to King Darius and he issues an investigation. At the end of the investigation, he issues a decree where by he asks the opponents to

*Keep away from where the Jews are building (Ezra 6:6)
*Leave the work on the house of God alone.(v-7)
*Pay to these people and their work out of your taxes- WITHOUT DELAY! ( v- 8)
*Whatever is needed for their sacrifices- bulls, rams, lambs wheat, salt, wine, anointing oil, be given to them DAILY without fail. (V-9) emphasis mine.

Whatever stood up to oppose the work of God, was used by our Sovereign God to turn around, and not only permit the work, but protect and provide for the work too!

That is the story of Paul, the prisoner of the Lord, too. Because Paul was imprisoned, we have most of out New Testament today. If Paul was a free man, he would have gone around preaching. But because he was imprisoned he penned the living word of God. Once again a Sovereign God used the roman imprisonment to permit, protect and provide for the work of the church!

Next time you feel you are in the will of God, but still feeling imprisoned, remember a Sovereign God who will use the same opposition to permit, protect, and provide for His work. Your denials, your oppositions, your delays, your disappointments are one day going to pay for your building of God’s work.

Hallelujah! Our God Reigns!

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