Have you ever been imprisoned? I have.
There are many ways to be imprisoned. You can be put in jail for breaking the law. You can be imprisoned within your own body through disease. You can be bound up within your emotions by holding a grudge. Is it possible to be imprisoned and not even know it? I think so.
I am rereading the marvelous book The Great Controversy, and I am reminded of the strong battle lines drawn throughout this earth’s history. From the war in heaven to the creation of this world to the entry of sin into the world and finally the destruction of evil in the end, we see clearly that there are two sides to the conflict over our planet and its inhabitants. Reading about the reformers and the courage and fortitude with which they stood up for the right, willing to give up life and riches for God’s glory, I see how far I have yet to go to match their commitment.
Today as Kent and I were driving four hours south from Puerto Princesa to Brooke’s Point, we were approaching Iwahig Penal Colony where a Palawano man is incarcerated. Even though we had many pressing things to do in Brooke’s Point, We felt impressed to stop and see if we could visit the man.
A few days earlier, a guard had called me to report that the prisoner was having a hard time breathing and felt like he was going to die. The guard had him taken to the hospital, but there our friend felt he hadn’t received good care, and he was told that the medicines he needed were not available.
Since it was an unofficial visit, we were only allowed to talk with our prisoner friend through the fence. He was very happy and relieved to see familiar faces. As we chatted, I realized again what it means to be imprisoned. You can only do what the guards allow and go where they permit. You cannot choose your doctor. If he dislikes you for some reason, you won’t receive the best of care. You cannot eat when and what you would like. You can only buy extra food if someone gives you money, but you are out of luck if most your friends are Palawano who don’t have money and find it very hard to travel to the prison to visit you.
This man knows his condition. He is condemned. Sometimes he feels frantic. Most the time he feels hopeless. It is a miserable way to live.
But what about the rest of us? We can do what we want, go where we want and eat and drink at our leisure. But are we really free? The Great Controversy reminds me that Satan deceives us into thinking we are free when actually we are his prisoners. For unless we have found freedom in Christ and willingly submit in obedience to Him, we are bound in sin. I was a prisoner before I understood that true freedom only comes through willingly surrendering my life to Christ, the One who has my greatest good in mind. As I have learned to trust Him I have found true freedom, no matter my situation, whether literally bound in a jail, bound in my body or bound in a situation I can do nothing about.
As we minister in the Philippines, we run into people all the time who cling to their culture and their old way of life. What was good enough for their forefathers is good enough for them. They are bound by tradition and imprisoned by their origins. That is where they feel comfortable, but it is a false security. They are wrapped in chains and totally unaware of it. They are living the life of the condemned, turning away from the Good News of salvation through Jesus that is in their midst.
Whose prisoner are you? Are you living in a delusion of security but actually chained to this world? Or have you, too, found real freedom through Christ? Am I truly convinced of where we are in Earth’s history? Are you? Am I aware of my true condition? Are you?
I want to be able to say as did Paul, “For this cause I, Leonda, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Palawanos . . .” (Eph. 3:1).
Lord, may I be willing to literally do anything You call me to, “For I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.”