Have you ever felt like you were a victim of circumstances? Due to lack of education or money you have missed opportunities? Maybe if you had not married right out of high school you could have explored the world instead of getting tied down. Now you are sacrificing your own dreams in order to create a better life for your family. Meanwhile someone else wishes they had married so they could be experiencing a family. Now those are examples of being a victim of your own choices and not necessarily circumstances beyond your own control. Other people feel like they were born victims.
Some blame the location of where they were born on how their lives turned out. Several years ago a friend came to visit me from South America. We were stopped at an intersection where a man was begging. My friend was amazed that their were poor people in the United States. She thought all Americans were wealthy. No matter where we come from or what our lot is in life, it is sometimes easy to see ourselves as victims of circumstances.
While I enjoy my freedom of being single, there are times I miss having a family. By the way, just because I am happy being single does not mean I have chosen to remain single. I am just happy being single until God brings me the right woman. I am not desperate. I am happily content. Anyway, I was talking to a friend the other day about one of the things I miss about not having my own family. I miss having someone to share my story with. I don’t have a wife to share my school yearbook with and tell her my high school and college stories. I don’t have any children to tell my, “when I was a kid” stories to. Then again, I know married people who sadly, don’t have anyone in their family who wants to hear their story either.
My friend then made an amazing comparison. She told me while I have no family to share my stories with that I share them with my church family and extended family on my blog. She told me Paul was the same way. Maybe that is why he wrote so much and loved his church so much, because, having no immediate family, the church was his love and passion and he wrote sharing his story and testimony with them. Maybe that is why he wrote so much! Now I have no doubt Paul wrote because God told him to, and I write too (While I do not share Paul’s inspiration or authority) because God places things on my heart. But it got me to thinking about Paul’s circumstances and one thing I have always noticed.
While being persecuted and in prison Paul never thought of himself as a victim of circumstances. He never even though of himself as a victim of the Jews or Romans while in prison. Paul writes,
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles..Ephesians 3:1
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you… Ephesians 4:1
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner:2 Timothy 1:8
Paul never refers to being a prisoner of the Romans or Jews. He does not talk about being a prisoner of circumstances. Even while in prison Paul saw himself as a prisoner of the Lord! He knew he was right exactly where God wanted him to be. Paul did most of his writing from prison. If he had been free to travel and talk to people in person, he would not have written so much, and we would not have had all of his writings preserved in the New Testament that we have today. Paul was well aware of how an angel freed Peter from prison. Paul was well aware of how Philip just disappeared from one place and appeared in another. Paul knew that the iron bars and soldiers were not really holding him there. He knew he was right where God needed him to be, so he calls himself a prisoner of the Lord instead of a prisoner of man or circumstances.
I have a friend who recently took a job that she was well over qualified for. Based on her education and degree she should be somewhere else making much more money. She may have even faced ridicule from her friends and family for “lowering” herself to take this job, but where she is living, and based on other “circumstances” this was the best she could do for now. However she never complains. Instead she tells me of the people she meets there who need Jesus, that she never would have been able to reach out to if she was not working with them. They never would have come to her church. She never would have met them working anyplace else. She is glad she is where she is because she is being used by God to reach people who need Him! And really isn’t that where we all should be?
No matter where we are born and raised and work, our real home is in heaven and we are just missionaries to this world, sent from God to share the good news with others. Some of us may be missionaries in places of poverty. Some of us may be missionaries in our families, or if we have no immediate family then in our church family and communities. Some of us may be missionaries in difficult work places, and some of us may be missionaries in literal prisons. Either way we are not prisoners of circumstances. If we love God and have chosen to serve Him, we are only prisoners of the Lord.
You can study this week’s SS lesson here.