Going Back There

Going Back There

Today’s guest post is taken from Jill McSheehy’s new Bible Study, Journey through Acts.

“They think they got it all,” my dad told me after my mom’s surgery. With a one-month-old baby girl and a four-year-old boy, I felt huge relief that my mom’s cancer hadn’t spread. As soon as she recuperated, she would return to the freedom of good health. But only a few months later, the cancer returned in a treatable location. Again, with treatment, everything looked good again. But two years later, the cancer traveled to her lungs, rendering her Stage IV diagnosis incurable.

After gaining freedom from cancer, she continued to hear that she had to, in a manner of speaking, “go back there,” to the place where the disease held her captive. But as a woman of faith, she knew God would use her suffering for His glory, and she trusted Him even when it didn’t make sense to others.

In Acts 5, we see the apostles proclaiming Jesus in the temple complex, only to be arrested by the jealous religious leaders. Then, a miracle occurs.

“But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out and said, ‘Go and stand in the temple complex, and tell the people all about this life.’” (Acts 5:19-20).

How incredible! But do you notice where the angel instructs them to go?

The angel instructs them to stand in the temple complex and continue to teach. Wait a minute. Isn’t that where they had just been arrested? Verse 12 says they were in Solomon’s Colonnade, which is a part of the temple complex. I can imagine the apostles thinking, “Come again? You want us to go back there?” But they obey without question.

Sometimes we find freedom in an area only to be sent right back to the same place. Our instinct is to run far away, to enjoy our chain-free hands! But when we’re told (or forced) to go back, are we willing to exalt Christ?

That area of insecurity?

Just when you feel you’ve got it conquered, you’re sent “back there” so you can again put your dependence on Christ and help others who share your insecurity find freedom.

That addiction?

You’re not that person anymore and don’t want any part of it. But perhaps God is calling you to help others overcome their addiction, and you understand them in a way few others can.

That illness?

If God, in His sovereignty, allows it to return, He has a purpose for you there. Seek where you can share this life you have with others.

The purpose of our freedom isn’t solely for freedom’s sake. It’s to help fellow prisoners find the One who can set them free.

In what areas of life have you found freedom? Would you be willing to “go back” to show others how Christ freed you from your previous chains?

The Jailer in Your Prison

I’m not fond of suffering. Are you? I expect certain things of life: to work hard, raise my kids, live securely, worship comfortably in my church of choice, and live to a ripe old age, where Jesus will graciously take me home in my sleep. Is your head nodding? Is that your plan, too? In our view of the future, our plans don’t include unemployment lines, oncology clinics, marital therapy, hospital stays, fertility clinics, U-haul trucks, church changes, and relationship losses. And it certainly doesn’t include torture and imprisonment for our faith. Yet that was what Paul and Silas experienced during their unfair imprisonment in Philippi.

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

Do you notice their first response in that cold, dark, filthy prison cell? Hymns. No resistance or fighting this unfair treatment. We don’t hear desperate, frantic, angry prayers for deliverance while they cry their eyes out (which would be more in keeping with how some of us would handle this situation). Instead we see faith in the sovereign God who directed their steps to this very place, the same city where Lydia and her household believed. We see their trust in a God who must have higher plans for their suffering than they can see at this moment.

And then we see a miracle.

The earth shakes, the prison doors open, and a jailer on the brink of suicide finds life in Christ. This jailbreak isn’t for their benefit. It’s all about the jailer. His freedom in Christ takes priority here. In a beautiful display of God’s working all things together for good (Romans 8:28), we see the second conversion in the city of Philippi. The jailer, in the course of this one evening, goes from certain physical and spiritual death to life. (And Paul and Silas, after being tended to and fed, remain in jail for the night.)

I suspect the last thing we feel like doing in the midst of suffering is singing. Yet that’s what Paul and Silas did. Because this is so contrary to human nature, it’s hard to accept the truth of this passage. We can’t imagine such a thing. Note to self: if we have followed God’s leading and end up suffering, there is a reason God has allowed it. That reason may have nothing to do with us but everything to do with getting the message of Christ to a seeking heart. In the end, it’s all about Him—and His kingdom.

You may find yourself in your own prison—an arresting illness, a difficult relationship, an unforeseen circumstance. Instead of lamenting your pain, look for the jailer—the one you wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise, the one who may need to hear of Christ, the one who needs love, the one who needs to be spiritually set free.

Are you in a “prison” today?

Write down the potential reason may have nothing to do with us but everything to do with getting the message of Christ to a seeking heart. In the end, it’s all about Him—and His kingdom.

You may find yourself in your own prison—an arresting illness, a difficult relationship, an unforeseen circumstance. Instead of lamenting your pain, look for the jailer—the one you wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise, the one who may need to hear of Christ, the one who needs love, the one who needs to be spiritually set free.

Are you in a “prison” today?

Write down the potential “jailers” in this prison to whom you can share the hope you have in Christ.

JOIN JILL’S JOURNEY ON FACEBOOK

Jill is also hosting a Journey through Acts Facebook group starting January 16th, where she will provide weekly video lessons and discussions. Members of the group also will get free downloadable memory verse cards. Click here for more information. (Link: http://journeywithjill.net/product/membership-journey-acts-facebook-group/)

Click here to order your copy, and enter the code JOURNEY15 to get 15% off and free shipping! (US Only, through 1/31/17)

(Link to product: http://journeywithjill.net/product/journey-through-acts/)

JOIN ME ON THE PORCH

If you are interested in participating this study with me, we will begin in early February on Friday mornings at 10 a.m. Order your book through the above link. I am also organizing a group to meet at 7 a.m. on Thursdays for those who need to be at work by 8 a.m. Please email me if you are interested in joining either group at kvhen@hotmail.com

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