Prisoners of Jesus Christ: Expecting Interruptions and Anticipating Inconveniences

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus. More specifically, today’s selected reading is found in the first thirteen verses of the third chapter. When the third chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation opens it does so with a rather peculiar introduction. If you begin reading the third chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation you will find that he begins this chapter with a tremendous reference to himself. Consider if you will the opening verse of the third chapter and that which the apostle Paul wrote concerning himself: “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles” (Ephesians 3:1). The third chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation begins with the apostle Paul referring to himself in a completely different manner than anything he had previous used before. As we have already journeyed through the epistle unto the Romans, the twin epistles unto the Corinthians, and the epistle written unto the churches in Galatia we find the apostle Paul referring to himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. If you read and study each of the epistles which the apostle Paul—whether they be written unto churches or specific individuals—you will find the apostle Paul speaking of himself as an apostle of Christ by the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider for a moment how the apostle Paul opened each of the epistles he wrote unto various churches and individuals he wrote to.

Unto the saints which were at Rome the apostle began his epistle with these words: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). Unto the saints which were at Corinth the apostle Paul began his first letter with these words: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ though the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother”. (1 Corinthian 1:1). Unto the saints which were at Corinth the apostle Paul began his second epistle using these words: “Paul and apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia” (2 Corinthians 1:1). When writing unto the churches which were in Galatia the apostle Paul began that particular epistle using the following words: “Paul, and apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1). Unto the saints which were at Ephesus the apostle Paul began that particular letter using the following words “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). When writing unto the saints which were at Philippi the apostle Paul wrote: “Paul and TImotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). Unto the saints which were at Colossae the apostle Paul began his epistle: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and TImotheus our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colossae” (Colossians 1:1). In his first epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Thessalonica the apostle Paul wrote: “Paul, and SIlvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1). In the second epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Thessalonians the apostle Paul writes: “Paul, and SIlvanus, and TImotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:1). In his first epistle which was written unto Timothy his spiritual son in the faith the apostle Paul writes “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus CChrist, which is our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1). When writing his second epistle unto Timothy the apostle Paul opened that epistle with these words: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:1). When writing unto Titus the apostle Paul wrote the following words in the opening verse: “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (Titus 1:1). Finally, when writing unto Philemon the apostle Paul writes the following words in the opening verse “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow-labourer” (Philemon 1:1).

If you study the New Testament you will find and discover that the apostle Paul wrote thirteen letters which are now and have been found therein. Of those thirteen epistles you will find the apostle Paul begins and opens five which begin with the apostle Paul referring to himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ unto the Gentiles which were in the region of Asia. Those five epistles were the first epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth, the second epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Corinth, the third epistle was the epistle which was written unto the churches which were in Asia, the fourth epistles was the epistle which was written unto the saints which were in Ephesus, and the fifth and final epistle was the epistle which was written unto the Colossians. In three of those epistles the Paul did not begin by referring to himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, but rather as a servant of Jesus Christ. The first of those epistles was the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Rome, the second of those epistles was the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Philippi, and the third epistle was the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Titus. Thus far of the thirteen epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto churches and individuals alike, five of those epistles began with the apostle Paul referring to himself as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Three of the thirteen epistles which the apostle Paul wrote began with his referring to himself as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s quite interesting—particularly and especially when you consider it in light of that which we find and read in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Ephesians—is that when writing unto Philemon the apostle Paul began that epistle with the same words he used in the third chapter of this epistle. The apostle Paul began the epistle which was written unto Philemon with the words “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ,” which is more than simply a title that was designating his position, role and title. When the apostle Paul wrote unto Philemon and spoke of himself as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ” that which the apostle Paul was doing was indicating and revealing unto Philemon his current state which was indeed and was in fact a prisoner.

If you study the thirteen epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto individuals and churches alike you will find that there were four of those thirteen epistles which were, have been, and are still commonly known as “the prison epistles.”: What I mean by “prison epistles” is those epistles which weren’t written from a place of freedom and liberty, but epistles which were written from a place of bondage and imprisonment. If you read and study the New Testament book of the Acts of the apostles you will find and discover that there were specific instances when the apostle Paul was himself imprisoned over his ministry for and on behalf of the kingdom of God. More specifically, the apostle Paul wasn’t merely imprisoned because of the words which he preached concerning Jesus Christ and the gospel of the kingdom, but also because of the signs, the wonders and the miracles he performed by the demonstration of the Spirit of God. The apostle Paul was certainly no stranger to suffering for Christ, nor the persecution which came as a result of living ion this world as a servant for the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul was certainly no stranger to being cast into prisons and put in chains for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. I have already mentioned that four of the epistles which the apostle Paul were not written from a place of liberty and freedom as the others were, but were written from a place of chains, shackles, fetters and prison bars. Of the thirteen epistles which the apostle Paul wrote which are found in the New Testament four of those epistles were written specifically and directly from prison. The third chapter of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus indicates that the epistle of Ephesians was written from a place of bondage and imprisonment. The very fact that he began the epistle written unto Philemon with the words “a prisoner of Jesu Christ” suggests and reveals that when writing this epistle the apostle Paul was once more imprisoned and was no moving around as a free man. Later on in the epistle which was written unto Philemon the apostle Paul would rise the following words: “yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ” (Philemon 9).

By referring to himself as “a prisoner of Jesus Christ” in both the epistle unto the Ephesians, as well as the apostle unto Philemon we discover the reality that both of these epistles were indeed written from a place of imprisonment. Twice in the epistle written unto Philemon and once in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Ephesus we find the apostle Paul referring to himself as a “prisoner of Jesus Christ,” which was not only a statement concerning his present reality, but also a statement concerning an even deeper and even greater reality—one that goes beyond the natural and physical realm and extends into the spiritual and supernatural realm. With that being said, and before we get ahead of ourselves it is necessary that we examine the epistle written unto the Philippians, as well as the epistle which was written unto the Colossians, for both of these epistles were written from the same place as were Ephesians and Philemon. In fact, if and when you read the epistle which was written unto the Philippians you will find specific references which the apostle made that indicate his present reality and experience. In the seventh verse of the first chapter of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Philippi the apostle Paul wrote these words: “…even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace” (Philippians 1:7). In the thirteenth and fourteenth verses of this same chapter and epistle the apostle Paul writes the following words: “…so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other palaces; and many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:13-14). Just two verses later in this very same chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul writes these words: “…the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds” (Philippians 1:16). Four times within the first chapter of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Philippi the apostle Paul referenced “bonds,” which can and should otherwise be interpreted and understood as the word “chains.” When the apostle Paul speaks of his bonds in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Philippi that which he was ultimately doing was speaking of the chains in which he was currently held and fastened by.

While twice in the epistle written unto Philemon the apostle Paul referred to himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and once in the epistle which was written unto the Ephesians the apostle Paul referred to himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ there are additional references of the apostle’s imprisonment for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. I have already presented you with each of the references found within the first chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippians where the apostle Paul speaks of the chains of his suffering, as well as the chains of his imprisonment. Four times within the first chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippians the apostle Paul writes concerning the chains which he has been fastened and secured, thus indicating the cost that is sometimes associated—not only with being an apostle of Jesus Christ, but also a servant of Jesus Christ. In fact, what I absolutely love about the epistle which was written unto the Philippians is that there seems to be an apparent connection between being a servant of Jesus Christ, as well as being in chains for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ and the kingdom of heaven. The apostle Paul opened up and began the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Philippi by speaking of himself—as well as Timothy his spiritual son in the faith—as “the servants of Jesus Christ.” This is actually quite interesting and remarkable, for it would have been one thing for the apostle Paul to open up and begin this letter with his customary reference to his being an apostle of Jesus Christ, but that is not what the apostle Paul did on this particular instance. What the apostle did when writing unto the saints which were at Philippi was speak of himself as a servant of Jesus Christ first, and then four times within the very same chapter of the very same epistle the apostle Paul spoke of the chains in which he was presently bound. Oh, please don’t miss the significance of this, for it’s one thing to be imprisoned as an apostle of Jesus Christ, for that is what we find early on in the New Testament book of Acts and during the days of the early church. I will get into such occurrences later, but suffice it to say that it is something else entirely to be imprisoned—not as an apostle of Jesus Christ, but rather as a servant of Jesus Christ.

I absolutely love that the apostle Paul speaks of himself as a servant of Jesus Christ in the epistle written unto the Philippian saints and then spoke of the chains he was in while writing unto them, for it reveals that even as a servant of Jesus Christ we can in fact find ourselves in chains for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, and concerning the kingdom of God. Paul referred to himself once as a servant of Jesus Christ, but then four times no more than six verses later he spoke of the chains he was in as a servant of Jesus Christ, thus indicating the tremendous reality that sometimes being a servant of Christ and finding ourselves in chains are not separate and even independent of each other. When we think about and consider the reality of being a servant of Christ we rarely consider the fact that being a servant of Jesus Christ can in fact carry with it chains, and shackles and fetters. When we think of living as a servant of Jesus Christ in this generation we tend to think of it in terms of continued freedom and liberty, and rarely if ever do we consider it in terms of imprisonment for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In all reality, I am convinced that we in the Western church are too spoiled for our own good, for we have never had to deal with or experience half the struggles the apostles of the early Church experienced on a regular and seemingly routine basis. Even those who were found to be present in the generation after the apostles found that serving Christ and finding themselves in chains weren’t at all separate and independent from each other. I can’t help but think about the countless Christians during the early years of the church under the oppression and tyranny of Rome were imprisoned for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, and for calling and claiming themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ. There were countless men, women, and even children who were not only cast into prison for being a follower of Jesus Christ, but were also sentenced to the Roman games in the Colosseum where they were either butchered by gladiators, or devoured and torn apart by wild beasts and animals. There were others who shared the same death as did Jesus Christ by being crucified upon a cross. There were others who were beheaded, and still others who experienced a whole host of various means of suffering, persecution, punishment, and the like.

When writing unto the saints which were at Philippi the apostle Paul spoke four different times concerning the chains he was presently in for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, which bring us face to face with the reality that when he wrote this epistle he was indeed and was in fact in prison. If you read all four of the prison epistles you will find that these four occurrences within the epistle to the Philippians weren’t the only reference to the chains and bonds in which the apostle Paul found himself. Towards the end of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation and saints the apostle Paul wrote the following words: “…for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:20. In the fourth chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Colossian congregation the apostle Paul wrote the following words in the third verse: “…withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:3). In the eighteenth verse of the very same chapter the apostle Paul goes on to write the following words: “The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds” (Colossians 4:18). The reference to bonds in the epistle written unto the Colossian congregation speak to, suggest and reveal the reality that when writing this epistle he was doing so from a place of chains, shackles, bonds and fetters. Even when writing unto Philemon in the epistle addressed to him the apostle Paul referenced the chains and bonds he was presently held by. On two separate occasions within the epistle written unto Philemon the apostle Paul referenced the bonds he found himself in for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. In the tenth verse of the epistle the apostle Paul writes the following words: “I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds” (Philemon 10). Just three verses later in the thirteenth verse of the same epistle we find the following words “…whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel” (Philemon 13). It is absolutely necessary and critical that we recognize and understand the words the apostle Paul wrote concerning the bonds, the chains and the shackles he experienced for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, as well as for being a servant of Jesus Christ. When writing unto Philemon the apostle Paul twice referred to himself as a prison of Jesus Christ, and twice spoke of the bonds and chains in which he found himself.

It is absolutely necessary that I present unto you three specific accounts of imprisonment found within the New Testament book of Acts, as well as the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, for in both of these books we encounter the tremendous cost for standing firm as a servant of Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that in each of these books we encounter and come face to face with the reality spending our days living as servants of Jesus Christ doesn’t always mean we can and will experience it in comfort, convenience, peace and security. If I am being honest with you who are reading this, and even with myself, I would dare say that we in the Western church have engaged ourselves in a comfortable and convenient Christianity. We in the Western church know absolutely nothing of the suffering and persecution the saints of the early church experienced on a daily and routine basis. What’s more, is that we in the Western Church know nothing about the suffering and persecution the saints in the Middle East, and even in counties such as China, Russia and Turkey are experiencing for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. What’s more is that there are many of our churches which are nothing more than a bed and breakfast where men and women can come and get coffee, and bagels, and donuts, and the like, and experience nothing more than convenience, comfort, peace and security. If I am being honest with myself and with you who are reading this writing we in the western Church have become far too comfortable and far too complacent in our faith and in our walk with Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that I would dare say that there are many among us in the western church who would completely fall apart and be unable to handle and cope with suffering and persecution. In fact, I wonder how many of us in the western church would respond if we dealt with a fraction of what the apostles and early church dealt with and experienced should it ever reach the shores of America and make its way inland and throughout the country. What would happen if just like hurricanes make landfall during hurricane season suffering, persecution, imprisonment and the like all of a sudden reached our shores and made landfall? I would venture to say that there would be a vast and fundamental difference between hurricanes that reach our shore and suffering and persecution reaching our shore. When we speak of hurricanes reaching our shore—more often than not we are given advanced notice and advanced warning and have time to evacuate or hunker down and weather the storm. Depending on the threat of the hurricane itself evacuation might in fact be mandatory and not an option. When we speak of suffering and persecution coming to the shores of our country and making landfall I don’t believe we can and will have any advanced warning or notice. I do not believe the Lord is going to announce ahead of time suffering and persecution is going to arrive. If and when suffering and persecution might strike the shores of our country, I do not believe the Lord is going to give us advance warning and notice, but will instead allow it to take place.

I feel it necessary to present you with three specific accounts found within the New Testament book of Acts which describe the apostles of Jesus Christ finding themselves imprisoned for the sake of the gospel concerning Jesus . In the fifth chapter of the New Testament book of the Acts we find the following words concerning the apostles and the opposition that rose up against them from the religious community in Jerusalem: “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest came, and they they were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. Now when the high priest and the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people” (Acts 5:17-25). In the twelfth chapter of the same New Testament book we find the following account of Peter being imprisoned: “And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was k pet in prison: but prayer was made without feasting of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out and followed him; and wrist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews” (Acts 12:3-11).

In the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the account of Paul and Silas who were themselves cast into prison: “And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jealous to keep them safely.: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awakening out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (Acts 16:23-28). The account of the apostles in the fourth chapter, the account of Peter in the twelfth chapter, and the account of Paul and Silas in the sixteenth chapter all point to the reality that more often than not serving Christ and being a servant of Christ doesn’t always mean spending our days and nights in comfort and convenience. If I am being honest I would dare say that there are a number of us who feel as though our lives should be spent living in comfort and convenience, and that we should never be inconvenienced, made to be uncomfortable, or even to experience any thing that would disrupt our normal Christian life. What’s more, is that I am convinced that a number of us—particularly in the Western church—have come to expect, and even feel entitled to convenience and comfort when it comes to our relationship with and our walk before the Lord Jesus Christ. We grow angry, upset, bitter and offended when anything disturbs and disrupts our quiet, convenient and comfortable Christianity, and we even grow angry and offended toward and with God. Perhaps the single greatest question I am finding myself asking when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote concerning being a prisoner of Christ Jesus is whether or not we have the capacity to be interrupted and inconvenienced within and throughout the course of our lives. Have we become so accustomed to living our quiet, normal, comfortable, predictable, convenient Christian lives that we have absolutely no capacity or bandwidth for anything that would somehow inconvenience us?

The apostle Paul was absolutely no stranger to being inconvenience and interrupted within, during and throughout his Christian walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, if you turn and direct your attention to the eleventh chapter of the second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints you will find a great amount written concerning a life that was full of interruptions and inconveniences. Beginning with the twenty-second verse of the eleventh verse we find the following words: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labour more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:22-28). It is quite clear from the words of the apostle Paul in this passage of Scripture that he routinely and regularly experienced inconvenience and interruptions, and as surely as he boasted in his weaknesses, I am also convinced that he expected interruptions and anticipated inconveniences. EXPECTING INTERRUPTIONS AND ANTICIPATING INCONVENIENCES! If I am being honest with you who are reading this, as well as with myself and with the Lord, I have an incredibly difficult time with interruptions and being inconvenienced. I have a very difficult time with anything that interrupts my routine, and that which I have planned and mapped out for my day, or even my week. In fact, most times I grow irritated and frustrated when my routine is interrupted and I am somehow inconvenienced. In all reality, I would dare say that I have little tolerance and patience for any interruptions and inconveniences in my life. The more I read the words of the apostle Paul the more I come face to face with the reality that the apostle Paul expected interruptions and anticipated inconveniences, and it’s almost as if he was prepared for it.

As I am sitting here right now I can’t help but think within myself that we ourselves need to reach the point within our spiritual journeys and walks when we like Paul expect interruptions and anticipate inconveniences, for such realities demonstrate the powerful reality that life isn’t about us at all. When I read the apostle Paul referring to himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ I can’t help but find those words to be incredibly challenged, for by speaking those words the apostle Paul perfectly demonstrates the tremendous reality that his life did not belong to him. For the apostle Paul to write that he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ was an emphatic statement that his life had been interrupted and inconvenienced, and that it wasn’t man who had initiated such an interruption or inconvenience, but rather Jesus Christ Himself. What’s more, is that by referring to himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ the apostle Paul was declaring that what he was experiencing in the natural and physical realm was but an expression and manifestation of the spiritual realm. The apostle Paul might have found himself in chains and shackles and fetters, but those chains and shackles only served to reveal the tremendous reality that his life did not belong to him. I am convinced that Paul’s being imprisoned more oft and more frequently perfectly and powerfully demonstrates the tremendous reality that his life was completely and totally out of his hands. When in chains and in shackles, and when in prisons and dungeons alike the apostle Paul found himself in a place where he was not in control of his own life. What’s more, is that during such times he was not in control of his own comfort and convenience. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for more often than not the single greatest tool used in effectively ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ is through our interruptions and inconveniences. The very fact that the apostle Paul was in chains and in prison demonstrated the fact that he was not in control of the comforts, the securities, the conveniences, and the various other realities in our lives we like to be in control of. The question I can’t help but ask you who are reading this is whether or not you are willing to be a prisoner of Jesu Christ—not necessarily being a literal prisoner of Jesus Christ in chains and shackles, but being a prison of Jesus Christ in that you are no longer in control of your comforts, your securities, your conveniences, your routine, your plans, and the like. By being a person who is a prisoner of Jesus Christ we readily acknowledge that we are no longer in control of our lives, that we are no longer in control of our comforts and conveniences, that we are able to handle deal with inconveniences and interruptions, and that our lives are not our own. What’s more, is that it is only those who are able to allow themselves to be prisoners of Jesus Christ—perhaps not necessarily in the physical and natural realm, but in the spiritual realm—who are truly able to be effective ministers of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, for more often than not we can do more from a place of inconvenience and interruption than we can from a place of comfort, security, ease, and convenience. Oh that we would be prisoners of Christs who are able to handle chains and bonds as tools and testaments of our truly living our lives as servants of Jesus Christ who are no longer in control of our own comforts, securities, conveniences, and that which we would ultimately like being in control of.

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