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 others wish they had married so they could be experiencing a family. Now those are examples of being a victim of our own choices and not necessarily circumstances beyond our own control. Others 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 there were poor people in the United States. She thought all Americans were wealthy because America is known as the land of opportunity. It seems that, no matter where people come from or what their lot is in life, they can see them selves as victims of circumstances.
While I enjoy my freedom of being single, there are times I miss having a family. 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 with whom to share my stories. I don’t have a wife with whom I can share my school yearbook and tell her my high school and college stories. I don’t have any children to whom I can tell my “when I was a kid” stories. Then again, I know married people who don’t have anyone in their family who wants to hear their story either. [1. 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.]
My friend then made an amazing comparison. She told me while I have no family with whom to share my stories, I share them with my church family and extended family through blogging. She told me Paul was the same way. Maybe that is why he wrote so much and loved his church so much. Having no immediate family, the church was his love and passion, and he shared his story and testimony with them through his letters. Maybe that is why he wrote so much!
Now I have no doubt Paul wrote because God told him to, and 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. Even while in prison Paul saw himself as a prisoner of the Lord! He knew he was 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 for which she was over-qualified. 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 is the best she can do for now. She never complains. Instead she tells me of the people she meets there who need Jesus, people 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 any place 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.