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The chains that once bound me…
are now powerful weapons.
We all have chains–things that have bound us, held us captive, and prevented us from being all that we could be… we think. Oh, they are real enough. While we think they are keeping us from being what God has for us to be, the truth is that they are not.
Those very chains–circumstances, losses, pain, etc.–will be the things that God will use to make us strong. They will be the things that He will enable us to then use against the one who previously sought to bind us.
Those same chains by which I once was bound now bind me in a different way–they bind me in unbreakable bonds of love, trust, and relationship with God. What was once terrible are now my most valued treasures.
This is real to me. I am not just writing words on a page to sound dramatic. Let me give you an example: The abuse I suffered as a child is now beyond value to me in more ways than I can express in these few minutes.
I spent several hours on the phone with someone before writing this message last evening. This person suffered similar abuse as a child and because of my experiences, I was able to recognize his situation and minister to him in a way I never would have been able without my experiences.
We not only identified the root of rejection and pain in his life, but he came to a point of forgiving his parents for their rejection of him. This is the beginning step of his freedom from over seventy years of emotional and spiritual suffering.
My pain has been completely healed and turned into something wonderful. Now I am able to lead others to the same freedom God worked in me. Every time I do, it increases my account on the other side (Jesus’ “treasure in heaven” teaching). Those former chains now enable me to lay up great treasure I would not otherwise have.
This is why I understand and identify with Paul’s words in today’s Scripture passage. He said, “…everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.” I get it. And now, with the gift of hindsight, I willingly choose it. (Perhaps this is why God allowed it.)
The point of today’s message is to encourage you not to resent your hardships but learn to see them as part of the process through which you will be set free and then be able to set others free as you were freed. This is the way it works.
Not everyone has a spectacular “testimony”. Not everyone needs one. Do not envy those who do because you cannot know what they have endured to have it. We all have unique experiences with which someone somewhere will identify and which God will use for our benefit and for the benefit of those to whom we minister.
I said above that the chains that once bound me are now powerful weapons. What does this mean? The enemy sought to prevent me from fulfilling my purpose in God. God, in His grace, now enables me to take this and use it against the enemy by freeing those he sought to bind. In that sense, those chains are potent weapons!
This I have learned as well: While I have a memory of the chains, pain is no longer associated with them. (This is what you have to look forward to!) All that remains is incredible joy in knowing what God has accomplished and enabled because I surrendered the chains to Him.
I said all this to say in closing: It is the same for you. Take courage, be encouraged, accept God’s grace, and know that the existence of something that binds you is evidence that you will be free.
And I want you to know, dear friends, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. (Phil 1:12-13 NLT)
Prayer: LORD, I sometimes struggle in dealing with the hardships of my life. So much has happened, so much has been lost, and so many “could have been’s” will never be. I now know that all of them have value: They have brought me closer to You, allowed others to see what You have done in the circumstances, and taught me lessons I could not have learned any other way. Therefore I am grateful for everything that has happened to me. Use it all as You choose for my benefit, the benefit of others, and Your eternal purpose. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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“Today’s Seed” from E-MIN Jan. 13, 2023