Is it possible that we walk around but have placed ourselves in “self-imposed prisons?” For whatever reason we have allowed the criticism from others, the disapproval, lack of success or jealousy to stop us from accomplishing God’s plan for our lives. It is true. On the Back 9 I see many people who, for multiple reasons, are imprisoned by invisible bars. Allow me to share a brief personal story.
When I was in my early 20’s, I was bold about sharing my faith publicly. Right after I competed in the Miss America contest I traveled all over the country sharing my testimony. I allowed a “human voice” of criticism to stop me from sharing for a while. Toward the end of my reign as Miss South Carolina I was speaking at a Christian women’s club and unknowingly misquoted a scripture. Later I received a letter from someone who attended the event. That letter pointed out my mistake.
Yes, I was young but bold with a very willing heart and right motives. When I received the letter, I allowed the voice of the enemy to “accuse” me, to “condemn” me and basically stop my witness through the, hopefully well-intended, constructive comments of a stranger. Looking back, I was so embarrassed and my pride took a beating so I just stopped. When I was knocked down, I didn’t get up.
I now have learned by evaluated experience that it is not about being knocked down. It is what you do after being knocked down and who you turn to. Now that I am in my 50’s I have also realized the need to be careful in how I deliver constructive comments to people. I also make sure I am being led to interject comments. The letter I received all those years ago was very direct with no praise or softness. It was pretty cruel. I allowed one negative letter to overshadow all the other comments and letters of encouragement and fruit I had received. I needed to grow in my relationship with the Lord and His word and learn to not seek the approval of man but of God.
I have concluded that there are several reasons why “self-imprisonment” takes place…
1. Our relationship with God is not personal and growing thus we bounce around according to another’s opinions or approval. John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
2. We don’t embrace God’s sovereign will. John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Nor have we sought/discovered His individual will for our lives. Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
3. We allow Satan’s voice, or our own voices, or the voices of others to be louder than God’s voice in our lives which by the way has everything to do with reason number 1.
John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”
John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
Jesus basically tells us that we know His voice. Those who belong to the family of God know the voice of God because they know Jesus. To “know” implies an intimate relationship and not just head knowledge.
So we see that having a personal/growing relationship is most important to knowing the voice of God. This is the same phenomenon that occurs when a child knows the voice of his parents. There is an intimate relationship that has developed and grown from infancy.
I was young when I allowed one voice to stop me but I have since grown in my relationship with the Lord. I now fully understand that even when our hearts are fully obedient, because we are human, we will make mistakes. God covers our mistakes. We just need to go to Him and realize it is God’s approval we are seeking, not man’s.
So today, take a step back to see if there are invisible bars in your life that have “jailed” you and kept you from “living out the will of God for your life”. Seek Him. He will do for you what He did for the apostles long ago when they were imprisoned because of the jealousy of the Sadducees. Acts 5:19, “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.” He can and will release you from the bars.
God’s will for you and for me is to walk free in the love, grace, mercy of His love and to make disciples. If you have been knocked down, turn to a holy God and by all means GET UP!