When Jesus came to set captives free, he came for you and me, not just the people who were staring out through prison bars. Does a prisoner always know what it’s like to be free?
I could be bound and not know it.
Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Innocent in their own self-justifying way, the most highly respected religious leaders of Jesus’ day lacked the capacity to understand what “life” they were missing. They had no idea what freedom could exist in hearing and following God’s Son.
“Prison” experiences can change our outlook on life.
I’ve never been on the inside, looking out, but I’ve read enough and seen enough that I would never want to be there—unless my arrest came from disobeying man’s law while obeying God’s Law. Being Christian doesn’t guarantee that I will avoid all types of hardships.
Paul’s ministry from behind bars must have improved as time went on. His prison was not always a dungeon. Paul had visitors in several prisons, including Caesarea and Rome. I would not be surprised to read an ancient report that Cornelius visited him several times.
From either side of the bars, Paul was kind and courteous, spreading the Good News that we can be free.
In Egypt, Joseph didn’t let adversity hinder his faith.
In prison, Joseph’s relationship with the Lord remained strong, or he couldn’t have interpreted the butler’s and baker’s dreams. After being forgotten and left in prison for another two years, he didn’t lose his faith, or he couldn’t have interpreted Pharaoh’s dream.
No matter what restrictive bars I face, I have good reasons to trust in God.
When Joseph had a spiritual dream where the sun, moon, and stars bowed to him, he had a reason to trust God’s plan while under the threat of death. Sold into slavery and unjustly accused and imprisoned, he never wavered. After Paul met Jesus on the way to Damascus and was healed and filled with the Spirit, he could trust God’s plan through beatings, shipwrecks, and imprisonment. But John the baptizer, the one Jesus said was the greatest man to have ever lived, identified Jesus as the Messiah at baptism. Yet while John was in prison, he had his doubts.
To remain strong behind bars, I must remind myself of the good reasons I have to trust God.
Troubles press us from every direction, but we aren’t crushed. We may not know what to do, yet we’re confident that everything will work out. Enemies may attack us, but God stands with us. We may be knocked to the ground, but God will raise us up. — 2 Corinthians 4:8–9