Are you free? Free in Spirit? Can you move freely about unencumbered by the burdens of your past? Past wrongs, past hurts, past sins? Or are you living in the confines of your shortcomings? Does your sin keep you chained? Do you feel you can only go so far and then it yanks you back to where the borders it defines for you? Does it make you heel under the haunting shadow of failure?
A missionary from Africa once spoke to me about a village he visited. On its outskirts there was a large elephant tied with a small rope to a stake in the ground. The villagers told him that it was taken as a baby, and tied it to the stake. The elephant would pull against the rope, straining hard to break free from its bondage, but it couldn’t. Eventually the elephant gave up, and as it grew no longer tested the bonds that kept it in captivity. It accepted that it couldn’t be free from the rope. So there were large circle in the ground where the elephant tramped about in its daily walk, just on the limits of the outstretched rope.
That elephant, once grown could have easily pulled the stake from the ground, or broken the rope that prevented him from living the life God ordained an elephant to live. And yet, in its mind, the rope was too strong, the bondage insurmountable, the hope of freedom a distant memory. The past failures defined the limits of life in the present. It accepted that the small circle was all the life it had.
Have your past failures convinced you that freedom isn’t an option? Has it gotten you to accept the limitations of how far you can go? Of what you can and can’t do? Have you accepted the small space those chains allow you to move in?
Jesus came to earth to set the captives free. He came, He lived, He died, and He rose again so that sin could no longer hold us captive. He freed us from the shackles of the past, the yoke of bondage and offered freedom in place of failure.
He came that we might have life, and not just life but life more abundantly. It’s His Will that we move freely through that life, unshackled and unfettered. No chain or tether can withstand the mercy of God. Our sins He remembers no more, the Bible says, and so we are freed from the past, free from the bondage and oppression of sin.
Repentance and baptism in Jesus name breaks the hold that sin and wrong have in our life. When we go down in the water of that baptismal tank and the blood He shed on the cross washes us white as snow, the shackles that bound us are broken. Whom the Son has set free is free indeed!
It’s then up to us to move beyond the life of bondage, to step into the freedom He died for. The scripture says to walk in the newness of life, that means we are to move beyond where we were when He found us. God called each of us to go into the world, proclaiming the Name that is above every name, the only name that can set others free, the name of Jesus.
But we aren’t perfect, we don’t get it right 100% of the time. We fall, we mess up, and we miss the mark. But the failures and shortcomings can’t define us, the number of times we’ve fallen can’t be the number that matters. It’s the number of times you get back up, dust yourself off and try again that matters. “Rejoice not against me, oh my enemy, for when I fall I SHALL arise” (Micah 7:8)
Our minds are often our worst enemy, constantly reminding us of the mistakes, the failures. It says “You can’t do that, you’ll just mess it up again, you can’t live that, you’ll just fail again.” And when we allow that mentality to have sway, we once again find ourselves living in a limited world, prisoner to our own thoughts. We pick up the chains we were once freed from and place them around our necks once more.
We stop striving to do the work of God, and become content or complacent in living far smaller than God would have us live. We fall into the routines and habits of life, accepting as the elephant did that we couldn’t be more, that we couldn’t be different, that we couldn’t live in liberty.
And yet, all it takes is to take a step beyond what we’ve accepted as the limit of our life. To determine that we won’t live in the shadow of the past wrongs and step out. The self-imposes chains will fall, the fear of failure fades as the strength of the Almighty gives us the confidence and courage to move forward the freedom He wants in your life. All it takes is the faith to make one step.
We must never accept the limitations that our flesh will try to place on us. “I could never preach, I’ve done too many bad things” – Paul was a murderer, He persecuted the early church. But once Jesus stepped in, he did amazing things for God, a preacher, a missionary to the Gentiles, and as a teacher. His books make up a good portion of the New Testament.
“I could never be a leader in my church, I’ve messed up too many times”. The rock upon which Jesus said He would build His church denied that he knew him in His last hours of life. And yet Peter stood on the day of Pentecost to proclaim what those gathered must do to be saved.
“I can never move past all my wrongs”, my Bible says, “I can do ALL things through Christ, who strengtheneth me” (Phillipians 4:13, KJV). We’ve all sinned and come short, no one sin measured heavier than another.
And so it has to be a mindset, a spiritual mindset, that we are more that what our flesh tells us we are. Through Christ, His mercy, His strength we move past the limitations we’ve perceived to be our life’s boundary. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
Let that be our prayer each day, I AM persuaded. Even when I fall, I AM persuaded. Lord, I’ve messed up again, but I Am persuaded. I am persuaded that You have more for me and there’s more for me to do for You. That Your Will is for me to live outside of the chains of yesterday, and in the freedom of today and in the joy of tomorrow.