A while after our beloved standard poodle, Margaux, passed away, we knew it was time for another dog. However, we just didn’t have it in us to train up another puppy. An opportunity presented itself for us to rescue a four-year-old male standard poodle. And so, Remy entered our lives. When he came to live with us, we immediately noticed a lack of muscle tone and instability at times. Remy was also unable to stand on his hind legs when we supported his front legs on our shoulders. We learned Remy was confined for long periods during his early years.
What about us? How often do we put ourselves in chains? Or, confine and hold ourselves back?
What are the chains in your life holding you back?
- Fear—you don’t want to appear foolish or you don’t want to fail
- Insecurity—you allow negative thoughts or a poor self-image to dictate your actions
- Circumstances—you’re busy with family or your job is demanding or the children are too young
- Lack—you cave in to your perception of inadequate ability, education, or resources
- Time pressures—or is it just plain laziness?
Those excuses also place the blame on someone or something else rather than squarely on our shoulders. And, we allow our excuses to cage us in and restrain us, not allowing the Lord to use us.
Scripture offers an alternative response which we glean from the imprisonment of the Apostle Paul. Imprisoned several times, including in Rome from approximately AD 60-62, Paul considered himself an ambassador in chains (Ephesians 6:20). Acts 28:16 informs us soldiers guarded Paul, and verse 20 states, “I am bound with this chain.” The custom at that time was to bind a short length of chain to both the wrist of the prisoner and the wrist of a soldier—thus providing no means of escape.
Shackled at the wrist to a guard, enduring beatings, along with his physical limitations, Paul did not allow these circumstances to hold him back. He used this situation to promote the gospel.
Philippians 1:12-14 (NIV) describes Paul acknowledging his chains with furthering the kingdom, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”
During that era, it was common practice to write letters with the assistance of a scribe. Envision Paul sending for a scribe, pacing in his cell while chained to his guard, with the clanging of chains, as he’s dictating his letters. During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote what are known as “The Prison Epistles”—letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Even though Paul dictated his letters to a scribe, he wrote the final greetings, a trademark of his letters, in his own hand. Imagine the reverberating clink and clank of Paul’s chain, tethering him to a guard, as he clumsily signed his letters. Letters that would be added to the canon of Scripture.
Remy’s previous owners had held him back, and our hearts filled with joy when we watched him running in the back yard, playing fetch, and growing stronger every day. He just needed release from the captivity of a cage.
Father God, Allow me to make the most of what I have and not allow excuses to constrain me. I don’t want chains holding me back any longer. Please use me Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Colossians 4:18 (NIV): “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”
2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV): “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 2:9a-10 (NIV): “But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”
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