Straight from a Heart Set Free
By Lisa Elliott

I opened my Bible to the book of Philippians and read, “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus,” then stopped. The Lord had my attention immediately. Paul was in a dank prison cell when he wrote this letter to the church in Philippi, predominantly focusing on joy. How was that even possible?

I had to admit that I was feeling somewhat imprisoned myself. Not by an actual prison cell, of course. Nor was I facing all that Paul was up against. But I was being held captive, nonetheless by certain attitudes, thoughts, and circumstances beyond my control. Words like fear, disappointment, discontentment, and resentment assaulted me even as I sat with Paul.

How did he find such joy and what it was that allowed him to experience such freedom—amid his captivity? How could he rejoice in the Lord (3:1), be thankful in everything (4:6), and be content in all of his unbearable circumstances (4:10-12)?

Here are ten things Paul shared with me in Philippians as we sat together that helped set me free.

  1. Focus on others (1:3-4; 2:3-4). Pray for one another and encourage one another and all the other “one anothers” listed in Scripture. When we are focused on others rather than ourselves it helps keep us out of the prison of self-pity.
  2. Have confidence in the good work that God is doing in our lives. We must cut some of the chains that bind us and remove some of the pressure we place on ourselves by understanding that we are a work in progress (1:6). Rather than relying on ourselves we can rely upon and tap into His power and resources (3:1).
  3. Rally the troops (1:7). Call on those who will uphold you in prayer. Community counts, especially when we’re on our knees together.
  4. Realize God’s greater purpose (1:12-14). Paul saw how God was using his imprisonment for the greater progress of the gospel to help set others free.
  5. Hold fast to the word of life (2:16). God’s Word holds the power of life that conquers death.
  6. Find renewed perspective by setting your mind on heaven (4:4), thinking on things with eternal value (4:8), and putting it all into practice here on earth (4:9).
  7. Expect hardship. We are invited to share in the suffering of Christ in order to know Him and the power of his resurrection (3:7-9). It is a painful privilege. The best lessons are learned in the hardest places. But Christ’s resurrection holds the power to set us free!
  8. Adjust your attitude to the humble attitude of Christ (3:15).
  9. Weigh in the balance. Consider what we gain versus what we forfeit in relationship with the Lord (3:7-9). Forget what’s behind and press on to what lies ahead (3:13-14). And, replace worry with worship (4:6).
  10. Trust that God will provide all our needs (4:19). Experience the freedom that comes with knowing that everything we have comes from Him and belongs to Him.

Paul was able to find freedom with these bondage-breaking insights. I’m thankful he shared them with me.

What is holding you captive? Why not follow Paul’s example for yourself, friends, (3:17) to set the prisoner free!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV).

About this Contributor:

Lisa Elliott

Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple, Dancing in the Rain, and A Ministry Survival Guide. She’s also a writer for Just Between Us Magazine, theStory, and Good Ground. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (three on earth, one in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, ON, Canada.

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