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Freedom. Spiritual freedom. What a powerful force! It has the power to bring peace of mind and heart in the midst of the worst imaginable storms. It yields a harvest of joy, love and self-discipline. It ripens and grows to become the sweetest imaginable fruit, something that, once tasted, compels you to keep reaching for more.
I understand why the 24 elders in the book of Revelation fall before the throne of God. I believe it stems from an overwhelming gratitude for what He’s redeemed each of them from, and each of us from, and because everyone who ever will be has access to this redemption, too. He gave His very, very best for me, for us, and it humbles me to the core.
See, I know who I am. I see the ugly, selfish thoughts that float through my mind that no one else sees. I know the judgy arrogance that can flit through my mind even as I smile. I feel the tug of the ugliness in me to do all sorts of stupid, destructive things. Still, He loves me. In the midst of my mess and my ugliness and my shame, He still calls me valuable. He still reaches His hand through the gunk to grab a hold of mine. He isn’t ashamed to call me His own.
Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s not that I don’t see my gifts. I do, and they are many. God has made me gracious, wise, compassionate, loving, forthright, caring and kind. But even those are gifts that come from His goodness, special treasures He has placed inside me to use for His honor and glory. That He would entrust me, flawed though I am, with all of those gifts and so many more is humbling. Amazing! Transformative. And the more He harnesses those gifts for His good purposes, the more I feel the joy that walking in freedom produces. It makes me want to be a better person. Not because that earns me anything, but because God is just that great! I want nothing more than to be like Him when I’m walking in freedom.
My biggest challenge is to simply get out of the way. My intellect wants everything logical, orderly, and spelled out in controlled measure. It cries to see a path clearly outlined with running lights marking the way. But it rarely works that way. Walking in spiritual freedom is a lot like Peter choosing to get out of the boat and walk on water out to Jesus. He wanted to do it with every fiber of his being. He wanted to experience a miracle. But the waves whipped high and the wind swirled around him, and his mind screamed, How can this be? This makes no sense! Fear curled around his faith and squeezed tight.
Yet Peter knew what to do. As he started sinking, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” and Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter up in his arms. Lovingly, He said, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30-32). Then, when they get in the boat, the wind dies down. I find this fascinating. God didn’t stop the wind or the waves any sooner; He was teaching Peter that the challenges and obstacles are never too great for His mighty power, and that true miracles can be experienced in the midst of the storm.
Walking in freedom isn’t always freedom from pain, freedom from suffering, freedom from hardship or fear or any of the waves this life throws my way. Rather, it’s the constant reminder to keep my eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:2) no matter the circumstances. He is the eye in the middle of the storm, that place of refuge and respite where my soul is strengthened and my resolve edified. He enables me to work through the fear, the doubt, the disappointment, disillusionment and pain to arrive someplace richer. Some place better. To embrace a whole new level of His freedom.
My prayer for you and I is that in the midst of the storm, when the wind and the waves whip around us, distracting us from the face of God, we remember. We remember to wrestle through the ugly, embracing God’s spiritual truths, knowing His freedom awaits on the other side. And while I won’t feel that deep connection with Jesus 24/7, I can reach for Him 24/7 and He will always come, bearing gifts of peaceful, joyous freedom just waiting for me to grab back a hold of. Then, like the elders, I can bow down and cry out, “The slain Lamb is worthy! Take the power, the wealth, the wisdom, the strength! Take the honor, the glory, the blessing!” My soul cries out, “Oh, yes!” (Revelation 5:12, 14 MSG). So don’t. You. Quit!
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT: One of the greatest weapons in our spiritual armor for fighting off the ugly lies we whip ourselves with is by replacing them with God’s beautiful truths. We are told, “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8 MSG). This week, either write out or type up a list of all of your blessings. Next, follow it up with a list of all of your strengths and giftings. I challenge you to come up with at least 25 of each! In doing so, you are honoring God’s Spirit within you and reminding yourself of what is true and right about God and about you. Then, when you next struggle, take out the lists and read them out loud before God. You will experience blessing.
PRAYER: Lord, you are so good to me even when I don’t see or feel it. You know me so well. You know the way the wind and the waves can distract me and fill my heart with pain and fear. Thank you that no matter how many times I lose my way, You are always right there to reach out your hand for me and catch me up in Your arms. I only need to ask. You are so amazing, Lord, and I thank you for how rich and wide and high and deep your love is for me. My I continue to grow in my grasp of all that You are and You’re unfailing love for me. May I be brave enough to share it with others. Amen.
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