What are the barriers to Rest in our lives? What blocks us or derails us and takes us off track? Has another train come along that’s bigger, stronger, more powerful than the one we are meant to be on right now?
There are many things that thwart making rest, and resting in Jesus Christ, number ONE in our lives. Yes, they come in all shapes and sizes. But I would venture to say that there is really not just ONE big prison where resting in Jesus gets locked up.
I think there are a lot. Upon reading this, you may read that last statement the way that I do – that it is a major understatement. Unbelievably so.
The prisons of rest are scattered on every corner, just as churches are. The enemy is no dummy; he is fully aware that his battle is not a game of Candyland or Chess.
Some of the prisons aren’t even on the outside, just lingering and waiting in the dark to capture us and lock us up forever. The enemy continually ups his game, my friends. Once you think you have it figured out so as to create some kind of awesome defense, it will change. You can count on that.
The scariest and darkest prisons of rest – the ones that many think they can never escape from – those are on the inside. They are locked away in our hearts. Hidden in the tiny cracks. Layered with great and shiny stuff on the top so as to be protected; fortress-like; and never detected or found until it seems….”too late.”
These interior prisons that hold rest captive? They are no joke, dear friends. There are many walls around them – many soldiers guarding from the inside out. Those who run the prison are magicians of the most magnificent sort. They are masters at deception, utterly devoted to protecting what they think is their own. They are relentless, they are powerful, they are demonic and commited to their lord and master, Satan.
This is the stuff they live for, friends. And they don’t care if we die in the process.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
So, what are some of the prisons of rest and why are there so many? I believe it’s because the desire in our hearts has been placed there by Jesus to connect with Him, be in relationship with Him, and to love Him. That is beyond powerful. That is divine.
So, it follows suit that the prisons must be pervasive as well. They must be absolutely everywhere all the time. They can’t take that innate truth and desire to know and love God away, but they can try their hardest to block it, lock it up, and try to stop us from acting upon it and nurture it.
They can and will try to make it a living hell to follow after that desire to love and to know Jesus.
Some of the prisons I have identified in my own life are below:
Prison of Pursuits: What do I pursue after with energy and zeal? How much time and energy do I give to that cause? Is something I am pursuing more important to me than resting in Jesus and that relationship? For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21
Prison of the Paths: Along with that, comes the paths which we choose to go down. Is the one that I am on the easy way, the path of least resistance? Have I been called by Christ to walk that way? Is He there, by my side? This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16
Priorities Prisons: Do I have the right desire – do I wish to pursue Jesus and walk His path, but find myself caught up in other things – time suckers that throw me off track? What am I making top priority in my life? Am I letting the rest then fall into place? Is it Jesus first, then the rest, or is it the other way around? Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22:37-39
Principles Prisons: Principle is defined as “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning. A fundamental source or basis of something.” (Merriam Webster Dictionary) What is my guiding light? What is driving ME? Is it being a hard worker? Is it being a good wife, mom, or friend to others? Is it serving in my church? Is it making sure the bills are paid? Or is it time spent resting in Jesus? For, “he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything“ Colossians 1:18
Positivity Prison: I’ve written about this recently and it’s really been on my mind and my heart. There are two culprits here: endeavoring to only “experience” that which feels good or positive – that’s one way that “positivity” can chain us up. Or, secondly, wallowing in negativity and letting depression, pain, anxiety or difficulty overtake us can imprison us as well. It’s not just A or Just B. The enemy knows that. It can be both. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life. Matthew 6:25-34
The Pleasure Prison: What do we strive for to help us to feel good in this life? Are we walking down a path of pleasure, knowing something we are doing isn’t really holy or pure in the eyes of the Lord? Or worse yet, are we spending all of our time finding feel- good things – things that aren’t really sinful or “wrong” in and of themselves, to achieve that sense of rest in our lives, but sacrificing time with Jesus while we are at it? Feeling good, when not sinful is not a bad thing. But if we are unable to find rest in him without the sensory experience of pleasure, how will we maintain such rest during difficult times? Just sayin’. It shouldn’t be the primary driving force in our lives to seek after only those things that make us feel good. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22
Prison of Places: Timing is everything? I can’t do this cause I am here and don’t have the time to meet with Jesus? I’m too busy, I have too much work to do, I have to go here, there, do this or that first. Jesus didn’t operate that way when He walked this earth. No matter where he was, He made time to meet with the Father. Even upon the cross. Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14
Purpose Prison: What is my purpose in life? Is it MINE? Do I allow the Holy Spirit to guide my actions, my endeavors, my path and purpose in life? Is it to follow after Christ Jesus, no matter where it may lead? Or is it to be a good person, even a “good Christian” even more than that? But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. Acts 26:16
People Prison: Who am I following? Am I letting others dictate my every move? Am I a people pleaser more than a Christ follower? Do I care more about meeting their needs than doing what God is asking me to do today? Do people matter more than my time with Him? Who do I love first? Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Prayer Prison: Is this the last place I give attention to in my day, my week, my life? Does time spent with Jesus entail my “leftovers”? Am I distracted so much when I try to quiet myself and pray and talk with my very own Savior, that I finally give up and put it off? When do I meet with God? I can talk with Him throughout the day, but do I set time aside to quiet myself before Him? Prayer should not be a prison, but it does need to be protected. We need to guard it! But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Matthew 6:6
We can’t fully remove these many prisons by ourselves – their existence, I mean. But think of Jesus and how He lived day to day.
Think of Jesus – still praying to the end, while upon the cross. Even when nailed to it, He broke outside of those chains that tried to bind Him. He defeated the grave! He stayed focused on the Father!
Think of Jesus – busier and invested more than anyone who has ever walked the earth. The Savior of the WORLD. But Jesus prayed. Jesus put God first. Always.
Think of Jesus, friends. Jesus pursued the Father first. Jesus walked the path laid before Him by the Father. Jesus had his priorities straight and lived by only Godly principles. Jesus wasn’t captured by living for only positivity, pleasure, or people. Jesus spent time with the Father in every place, prayed no matter what He was going through that day, and lived and breathed the will of the Lord.
This was His purpose. This is our purpose.This was not His prison. It shouldn’t be ours either.
It is our privilege.
Yes – the enemy is a formidible foe. Yes, the prisons he erects in our lives are real, and they are powerful. But nothing can bind us up and separte us from Christ if we follow after Him. Just like Jesus. Nothing can stop us from resting in Him – His power – His love – His truth.
Not if we don’t want it to. Not if we turn to Him.
We are His. Privileged Ones, not the imprisoned ones.
We are His.
I think…..I think it’s just a matter of answering the ultimate question that we all must face: Who are we going to allow to hold the keys?
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39