|Prison Cell at Sing Sing|
Paul was not alone in that perception. Peter, James, John and Jude all referred to themselves as SERVANTS of Jesus Christ. In fact, all the Apostles were PRISONERS - imprisoned for the cause - at some time or another in the course of their ministries. They were locked up, often beaten, locked in stocks or in chains, treated harshly, and deprived of their personal freedom.
There are some aspects of prison that shock the mind. I am thinking about the iron collars, or shackles and chains in which a prisoner is typically held. Of course, there are prison cells - often dark, dank, musty, lonely, solitary, claustrophobic, and even sickening. In ancient times, the prisons and dungeons must have been horrifying. There are sometimes beatings, and cruel and unusual punishments, even torture and great pain.
A PRISONER is imprisoned. And in the case of Paul and the other Apostles, Jesus Christ was the prison warden. They called themselves PRISONERS and SERVANTS of Jesus Christ.
Imprisonment and enslavement is not exceptional in the service of God. It is the norm.
Jesus Himself was a servant and a prisoner, both to the will of God, and as a hostage to evil men.
WHY? Because the will of God is 100% contrary to the will of men. The carnal mind is enmity - hostility - against God. If you will do the will of God, the world, the flesh and the devil will assault and accuse and punish you in unimaginable ways. You will suffer for doing God's will.
It is the prison of Christ.
The prison of Christ strips the flesh of its freedom. The prison of Christ will not allow you to be the carnal, worldly, vain and self-indulgent person that what you want to be. The prison of Christ forces you to do the will of God at what is often a very high cost, and involving great loss to your personal, selfish desires, dreams and ambitions. The prison of Christ will sometimes humiliate you in front of your peers. It will embarrass you. Your flesh will sometimes utterly rebel against the prison of Christ, and demand to be set free.
The world, the flesh, and the devil violently oppose the will of God. Everything about your flesh aggrieves the service of the Lord. Your worldly friends will oppose your doing the will of God. Sometimes, your family, and even fellow Christians, will not understand your calling. And certainly, Satan will oppose you with every imaginable and unimaginable conflict. The Will of God will imprison you. Enslave you. Exile you from home, family and friends.
But it is The Crushing
Like a chemist or pharmacist uses a mortar and pestle to extract the compounds he needs, God uses the CRUSHING of life to extract the sweet fragrances and priceless substance of obedience and submission that demonstrates to the world that God, Heaven and Eternity is your priority, and the temporal things of this world cannot change your mind. It is the ultimate testimony to a misguided, misdirected sinner that you are an eagle in a barnyard, and no matter how long they hold you hostage, the moment you are free, you will fly away again and do the will of God, just as you began to do at the first.
No prison, no hardship, and no crushing will stop the true man or woman of God from doing His will. This is a test of priorities. If you can be dissuaded from your Heavenly vision, the prison will dissuade you. If you can be forced to recant and renounce your allegiance to Christ, the crushing will do it.
"...we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God," Acts 14:22.
"And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, THESE ARE THEY WHICH CAME OUT OF GREAT TRIBULATION, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb," Revelation 7:13-14.
"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and THEY LOVED NOT THEIR LIVES UNTO THE DEATH," Revelation 12:10-11.