This is Part 2 of a blog series on peace. You can read Part 1 here.
Freedom is a good thing. Peace and freedom can sometimes go together, but we can easily believe the lie that our comfort in this life is directly tied to our liberty. The peace that God gives can be cheapened when we want to trade it in for peace from the world. We do well not to love our liberty too much.
Liberty is doubtless a better condition than living in bondage or tyranny. Generally health is better than sickness, wealth better than poverty, employment better than unemployment, and so on. Wars are justly fought in defense of liberty, or to secure it from the hands of tyranny. However, the love of personal liberty can also be a snare for the Christian. God has promised comfort for his people, but he has not promised freedom. Frequently, he requires his saints to live under oppressive conditions and wicked men. He delights at times to put his most cherished saints in chains. Yet this was no hindrance to their comfort and joy. Paul and Silas sang hymns in a Philippian jail (Act 16:25ff).
Consider also the story of John Bunyan (1626-1688). He was charged with preaching the gospel outside of the Church of England authority. The court ordered him to repent. He refused. They threatened a lengthy prison sentence and offered to suspend it if only he would cease preaching in the future. He refused. At that time, Bunyan had a wife and children already living in poverty. One daughter, his beloved Mary, was blind. He did not wish to lose his liberty and be separated from his family, especially when all he had to do was apply for a license from the state to preach as they approved, or sign a document stating he would no longer preach illegally. His response: “I cannot do what you ask of me, M’lord. I cannot place my signature upon any document in which I promise henceforth not to preach. My calling to preach the Gospel is from God, and He alone can make me discontinue what He has appointed me to do. As I have had no word from Him to that effect, I must continue to preach, and I shall continue to preach.”
Bunyan loved his family and no doubt his liberty, but he loved his Lord more. God required him to be imprisoned, but not without comfort. For he had the Lord, his Bible and a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs constantly with him. For twelve years he was in prison. But it was during that time that he gifted the world with one its greatest works: The Pilgrim’s Progress. Imagine if he had loved his liberty more than the Lord.
Where is your peace and comfort? Is it in your place or possessions in this world, in your liberty or life? No. So lay these down. Do not love them and do not tie your hope to them. This is not a prescription to live joylessly detached from your life in the world. You have responsibilities and a mission here. Instead, live soberly, purposefully, and with assurance that your life is more than what you have, what this world can give or take. You have treasures waiting that dust, devil, and thief can’t touch. You have riches and glory and joy and inheritance awaiting. Delight yourself in the Lord and look forward to his promises. You may find the pleasures of the world lose their luster, and the sufferings of this life seem slight in comparison to the joys of heaven hidden in Christ.
For sample transcript of Bunyan’s trial, see https://www.biblebc.com/Christian_Helps/Biographies/trial_incarceration_of_john_bunyan.htm