Lockdown Victories

There is a good chance you have been in lockdown this year. Use nicer terms if you like – quarantine, shelter in place, hunker down, stay home 2 save lives – but it’s all the same. Severe limits on your activities and friendships and budget.

But what if lockdown was just what we needed to deal with unresolved emotional and spiritual issues we had long overlooked or ignored? What if lockdown, with its forced restrictions, was a God-given opportunity for victory in our life? Consider some well known Bible examples who experienced their own types of lockdowns and the victories that came as a result.

Joseph    

  1. Rejection (In the “pit” – Genesis 37:24)

Joseph was rejected by his own brothers. First they wanted to kill him but because of Ruben’s and later Judah’s intervention he was sold as a slave instead. How did he deal with rejection? As he was taken down to Egypt he wept and wept. But then his thoughts turned to his father’s God. He remembered the stories his father Jacob had told of his dream of the ladder reaching to heaven. He wondered if his own dreams might become true. He determined to prove himself faithful to God.[1] He didn’t realize at the time that being rejected was a blessing and not a curse. If he hadn’t been rejected by his wicked brothers[2] he may have been overwhelmed by their evil influence and he would not have been able to bless millions of people in Egypt and many other nations.[3]

All of us have experienced rejection at some time in our lives. Maybe it started when you were picked last for the team on the playground, or rejected by the cute girl you asked to the banquet. Perhaps it goes deeper, like when your parents divorced and dad said he would keep in touch then disappeared from your life. Or when you thought marriage was forever but the love of your life was unfaithful to you.

As with Joseph the Lord may allow a time of lockdown for you so you can deal with rejection you have experienced in your life. He may allow a quarantine to remove you from an illicit relationship, a bad environment or peer pressure that was about to make you cave in. Thank Him for lockdown and the victories He can give you.

  1. Temptation (In the “house” – Genesis 39:2)

When Joseph arrived in Egypt he was sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s elite guard. Potiphar was gone a lot and his lonely wife noticed the good looking young slave, probably in his late teens or early twenties. She became more and more bold in her advances and Joseph had a big decision to make. He was in a foreign land. Nobody knew his religious background. Nobody would ever know what he did in the house. He was a slave and was expected to obey. If he resisted he knew he would be in big trouble so why not go along with the opportunity?

All of us deal with temptation. And Satan is ready to suggest lots of reasons why we will be better off to give in and go along. How did Joseph deal with overwhelming and continued temptation? He said “NO! …you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” He realized that even if no one else was watching that God was there and He could help him. Many years later when inspired to record this story in the book of Genesis, Moses continually emphasized the presence of the Lord when it seemed Joseph was all alone with the temptation. Check out these verses from Genesis 39.

            V2 “The LORD was with Joseph”

            V3 “The LORD was with him”

            V3 “The LORD made all he did to prosper”

            V5 “The LORD blessed the Egyptians’ house for Joseph’s sake”

It was the continued sense of the Lord’s presence and love that helped Joseph refuse to sin.

In our times of lockdown we will face unique temptations, but we can be sure the Lord is with us, to strengthen us and help us say “No” to sin and “Yes” to God.

  1. Isolation (In “Prison” – Genesis 39:20)

Every time Joseph did what was right, things got worse. He wound up in prison because of saying “No” to sin. Now he was isolated from almost everyone. It would have been very easy to have a little pity party for himself. But consider what he did. Joseph found a way to keep himself busy. Perhaps it was keeping his cell neat and clean. Maybe it was offering to help distribute food to the other prisoners. We don’t know the details but we are told that before long, because of the Lord’s favor, the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners. Now he could make friends with people he would have never met any other way. He got to know all the prisoners, including Pharaoh’s butler and baker, who were sent there because of Pharaoh’s anger.

During our times of lockdown we can feel isolated from everyone and everything. What can we do to deal with these feelings? It might be a great time to get busy with something useful such as offering to help with a food bank, to make phone calls to people in your church family who might feel isolated or to ask elderly neighbors if they need help.

Because of Joseph’s faithfulness the Lord could put him in charge of

            A house (Genesis 39:4)

            A Prison (Genesis 39:22)

            All Egypt (Genesis 41:41)

            All the World (Genesis 41:57)

Daniel

  1. Identity (In “Babylon” – Daniel 1:1)

We all experience an identity crisis when we try to figure out who we are and who we want to be. Until we find our identity in Jesus we will continually be searching for it in something else such as our ancestry, IQ, athletic or social ability, educational degrees, work title and status, favorite sports team, music or movie star heroes or sexual urges.

King Nebuchadnezzar had an uncanny understanding of this. When he conquered territory he had a plan to also conquer the identity of the captive peoples. He instructed his officials to carefully select good looking and talented young men from among the captives who would receive special privileges, be exposed to the media and thought patterns of the Babylonians and would receive new names based on the Babylonian hero gods.[4] Isolated from their roots, they would begin to identify with Babylon.

Daniel and his three friends were honored to be selected for this special treatment from among the captives from Jerusalem. But there were some major challenges. Part of the special treatment included eating and drinking things that were off limits to those who followed the Living God. In addition, each of their new names were designed to move their allegiance from the Living God to the gods of the Babylonians.

Hebrew Name        Meaning           Babylonian Name                       Meaning

Daniel              God is my Judge         Belteshazzar               May Bel (Baal) protect his life

Hannaniah      Jehovah is gracious    Shadrach                    Command of Aku (moon god)

Mishael           Who is what God is    Meshach                     Who is what Aku is

Azariah            The Lord helps            Abednego                   Servant of Nebo (son of Bel)

But Daniel determined in his heart not to defile himself…[5]

When we are away from the spiritual influences of home, and the popular music and movies are messing with our identity, when we are offered special “privileges” that would compromise our loyalty to the Living God, we must determine in our heart not to defile ourselves. Our future identity is at stake. Where we will spend eternity could be at stake. We can decide in our heart to keep our identity in the Creator God alone!

  1. Uselessness (In obscurity – Between Daniel 4 & 5)

Because of their faithfulness to the True God, Daniel and his friends rose in prominence in the kingdom and added more and more responsibilities.[6] They probably served with distinction for decades. But somehow Daniel and friends were shoved into the background. Nebuchadnezzar died in 555 BC and his son Nabonidus ruled in his place. Six years later Nabonidus had his son Belshazzar join him as co ruler. During this time God gave Daniel the visions found in Daniel 7 and 8 but we hear no mention of his responsibilities in the Babylonian empire.

The next time we see Daniel is during Belshazzar’s feast in 539 BC.[7] Belshazzar is drunk, irresponsible and blasphemous. When the fingers of a man’s hand appear and write on the plaster wall, Belshazzar is terrified and sends for advisors to help explain the cryptic writing. When no one could help, the queen, most likely Nebuchanezzar’s widow, tells her grandson Belshazzar to call for Daniel. When Daniel is brought in Belshazzar insults him by calling him “one of the captives from Judah”[8] implying that he is a nobody in the Babylonian empire. As Daniel interprets the message from heaven he reminds Belshazzar of his grandfather’s pride and how he was humbled.[9] He tells Belshazzar “you knew all this” but you “have not humbled your heart.”[10] Before the night was over Belshazzar was dead and there was a new kingdom ruling, the Medes and the Persians.

It appears that Daniel was sidelined for sixteen years. That’s not easy for a person who has been a responsible leader. Perhaps you have experienced this type of “lockdown,” becoming a nobody when you used to be a “somebody.” How did Daniel handle this? He looked at the big picture. He knew from the dream of the giant statue in Daniel 2 and the four beasts of Daniel 7 that someday Babylon would be replaced by another kingdom. He even knew from the vision of Daniel 8 that Medo-Persia would be the next world empire.[11] Why be bothered if he lost a title and position in an earthly kingdom that was going down anyway? His position before God was the only thing that mattered. God truly was his Judge,[12] and God would someday invite Daniel into His eternal kingdom.[13] Could these Bible truths help us when we’ve been sidelined?

  1. Fear (In the “Lions’ Den” – Daniel 6:7)

There are all kinds of fear. Fear of the dark, fear of confinement, fear of being attacked, fear of pain, fear of the future, fear of death. Daniel was confronted with ALL these fears. King Darius, the Mede, had a strange way of maintaining control over his new kingdom. He had a den filled with hungry lions, and whoever got in his way would be thrown into the den. When Daniel was promoted in the new kingdom some of the other leaders became jealous and devised an evil plot to get Daniel thrown into the den of lions. But they couldn’t find any flaw in him except that he was faithful to his God.[14] Appealing to the king’s pride, the jealous leaders tricked Darius into signing a decree that anyone who prayed to someone other than him for thirty days would be thrown into the den.[15]

Daniel heard about the decree. He realized that the whole thing was a set up to remove him from office and have him killed. Ever since childhood he had formed the habit of praying and giving thanks three times a day to the God of heaven. God was using him in his position to influence the most powerful man in the kingdom. Surely the Lord wouldn’t want him to die. Should he just take a thirty day break from public prayer? Or maybe he should simply keep his window closed or just back away from it so no one could see him during his “private time with God?” It would have been very easy for him to let his fears change a lifetime of good habits in how he expressed his worship of God.

How did he deal with this life-threatening situation? “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”[16]

What do you find terrifying? Is your fear keeping you from being obedient to God? Is it keeping you from letting your light shine for Jesus? Why not kneel down, pray and give thanks to God three times a day, and watch Him give you peace to face each day as a witness for Him?

Saul/Paul

  1. Pride (In the “House on Straight Street” – Acts 9:10-11)

Saul was very proud of himself. He had a great heritage. He had been circumcised the eighth day like the best of the Jews, he had a clear Jewish lineage through the tribe of Benjamin and no one could fault his zeal or obedience to all the commandments. He was a card-carrying Pharisee.[17] While on a mission for God he was blinded and thrown to the ground and put in lockdown by Jesus Himself![18]

Saul must have been wondering “How could I be wrong when I’m so zealous for God?” Sometimes the Lord allows our schedule and plans to be disrupted so we can see that we aren’t really serving Him. We think somehow that our agenda is God’s agenda. We think that doing what we think is best is what God thinks is best. And in His mercy to us He stops us in our tracks so we can humbly learn that He is not dependent on us to accomplish His work.

Like Saul, perhaps the most important thing God wants us to do is to learn to fast and pray and to allow someone who doesn’t have as many credentials or degrees or titles as us to minister to us spiritually. Like him, perhaps we even need to be rebaptized and learn what it is to enjoy fellowship with humble believers in Jesus.[19]

  1. Bitterness (In the “Inner Prison” in Philippi – Acts 16:23)

Saul/Paul had wronged many people in his misguided effort to serve God. But after his humbling and conversion the persecutor of the church became the missionary for the church! As he travelled throughout the Roman empire he often found himself in prison.

While planting the first Christian church in Europe in the city of Philippi, a riot broke out against Paul and his missionary team, and Paul along with Silas, one of his team members, were beaten severely and put in stocks in the inner prison.[20] If there was ever a time for Paul to become bitter it was now. Why had the people gotten so upset when they were simply there to help them know Jesus? Where were the authorities who should have quelled the rioting? And where was Jesus while they were being persecuted? These would be natural questions to ask, but they would also open the way for bitterness in their hearts.

How did Paul and Silas handle potential bitterness while in pain in the prison? Instead of becoming victims and nursing their wounds, they sang and prayed aloud till midnight so the other prisoners could hear.[21] They realized that Jesus had suffered for them and had told all His followers to not expect better treatment than He received.[22] They also saw that this was their best opportunity to share Jesus with the other prisoners.

And God honored their positive spirit. He sent a series of miracles that resulted in the jailer and his entire family putting their faith in Jesus, being baptized and uniting with the new church at Philippi![23]

Everyone in the world has been wronged by someone. Some have been wronged terribly, crippling their entire future. Unfortunately some who have been wronged have allowed their entire lives to be shaped around a wrong that happened decades ago. It’s easy to let bitterness toward someone take root in our heart.

When we are wronged let’s remember Jesus’ words. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” Let’s ask Jesus to put His Spirit within us.[24] As Paul and Silas did, let’s pray and sing and look at how God is working miraculously to bring about the conversion of those who have mistreated us.

  1. Limitations (In “Chains” in Rome – Philippians 1:12-14)

Later in his life Paul is in Rome, in prison once again. He had always wanted to go to Rome, the capital of the empire, so he could tell people about Jesus and see them make decisions to unite with believers in spreading the gospel.[25] The believers had high hopes that when Paul came to Rome there would be massive conversions because of this champion of the faith.[26]

Paul is finally in Rome, but sitting in chains. Their high hopes were dashed.

How do you deal with severe limitations on your life and ministry?  Do you feel like God’s work is slowing down because of limits on what you can do personally? Can lockdown stop the work of God?

What did Paul do during these difficult circumstances? He wrote “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!”[27] He could identify three reasons to praise the Lord for his lockdown!

“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”[28]

While Paul’s guards saw him as a captive, he saw them as a captive audience. He was chained, but during their shift they were chained to him! So he shared Jesus with them. The good news of a forgiving and transforming Savior spread through the palace of the evil Emperor Nero and some of his household openly embraced a new life in Jesus.[29] Paul was thankful that all of the palace guard and others were offered salvation through Jesus.

The second reason Paul was thankful for his chains was that most of the believers became more bold in sharing their faith without fear! When they saw his limitations they stepped out of their shyness and became more bold in talking to others about Jesus and His truth.[30]

People used to ask the great Adventist preacher HMS Richards, Sr. what it would take to finish the work, to see the gospel go to all the world and Jesus return. With a twinkle in his eye he would say “If they would throw all the preachers in jail the work would be finished quickly.” Then he’d add “because then every believer would realize that the Lord has called them to be bold in witnessing for Him!”

And finally, because he was confined, Paul was impressed to write to churches and people he could not see in person. During his time of confinement he wrote the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and 2nd Timothy which have provided tremendous encouragement and counsel for millions of people over the past two thousand years.

In commenting on this Ellen White writes “The Christian who manifests patience and cheerfulness under bereavement and suffering, who meets even death itself with the peace and calmness of an unwavering faith, may accomplish for the gospel more than he could have effected by a long life of faithful labor. Often when the servant of God is withdrawn from active duty, the mysterious providence which our shortsighted vision would lament is designed by God to accomplish a work that otherwise would never have been done. Let not the follower of Christ think, when he is no longer able to labor openly and actively for God and His truth, that he has no service to render, no reward to secure. Christ’s true witnesses are never laid aside. In health and sickness, in life and death, God uses them still…”[31]

——-

What kind of lockdown are you experiencing? Jesus has a powerful victory for you!

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

#######


[1] Patriarchs and Prophets 213-214.

[2] The evil deeds of Joseph’s brothers are listed in Genesis 34 (Simeon & Levi), Genesis 35:22 (Reuben) and Genesis 39 (Judah and his two sons).

[3] Genesis 41:57.

[4] Daniel 1:3-7.

[5] Daniel 1:8.

[6] Daniel 1:18-20; Daniel 2:46-49; 3:28-30. It is very possible that Daniel and his friends helped administer the kingdom during the seven years when Nebuchadnezzar was deranged. Daniel 4:28-37.

[7] Daniel 5.

[8] Daniel 5:13.

[9] Daniel 4.

[10] Daniel 5:22.

[11] Daniel 8:20. Notice that Belshazzar was reigning when this vision was given. Daniel 8:1.

[12] Daniel means God [Elohim] is my Judge.

[13] Cf. Daniel 12:13.

[14] Daniel 6:1-5.

[15] Daniel 6:6-9.

[16] Daniel 6:10.

[17] Philippians 3:5-6.

[18] Acts 9:1-9.

[19] Acts 9:9-19.

[20] Acts 16:16-24.

[21] Acts 16:25.

[22] John 15:20-21.

[23] Here are the miracles – An earthquake, prison doors open but roof doesn’t collapse, prisoners chain come loose but they don’t run away, Paul telling the jailer who had wronged him to not hurt himself, Paul sharing Jesus with the Jailer, the conversion of the whole family, The jailer showing hospitality to the prisoners. Acts 16:26-34.

[24] Matthew 5:44-46.

[25] Romans 1:13.

[26] “When the Christian churches first learned that Paul was to visit Rome, they looked forward to a signal triumph of the gospel in that city. Paul had borne the truth to many lands; he had proclaimed it in great cities. Might not this champion of the faith succeed in winning souls to Christ even in the metropolis of the world? But their hopes were crushed by the tidings that Paul had gone to Rome as a prisoner. They had confidently hoped to see the gospel, once established at this great center, extend rapidly to all nations and become a prevailing power in the earth. How great their disappointment! Human expectations had failed, but not the purpose of God.” Acts of the Apostles 463.3

[27] Philippians 4:4.

[28] Philippians 1:12-14.

[29] “Even in Nero’s household, trophies of the cross were won. From the vile attendants of a viler king were gained converts who became sons of God. These were not Christians secretly, but openly. They were not ashamed of their faith.” Acts of the Apostles 463.1

[30] “Paul’s patience and cheerfulness during his long and unjust imprisonment, his courage and faith, were a continual sermon. His spirit, so unlike the spirit of the world, bore witness that a power higher than that of earth was abiding with him. And by his example, Christians were impelled to greater energy as advocates of the cause from the public labors of which Paul had been withdrawn. In these ways were the apostle’s bonds influential, so that when his power and usefulness seemed cut off, and to all appearance he could do the least, then it was that he gathered sheaves for Christ in fields from which he seemed wholly excluded.” Acts of the Apostles 464.2

[31] Acts of the Apostles 465.1,2

About danserns

Happily married and father of three great kids. Seventh-day Adventist pastor who invites everyone to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, embrace all the teachings of the Bible and join a vibrant Adventist group.
This entry was posted in Bible Study, Changed Lives, Family, Pastoring, Why Not Try This...? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Lockdown Victories

  1. hilda lauriello says:

    Thank you for this uplifting message. Indeed, the pandemic has been a spiritual blessing.
    Because of Frank’s health we do not have anybody over and I limit myself to grocery shopping with curbside pick up when possible. So all that stuff that keeps us busy and distracted are gone. Now we have more time for worship and a different focus. I praise God for the many ways we can continue to be blessed: Hope Sabbath School, Amazing Facts, etc. So blessed!

    Keep up the good work!!
    Warmly,
    Hilda Lauriello
    ________________________________

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s