This is one of those posts that just came pouring out within minutes and the more that came, the more I realized that this is just scratching the surface. Nearly every point could be expounded on, but for now, this is my heart cry in raw form. If I ever write a book, this is what it will be about (that, or a city girl gone country – or at least, trying to). The intended audience is people who have put their faith in Christ Jesus but feel as though they are still “stuck” in this life. How well I know that feeling!
Today we listened to a radio drama that took us through the journey of a Christian man who was sold into slavery. Something that stood out to me so starkly in the midst of all he went through is this: throughout being captured,
sold, escaping, and then being recaptured, this man’s unwavering identity was, “child of God.” He changed the environment and peoples’ lives wherever he went because others saw such confidence and peace in him, despite his being treated like a worthless piece of property. He could have embraced what his current situation told him and started acting as he was treated but he didn’t. Not only did this man seem to thrive through an incredibly dark season, but he led people to freedom while he was still physically captive. He showed them what Jesus is like and introduced those who were seeking to Him, knowing that the slavery he was being held in was nothing compared to the slavery he had been freed from.
Eventually this man gained his physical freedom so that he truly was, in every way, as he had seen himself all along. What left an impression on me was that even when he was in slavery, he saw himself as above the circumstances. Royalty in the midst of poverty, victor in the midst of oppression, confident expectation of good in the midst of disappointment.
This led me to think of all the people who have been enslaved through the course of history. There were those rare people who saw themselves as “more than” even in slavery, and then there were those who, even after being freed continued to live as slaves – as victims, as less than, in fear, thinking everyone was out to get them whether they truly were or not, because that is how they saw themselves and how they approached life, challenges, and relationships. These people endured things no human ever should, were told over and over and over that they were worthless, and never got over seeing themselves as slaves – owned by something they could never escape. They were free but could not enjoy the benefits of freedom because of their own thinking or the way some people still treated them.
Throughout history I see a common thread in people we look at as overcomers:
They saw themselves as “more than.”
They either knew they could overcome or were determined to die pursuing what they were after, but either way, they saw themselves capable of rising above whatever their challenge or hardship was. They did not let their circumstances, the things they endured, the way people treated them or spoke to them, or their seeming failure define them. They were defined by how they saw themselves inside (Prov. 23:7)!
The truth is, nobody can own your identity but you. People can say things to you, wrong you, and reject you. You can go through incredible loss, betrayal, and heartache. But you are the only one who chooses what you come into agreement with and how you see yourself.
The truth is, now that Jesus has come, fulfilled the Law perfectly and completely, exchanged our sin for His righteousness, and defeated the power of sin and death with His life, death, burial, and resurrection, drawn us close and adopted us into His family, empowered us with His Spirit, provided us with His promises (2 Cor. 1:20), and the authority to enforce them (Mark 11:23, Luke 10:19), we have been given a new name through simple faith in Him. Child of God. Son. Daughter. No longer a slave (1 John 3:1, Romans 8:15).
We think of slavery as physical captivity but the sad reality is, so many people are being held prisoner in a different kind of slavery today. It is the goal of sickness, abuse, poverty, depression, thoughts that say you are not enough and nothing will ever change. It is the things that want to take your heart and mind captive and get you to agree with an identity of less than, nobody having your back (an orphan), nothing ever changing… It is established through limiting beliefs about who you are and Who God is and the goal is always to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
We have an epidemic now of a people (Christians) who have been freed but are still huddled down protectively, arms covering their heads, trying to defend themselves against an enemy whose only power is deception. The prison gates have been flung open, liberty has been proclaimed, and yet so many still stay in the confines of the familiar prison walls, going through life as a slave because that is how they have always gone through life, when all along God longs for them to live as a son or a daughter (Hosea 4:6).
A slave worries about the future, if he will have what he needs and if he will be able to protect his loved ones. He feels inadequate to do what he needs to but there is no one who has his back – it is just him, so he must do what needs to be done or die trying, alone. A son has no fear of the future because whatever it holds, he lives with his Father who is the King. Everything the King has belongs to his son and His resources are limitless. The King takes care of His own and would lay down His life to protect His son. There is nothing He would not do for the son He loves.
A slave is criticized and her whole world seems shaken. Anything other than absolute praise from someone else’s lips makes her feel shattered and yet the praise from other’s lips never fills her up, either. Whether someone spoke a barb intended to harm or wisdom intended to help doesn’t matter. She takes the words as confirmation that she is rejected and slinks back into the protective shell of a victim who must protect herself. A daughter stops to decide whether there is any truth in what was said to her. If not, she lets it go and moves on with life, knowing there are much more important things ahead and stinging words from others are just another way the enemy tries to keep her from that. The person who spoke them is not her Father and has no right to bestow identity on her – that comes from her Father – so she moves on. If she decides the words spoken hold some truth, she can rise up and choose to listen to wisdom and change without feeling shaken to the core. She knows that though she is perfect inside where her Father’s Spirit lives (2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 8:11), she still has a lot to learn in this life and gets excited about opportunities to grow. She knows that no matter what someone else says or doesn’t say, whether someone likes her or doesn’t, she is accepted, loved, held close, and valued beyond measure by her Father, the King.
One of the most powerful things I have learned so far in life, is that when a symptom comes, it is not a battle against the physical symptom but against the lie it tries to tell me (Eph. 6:12). When a relational struggle arises, it is not a battle against another person but against what the struggle tries to tell me. The same for finances, worrying about the future, or anything else. It is the suggestion that comes with it that contradicts what God has said that is the real enemy:
You are less than.
You are not enough for this.
You can’t break free.
It will always be this way.
This is too big for you.
I have realized that if it was just me, these would be true, and that is what the enemy banks on us thinking. But I am and never will again be just me. I am not an orphan and I am not a slave to anything but Christ. He took my less than, my not enough, my bondage, my hopeless, my too big and instead filled me up with His more than, His freedom, His hope, His confident expectation of good, and His Spirit in me that is so much bigger than any scheme of the enemy it is laughable. I have noticed that every temptation that comes is a lure to try to get me to think like a slave – but I am not a slave any more. I am a Daughter.
I have realized in my own life that every trial I have walked through has been an arrow aimed at my identity, trying to sever me from the love of God and who I am as “His” and get me thinking like a slave. What could be more tragic than a loved Daughter going through life as a slave? Sickness tried to define me and tell me that I was not enough, nothing would ever change, and I would always be tied to this thing that was too big for me and would always be stealing from me. But I am a Daughter, not a slave. Lack has tried to tell me that I am alone, there is not enough, certainly not enough to live generously, not enough for the future, not enough, not enough, not enough. But I am a Daughter, not a slave. Betrayal by people who I considered family has tried to tell me to expect betrayal and that I must protect myself from ever getting hurt again. But that is the mindset of a slave. People will hurt me again but as a Daughter, that should never keep me from standing up and living my life and taking chances. Unexpected disaster has shaken me in the deepest places and without even realizing it, that slave mindset crept in and said God could not be trusted. But I am not a slave any more – I am a Daughter. My Father is GOOD and I can expect good things from Him (James 1:17, Jer. 29:11 – I realize some people will say this is an Old Testament verse written to a different people but when you read the whole Bible in context, how much MORE these promises are for us under a new covenant sealed with Christ’s blood). I can expect Him to be faithful to His Word. I can trust His heart. The same love that holds me close in His arms to rest as a Daughter is the same love that empowers me to stand and fight as a warrior.
There is nothing more tragic to me than someone who has been set free but doesn’t know it, who spends their life dreaming of something that has already been given, who has been blessed with every spiritual blessing but lives like a pauper, thinking those blessings are for a future time or for someone else, but not them, who has been made more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus but lives as someone who has been conquered, never seeing the choice to pursue freedom or the responsibility to possess it (Heb. 3:19).
Like everything else God has provided by Grace, an identity of victory, belonging, and “more than” is something that we have to possess. It doesn’t happen the moment we say, “yes” to a life with Jesus. It doesn’t come because we know with our head that it is available. It must be owned (Rom. 12:2). God provided the Promised Land for the Israelites but they still had to go in and take possession of it (and it was filled with giants!). Jesus told the disciples to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, but they still faced a vicious storm on the way there. God told Abraham he would be the father of many nations, but Abraham had to put action to his faith to see God’s promise come to pass. And God has called us sons and daughters, but unless you take possession of that title, you will carry the bloodline of royalty but live like a beggar, a beloved child Christ gave everything He had for, who lives as a slave.
This is where renewing our minds comes in. We have been set free from the power of sin and death (sickness’s main goal), seated with Christ far above all that tries to steal from us, we have been healed and made righteous, we have been given something better than Jesus Himself – His very own Spirit. We have been given authority over the enemy. We have been given so many promises that God has already said yes to. But if we don’t start to really meditate on these things and start to make them our own, the default will always be the way we saw ourselves without Him – a victim of circumstances and fending for ourselves, constantly trying to prove our value to the world around us and even to our own hearts. This is more than head knowledge – this is a heart revelation of what we’ve been saved from and what we’ve been saved to. A revelation of God’s love for us. A revelation of the enemy defeated (Col. 2:15). Meditating on these things will paint a different picture in your heart than what the world has told you.
This world is full of evil and flawed people and the effects of the fall of man. We can either choose to be a victim and start campaigns for victims like us, and cheer for people who validate us being victims or we can rise above what happened and choose to say, “No, that is not who I am. I may have gone through it but it will not define me. It will not tell me who I am. Instead it has lit a fire in me to help empower and set others free. I am not what happened. I am not helpless. I am not a victim. I am a child of God.” I am not saying we don’t grieve together and help share each other’s burdens. I am saying that that point of grief or darkness should never become an identity. Real friends who fight for freedom alongside you are those who remind you that you are wearing a crown when everything about you feels muddied and worn down. If we are going to fight for something, let’s fight for who God says we are.
There was a time when I would have thought that all that I’m saying today sounded a little arrogant but I have learned that the opposite is true. Humility is agreeing with what God says. Anything less is pride; anything more is pride. So when God calls you Daughter, it would be arrogant to say, “no, I’m just a girl trying to get by, doing the best I can.” NO! You are His very own, bought with His blood, filled with His Spirit, and you are not “just a girl trying to get by.” You are who He says you are (Rom. 8:37)! When God calls you the righteousness of God in Christ, it would be arrogant to say, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” According to Him, you were a sinner, but you were saved by Grace, and now you are the very righteousness of God in Christ! (2 Cor. 5:17, 2 Cor. 5:21). Oh how our lives would change if we truly grasped this! What used to look like humility to me is a new kind of arrogance I did not recognize for a long time – sayings that sound humble but when held up to the light of God’s Word are anything but. True humility is, “I am who He says I am.”
Forget what you think others believe about you. What God believes about you, sees in you, and has done for you is true whether you ever see it or not. What you believe God says about you and has done for you is everything.
You are stronger than you think, more powerful than you feel, and more loved than you will ever know.
Do not let the past define you – we all have to walk through hard, painful things. It is what we do with them that matters and that is determined by how you see yourself inside. A slave living in fear of the future, beat down by the past, just trying to make it through; or a son, a daughter, loved and equipped and empowered, looking forward to the good things God has planned specifically for your life, knowing that they will only be good (James 1:17, John 10:10) and knowing that every mountain looming ahead of you is an opportunity for a hike with Dad.
The choice is yours.
“As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7, NKJV
*If you would like more verse references, please ask! I have so many that I felt it was hard to read with all of them inserted so I just used a handful in this post :).