Shackled. In 1964, a lyric still common today, was produced. The first phrase begins with an uncommon word; Shackled by a heavy burden.
Fettered. Another uncommon word. Yet, it too, has been repeated in song since 1757, in the lyric, let Thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Defined, their meanings are to confine, restrain, and prevent freedom. Though uncommon in speech, shackles and fetters are common in followers of Jesus - they unsettle and unnerve many.
Shame shackles and fear fetters - two common chains and leading contenders to confinement, restraint, and freedom prevention. The chains of shame and fear keep believers locked down in their personal prison. Since Jesus came to set us free - then why are we held captive by pestering shame and fettering fear?
Can the set-free be set free?
Yes. But we've been decieved to believe shackles and fetters = prison. And it's not true. Shackles and fetters bind - they constrain, restrain, and prevent freedom. Most prisoners are not in shackles. Even in prison, one can be unrestrained and experience freedoms.
When it comes to shame, we're shackled by its heavy burden. When it comes to fear, we're bound to anxiety and worry. Set free, yet imprisonsed. It's time the set-free are set free from this confusion.
Paul and Silas: shackled, yet, imprisoned. In Acts 16:22-34 we read their story. They were stripped, beaten, severely flogged, and placed in the inner cell, where torture occurred and extra security was present through menacing shackles and intimidating fetters.
How can the set-free live as Jesus intends? Follow these three steps of Paul and Silas:
1. PRAY [Acts 16:25a] – they talked to God about their current reality. They're shackled by a heavy burden and they pray - they presented their shackles to God. Whatever has your attention has you. Though shackled, their hearts were bound to God. Though fettered, they were free to pray. Jesus had their attention.
2. PRAISE - they praised God through song. These two set-free, living-for-Jesus men are singing. They've been stripped down, beaten up, severely flogged, and shackled. They brought a sacrifice of praise. Jesus held their attention.
Hebrews 13:15-16 Through Jesus, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Perhaps you've been stripped of diginity, innocence, or reputation. Maybe you've been beaten up by words or hands or past experiences. The shackles are a heavy burden; anxiety and worry, your fetters. Shame and fear hold you and keep you captive.
Answer this question: Who threw Paul and Silas in prison? If you answered the magistrates, the authorities, the crowd you may be constrained by the unfair fetter - that's not right, this isn't fair, they don't deserve that. Declaring injustice and wrong misses something greater.
Praying and singing opened the door to a greater work. What was buried deep within Paul and Silas spilled out when they were shackled. Out of the overflow of the heart, your mouth speaks, Jesus says [Luke 6:45] What goes in, is what comes out - their sacrifice of praise reached others. Some people are paying attention and others need a wake-up call.
3. LISTEN [Acts 16:25b, 27a] – other prisoners are listening
People see your shackles; your fetters are obvious and people are paying attention. We are so good at letting others know about our prison pain but what about allowing them to witness the sacrifice of praise?
Acts 16:26 says, The foundations of prison were shaken...all the prison doors flew open...everybody’s chains came loose.
Two stripped down, beaten up, and flogged followers of Jesus brought a sacrifice of praise into their personal prison and ALL doors flew open, ALL chains were loosed, and ALL prisoners stayed put.
The set-free are set free.
Yet, they remained in prison. Freed from shackles and freed from fetters is living as Jesus intends. When we pray away the prisons, we pray away opportunities for other prisoners to be set free.
Living as Jesus intends, lives unshackled and unfettered, but at times, remains in prison. Shame and fear should have no place, nor should they take any space in your heart. Jesus took our shame. It was nailed to His cross and we bear it no more. While in his personal prison, Paul urges a joyful heart [see Philippians], persuading followers to rejoice always. Without lifting the implement of ink, he pleads to not be anxious or troubled with cares.
Prisons aren't shackles
God could have sent an army of angels, swopped in and scooped up Paul and Silas. He could have healed their wounds and cleared their minds of the memories. But He didn’t. Why didn’t you stop this, God? Why let your followers be hurt? Why the threat of shame and fear? Why the stripped down, beaten up, thrown into prison experience – why, Lord, why?
The Sleeping Jailer - Acts 16:29-34
We remain in prison because we all have jailers in our life - people who need a wake-up call. Had Paul and Silas been focused on their fetters and scrutinizing their shackles, this man and his family would not have met Jesus. Good things happen when the set-free quit praying away the prison and bring a sacrifice of praise to the prison.
Living as Jesus intends, lives set free - no longer shackled by heavy burdens and pleading His goodness to bind our wandering hearts to Him.
Even in our personal prisons.