Escape from prison - Things Christians can learn from prisoners
1) God has given us a “Get out of Jail Free” card to use to escape from bondage:
Prison is an awful place! You can’t blame people for trying to escape. I’ve entitled this writing: “How to escape from prison.” By “prison” I mean the bondages, enslavements and bad habits that so many Christians remain stuck in for so many years. Would you like to be free from every sin, bondage, and trap of the devil? Are you in any kind of “prison” from which you would like to escape? Read on! The word “prison” is used about 125 times in the New King James Version. The Bible says a lot about prisons and people who spent time in them. Christians through the ages have had familiarity with prisons: visiting prisoners, praying for people in prisons and often going to prison themselves for their faith.
Prison has also been romanticized for many years thanks to movies about prison life and prison escapes (The Shaw Shank Redemption, Papillion, Cool Hand Luke and Escape From Alcatraz to name a few). Also, there are a number of popular songs about prison life. Consider one written in 1979. It perfectly depicts a prisoner’s plight: “Folsom Prison” by Johnny Cash: “I hear the train a comin' It's rolling round the bend. And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when, I'm stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin' on But that train keeps a rollin' on down to San Antone. When I was just a baby my mama told me. Son, Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns. But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry. Well if they freed me from this prison, If that railroad train was mine I bet I'd move it on a little farther down the line. Far from Folsom prison, that's where I want to stay And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away.” Johnny Cash’s character in this song had the “Folsom Prison Blues” and for good reason: he was locked up in prison with no hope of escape. Do you have the prison blues?
Are you bound by sin, depression, or hopelessness? I’ve got good news for you. You can escape from prison, by using your “Get Out of Jail Free” card. In the game of “Monopoly”, you can be sent to jail and lose three turns by landing on the “Go to Jail” square. But, if you have a “Get out of Jail Free” card, you can immediately get back in the game. I used to carry business cards which had written on one side in bright red letters: “Get out of Hell Free Card” (with an invitation to our church on the other side). People who are bound for jail (or hell!) need written permission to get out. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.” If you’ve got it; it’s yours. What is yours, Christian? Have you got a “Get out of Jail free” card? Do you have “written permission” to get out of prison? According to the Bible, you do! There are many promises that we can claim as ours as we study how to escape the devil’s prison.
Joel 2:32 (KJV): “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” I was in great bondage for many years: to lust, to fear, to depression. I found the above verse in the Bible and laid claim to it. How many times I cried out to God for deliverance, saying, “Lord, you said that, ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered.’ Deliver me!” And, I can joyfully report to you today, that He did deliver me! I am free in so many areas of my life. I can truly testify to you that God’s Word works! Romans 7:24, 25: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!” That phrase Paul uses (“This body of death”) is thought by some interpreters to be referring to an ancient tribal punishment that was sometimes used against murderers. The killer would be chained to the corpse of the person that he had killed. The stench, the disease, the horror, the vermin, the maggots, and the ants would all follow that corpse wherever the murderer pulled it until he himself would also be overtaken by death. Our imprisonment to our sins can be likened to this! Paul cried out in agony, “Who shall deliverer me from this body of death?” and then (thank God) joyfully resounded the glorious truth: “through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Feel like you have been pulling around a dead body? Jesus can set you free! II Peter 1:3, 4: “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” These “Precious promises” tell us that we have already “escaped (past tense) the corruption.” The legal right of escape is ours. We need only press our claim in the courts of heaven through prayer until we win and are freed from our prison. Now, open your Bible and find your promises of escape from bondage: your “Get out of Jail Free” card!
2) Dig your way out of prison . . . through praise!
A man’s father wrote him a letter while he was in prison: "I would like to plant some lettuce in the back garden. You usually did all the digging and planting. I’ll sure miss your help, especially with my arthritis. Anyway, when would be the best time to plant them?" The prisoner, knowing that the guards read all mail, wrote a return letter: "Dear Pop, I hate to see you hurt yourself digging in that garden. Besides, that's where I have all the stolen money hidden." A week later, the prisoner received another letter from his dad: "You are not going to believe this. Some men came to the house with shovels the same day I got your letter and dug up the entire back yard." The man then wrote his dad again: "Dear dad, NOW is the best time to plant that lettuce!" (Ha, ha!) During the famous 1943 prison escape, now referred to as “The Great Escape,” Seventy-six Allied prisoners escaped from a prison in Germany. For a year, they dug tunnels 30 feet deep, displacing 200 tons of sand. The prisoners worked as a team, but sadly, only three of the prisoners actually eluded capture and made it home. Contrary to the Geneva Convention, Hitler had 50 of the prisoners executed. Though it was only a temporary victory, still 76 prisoners literally dug their way out of prison!
You can dig your way through 200 tons of Sand with a knife or spoon, or you can try the method that Paul and Silas used to “dig” their way out of prison in Acts 16:22-26: (The Jailer) put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and . . . Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.” Think of it! They just prayed and sang hymns; and God sent an earthquake and they escaped from a dungeon! Most Christians in that situation would by crying and asking, “Why me, Lord?” But, Paul and Silas showed us the better way: prayer and praise.
“Two men looked out the same bars: one saw mud, the other stars.” Do you see the mud or the stars from your prison cell? You can find cause to sing and rejoice, or find cause to be sad. One of the best examples of this principle, from a secular perspective, is shown in the song popularized by Elvis Presley (Featured also in his movie “Jailhouse rock.”). Following is the first verse and chorus: Jailhouse Rock (words & music by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller): (v. 1) “The warden threw a party in the county jail. The prison band was there and they began to wail. The band was jumpin’ and the joint began to swing. You should’ve heard those knocked out jailbirds sing. (Chorus): Let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock. Everybody in the whole cell block Was dancin’ to the jailhouse rock.”
I’m sure that you have seen the famous scene in the movie where Elvis sings this song and all the prisoners are dancing and enjoying themselves. That is exactly what Christians should be doing even while in prison. Paul was in prison in Philippi. But, though he was in prison, he wrote: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4). Paul said to rejoice “always.” Always includes the season you’re still in prison, doesn’t it? (It doesn’t take any faith to praise God and rejoice once you are out!).
Psalms 34:1-8 says it best . . . (David wrote this Psalm after barely escaping death by King Abemilech): “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. . . Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”
Have you made it your goal that, like David in vs. 1, “His praise shall continually be in my mouth?” Many have proven the power in praise. A missionary was put into a hole dug in the ground by the natives. It was so tight, that he couldn’t even sit or lie down to rest and had to literally stand in his own bodily discharges. He started singing a hymn and continued to sing that same hymn over and over virtually non-stop. Before long, the natives decided that the missionary must have lost his mind and let him out of his prison. Make the demons guarding you crazy! Start praising the Lord and singing today. Don’t wait until you get out of your prison to rejoice. By faith, do it now! Dig your way out of your prison through the time-honored and frequently proven biblical power of praise!
3) Get help from those outside prison: people who are already free;
Obadiah 1:17 (NLT): “But Jerusalem will become a refuge for those who escape . . . And the people of Israel will come back to reclaim their inheritance.” Jerusalem (Zion) is often a picture of the church in Scripture. God wants the church (His people) to be a refuge for those who “escape.” God’s people are intended to “reclaim their inheritance.” But, sometimes they need a little help from others. In 1999 a woman in Sydney, Australia commandeered a helicopter during a joyride and made the pilot fly to a nearby prison where her lover had been sentenced to 28 years for armed robbery. The pilot landed in the exercise yard and in spite of a hail of bullets, the prisoner ran into the helicopter and it flew safely away from the prison. The couple eluded capture for 6 weeks. People who are already free can really be of assistance to those in prison; especially if they have a helicopter! (We have a “heavenly” helicopter: The Holy Spirit! My wife and I both have had dreams from the Lord involving helicopters.).
Even during “The Great Escape” from Germany in 1943, surprisingly, the allied prisoners were able to solicit help from friendly German guards. Through help from these “free” guards, they obtained train timetables, maps, compasses, security documents, and even civilian clothing. The Germans helped them some. But, mostly, they helped each other. To dig up 200 tons of sand took an amazing amount of camaraderie and working together for the common good. We are comrades in a heavenly great escape!Hebrews 13:3 (NLT): “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” We are all serving time in the prison of a fallen world. We simply must become unselfish and try to help one another. Those who have found freedom from sin should be especially diligent to do what they can to also help others escape. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Are you ready to help those in need? Are you ready to give someone a helping hand?
Prov. 17:22 Medicine: A murderer was secured to the electric chair, about to be executed. The chaplain approached him and calmly asked, "Do you have any last requests?" "Yes," replied the murderer. "Would you hold my hand?" (Ha, ha!) We can “hold the hand” of those being “executed” by the devil! And, we have God’s promise that He is holding our hand to help us escape our prison. Isaiah 42:6, 7: “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house”
I received a letter from a man from Illinois where I held a revival years ago: “It has now been 28 days since you prayed and God delivered me from pornography. Since then, I still have not used pornography, looked at it, wanted to look at it, or desired it. It still seems that the desire was taken away from me the moment you prayed.” I still see that moment clearly in my memory. Here was a man 60 years of age. I was the first person with whom he had ever shared his struggle with pornography. He was embarrassed. He was in bondage. He needed someone’s help who was “free.” I was free! (I myself suffered with the same addiction many years previously. I could be “touched with the feeling of his weaknesses.”) So, I held his hands clasped in mine and commanded the spirit of lust to “loose” him. That demon left that day. I had held his hand and walked him to freedom through the power of the Spirit (A heavenly helicopter flew us both to freedom!).
Jesus is ready to hold your hand and walk you to freedom. Luke 4:18: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed.” It is the ministry of Jesus Christ himself personally to set prisoners free. He was imprisoned by Roman Guards, bound by nails pinning him to a cross and finally held hostage by a dark, cold grave with a heavy stone covering the exit. But, hallelujah, His Father took him by the hand and led him forever out of prison. Having conquered the prisons of death, hell and the grave, He is well able to deliver you from your chains of bondage! Matthew 18:19, 20 promises us, “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." Jesus is “there” ready to set free. All we have to do is “get in agreement.” Let’s “Remember prisoners as if chained with them.” Let’s stand with them in prayer, in faith, and share their hurts with them. Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Know anybody who is weeping now because of terrible bondage? Weep with them. Help them escape their prison. Extend your hand to them and both of you climb on the heaven-sent Holy Spirit “helicopter” together!
4) Make the most of your prison experience: When life deals you lemons, make lemonade!
(Medicine): A woman awoke during the night to find that her husband was not in bed. She put on her robe and went downstairs. He was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in front of him. He appeared to be in deep thought; just staring at the wall. She saw him wipe a tear from his eye and take a sip of his coffee. "What's the matter dear? Why are you down here at this time of night?" she asked. He replied, "Do you remember twenty years ago when we were dating and you were only 16?" "Yes, of course." she replied. "Do you remember when your father caught us alone?" "Yes, I remember." "Do you remember when he shoved that shotgun in my face and said, 'Either you marry my daughter or spend twenty years in jail!'?" "Yes, how could I forget." she said; awaiting his answer. He wiped another tear from his cheek and said, "You know, I would have gotten out today!" (Ha, ha!)
Being forced into a marriage, a commitment or any type of "prison” you don't want to be in is truly a lemon of life. Roy Rogers recorded a song written by Cole Porter called, "Don't Fence Me In." Following are a few lines from it which woefully expresses the human need to not be "fenced in" by any prison: V. 1: ‘Wildcat Kelly, lookin' mighty pale, Was standing by the sheriff's side; And when that sheriff said "I'm sending you to jail," Wildcat raised his head and cried.” Chorus: “Oh, give me land, lots of land Under starry skies above, Don't fence me in. Let me ride through the wild open Country that I love, Don't fence me in. Let me be by myself in the evening breeze-Listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees, Send me off forever, but I ask you please, Don't fence me in.” V.2: Wildcat Kelly, back again in town, Was sitting by his sweetheart's side, And when his sweetheart said: "Come on, let's settle down," Wildcat raised his head and cried: (chorus) “Oh, give me land, lots of land Under starry skies above, Don't fence me in . . . “ Are you crying out to Satan like Wildcat Kelly, "Don't fence me in?" Well, you certainly aren't alone. But, when you are "fenced in," the most important thing is to make the most out of your experience: whether it is a difficult relationship, a sin you can't seem to overcome or other "chains of bondage."
Daniel was "fenced in" in a Lion's Den. But he "believed in His God" (Daniel 6:23). He made the most of his experience and out of it came one of the greatest stories in the Bible and a testimony to the Power of God to protect us during times of imprisonment. Out of his "test" came an incredible "testimony." Ezra 9:9: "For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage." While in Egypt, Israel had experienced the chains of slavery. But, they could testify that the Lord was there with them and didn't forsake them, even in their "bondage." Hebrews 13:5-6 promises us: "I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" He is carrying you on his back across the sands of Egyptian bondage. Make the most of it. Learn from it. When life deals you lemons, make lemonade!
Look forward to the day you will have a glorious testimony to the church and to the world of His delivering power, as David did in Psalms 40:1-4: "I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth-- Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust." David had to have the Lord deliver him "up out of a horrible pit." But, good resulted from it: as he could then prophesy, "Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord." (And hundreds of millions of Christians through the ages have seen through David's Psalms the Lord's faithfulness to deliver from bondage) You may feel like you’re in a "horrible pit" now. Follow David's example: "Wait patiently;" let Him "set your feet on a rock and establish your steps;" let Him "put a new song in your mouth;" teach you to "Praise the Lord;" and consider yourself one of those, like David: "blessed men" who have learned to "make the Lord his trust." When life deals you lemons; make lemonade!
5) If you want to escape prison, hire your own "dream team" of attorneys to defend you.
An old saying is, "He who serves as his own lawyer has a fool for a client." Many times I have talked with people and asked them this question: "If you were to die today and stand before God, and He were to ask you, "Why should I let you into my heaven?" what would you say?" (A lead question recommended by the late Dr. James Kennedy in his book "Evangelism Explosion", which I highly recommend that every soul winner read!). Again and again, they'll answer with something like, "I’ve always tried to do right. I’ve lived a real good life," etc. When they say things like that, they’re in essence saying, "I’m my own lawyer when I stand in the judgment." To represent yourself in an earthly court is foolish. And, to represent yourself in the heavenly court is even more foolish. Any defendant in any court needs a good lawyer. The problem is: good lawyers are hard to find. To begin with, 50% of them graduated in the bottom half of their class! In addition, lawyers have a reputation for often being unscrupulous (whether deserved or not depends on the individual lawyer, of course.)
If you’re able to find a good lawyer, you have greatly increased your chances of being found innocent of a crime. "You get a reasonable doubt for a reasonable price." is an old lawyer's saying. O.J. Simpson is proof of this too. All the evidence seemed to be there, but O.J.'s "Dream Team" of high profile attorneys (including Robert Shapiro, F. Lee Bailey, and Johnnie Cochran) got O.J. off by a "reasonable doubt." Many believe O.J. literally got away with murder! What a cunning lawyer Johnnie Cochran proved to be! As the early American rhyme goes, "Thus tis we say though quite uncivil, A cunning lawyer beats the devil!" We’re all going to need a "cunning attorney" when we stand before God after a life-time of the devil accusing us before Him (Rev. 12:10).
And, like O.J., we’re going to be in court accused of murder, for Jesus said, in "Matthew 5:21-22: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment." John said a similar word in 1 John 3:15: "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." Ever been unreasonably angry? Ever hated anyone? We all have. And, we're all in trouble, aren't we? We need a "Dream Team" to represent us at judgment day. And, we've got one (hallelujah!). As Christians, Jesus is our head attorney: 1 John 2:1: "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate (an attorney or lawyer) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Hebrews 7:25: "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."
Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, ready to take the stand in our defense. A woman was found in the act of adultery. Her many accusers were preparing to stone her. Jesus said in John 8:7: "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." Convicted by their own consciences, every one left the scene. Jesus then asked her in John 8:10: "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She answered, "No, Lord." Jesus then said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go. . ." What an attorney! She was guilty of the crime, but Jesus got her off free! John 8:36: "Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Are you guilty of sin? Romans 3:19 (NLT): "The law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God." Yes, we are indeed all guilty before God. The best way to get out of prison (and the only way to get out of hell), is to have a good attorney. Is Jesus your attorney? If not, hire Him today! You'll have the all time dream team on your side: The Father, Son and Holy Ghost! They'll take your case pro bono too!
6) Proclaim your personal Confession of faith of your deliverance from every chain of bondage. Then, believe, pray and praise until you receive your "earthquake" of deliverance:
December 26, 2004, there was a tidal wave (resulting from a massive earthquake) in Sri Lanka that destroyed a prison. Three-hundred prisoners escaped from the high-security jail. The same thing happened in Indonesia where 200 prisoners escaped after the Tsunami partially destroyed their prison. Probably no one reading this had heard this report. Probably all you heard about were the deaths and narrow escapes, especially among tourists. But, the fact remains that many who were imprisoned needed the help of a spectacular event (an earthquake and tidal wave) to get out of their bondage. In the same way, Christians often need a spectacular event, a miracle, a spiritual "earthquake" to break down walls of their personal chains.
The Word of God is full of examples of people who escaped prison by supernatural assistance from the Lord. Israel's escape from Pharaoh is one of the finest examples. It wasn't by war or by the strength of their own hand to "dig" their way out. Rather it was, "By strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Exodus 13:14. Isaiah 51:10 (NLT) reminds us that it was God's power that assisted their escape: "Are you not the same today, the one who dried up the sea, making a path of escape through the depths so that your people could cross over?" In II Chronicles 20, Israel was again supernaturally saved from the enemy. This time, they were instructed to lay down their weapons and simply to march against the enemy singing praises. Those praises so confused the Moabites, that they started killing one another and Israel then escaped bondage without firing a shot!
There are two examples of supernatural escapes from prison in the New Testament also. Acts 16:24- 26: (A Jailer) “put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.” Notice that it was a God-ordained earthquake that shook the prison doors loose. But, also notice that the earthquake didn't happen until Paul and Silas had first spent time "praying and singing."
Another miraculous prison escape is found in Acts 12:5-7: "Peter was kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. Now . . . an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison (and the angel helped Peter escape)." Deliverance from the natural bondage of prison was made on their knees first: then, a supernatural intervention brought the actual escape from prison.
If all the other methods of "How to Escape From Prison" have so far failed to produce any results, then we know what we must do. We simply must continue to confess our faith, pray and praise God until our miracle "prison break" comes. Take your stand for freedom today! And, start living the life of prayer and praise. Your miracle of deliverance is just one earthquake ahead of you.