Recently I saw an America’s Got Talent audition of a man called Archie Williams who had been wrongly imprisoned for 37 years. Despite his innocence, he was sentenced to 80 years imprisonment for multiple crimes he didn’t commit. After 37 years, DNA proved he was innocent and he was freed.
During his audition he said that in prison he prayed and he sang, and that’s how he got peace. He said: “Freedom is of the mind. I went to prison but I never let my mind go to prison.”
His story reminded me of Joseph, who was also wrongly imprisoned. A couple of things struck me most about Joseph and Archie’s stories of glory through suffering.
1. They didn’t let their minds go to prison
When wrongly accused of anything, big or small, it can be easy for us to get defensive. Aggression can build and bitterness can start to grow. Bitterness can easily start unnoticed by others but the unaddressed hurt quickly becomes a catalyst for our own bad decisions. If Archie had grown bitter, his life could have looked very different and he might not be walking free today. If Joseph had grown bitter and sought revenge against his brothers, he might never have had the opportunity to save his family and fulfil his Godly purpose.
2. They stayed with God
Archie needed peace in a situation that was unfair and that he didn’t understand. He knew that praying was what was needed for his peace.
Philippians 4:6 ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
Joseph became a successful man in prison because it was obvious God was with him. His actions and demeanour remained that of a man walking with God and he was promoted and trusted. Despite the situation, he didn’t let negative feelings transform his character and derail him from his purpose. Romans 12:2 ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’
Archie’s audition won over the judges and the nation. His humility was so apparent. What impacted me was, when asked how he felt about being out of prison, he said “I’m still trying to digest the freedom I have right now.”
Because he had been imprisoned, he remained overwhelmed by the freedom in which he now lives. In truth, we all live in that same freedom. Because we have not experienced physical incarceration, we don’t recognise it. We can, however, let ourselves become imprisoned by worries, decisions or circumstances. These things can stop us living, they can trap us without us even being consciously aware of it.
Galatians 3:13 (MSG) Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself.
Our freedom is a lot to be grateful for. Let go of anything that’s trapping you, and live the free life Jesus died for us to have.
A daily devotion for a better way of living.