It Is for Freedom That Christ Has Set Us Free!
by Julie Smith
I’ve just watched one of those amazing wildlife programmes. It was about a woman called Petronel, who rescues orphaned rhinos in South Africa, and followed the story of a baby rhino called Manji who was left abandoned after his mother was poached. He was injured and very weak, but with veterinary treatment and lots of loving care Petronel slowly nurtured him back to full health.
The time eventually came for Manji to be released back into the wild, and Petronel opened the sanctuary gates. At first he was curious and ambled over to look outside the large pen which had been his home for many months. Slowly he ventured through the gates into the African bush of the outside world. But within seconds panic set in, he turned tail and stampeded back into the safety and familiar comfort of the confines of the sanctuary.
Petronel knew that keeping Manji in a pen any longer, no matter how much he wanted to stay, would be cruel: robbing him of any chance of being adopted into a family group of rhinos, having the freedom to roam wherever they went, grazing and eventually breeding and having his own young in the wild. So she persevered, every day opening the gates and gently encouraging him to venture out. Each time Manji stayed outside a little longer and wandered a bit further before returning to his pen, until one day he kept walking and didn’t come back. The TV cameras followed him and watched as he joined and was accepted into a family group.
It was a great story with a happy ending, and reminded me so much of the heart of God to rescue, heal and restore, and ultimately bring His release into true freedom. There are many people, who, like Manji, have been abandoned, not necessarily physically, but often emotionally and spiritually, and left damaged, hurting, alone and desperate. Maybe you’re one of them. But God knew in advance that through the bad choices mankind would make, this would happen, and out of His great love and compassion He sent Jesus for you and for me – yes, to pay the price for our sin – but also, as Isaiah 61 tells us, to bind up our broken hearts and release us into freedom.
What an amazing act of grace and mercy! Yet, we can so often be like Manji. We hear the message of hope and begin to receive the much-longed for healing, but then when the time comes to walk into the freedom Christ won for us, we want to run back to the safety of what has become familiar.
I remember well, reaching that point on my own healing journey, and the Lord said, “You’re finding your identity in the walk to healing; I want you to find your identity in Me.” At first I didn’t understand, and then when I did understand I didn’t want to move out of my comfort zone into that unknown territory. I was like Manji wanting to stay in his familiar pen.
But God, in His great love has so much more. I learned that receiving healing isn’t an end in itself, but a beginning. And the only way I could begin to move into my destiny was to walk through the gates He was opening, trusting that these weren’t gates that led to the abandonment and loneliness I feared, but gates to a world I’d never really known – a world of new relationships, freedom to grow and change, and enter into the abundant life Jesus won. Eventually, I did walk through the gates, and like Manji, I’ve never looked back.
I want to encourage you today to dare to walk out of the gates of any comfort zone you might be in. A comfort zone, in the end, can so easily become another place of captivity, and Paul urges us: ‘Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!’
Prayer: Father God, Thank You for Your love, thank You for sending Jesus, and for the healing You have poured into my life. Please help me to take courage to walk forward in the healing I have received, and to truly live out of my new identity in You, that as I walk in all the freedom you have won for me, my life would give glory back to You. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
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