Summary: Real freedom does not come from escaping your circumstances, or from being able to do whatever you want; real freedom is the power to live in obedience to God.

Do you feel free? Or do you sometimes feel trapped? No way out, all the exits boarded up? Ever feel that all your obligations and responsibilities have tied you down, that all you’re doing is marching to someone else’s music, responding to someone else’s demands, all the time doing what you have to do instead of what you want to do?

It’s easy to feel that way. You graduate from high school or college with very few responsibilities. Then a job (and after a while you’re a manager with responsibility for other people), marriage, children (paying for college), a mortgage, a lease on a Dodge Caravan, a dog. Maybe you have elderly parents to care for too, or an ex-wife to pay alimony to, or college loans to repay. And after a while, and the walls start to close in. Every year that passes, your options, your freedom to make changes in your life, get fewer and fewer. You pass 30, and then what seems like only a few weeks later, 40 and you wonder where the time went. It’s difficult enough to handle when you have a good marriage and a job you enjoy, and the kids are doing well. Even then, the pressure of all those responsibilities can be almost overwhelming. But what if the job isn’t so great? What if the marriage is rocky? What if the kids are going through a rebellious phase - say from 9 to 19? What about when illness or old age starts to place additional limits on your freedom? Then your life can feel like a kind of prison, and you’ve got a life sentence without possibility of parole.

What do you do? Some people’s answer is to run, to try to escape. They feel they have no alternative but to cut and run. Quit the job; divorce the husband; abandon the kids; default on the loans. They may even choose suicide as an escape. If they don’t do it physically, they escape emotionally - they’re home, but completely disengaged from the family. They’re at work, but just doing the bare minimum to get by. They’re still going through the motions, but in reality they’ve checked out. Or they may try drugs or alcohol, or some other mind-numbing pastime, as an escape.

This morning, I’d like to talk about what to do when you feel anything but free, what to do when it feels like the walls are closing in. I’d like to talk about how to have freedom without escape. I’m going to give you some principles to help get you through those times when you feel trapped, when you feel hemmed in, when more than anything else you just want to be free.

1. View your circumstances as ordained by God.

First, understand that your circumstances are from God. You are not a victim of chance. You are a child of God, and He has a purpose for you where you are. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Let’s start with Joseph. [story of Joseph being sold into slavery]. Joseph was a slave, and then he was a prisoner (can’t get much less free than that). Separated from his family and his people, with no hope of ever seeing them again. Falsely accused; unjustly imprisoned. It would be easy for Joseph to conclude that God had abandoned him, that he was on his own, that his painful circumstances were the result of some cruel cosmic joke. It would be easy for Joseph to conclude that it didn’t really matter anymore what he did. But this is not how Joseph responded. He continued to trust that God was with him and that his life had meaning.

"Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master." - Genesis 39:1-2 (NIV)

· [What had happened to Joseph by this time? Where was he? Yet the Lord was with him.]

"When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, "This is how your slave treated me," he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden." - Genesis 39:19-21 (NIV)

· [What had happened to Joseph by this time? Where was he? Yet the Lord was with him.]

How would you feel in Joseph’s place?

Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God." - Genesis 45:4-8 (NIV)

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