Psalm 142:7 Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.
The Japanese gives the more literal translation of “Lead my soul out of prison.” In a sense that is a figure of speech indicating David himself, but many, many people are in bondage even though there are no physical restraints on them. On one level that is common knowledge, but on another level it is almost universally ignored. We speak of people being “caught in addiction,” but even the addicted don’t like to admit they are bound. We speak of “destructive lifestyles,” but those in them think they are maximizing their fun. It comes down to our immense capacity for self-deception, aided and encouraged by the devil. James 1:22 is famous on the subject of self-deception, but Paul spoke of a veil preventing understanding (2 Corinthians 3:14) and said the devil blinds people so they can’t perceive God’s truth. (2 Corinthians 4:4) That can be frustrating to the point of despair for those who see the truth and are trying to lead others into it, but they stubbornly refuse. We have to remember several things about that. First, we must remember that we personally can’t save anyone; only God can do that. Second, we must remember that we have been given the Holy Spirit, so it’s not a hopeless task. (1 John 4:4) Third, we must remember that it is ultimately that person’s decision, and we are not responsible for what they decide. We are responsible to speak the truth in love to let them know what is available to them, and we are responsible to be demonstrations of what life in Christ is all about, but we are not responsible for their decision. Many earnest Christians beat themselves up over their friends and loved ones who will not walk out of their prisons even though Christ has opened the door. We are to care, because God cares, but we have to respect their free will, just as God does.
This is the story of my life! Japan has been called “the graveyard of missionaries” precisely because of the low rate of return for effort invested. It’s easy to get discouraged! However, I need to rejoice in those who do choose to walk out of prison, but even more, rejoice in my Lord who loves me and who loves the people to whom I minister, whether they receive His love or not. I’ve got to remember that He desires their salvation even more than I do. I can have a long, informed discussion of the barriers to the Gospel in Japan, but ultimately I have to confess that I really don’t know why God hasn’t torn those barriers down yet. I am to be faithful in prayer and faithful in witness, so that whatever else is said, I may not be in the way of what God wants to do in this nation.
Father, I really identify with my father having cried out to You, prostrated on the floor, “Lord, if I am what is in the way of revival in Japan, then take me out of the way!” I am reduced to praying that Your name be acknowledged as holy and Your kingdom come as Your will is done, but that’s not really a bad place to be. Help me be satisfied with that, letting my pride be washed away completely, so that You may receive all the glory as Your plans are fulfilled. Thank You. Hallelujah!