There’s been quite a few times in my life when I’ve felt like a captive – to a job, circumstance, finances, or even my own crazy emotions. But I read a story the other day that reminded me to looking at things in a new way.

In the book of Acts, Apostle Paul got arrested for preaching about Jesus’ resurrection. When he found out the Jews were plotting to kill him, the captain of the guard decided to take Paul to Felix to try his case. But instead of giving a verdict, Felix tried to use Paul instead, and plunked him in prison. But instead of seeing himself as a pawn in someone else’s game, Paul took charge of the situation.

Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, sent for Paul and listened to him talk about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and his people, about a life of moral discipline and the coming Judgment, Felix felt things getting a little too close for comfort and dismissed him. ‘That’s enough for today. I’ll call you back when it’s convenient.’ At the same time he was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently. After two years of this, Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus. Still playing up to the Jews and ignoring justice, Felix left Paul in prison.” (Acts 24:24-27, Message).

At first glance, it doesn’t seem at all like Paul had the upper hand. He was there for two years! But look closer. It definitely wasn’t two years of freedom and comfort for Paul, but he was the one who was free, not Felix and Drusilla. He knew who he was, where he was going, and his purpose in life. Even in prison, he pursued it wholeheartedly. On the other hand, Felix was trapped by his greed and insatiable hunger for power, even while he longed for the freedom he could see in Paul.

Initially they were pretty shook by Paul’s words, but the longer they vacilated, the harder their hearts became. “Felix and Drusilla were not righteous. Their life was filthy, their history diabolical. They were not liked by the people they ruled and were not trusted by even their own household of slaves, servants, and companions” (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary).

Eventually, Felix was kicked out of power and lived the rest of his life in Rome in disgrace. Two years later, Drusilla died at twenty-one, when Mount Vesuvius erupted. They had the chance for true freedom, but chose to die captives to sin.

In the meantime, how many people overheard Paul’s message in the palace and prison cells? How many people were saved when he spoke of Christ with confidence and joy? They could see from his life that imprisonment meant nothing; his spirit was free.

I want to live like that. There are definitely times in this life when we would like to be free of pain, unkindness, and discomfort. But none of that can imprison our heart and hold us captive. Paul’s story is such a good reminder those who accept Christ’s love and forgiveness can never be held captive by anyone or anything else.