Author Paul David Tripp offers some profound words on the issue of freedom. He says:
We’re all slaves; the question is, to whom or to what? Everyone is willing to make sacrifices; the question is, to whom or for what? We all follow sets of rules; the question is, whose and for what? We all give our hearts to something; the question is, to whom or to what? We were never hard-wired to be free, if by “freedom” we mean an independent, self-sufficient life. We were created by God to be connected to something vastly bigger than ourselves. We were designed to have our lives organized and directed by an agenda that is bigger than our short-sighted personal desires and goals. We were carefully built by God to have every aspect of our personhood connected to him and his plans for us, and when we reject him, we don’t live autonomously; we replace him with something or someone.
Stephen Covey puts it in these terms. He says each of us have a personal center. He adds, “Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom and power.”
Covey continues to make his point that every aspect of someone’s life is determined by his or her personal center. One way to understand this is to realize everyone lives for something. There is one thing that gives us a sense of significance and security. It is what makes us feel valuable and grounded, knowing that our lives are worth something. We believe that without this one thing, there is no way to be happy.
Covey says specifically that we can be money-centered, work-centered, pleasure-centered, success-centered, family-centered or God-centered. There is one main thing in our lives that makes us feel worthwhile and full of meaning. But, what we don’t realize is that whatever is at our personal center becomes our master. You have given yourself to it, you are under its control and, therefore, you are not free. As an example, some individuals are workaholics, as money, status or achievement is at their personal center, which controls them. Others enter bad relationships and stay in them even though, on an intellectual level, they know that they should not continue. They have a great need for romance and the presence of a significant person in their lives.
No one is free. You might think you are in control and are your own person, but you are not. As the Greek philosopher, Euripides, who lived 2,500 years ago said, “No one is truly free.” You can serve either wealth or the law, or you can serve the people you are seeking to please. We do not control ourselves; we are controlled by that which is at the center of our being.
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul brings this into the spiritual realm. He states there are two types of people in the world–those who unconditionally serve God with their lives, and those who spiritually are slaves to something else. There are no other choices.
We were made for God, to live in relationship with Him. In Him we are made complete and in our relationship with Him we will find true freedom.
I remember watching a great illustration a number of years ago that can help us better understand this truth. A youth director wanted to illustrate to a group of teenagers what it means to be truly free. He got a goldfish bowl that was full of water and had a single goldfish in it. He proceeded to reach into the bowl, pick up the goldfish, and drop it on the table. The fish jumped two feet into the air and then off the table onto the floor. It flipped and flopped around for a minute and then lay still as its gills were straining for oxygen. The teenagers begged him to put the fish back into the bowl.
He protested and said to the students, “But the bowl is so confining; the fish is free outside of the bowl.” He finally put the fish back into the bowl and explained that only in water could the fish be free to do what a fish does. And just as a fish is made for water, we were made for God.