The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are politically incorrect and out of vogue by today’s standards. In fact, Huck Finn is the fourth most banned books in schools today because the word “nigger” appears in it over two hundred times. However, these books are some of the great classic literature of America — and for good reason.
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) has Tom Sawyer come up with the most outlandish scheme for arranging an escape for his friend, the slave Jim. The story goes on for several chapters as they dig tunnels under walls that had unlocked doors that they could have easily walked through, use improvised knives to cut through barriers that they could have simply picked up and moved, teach Jim to write so he can leave messages which meant nothing to him or anyone who would read them, capture snakes and rats so the prison cell would be infested with vermin when it was originally a clean well-kept hut, make a rope ladder for an escape that was to be on level ground — and the list goes on and on. All this was done because it wasn’t proper to do anything that wasn’t according to the books that Tom had read about escaping from prison.
What is even more humorous is that Jim was a free man the whole time. Jim’s owner, Miss Watson, had declared him free in her will. Tom knew about this but never told Jim or Huck until after they had been through his whole elaborate plan, which — by the way — failed! I see a lot of Tom Sawyer in the thinking of the church. It never ceases to amaze me how we will go to great lengths in order to find solutions to problems God has already solved.
Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus that he was constantly praying for them that “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” (verse 1:18) He was referring to truths and privileges that were already available to these believers, but they had not had their eyes opened to them. Just as with Tom’s misadventures in attempting to arrange Jim’s escape, the church in Ephesus was still living in prison and making all sorts of fruitless efforts to earn benefits that were already theirs. Paul told them that the victories they were needing had already been made a reality because they were ones “which he (God) wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” (verse 1:20) Paul went on to say that the Easter message was not just that Jesus had been raised but that we also were partakers in the same triumph in that God “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (verse 2:6)
The problem of the church in Ephesus in AD 50 and the church today is the same dilemma that Tom dealt with in the little slave hut on Silas Phelp’s farm — the ransom price has been paid, but we continue to live in bondage while we try to earn our own freedom. We may laugh at the story of Tom and Huck; but, in all fairness, we must admit that we are as dumb as they were because we live our lives under all sorts of restraints that have actually been broken for two millennia!
It is amazing how much we teach, preach, and talk about spiritual warfare when the truth is that the battle has ended and the victory declared some two thousand years ago! Let’s think just a moment about the classic spiritual warfare text in Ephesians 6:11, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” If we read the section carefully, we’ll see that Paul doesn’t admonish us to fight, but to “stand” — a term meaning that we occupy the territory already won in a previous conflict. This theme of acting as an occupation force is reiterated several times in scripture. Here‘s an example form the lips of Jesus and one form the pen of the apostle.
And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. (Luke 19:13)
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)
We’ve probably all heard the illustration about the hitchhiker who climbed into the passenger seat — backpack and all — when a passerby stopped to give him a lift. No matter how insistent the driver was that the young man pull off the bag and drop it into the back seat, the passenger refused. He could appreciate the ride, but he couldn’t comprehend that the ride also included relieving him of the weight of his baggage. Chuckle if you wish, but beware that we still act the same way toward the Lord; we accept His salvation, but still feel that it is up to us to carry the burden of ensuring our own victories in life’s challenges. We seem to fail to remember that whatever struggles we do encounter are to be seen from the mindset of guaranteed victory. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” (II Corinthians 2:14)
One day when Charles Hadding Spurgeon was visiting with the residents in the home for destitute elderly Londoners that his church maintained, he noticed something posted on the wall of the room in which a little illiterate woman lived. He asked her about it and learned that she had received it as a gift from a wealthy gentleman whose house she used to clean. Just before his death, the old man had given it to her in appreciation for her many years of loyal service. She continued that since it had such a beautiful picture of the queen and since the gentleman had been so kind to her, she had tacked it to the wall as a memento. Dr. Spurgeon shocked the lady by telling her to pull it down and take it to the bank because her picture of the queen was actually a thousand pound note that meant that she was actually a very well off lady rather than a charity case. This is a bittersweet story in that it has a happy ending, but we will never know the bitterness the little lady endured before she learned the truth that set her free. We, too, are not the destitute charity cases we have allowed ourselves to be seduced into thinking we are. We are representatives of a totally different order of creation and have had everything from the previous order eradicated from our lives. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17) We must reorient our mentality to focus our concentration on the things that are ours in the heavenly places where we are invited to sit. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)
Remember the story I shared earlier about the student who sent me a suicide note because he was overwhelmed by his poor grades and his inability to pay his tuition. The truth was that he had been given a scholarship to pay all his school bills and he actually wound up being listed on the dean’s list that semester. Unfortunately, he had not learned to live in the victory that was actually working inside him; rather, he was allowing himself to believe the lie of defeat from the enemy. He did not realize that God had already determined to bless him even before he reached out for it. “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24) Thank the Lord, I reached him in time to not only save his physical life but to also save his spiritual life by awakening him to the victorious position to which Christ has called him.
If I were to be inspired to prophesy to you today, my spirit would cry out to you as the Holy Spirit pleaded with those in the meeting when this inspired word came, “Wake up and realize that you are free!!” Inside of each of us there is a hero who is just waiting to be given a chance to break out of the limitations we have imposed upon him. The most important key to victory in life is to realize that the battle is already won and that all we have to do is receive the victory that Christ is offering to us. Learn to release the hero that Christ has placed inside of you!
In ancient Samaria, four leprous men did not know that God had already won a victory for them, but they realized that they couldn’t live any longer in their present state of defeat. They reasoned among themselves, “Why sit we here until we die?” (II Kings 7:3) and set out on a journey toward the unimaginable riches of God. Today, there are also unlimited resources and untold triumphs that have been waiting for us since Jesus burst out of His tomb. Why do we sit here in our defeat and die? Let’s take a step toward the unfathomable riches awaiting us in the resurrected Christ.