We received a letter from a prisoner in a state penitentiary. He said, “I am a life-termer, and for 10 years I have been dreaming and planning for the day when I could escape this horrible place.”
Then he wrote, “Our plans for escape were almost complete when last Sunday a man in the cell next to mine tuned his radio to The Hour of Decision. I could not help but listen. My soul was stirred with memories of Mother and home. I began to realize how far I had wandered from Mother’s teachings. I remembered the church we used to attend, and some of the sermons came thundering back to my memory.
“While Mr. Shea was singing ‘Softly and Tenderly’ at the close of your sermon, I knelt in my cell and sobbed my confession to God. My heart was strangely warmed, and for the first time in my life I felt the presence of God. I knew I had been what you call ‘born again.’ I have discarded my plans for escape because I realize that God can use me right here in this prison to help others find the wonderful peace that I have found in Christ.”
Thousands of people have plans to escape from the realities of life. A new word came into common usage a few years ago: escapism. The dictionary defines it as “a retreat from reality into an imaginary world.”
Perhaps you are caught and held in the clutches of escapism. Instead of facing up to the realities of sin and defeat in your own life, you are trying to hide in an illusive, imaginary world. But the Bible says there is no possible way of escape: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).
Sooner or later we must leave our dream world and face up to the fact of God, sin and judgment. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12).
There are no new sins—only new sinners. There are no new crimes—only new criminals. No new evils—only new evildoers. No new pleasures—only new pleasure seekers. The devil has invented no new gimmicks.
Sin and its accompanying effects are now and always have been monotonously the same. The murders you read about are no more shocking or different than the murder of Abel by Cain. The sex perversions, which our newspapers play up as daring and new, are only modern copies of the ancient perversions of Sodom and Gomorrah.
For centuries we have been trying to escape the realities of life and shirk our responsibilities to God. It is one of the tricks of Satan. One of Satan’s schemes for you is that you may find a measure of temporary satisfaction in the escapism that he offers. Stubbornly we resist the pleadings of Christ when He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). And each passing day finds us a little deeper in the pit of despair.
The Escape of Imagination
Solomon spoke of the unspiritual heart as one that is inclined to fantasy and imaginative living, calling it “a heart that devises wicked plans” (Proverbs 6:18). The Bible describes Satan as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), and he does a good job of selling the unreal.
It was evil imagination that lured David out of the pathway of blessing when he imagined that he loved Bathsheba. And eventually that imagination led to years of sorrow, remorse and judgment.
The prodigal son imagined that the pleasures of the far-off city were greater than the joys of his home. But after wasting his resources in shameful living, he returned to his father in repentance and tears, and he begged to be a hired servant in his father’s house. He discovered that real peace was found in facing up to the reality of life and doing something about it.
Satan’s dream world always ends with disillusionment. Sin, which is his stock and trade, brings forth death when it is finished. Thousands of people live in an unreal dream world while shirking their responsibilities toward their family and God. They read cheap novels or use pornography and get a vicarious, imaginative thrill out of what they see or read.
The Bible teaches that with Christ in your heart you can face the hard realities of life, and the grace of God will give you greater joy and pleasure than any dream world to which you may try to escape.
The Escape of Pleasure
This is humanity’s oldest escape from reality and responsibility. It is a flight into passion, appetite and desire.
A man wrote, “I’m going to drown my troubles in alcohol.” Another wrote, “I’m going to plunge into a lost weekend.” An unfaithful man told me some time ago, “I’ll show my wife that somebody loves me.”
And so these frustrated, deluded people run like crazed animals into the jungle of worldly pleasure, only to emerge more miserable than before. The Bible warns us to beware of the deceitfulness of pleasure: “For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags” (Proverbs 23:21).
We must distinguish between wholesome, God-ordained pleasure and sinful, worldly pleasure. Christians have more wholesome fun than anyone in the world, but their joy wells up from within. It is not something artificially stimulated by the sinful pleasures of the world. It is a joy born of the Spirit.
If you have been trying to escape in amusement and sinful pleasure, I beg you to turn back. Jesus said, “Broad is the way that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13). Instead, He points to a narrow path that leads to eternal life.
The Escape of Security
Thousands of people in America settle down comfortably in the security of investments, good business and luxurious living. This has become one of our principal forms of escapism.
There is nothing wrong with people possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess people. The Bible sounds a warning to those who have become smug in their sense of security when it says, “If riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10).
The Bible warns that money cannot buy happiness. Money cannot buy true pleasure. Money cannot buy peace of heart. And money cannot buy entrance into the Kingdom of God.
If God has given you more than your neighbors around about you, dedicate your possessions to Christ, and realize that you are only a steward of what God has given you—and some day you will have to give an account for every penny you have spent. The Internal Revenue Service wants to know how you spend your money, but that is nothing compared to the books God is keeping!
The Escape of Self-Sufficiency
The flight away from God and into self-sufficiency is as old as the human race. It finds expression today in the words Believe in yourself and in admonitions to self-confidence. But the Bible says, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3).
God did not intend that we should be self-sufficient. Life on the highest level is a life that leans on the everlasting arms. “In You, O Lord, I put my trust,” said David (Psalm 31:1). Many people boast of their own virtues. The Bible says that our good works are like filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6). We cannot save ourselves. We cannot get ourselves to Heaven by our own good deeds. Only by the grace of God, through the finished work of Christ, will any person get to Heaven.
The Escape by Suicide
Some time ago the mayor of a small town near where I live committed suicide. None of his friends have an explanation except that for the last month he had been despondent and discouraged. He apparently decided to end it all and put a bullet through his head.
But we cannot end it all by committing suicide. You can destroy your body, but your soul will live on through all eternity. The Bible says, “Though they dig into hell, from there My hand shall take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down” (Amos 9:2).
You may have thought about suicide. I warn you, that is no way of escape. You say, “But Billy, is there no refuge from life’s hurts, distresses and burdens? Is there no deliverance from sin’s chains? I’m up against a stone wall!”
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There Is an Escape!
I want to tell you that I bring you Good News. There is a way of escape! There is a way of deliverance. The same chapter of Hebrews where we find the question, “How shall we escape?” also tells us of the means of escape God has provided: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death … that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone … and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:9, 15).
Jesus is the way of escape that God has provided. The Bible declares, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
You can know Christ by receiving Him at this moment, and He can become your escape.