Frederick Douglas. A famous author and public speaker. He was also a social reformer, an abolitionist, an orator and a statesman. He was even nominated to run for vice president of the United States
He was also born a slave. In fact, the official records don’t even show his exact birth date, though most believe it was in 1818. He was born in Maryland, USA, with his birthplace likely being his grandmother’s cabin. He was of mixed race, which likely included native American and African on his mother’s side. His father was, apparently, white. When only 6 years old, he was separated from his family and moved to a different plantation. At age 12, his overseer’s wife began teaching him the alphabet. She was good to Frederick, always ensuring he was properly fed and clothed. Unfortunately, her husband didn’t approve of slaves learning to read, and the day Frederick was found reading a newspaper, the lessons were stopped. He would continue, however, in secret, to teach himself to read and write.
Frederick was then hired out to a different overseer, and on the new plantation, he begin giving weekly literacy lessons. Slaves from all over initially attended, and the classes continued until plantation owners became of aware of what was happening. Frederick would then be sent to work on a different plantation, under an overseer who had a reputation for “breaking slaves”. He whipped Frederick so often that his wounds never could heal between beatings.
So how does one born a slave and beaten so badly become so famous?
When Frederick was about 20 years old, he ran away. He made it safely to the northern, free states, and he remained a free man for the rest of his life. He would then become famous as a social reformer and abolitionist, and he would later author three autobiographies.
Being enslaved is a terrible way to live. No human being deserves to be dehumanized in this way. We thank God that slavery was abolished in North America, and we continue to pray for the freedom of all slaves across the world.
Even here in North America, however, so many continue to live under the whip of a vicious slave master: Sin! “…you who were once slaves of sin…” (Romans 6:17 ESV).
But wait. being enslaved to sin can’t compare to human slavery. Anyone who would equate the two has never experienced enslavement!
Being someone who has never been in slavery, this is a valid point. I have absolutely no personal knowledge or experience with being enslaved. I can only imagine the absolute horrors these people — and maybe even some of you reading this! — experience on a daily basis, and this devotional is in no way meant to minimize the suffering and the horrors of a life of slavery.
Although I’ve never been physically enslaved, I have, however, been enslaved to sin. We all have. The problem with comparing this to human slavery is that for most of us, being enslaved to sin is such a normal part of our lives that we don’t even realize there might be something better out there. It is only as the Holy Spirit begins to work in our hearts that we become aware of the atrocities of this spiritual enslavement, and only with more work yet of the Holy Spirit that we begin to see how a life of freedom is not only possible, but gives oh, so many benefits!
Going back to Frederick Douglass, he definitely knew he was a slave. He experienced these horrors daily. But it wasn’t until he learned to read and began reading about the outside world that he began to have his eyes opened to other possibilities. At that point, he had a choice to make: Stay enslaved? Or risk all to run away to freedom? He chose the latter.
In our case, we may not realize we are enslaved. It takes God’s Spirit to open our eyes: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment..” (John 16:8 NKJV). Once we are filled with the Holy Spirit, God begins to reveal to us the extent of our enslavement. The really good news, however, is that we don’t risk all to escape our enslavement to sin! All we have to do is to: 1) want to be free; and 2) ask God to free us!
I know that makes it sound easy. All of us have struggled with temptation, and we all know how difficult it can be to say “no”. This is actually the beautiful part of the story! There is no reason for us to struggle, because God has promised a way out: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13 NKJV)! Once God’s Spirit reveals our sin, we can rely on Him to put the desire in our hearts to be free, and then, to provide us the way of escape! Our only job then is to call upon the Lord in our day of temptation, and He will rescue us!
I suspect Frederick Douglass, along with all of the others in the world who have been enslaved — and continue to be even today — would have wished that escaping human slavery were as easy…
In His love,
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries