Persistence & ‘Programs’

Jonathan Daugherty

How many times in the last week (or day’or hour) have you felt like giving up? Have you been tired, frustrated, or beaten down by life or addiction? What are the answers to your sexual acting out, and how can they possibly be implemented?

For those of us who struggle with sexual sin, ours is a daily battle with temptation. Our culture is becoming increasingly saturated with sexual images and innuendos. Pornography is a booming business and growing exponentially through the ever expanding Internet universe. Marriages keep breaking up due to “irreconcilable differences” or sexual infidelities. How can we curb such rampant impurity and lead a life that is pleasing to God?

Many in today’s culture (and even churches) would be quick to shove a “program of healing” in your face and spout, “Just do this and you will be fine.” This is the modern day equivalent of the old doctor’s quip, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” We have become a society engrossed with programs to “heal” every ailment. We even have 12-step programs for compulsive fingernail biters! (Ok, maybe we haven’t digressed that far, but we’re well on our way.)

Does this mean all ‘programs’ are bad? Of course not. Are most programs useless? Not hardly. But if programs, in and of themselves, were effective, don’t you think we would see higher rates of ‘success’ from those who implement them? The answer should logically be yes. Then why are we not seeing a larger number of people in “recovery programs” finding long-term freedom from their compulsive behaviors?

I believe the answer is found in one word: persistence.

The Bible speaks of perseverance (or persistence) as endurance. The Greek translation for endure is hupomeno and has the connotation of “staying under” or “remaining.” Jesus used this word when He spoke in Mark 13:13 and said, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

Does that type of long-term vision describe the attitude of our culture today? Hardly! We become impatient and frustrated when a candy bar doesn’t fall from the vending machine in less than 2 seconds. We have severely lost our willingness to endure and persist. Thus, the increased reliance on “programs” alone to remedy our every addiction.

Programs can be useful (such as our EMB workshops), but ONLY when coupled with persistence and relationship. When we persist, or endure, we are engaging in the hard work of “staying under” the leadership and accountability of another person (as it pertains to recovery). Persistence is most interested in the process, recognizing that enduring is not always clean, neat, glamorous, or “perfect.”

We persist because we understand the greater good of “remaining” until the work is complete. Persistence means I will not bail out no matter how intense the pressure is to quit.

Programs are oftentimes primarily interested in outward conduct. Are you “doing” the right things? Are you following each step correctly? And programs can often turn a person away to work on their issue alone, isolated from others. This is why so many people will start a solid program only to find themselves shortly afterward abandoning it as they spiral further into their shame and addiction. We need other people to help us maintain focus when it comes to fighting compulsive behaviors; not a list of rules.

One last note on persisting – it is NOT easy! In fact, one of the sub-definitions for the Greek word for endurance is “suffer.” Sticking to something and not giving up are character qualities that test our resolve at the core of our being. It requires increasing our threshold for emotional discomfort and developing habits of righteousness that lead us to the One who can “bear our burdens.” Jesus is our ultimate example of persistence. He is the “author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of God the Father.” Jesus “remained” where God wanted Him and provided us with freedom from our afflictions.

I challenge you today to adopt a new outlook on your personal journey of purity. Instead of seeing the mountain of potential failure spots in front of you, focus on the wonderful Savior who fully bore all your sin, shame, and guilt on the cross and said, “It is finished.” Let Him be your primary motivation for persisting and connecting.

Knowing the ROCK; Knowing TRUE Intimacy in Recovery: Part 5

David Mackey

Psalm 31:4”free me from the trap set before me’

Once more let’s review: Just as false intimacy was part of what helps maintain our addiction, TRUE intimacy will strengthen our recovery. This is our design: to have intimacy with both God and Others. In the Psalms, David equated knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress with knowing God intimately.

So far we have found that in knowing God as our rock we are free from shame and we are listened to with acceptance and understanding. These are pieces, deep pieces, of having an ‘In-To-Me-See,’ an intimacy relationship.

We also discovered that in knowing God as our Rock, He leads and guides us in preparation for Battle.

In verse 4 of Psalm 31, David, reveals the last facet of intimacy which we look at in this series. As with Shame, being listened to and guided, David, throughout the Psalms, repeatedly, equates knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress, with safety or being free from traps.

Perhaps if we asked the average Christian what it meant to know God as his rock he would likely come up with this connection. The idea of sitting on a solid Rock in the midst of storm and turmoil is a comfort to so many. Our hymns and songs over the years are full of this comforting imagery.

For us, in this battle, this piece of intimacy seems even more significant. Our battle usually starts out with a trap. It seemed so innocent to curiously look at some pictures. What child/young teen could have ever envisioned the imprisonment set before them? Now, 20 or more years later as we break free from the imprisonment we have more traps than ever all around us.

Think about this idea we look at our battle. Psalm 31:4 says ”free me from the trap set before me.’ What a thought. Indeed, the simple natural feeling and act of masturbation became a trap. It worked best with images’ seemingly simple little pictures. What harm could that be? Yet the trap was so sure, so strong. It kept us ensnared for the trapper to come and the trapper eventually would have taken our life, our very soul.

So to be offered by God a relationship with Him and with others that involves freedom from those traps is remarkable and so very needed.

We could not’. Tho we tried for so long’ we could not free ourselves from the trap. Only intimacy can do it!! Intimacy, true intimacy, with God and with others can seem like a lot of work, especially after so many years of false intimacy. A lot of emotional work. ‘In-To-Me-See’ is often hard and painful but it is real and it brings real connection, real passion. The free stuff is a trap. It is false and once trapped it is difficult to get away from. You cannot do it alone. You need someone to free you from that trap. God offers that freedom in true intimate relationship with Him. He offers it in knowing and being known by him intimately and by knowing and being known by others intimately.

We need the power of intimacy with God AND with others to be free from the trap. And we need, we must have, true intimacy with God AND with others to avoid falling into the snare, the trap once again.

This is so critical. The traps, the snares, as we know, are many and they sometimes seem constant, daily, and all around us.

So this concludes our look at just 4 aspects of intimacy, or knowing God as our Rock, Refuge and Fortress. Amazing love‘ the song says’ How can it be!!! God, the creator of the universe, Jesus who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords offer us INTIMACY. True intimacy in which we are free from shame, free from traps. Where we are listened to, understood and accepted as God’s child (He wants to be ‘Abba,’ Daddy!) and Jesus be brother and friend. Amazing love!!

And in this relationship he will lead and guide us through the battle. We will, while in intimate relationship with HIM and intimate relationship with others WIN THE BATTLES. Eventually, with Him as our rock, our refuge, and our fortress, we will win the war.

Once again I invite you to, in your recovery, pursue the path of true intimacy with all your being. Remember, this is not as much a command from God but rather, it is an invitation. Intimacy with God and others is what we were created for and it will bring real fulfillment and a strong recovery and the Battles will be won!

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.

Behavior Change And Heart Change

Dave McWilliams

Most of us, at one time or another, have wished that we were a different person. These thoughts may come to us when things are not going well or in times when we are in trouble. We may feel shallow or inadequate in these times. Our behavior may have been offensive or unacceptable to others, and we may be embarrassed or overcome with guilt.

Change is very difficult for all of us. What about those of us who have gone through devastating situations, such as a hurricane or flooding, where we have lost a lot of what we own. Perhaps we have moved to a new location and changed jobs, and everything is now different. We can feel lost and left out in many ways. Things may never be the same again. Or we may have lost a friend who has been very close to us and supported us in many ways, and the pain is almost unbearable.

When it comes to making personal changes in our lives, it can be just as difficult. Often the focus is on changing our behaviors and our habits, but these are often not long lasting. As an example, many of us have made New Year’s resolutions, only to abandon them within a few weeks, because it was too difficult to maintain the new behaviors and habits. More often than not, our efforts are pointed at negative habits and behaviors and we put a lot of effort into trying to avoid them. It often does not occur to us to ask ourselves what to do to replace these behaviors.

While heart changes are more lasting, they cannot be made all at one time. They are not an event, but a process or a journey. In the mean time, we cannot ignore our behavior that is offensive to others or destructive to ourselves. If we are an alcoholic, or a gambler, or we struggle with pornography, our behaviors should not be excused while working on building our character.

The apostle Paul talked about making changes in our lives in Colossians 2:20-3:17. He pointed out that when we try to make changes in our lives through rules and regulations, or by trying to restrict our poor behaviors, failure is soon to follow. In his day (as in our time) people would say ‘don’t touch’ or ‘ don’t taste’, which really is nothing more than mere human effort to control our poor indulgences. But Paul pointed out that these rules and restrictions ‘lack any value in restraining our sensual indulgences’ (Col.2:23).

The best phase of our life to focus on restricting our poor behaviors is childhood. The duty of good parenting is to help us to recognize what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. The down side to this process is that no parent has it all together as to what is good and bad behavior. When we made poor choices, the way that they were managed had an effect on us, some positive, and others were destructive. The guilt that followed those destructive attempts to change our behavior will remain in our minds for many years until we are finally freed from them. While our minds are filled with the thoughts of guilt, we seldom have the clarity of thought to find direction in our lives. Feelings of loss and confusion block us from finding our way.

Real and lasting change comes from a different place than focusing on our behavior. Lasting change comes from change in our hearts as we take the focus off ourselves and onto the needs and concerns of others as well as our own. Behavior change is external and is often done to deceive others, or to avoid our pain, etc. Heart change does not deny our behaviors, but focuses on internal and character change. Heart change has a purpose in mind that is greater than our own needs and desires. We begin to become aware of how our actions and choices effect others and their well being, as well as our own.

There is another powerful factor that is involved with making changes from the heart, and that is coming to the realization that we cannot do it on our own.

Real heart change comes only through the power of the Spirit of God working in our lives. This is different than behavior change, which is done mostly in our own human efforts. When our human efforts fail, we continue to carry enormous guilt. The opposite result comes as we focus on change from the heart. This change will usually result in freedom within our thoughts, thus giving us the ability to think about life situations much more clearly. We also refer to the results of this type of change as bringing us inner peace.

Paul talked about ways to achieve inner peace as we change from the heart. He sited several concepts of life that will help our hearts grow. Some of these things are compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and bearing with each other. There are many ways to display these principles to others. God did not assign to us only one way to carry out any of these life principles. These principles are found as we seek God’s direction in each and every circumstance in our lives. And as we display them, we let others decide how to use them effectively. For example, if we are going to be compassionate to our spouses, we will let them define the most effective way to show compassion, otherwise it is nothing more than a selfish act.

There is another benefit in changing from the heart. It takes a lot of the pressure out of life. Behavior change usually results in trying to achieve perfection, and usually trying to make it quickly to avoid pain. This is real stress and anxiety and worry over what others will think of us. It often leaves us angry and defensive with others, as they point out our flaws. Heart change accepts our flaws as a part of who we are in the moments that they are revealed. The pain is used to help us change and grow. But the growth process is done without a sense of urgency. Change becomes a journey that is at times slow but consistent. Our flaws and weaknesses are seen as opportunities to work with those flaws so that they become more acceptable to others. Thus, our weaknesses do not totally define us as a person.

For help with sexual integrity, see Every Man’s Battle.
If you need help in other areas, please join us at our next New Life Weekend.