The Importance of Grace in Recovery

Jonathan Daugherty

My daughter just started kindergarten this week. What an exciting time of new beginnings and endless possibilities. These first few steps of her educational journey are memorable and mark the start of a truly adventurous quest for increased knowledge. The buzz created in our home because of my daughter’s first days of school caused me to reflect on the process of recovery and the essential ingredient to lasting purity: grace.

One thing I can assure my daughter (as well as you who are hiking the trail toward purity) is that the journey has obstacles. Just as my daughter will encounter barriers to her educational growth, so too will you encounter seemingly insurmountable challenges in your pursuit of sexual purity. You may hit a wall of frustration, boredom, or temptation in your recovery. The fact that recovery requires resistance is sometimes discouraging to the point of wanting to give up. But rather than take the path of least resistance (which only leads to more pain and disappointment), press forward on the path to personal purity.

The challenges we face in our pursuit of purity are no secret. Laziness, pride, temptation, even relapse. These obstacles attempt to impede our progress and reignite the deadly flames of shame in our minds and hearts. If we allow them to stunt our growth in recovery, we lose momentum and soon find ourselves contemplating old acting out behaviors. From there it is a short trip to deeper bondage in sexual sin.

What then allows a man to break through these barriers and enjoy ongoing, long-term freedom in sexual purity? A proper understanding and application of grace is a great starting point. Grace is God’s favor poured out on undeserving, sin-stained men just like you and me. It is God’s continual “stamp” of approval and acceptance on His children. As God’s child, you are forever engaged by him within the loving boundaries of grace – even when discipline is necessary. To understand such grace begins to put into perspective the many obstacles along the road to purity.

How do you apply this grace in a practical sense when faced with a very real obstacle such as temptation or laziness? First, you must recognize that something has gone awry in your recovery plan. The ship is taking on water, so-to-speak, and something needs to be done to correct it. Let’s say you realize that you have begun to drift toward certain sexual temptations, maybe lingering on seductive websites or TV shows. You haven’t “crossed the line” to porn, but you are drifting. Applying grace to such a situation would include first recognizing that a drift is occurring, and then reminding yourself that whatever you choose to do from that point on, God still loves you. That’s right. Grace is given, not because it is deserved, but because of Christ’s sacrifice for you. Most often, such a reminder will cause you to see that any more movement toward sin would only bring pain, shame, and disappointment. Grace, therefore, leads us to repentance and purity.

I once knew a counselor who used a very unconventional practice to help smokers overcome their habit (and I am not necessarily recommending it here). After several months in counseling and support group therapy, the counselor would instruct his clients to spend one week carrying a pack of cigarettes in their pockets. Not so they would smoke them, but rather so they knew that at any moment they could pull one out if they chose to. This counselor wanted to teach his clients that they had a choice – they did not need to be controlled by the cigarettes, they could choose what to do with their lives. Grace often reminds us of this scary truth – we have a choice. We can choose to walk humbly before God and others and receive the blessings of God’s grace, or we can choose to live in pride, calling the shots and suffer the consequences of isolation, shame, and broken relationships.

Seeing my daughter’s excitement at beginning school also reminded me that the road to recovery is worth it. There is a benefit to pressing through the obstacles and discomfort to reap the reward of peace and true contentment. Although there may be moments (even seasons) of difficulty and disappointment, the long-term results of a lifestyle of purity are worth it. And for every moment, or season, of obstacles and challenges, we are assured that God’s grace is sufficient.

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

Where Do You Turn When Tested?

Ray Lueck

What Do You Keep In your Head? Where do you turn when tested?

The week before this last EMB my daily devotional took me to II Chronicles 20 where I read about the battle fought by King Jehoshaphat. The king had quite a task before him.

He was up against 3 other armies and was greatly outnumbered. Let’s walk through this chapter and look at the lessons we can apply to the Every Day Battles that we fight.

Vs.1 Jehoshaphat is a target conspired against and attacked. You and I also have our enemies (supernatural and of the flesh) and we are conspired against and attacked on a daily basis. Satan wants to destroy us. The proliferates of smut want to attack and steal our money, and those tempting people in our lives that flirt with us are out to conquer and consume us sexually or emotionally.

Vs.2 Jehoshaphat had people who reported to him and warned him of the attack. Apparently, this wasn’t just an attack, but a huge overwhelming assault. The good news is that Jehoshaphat was not alone. He had a support system. He had people who were concerned and involved. We can’t fight our battle alone. We have to be tied in to others. We have to let others be our eyes and ears and tell us things that we may not see on our own. Like him, this is not just a little skirmish. This is a life altering battle. If we don’t succeed today, life will never be the same again.

Vs.3 Jehoshaphat freaked out, but wisely turned toward God rather than toward idols. He rallied his support system, by proclaiming a fast through out the land. It’s good to be in touch with our emotions. Whether fear or anger, we need to be aware and expressive. Like Jehoshaphat we can take action in a positive direction. We can fast and pray and ask others to do the same.

Vs.4 The battle didn’t only affect Jehoshaphat, but the whole nation, his whole community. Our battle and our decisions affect countless lives and even generations that are yet to come. Many will be influenced on the basis of our response.

Vs.5 ‘ 12 Jehoshaphat prays. As I look at his prayer, it strikes me that he is using prayer as a means of reinforcing his faith and that of those around him. He is recalling the character, the corroboration and the promises of God to the children of Israel. He isn’t telling God anything He doesn’t already know, he is reminding himself of things he needs to be aware of so that he can walk with deep faith with the one who alone can win the battle. Do our prayers focus on the character of God and the recollection of His hand upon our lives? Are we just praying ‘give me’ prayers, or are we building our faith as we reflect upon Him and commune with God on a personal level?

Vs.12 Jehoshaphat admits, ‘We are powerless’and we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee.’ We can’t win the battle in our own strength, but as long as we keep our focus on Christ He will direct us and lead us in victory.

Vs.13 The whole nation (community) was standing before the Lord; men, women, children and infants. Grandparents, parents, friends, brothers, children and babies surround us. We have the eyes of many upon us. We influence many in our sphere of activity.

Vs. 14 ‘ 17 A prophet of the Lord speaks and tells them ‘The Battle is not yours, but the Lord’s’ Do not fear them or be dismayed’for the Lord is with you.’ We all got to hear words of truth and encouragement at our EMB weekends. We exposed ourselves to the teaching of God’s word and our lives were changed.

Vs.18 ‘ 19 Jehoshaphat and his community bowed to pray and rose to praise the God of creation. They listened to the preaching of the word, took it to heart, and were changed and convicted to follow God in faith, confidence and joy.

Vs. 20 ’22 Jehoshaphat and his community acted in faith. They went forward into the battle with the instructions to put their trust in the Lord. He appointed singers to praise God saying, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for His loving-kindness is everlasting.’ They rose early and obediently to follow God’s directives. They filled their minds and hearts with songs of praise to God. They worshiped together and reinforced one another’s convictions.

Vs. 22 ‘ 23 As they sang and praised the Lord, God set ambushes and turned Jehoshaphat’s attackers against each other, so that they destroyed themselves. Wow, what a beautiful picture. As we focus on God, as we praise Him, He rises to rout the enemy for us. We can’t win this battle on our own. Only He can do it. What a blessing that this battle that we fight gives us the opportunity to learn to trust God and enables us to see His power at work within our lives.

Vs. 24 ‘ 26 Not one of the enemy survived. The people of Judah spend four days picking up all the booty, treasures and weapons of their invaders. It was more than they could carry. When God fights our battles for us. He destroys the enemy and gives us more blessings than we can fully enjoy.

Vs. 27 ‘ 28 They returned to the city of Jerusalem rejoicing together with music. Music played a role in the Preparation, the Battle itself, and in the Aftermath. Their minds and hearts were filled with songs of praise and adoration for the Lord. Their lives were changed and blessed and filled with joy and celebration. What a triumph is ours to enjoy as well.

Vs. 29 ‘ 30 The surrounding nations took notice and had total respect for God and what He did for Jehoshaphat and Judah. They had peace on all sides. As people see God fight our battles, they will respect Him and know that it was God that changed us. God blesses us with peaceful relationships when we live in compliance to His will.

Vs. 31 ‘ 37 Jehoshaphat formed an alliance with the ungodly King of Israel. He disobeyed God in doing this, and the project they worked on together was destroyed. We cannot form any unholy alliances. The Lord will not bless them. Winning one victory does not mean we can never be defeated. Each day is a new battle. Each day we need to put on our armor. Each day we need to trust God, listen to His direction, and make decisions, which are pleasing in His sight. As we do this, we will continue to walk in victory. When we fail to do so, we will experience defeat.

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED:

1). Trouble and temptation are ever present seeking to destroy us.

2). When testing appears, we should turn to God, pray, listen to His word and teachers.

3). We should arm ourselves with praise and use songs of worship to fight our battles.

4). We can’t fight it alone. We need a community. Remember, we affect the lives of many.

5). We are powerless, but when we put our faith in God and thank Him for His mercies, we will see Him rout our enemies and give us more blessings than we can handle.

6). As we obey God, we will have peace in our relationships; but if we form ungodly alliances, God will not bless them and we will experience defeat.

Many of us struggle with Scripture memory. Many of us fill our minds and bodies with things that are not good for us. What kind of music are we listening to? If you have trouble memorizing scripture, try putting it to music, or just singing praise songs that teach scriptural truths. Jehoshaphat fasted. He didn’t use food or liquor to numb his emotions and deny the reality of the problem. We need to be honest and emotionally expressive about the issues and problems we face. He turned to others; he got the rest he needed; he rose early in the morning; he obeyed the teaching of the Lord. He didn’t try to do it on his own, and he didn’t turn to things that couldn’t help him. He did it the right way and God blessed him for it. You can do it the right way too. You have the tools and the training. The battle is not yours; it is the Lord’s. Now go and do it the right way.

For more help please see Every Man’s Battle.

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Chris Cole

‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,’ Proverbs12:25.

Being anxious or fearful are common emotions that all of us face and deal with, especially when we go into recovery from addictions. Perhaps you have been medicating the anxiety experienced in relationships for many years and now you are for the first time beginning to deal with it in a healthy way. The scripture affirms that anxiety can really weigh a man’s heart down. It can be such a burden that we will do anything to find relief. In this article I will focus on some strategies to help you overcome the struggles with anxiety and fear.

I think that one central fear we face is the unknown. Not knowing what will happen can really drive a person to control their environment and everyone in it. As a result, we try to control so much that is out of our control. We anxiously try to control outcomes, as well as the circumstances. We try to control bad things from happening and people from getting upset with us. I believe that is why we falsely think that our addictions can make life work. We find relief from the anxiety with something that we can control. Take away that and the anxiety comes back. Then we get desperate for something else to take away the anxiety that we can control. Perhaps you struggle with cross addictions, where you take away one addiction (sex) and increase another (smoking).

Learning to deal with anxiety in a healthy way is an essential component to your recovery. The bible teaches that we must renew our mind with the truth, for the truth sets us free.

One strategy is to learn how to recognize anxious thoughts. Beware of: all or nothing thinking; over-generalization, dwelling on the negative, magnification and minimization, and ‘should’ statements. Learn to speak the truth to yourself and to calm yourself down by utilizing positive and truthful self talk.

In Philippians 4, Paul wrote:
‘(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (9) The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ‘

I want to highlight the importance of dwelling on the things of verse 8. Verse nine says we need to practice them. You can train yourself to respond (think) in a new way. I also recognize that much anxiety comes as you project yourself in the future. Some people use the acronym FEAR as Future Events Appear Real. I cannot control the future, or how someone may respond or react, but I can control me and what I think in the here and now. So stay in the present. Also remember, take one step at a time. Essential here is learning to give up control over what I can’t control anyway, like what people think of me or how they may react.

If your anxiety is overwhelming, seek the help of a professional Christian counselor. Sometimes medication may be necessary to help you manage while you change the way you think. A counselor can help you process your fear and anxiety and help you develop new ways of handling life. He or she can help you learn to take risks and grow, and depend on God in new way. Peter (1 Peter 5:7) said we are to ‘cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.’

So in summary, learn to accept anxiety, understand it in context, and learn to identify the anxiety producing thoughts and replace them with the truth. I like the serenity prayer that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote because it reminds me that I need to ‘accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.’

Do you need some help with you fear or anxiety? Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.