Recovery as Spiritual Warfare, Part 1

The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan was riveting. I had never before seen such a realistic portrayal of men going into battle. The vomiting and praying, tangible expressions of the upset the men were going through, were believable.

As He prepared for the battle of Calvary, the Bible tells us that Jesus sweat blood. He poured out His heart in prayer to His Father. He was prepared for the battle and did not flinch in the face of it.

Examining Paul’s second letter to Corinth can help us better understand how we can prepare for and win the battle before us.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

WE ARE CITIZENS OF TWO KINGDOMS THAT ARE AT WAR

Paul says we are waging war. We live in the world. The majority of you who are reading this are US citizens. But Paul makes clear that we are fighting an otherworldly battle while we are here. By faith we are citizens of God’s kingdom. The battle lines are drawn.

God’s objective is to show His glory by redeeming His fallen creation and fallen creatures. At the same time, Satan’s objective is to obscure the glory of God. Because Christian marriage is a part of God’s creative design, God’s enemies attack husbands and wives in order to divide them and rob them of the joy that results from true intimacy.

Sexual sin is one aspect of the disciple’s struggle. When Christian men are sexually impure, God’s love and grace are obscured and Satan gains a victory in the battle for God’s kingdom. The battle for sexual purity is a battle for recovery from the effects of the sin nature. Recovery is discipleship. Recovery is putting off and putting on.

WE ARE SOLDIERS IN GOD’S KINGDOM ARMY¬†

All who know Christ by faith are soldiers of the King’s army. There are no deferments. There are no conscientious objectors. There is no Switzerland, no neutrality in this war. I am a warrior for God’s kingdom.

Over 2,000 years ago, Sun Tzu wrote the timeless military classic, The Art of War. In it, he challenged: ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.’

In gathering intelligence about the enemy, we immediately consider the devil and the world. What we often fail to consider is that while I am a soldier, I am also fighting on the enemy side’my flesh is at war with the Spirit’s work in my life. While I am still vulnerable to the evil desires of my flesh, the temptations that this world offers, and the attacks of Satan and his legions, I am not vulnerable as I once was. By faith, I benefit from the indwelling Holy Spirit and the promises of God’s Word.

Further, I can’t win the war by myself. Paul didn’t write, ‘I do not wage war as the world does.’

The Rambo movies were very popular, but not a true reflection of genuine war. My addiction predisposes me to isolate myself from others and attempt to fight the war alone. Wars are a fought on an overwhelming scale and require armies to vanquish the enemy. By faith, I have been placed in a company of those who aspire to do God’s will and do it, though not perfectly.

Just as an individual soldier is trained to fight as a part of a squad, a platoon, a company, etc., so we need training to begin fighting our addiction alongside others. Many of the men who attend the Every Man’s Battle workshop find sharing their stories with others to be freeing. They feel like they have unburdened themselves. However, they often struggle after they return home to unburden themselves with the men they work or worship with. In order to win the battle for purity, I must become we. For the soldier, his training doesn’t end with Basic Training. And so we need training that continues beyond Every Man’s Battle.

See the article Recovery As Spiritual Warfare part 2, where we will consider the objectives and tactics that Paul urges us to adopt in fighting this spiritual war.

Jim Phillis

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.

Discouragement in Recovery: A Silent Ambush on the Heart

Invia Betjoseph

“Why don’t you just give up on me Lord? I’m hopeless!” Sound familiar? Thousands of Christian men have uttered those words out of sheer frustration. At some point they promise God that they will stop acting out their sexual fantasies’that THIS time they are ready’ that THIS time it is different’ that they are, to quote a famous Alcoholic Anonymous saying, ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’

Maybe you’re one of these men who decides to ‘starve’ himself of anything remotely sexual. You get rid of cable television, cancel the internet access, throw away all pornographic material, and even avoid having sex with your wife for a while! Several weeks pass and you notice that you don’t have the desire to view internet porn, visit massage parlors, or even masturbate! You begin to think that this is pretty easy and tell yourself, ‘maybe I can conquer this after all’ or, ‘I think I’m on my way to getting healed.’

But before you know it, lustful thoughts invade your mind like ‘pop-ups’ from Yahoo! You try not to panic but find yourself completely preoccupied with sexual thoughts for the next few hours or even days. At work you try to concentrate and endeavor to meet deadlines but your attention span is that of a woodpecker. You attempt to pay attention at staff meetings but each minute that goes by makes the struggle more intense. And then it happens’you end up in front of a computer screen or an x-rated video and for the next three to five hours you gratify your fleshly desires by viewing every known porn site under the sun, compulsively masturbate or ‘binge’ the whole weekend from massage parlors to escort services.

You cry out, ‘What happened? Why can’t I just quit?’ You not only feel disillusioned and guilty but you also feel like you are perverted to the depths of your being. You want to ‘resign’ as a Christian because you continually feel helpless and hopeless and you believe that no one can relate to you.

Well, you are not alone! You don’t believe me? Read with me Peter’s letter; specifically chapter 5:9 ”because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.’

All of us are running in this race for sexual integrity and sometimes we trip and fall. And when we do, we can’t afford to just sit there and watch everyone run by. Can you imagine watching Olympic athletes trip and fall and just sit there in bewilderment as to why they fell? No, they immediately get up and run’ they don’t even wipe the dirt off of themselves. Their whole focus is the finish line. Proverbs 24:16 adequately captures the theme of what you’ve read thus far: ‘For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again!’ So before you decide to beat yourself up any further let me suggest that we pay a visit to some of our Heroes of the Faith and see just how human they really were.

In I Kings chapter 18 Elijah and the prophets of Baal engage in a contest to see who is truly God. In verse 27 when the prophets of Baal are struggling Elijah feels so confident that he begins to taunt them (how cocky we get sometimes). You know how the rest of the story goes. What amazes a lot of Christians is that after his amazing victory Jezebel puts a contract on his life and the man cowers into a cave and starts whining. God didn’t tell him to go there. The Lord even asks him, ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’ (19:9). Do you see how human Elijah really is? Just like you and I, he distances himself from the Lord out of fear, shame, and other feelings that damage our confidence.

What about John the Baptist? Jesus says of him: ‘Among those born of women there is no one greater than John (Luke 7:28). This is a prophet who boldly spoke against Herod’s adultery, he put Pharisees ‘in their place’ and preached about the coming Messiah as if his life depended on it and he did not sugarcoat his words. Yet in Luke 7:18-19 we read that from his prison cell he sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Excuse me John, wasn’t it you that said to Jesus, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’? It is amazing what despair does to the person. It slowly strips him of his confidence, blinds his eyes to past victories, and finally creates an environment in his soul in which doubt can thrive.

Let’s not forget good old Peter. When Jesus predicts his death and tells his disciples that they will all fall away on account of him our beloved brother protests, ‘even if all fall away on account of you, I NEVER will’ (Matt 26:33). Can you just picture him speaking in a baritone voice with his chest sticking out? Jesus then tells Peter that he will disown him three times. One can only imagine the level of agony Peter felt when the rooster crowed three times. The Bible says ‘he went outside and wept bitterly’ (Matt 26:75).

So, do you still feel alone? I hope not. There are many other accounts in the Bible where men and women ‘messed up’ but God used them anyway despite their shortcomings. Meanwhile, what does one do when he has messed up in the sexual integrity department? I thought you’d never ask!

First, it is very important not to mistake the absence of symptoms for cure. Just because you’ve thrown out your porn stash or haven’t masturbated for weeks does not mean that the condition of your heart has changed.

Secondly, if and when relapse occurs, there will be a tendency to abandon the whole process altogether. It is vital that you do not give up’to get up and run the race.

Thirdly, if you have someone in your life that holds you accountable pick up the 100 lb. phone and call him. Let him know what you did and do not hold back (Satan thrives on secrecy).

Fourthly, try to identify what exactly happened. Usually, there are 3-5 things happening at the same time. For example, you’re having car trouble, the boss is acting like Hitler and you have not been sleeping enough… all of the above can have a toll on your body and mind. Try to pin-point what the trigger was for you.

Finally, you need to strategize. In other words, you need to place preventative measures at each trigger point so that you do not repeat the cycle.

You know, theologians and preachers often speak about the work Christ did on the cross for our salvation. However, the work that Jesus continues to do on our behalf is often not talked about. Just as He prayed for Peter during some dark hours, so also he intercedes before the Father’s throne on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus’ ongoing ministry of prayer is there for you as long as you are in need of His guidance, comfort and blessing.

Robert Murray McCheyne, the beloved Scottish minister of the 19th century, wrote, ‘If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me!’

If you are still sitting there asking the Father, ‘Why don’t you just give up on me? I’m hopeless!’ I would imagine he would say, ‘Because I who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:6).