Thoughts on Courage in Recovery

Mark Verkler

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” –G.K. Chesterton

 “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” –Mark Twain

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” –Sir Winston Churchill

It takes courage to face the real me. Those dark parts of my heart. The places I’ve tried to ignore or deny or cover up. I find it much easier to focus on the darkness of other hearts, or the passing pleasure of sin, or escape’anything but look at the darkness of my flesh. In Psalm 32 from the translation entitled The Message, we read of the freedom that comes from facing the darkness inside and letting it out into the light:

Psalm 32: 1Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be–you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. 2Count yourself lucky–God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. 3When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. 4The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. 5Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone–my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.

We try to do it our way; we try to ‘fix ourselves’–anything to avoid the dreadful exposure of our darkness to another.

In C.S. Lewis’ ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader,’ the young man Eustace describes how he changed from a dragon back to a boy, but only after unsuccessfully trying to peel the dragon skin off of himself three times before. After these failed attempts, Aslan, the story’s Christ figure, removed the dragon skin for him. In Lewis’ story, Eustace retells the event like this: The very first tear he [Aslan] made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off’.Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off’just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt’and there it was lying on the grass; only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been.

Jesus said to find life we would have to lose it for his sake (Matthew 16:25). It may seem a perilous thing for us to say, “search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). How can we have the courage to let God in? To let others in? To look at ourselves?

First John chapter one teaches that this begins with the honest admission of sin. If we say we have no sin or have not sinned, we are lying to ourselves and to God, the apostle tells us. But he also tells us that if we have the courage to confess our sins, the cleansing comes. A simple definition of confession is to agree with God. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and we must agree with God about it. Sin is there; sin is evil; and sin deserves punishment. When we honestly confess the blackness of our sin before God, we can then thank God for the cleansing blood of Jesus that was shed on our account.

Do you have the courage to consecrate yourself to him, or will you hold back? Do you have the courage to face the depth, the breadth, and the blackness of you sin, or the pain that it has caused you, others, and even God himself? Have you become so accustomed to denial, excuses, and self-justifications as to be content to stay in that neighborhood? Do you have the courage to move into the unknown–the unknown territory of confession, surrender and consecration?

We find exhortations in Scripture to take courage! The Lord wants us to face the unknown, knowing that he is ahead of us and with us. “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). “Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take” (Joshua 1:9). Friends, we can know, with anything God is asking us to confront–in ourselves or otherwise–he will be with us. So, in the words of John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.’

Thoughts on Endurance in Recovery

Dave Boyle

One of the most famous speeches in history occurred at the time of the Second World War. The British troops were discouraged, as the Nazi’s seemed to be making gains every day. Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, stood up to address the English troops one day at a particularly low point of the war and in his raspy voice said, ‘Gentleman, never, ever, ever,””.ever, ”’ever, ”’ever, give up.’ Churchill then sat back down. And we all know the results of the war; the Allied forces came back to defeat the Nazis, and the world was rid of Hitler and his henchmen for good.

But here’s a troubling hypothetical: what if the British troops had given up? What if the Americans had said, ‘this is too hard. I’m not going to take all this time and effort for something that might not work out in the end.’ Where would you be now? Well, you might not be enjoying many of the freedoms that you are currently enjoying.

Given the scenes that have been beamed into our living rooms from Iraq, and the valor of the brave men and women who are over there fighting, I am not about to compare striving for sexual sobriety with the gruesomeness of war. Yet the principle that Prime Minister Churchill wanted to get across to his troops is the very same principle that we need to use in our daily lives to stay pure, and that is endurance.

Don Henley, the drummer for the rock group The Eagles, once told a reporter that one of the reasons for the band’s success is that when the band toured, the repetition of doing the same songs over and over again, night after night, never seemed to bother them, because they loved playing the music. That’s how it must be with us if we are to stay sexually pure. You can look at having a daily quiet time, where you read God’s Word and talk to him, as repetition, or you can look at it as a new and fresh way to connect with God each morning. Going to that recovery group every Friday night–at the same place with the same people–can be repetition, or it can be an exciting challenge to share your victories and help other guys do the same. Going to the therapist’s office each week can be an act of drudgery, or it can be a healing hour where you continue your journey to get to the root of the lust that has been so destructive in your life.

Paul knew a little about perseverance and endurance. In 2 Corinthians 6:4 he says, ‘Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses.’ Later in the same book he talked about those hardships and distresses: ‘I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one (think ‘Passion of the Christ’). Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night on the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countryman, in danger from the Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food’ (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). So I think he is qualified to make the following statement in Hebrews 10:36: ‘You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” So really, endurance isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command. It’s been said that 80 percent of success is just showing up. And if that’s the case, then I say that 80 percent of showing up is endurance. With a web site that gets as many hits as this one, I know that there is at least one guy who is reading this who is ready to chuck his sobriety and go act out. Don’t do it! Endure! Persevere! Pray! Call somebody! Do whatever you have to do to endure in purity. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.

Holy and Healthy Sex in Marriage: Part 3

David Wever

Sex was good from the beginning. And it is still good for one reason: Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus Christ, you and I can be redeemed from our sexual sin, and, believe it or not, restored to enjoy sex in a way we have never imagined. We definitely know how sex can be misused. We have seen both its sinful use and the consequences. For men who have been wounded sexually, and who have sexually transgressed for years, to know there is hope for sex renewed and a paradigm to hold onto is vital. This new hope and paradigm is found in Jesus. We talked last month about God’s initial design for sex and some of the effects of sin upon that design. Now let’s look at four basic principles for renewed and reclaimed sexual intimacy for our marriages.

First, due to the Fall, there was no equal-ness between Adam and Eve. Suddenly they were polar opposites. This unequal-ness ushered in an ability to objectify one another. The advent of sexual sin turned compassion and concern for our spouse to objectification. This objectification damages the equality in the relationship ultimately hindering true intimacy. That equality is renewed in the marriage bed through Christ Jesus. In Galatians 3:28 Paul writes, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’ It is because of Christ we can see our wives differently. Not in an objectified way but with eyes from our heart that see their true value.

Second, false intimacy often results from our sexual sin. This false intimacy keeps us from truly being known by our spouse. It many respects we stay hidden in the bushes or behind fig leaves due to our shame from our sin. The good news is that Jesus has also taken our fig leaves away. We need not be naked any longer. In Christ Jesus, we have new clothes. Galatians 3:27 says it all, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’ We have a whole new wardrobe that does not have as some of its acumens: shame, fear and nakedness. Although we may fear this new nakedness of being truly known, we can trust that because of Jesus, we have a whole new wardrobe in our identity in Christ Jesus.

Third, one of the most comforting aspects of our sexuality being restored and reclaimed in Christ Jesus is that we have a restored covenant relationship with God. In Ezekiel 16:8 God says, ‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.’ This same restoration is needed for healthy sexual intimacy with our wives as well. We have to re-pledge our fidelity to our wives just as God has done the same to us through Jesus Christ.

Fourth, this new paradigm around our sexual intimacy being restored can be held and acknowledged by us. No need to fear that this cannot happen. Now some of this healing may happen over time and our wives may heal at a different rate than we do. But, it can be held by your heart due to Christ’s death and resurrection justifying who you are. The Message says it well, ‘Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.’ Take a few minutes and meditate on this passage. Do you truly believe you are no longer on that ‘list’? In Christ Jesus you are no longer on that list. It is true, and this truth will be foundational to you living in true intimacy within your marriage and marriage bed from a renewed heart.

Jesus has truly changed our lives forever. And because of him our sexual intimacy and marriage bed can be restored as well.