Recovery With a Purpose

Dave Boyle

What is the purpose of life?  This is a question that many people have asked themselves over the last couple of years since the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren was released. In fact so many people have been asking themselves that question, that the book has been either number one or two on the New York Times best seller list for the past 60+ weeks.

And it’s a question that we, as men who have struggled with sexual integrity issues, should be asking ourselves on a regular basis. The Every Man’s Battle Workshop has made it very clear to us: we need structure in our lives if we are going to be successful in our recovery. And at the very core of having a structure in place, is having a purpose in life. In other words, it’s a lot easier to implement an action plan in our lives when we know why we’re doing it.

In The Purpose Driven Life, pastor Rick sets out the five purposes that he believes are the most fundamental and most important in any believers life.

The first one is that we were made to worship God. The very first line of the book is, ‘It’s not about you.’ The sooner that we realize that our lives are about worshiping, obeying and pleasing God and not about pleasing ourselves, the sooner our recovery can begin. Remember one of the big roadblocks to recovery? It’s entitlement. ‘I deserve to get on the Internet with how stressful my life has been.’ ‘I’m entitled to have that affair with the way my wife’s been treating me.’ But God says it isn’t about me, it’s about Him, and working through that sense of entitlement to get to a place where I’m obedient to God whether I feel like it or not is a huge recovery step.

The second purpose that Rick outlines in his book is that we were made to have fellowship with other believers. There is no such thing as a ‘lone ranger’ Christian. Our recovery is so tied in to having others around us that it is one of the most important things you’ll ever do in your journey to sobriety. If you are not part of a support group, please start exploring that right away. You cannot do this on your own.

The third purpose in the book is that we were made to be like Christ. That kind of maturity takes work, which is why it is the very first thing of your action plan that we talk about at EMB. Spend at least 15 minutes in the Word and in prayer every day. No one can become mature in Christ without spending time in His Word and in prayer.

Rick’s fourth purpose that he talks about in the book is that we were made to serve God. And most of serving God is serving His children. If you’ve been in recovery awhile now and have some sobriety time behind you, this is a good time to start practicing some of the gifts God has given you to help others. You may want to step up in your support group and start providing some leadership, or start actively looking for another guy to be a sponsor or accountability partner with. God doesn’t want you on the sidelines, and He doesn’t want you just showing up but not contributing from the gifts he has given you. Pray for a servant’s heart, and for God to open the door for you in ministry.

And finally, we were made for a mission. And that mission is to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, whether that be actively witnessing to our friends, family, co-workers or neighbors, or sharing with other guys in recovery what God has done for you. Read over what the 12th step says sometime. The bottom line is you can’t keep it unless you give it away.

These are five of God’s purposes for your life. Go back over them and see which one is most lacking in your life, and in your recovery, and pray this week that God will help you to implement it. And then go for it.  See what exciting things God brings into your life!

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

Reality Sets In

Wes Mason

This past weekend I helped teach junior high boys at our church’s Disciple Now weekend. The group was made up of kids of all shapes, sizes, and levels of maturity, but all sharing the awkwardness common to the age and matching bright yellow t-shirts that bore the retreat’s theme in big, black letters across the chest: Reality Sets In. These young men were challenged to respond to the reality that they needed God in their lives. For many of them this reality apparently did set in, as several of them accepted Christ during the retreat.

As the retreat progressed my thoughts strayed to another group of men more than a thousand miles away. At that same time 74 men were gathered in the Washington, DC area for our monthly Every Man’s Battle workshop, having traveled from more than a dozen states and as far away as France and Russia. It occurred to me that some of these men may have also made their decision to accept Christ way back in junior high, just like these retreat kids. But now they were challenged to respond to a new reality they were facing. It was a sobering thought. These young guys at a retreat in Melissa, Texas have no idea the kinds of struggles that may be headed their way in the years ahead; these men in Washington probably could not have imagined when they first became a believer that years or decades later they would become so ensnared by sexual temptation.

When it comes to sexual temptation, there isn’t just one reality that sets in, but a series of them; in the workshop we call them crises of truth. As a man moves down the path from small-scale flirtation with sexual temptation to sexual addiction, these realities get more difficult to face; the consequences become less controllable. In this way sexual addiction is like cancer. Most are not terminal, and even the bad ones can often be conquered or managed if caught early enough. If left too long without attention, however, the options to control the outcome become more limited.

So, what do you do when you’re finally serious about working on your sexual integrity and then discover that there are consequences to your past actions that don’t easily erase? Maybe you’ve done all the right things: surrendered, disclosed, gotten into a program, taken actions to make amends, and gotten an accountability partner. You felt the freedom that comes from finally seeing the burden of your secrets lifted. You had reached the darkness at the bottom and are on your way up and out. Unlike your failed attempts in the past, which had an action plan consisting of willpower alone, this time you’re taking this seriously and you’re finding success. Nice feeling.

But it’s at this point, when the battle’s momentum seems to finally be turning your way, that you may face one of the most difficult realities and least nice feelings of all: the consequences of that past behavior. Sexual sin damages relationships most of all, so it is not surprising that relationship repair is one of the most difficult steps in the road to recovery. How do you face this reality and repair the damage to these relationships? Here are some ideas on how to start with the two most affected relationships a man in this situation faces: with God, and with his wife

Relationship to God: We are fortunate that God has a long history of restoring broken relationships. He is well-practiced at it after interacting with us over an entire human history filled with our failings. Our failures, no matter how serious, do not shock God. He is also committed to relationship restoration, going so far as to send his Son to the cross to demonstrate that commitment. We see the historical examples of men who have fallen much further than we have, such as David, who was restored to be a man after God’s own heart. We relate intimately to the words of the apostle Paul in which he shares his pain with the believers in Rome, where he says,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord’Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
In your desire to restore your relationship with God, you have the benefit of God doing much of the work. You have a guarantee from God that if you want to restore the relationship with Him, and take the steps toward restoration mentioned above, restoration is yours. No exceptions, no concern that God will reject your repentance and heartfelt commitment to change.

Relationship to Our Wives: Perhaps you’re on that steady path of recovery; you’re action plan is in place, you’re reassured by the knowledge of God’s still loves you and forgives you despite your failings. But your wife isn’t sure she loves or forgives you; worse yet, she may be convinced that she is no longer capable of either. What do you do?

First, it’s important to understand that your wife is not obligated to simply put the past behind her, and isn’t likely to do so, at least not quickly. Worse yet, she may never be able to get over this completely, or at all. Recently on our radio program Steve Arterburn was talking to a caller who was involved with this kind of problem. He asked the caller to go through a mental exercise that is worth sharing. Imagine that you are standing on a floor with your feet together. Draw a line on the floor around your feet, about two feet out. Inside this line is everything in this world you have control over. Talk about reality setting in; you can only control what you do with your recovery, not how someone else responds to it. That small circle of control can make a man feel a bit claustrophobic, especially if he’s the controlling type, a common characteristic of the sex addict.

The good news is that what you do with your recovery is likely to be highly influential in how your wife responds. If she is listening to good counsel, she’ll be giving little attention to your words and a lot of attention to your actions. She needs to see with her own eyes, over time, a man who is living a life of sexual integrity. Very slowly, depending on what she sees in your life, the trust may begin to return.

This slower approach may be difficult to accept, and there may be a temptation to pressure her to come along at your pace, rather than her own. Professional counselors will tell you, however, that if she is too quick to forgive and forget, without resolving her feelings of betrayal, her anger will find its way back into your relationship in less obvious ways.

The challenge for a man who has fallen but now strives for sexual integrity is to demonstrate, over time with consistency, that he is a changed man. If he does that, the reality is that everything else is in God’s hands; not such a bad place to be for a believer, regardless of whatever other consequences may come his way.

If you would like additional help in restoring your marriage, we encourage you to prayerfully consider attending one of our couples groups at our next New Life Weekend.

Your True Nature

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou can not then be false to any man.”
– Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’

“I can’t help being who I am!”, my client screamed. We were in the middle of our third counseling session together, and he was contemplating his decision to stop using pornography and prostitutes. His sexual behavior had become such a primary part of his life, though, that leaving it behind felt impossibly unnatural. “It’s my nature as a guy to want this,” he argued. “If I stop, aren’t I just trying to be somebody I’m not?”

As a Christian man struggling with sexual temptations, you may be asking the same question. You may, in fact, be considering a complete abandonment of the faith instead of abandoning your behavior.

The immediate payoff for such a decision is gratification. You will no longer be denying yourself the “right” to do what seems natural to you. And that may really seem more important to you than Christianity itself.

But then, what is your concept of Christianity? Did God promise you that, having been converted, you would be finished with personal struggles? Was there anything in Christ’s teaching implying total fulfillment in this life? Is Christianity a religious form of therapy designed to ensure the happiness of its followers?

Does it make you angry to even ask these questions? If so, you may have forgotten that the core of our faith is the Person Jesus Christ, and the expression of our faith is a life of service to Him, not ourselves. Jesus made this clear: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24).

The core of our faith is Jesus Christ. The expression of our faith is a life of service to Him. Regarding our attitude toward this primary but overlooked aspect of Christianity, Francis Schaeffer, in his book True Spirituality, comments: “It is not a matter of waiting until we no longer have strong sexual desires, but rather, when we are surrounded by a world that grabs everything, we are to understand what Jesus means when He talks about denying ourselves that which is not rightfully ours.”

Ironically, then, abandoning the faith in a quest for personal happiness may well be the way to sabotage that very quest. Remember, if you are a believer, you have experienced the rebirth described in John 3:16, which is not easily shrugged off. You were given the seed of God Himself: ‘Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God.’  (1 Peter 1:23).

That being the case, it is questionable whether you will ever be happy in a back-slidden state. The dissatisfaction you will feel apart from fellowship with Christ may well outweigh whatever dissatisfaction you’re experiencing now as a struggling Christian. I am who I am, I can’t be at peace unless I’m true to myself.

You might argue, ‘But I am who I am. That’s my nature, and I can’t be at peace unless I’m true to myself.’ I would argue the same point, changing the noun. You are indeed who you are, a Christian. That’s your nature, and you can’t be at peace unless you’re true to yourself.