Motivation for Recovery

It is said that we are motivated by the desire to avoid pain (losing our job, marriage, reputation; etc.) and the desire to acquire gain (having peace of mind; hearing our father or wife say, ‘I’m proud of you,’ etc.). So what motivates you to work your battle plan each day?

A daily motivational review is a tool we discuss at Every Man’s Battle. It may include desiring intimacy with God, being tired of lying and covering up, wanting peace of mind, refusing to support something that is ruining human life, etc.

At the risk of pontificating spirituality, I’d like to look at an area of motivation that helps many of us in our recovery process, namely, wanting to know and experience the love of God.

Imagine you are hiking in the mountains and you slip off the edge of a cliff. You grab hold of a bush with your hands, but you’re now dangling over hundreds of feet below. You’re safe for the moment, but you can’t hold on for long. You must have help that is immediate, good, and adequate.

Now suppose help appears. Someone reaches down and says, ‘take my hand and I’ll pull you up. ‘Will you do it? The answer depends on the helper. Suppose it’s someone you deeply offended at one time? He may be strong enough to help, but will he? Or suppose it’s a ten year old Boy Scout with 20 merit badges? You know he will do everything in his power to help, but does he have enough strength? What will persuade you to trust the help offered? You must be convinced of the good will, reliability, and strength of the helper.

All of us are holding on to something or things we think gives meaning and substance to our lives. It may be your sexual behaviors. But sooner or later our hold on those things weakens because they don’t solve our crisis.

So what is offered to us in this life that is good enough, strong enough, and durable enough to hold our lives together for the whole journey? What is it that can motivate us to live the life we really want? What is it that can motivate us in our recovery process?

The Apostle Paul says it is the love of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 3:16-19 he prays that we be rooted and grounded in that love ‘ like a deeply planted tree or well-founded building that cannot be shaken. And he prays that we will be able to comprehend how wide, long, high and deep this love is ‘ i.e., that we will come to know the love of Christ in such personal ways that it will motivate us to live the life He meant for us to live.

What is this love? Is it some great ideal to which we should aspire? Is it an abstract concept: so high or lofty we can’t possibly ever experience it? Or is it a mood or sentiment?

No, God’s love is concrete and personal. It delivers us, lifts us up, and sustains us. We don’t earn it or stir it up by some goodness or loveableness in us. It comes to us even though we’re  imperfect and sinful. Think of how Jesus treated moral failures. He appointed the Samaritan woman as his first missionary. She went back to her town and told the people about Jesus, and many believed because of her testimony. He defended the sinful woman who anointed him with expensive perfume by saying, ‘wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.’ He restored Peter to leadership after denying him three times. Mary Magdalene, of whom seven demons had been cast out, he honored as the first witness of His resurrection. And the prodigal son was given a welcome home party.

It’s difficult to believe you’re worth anyone’s love, least of all the almighty God’s. Yet, with all the wrongs in your past, the mistakes, the detours, the moments of sin and selfishness, God loves you. No mistake we make in life disqualifies us from God’s love because nothings can separate us from His love.

So lay hold of this staggering, mind-blowing truth that God loves you just as you are, and not as you should be, because none of us is that. And let that motivate you to become the whole, integrated, connected man He created you to be.

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Brad Stenberg

Reason for Hope

Jim Phillis

“I have prayed for God to deliver me so many times and He hasn’t done it. He must not be listening to my prayers any more because I keep sinning.’

Whether you’ve said this or only thought it, you know the tone of voice that expresses these words, sad, halting words that trail off at the end. The unspoken thought that accompanies this: ‘If I feel condemned, I must be condemned.’

Thankfully, the Gospel is an enduring message of hope for all sinners, which includes those struggling with sexual sin. The Bible provides three God-focused reasons for hope: God’s character, His promises to His people, and His work in His people’s lives.

God’s character

God’s character is clearly revealed in the Bible. We read that He is eternal, self-existing, all-powerful, all-knowing, present everywhere, holy, just, faithful, and merciful, among other things. As we read through this list, we can wonder how He can be all these things at the same time and not be internally conflicted. Whereas I struggle to be consistent in my character, He is holy and forgiving at the same time without compromising either quality in any degree. Yes, God is holy and punishes sin, but His is also merciful and desires to forgive the sinner. God resolved this seeming conflict by sending the Lord Jesus to fulfill the Law. Because of His perfect obedience, the Lord Jesus could then go to the Cross as the sacrifice for sins, paying the penalty required for sin and providing a way for God to express His mercy to sinners. Knowing His character provides hope for the sinner, because He really is merciful.

God’s promises

Which promises should we focus on in seeking renewed hope after falling into sexual sin?

Our greatest fear usually arises from our doubts that God can forgive the sin that we have entered into OR that the number of times we have returned to our sin will overtax His grace and He will have to punish us. So the first promises to claim are those relating to His mercy in forgiving sinners. Romans 5:8 declares: ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ Then we can read: ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and will purify us from all unrighteousness.'(1 Jn. 1:9) Thankfully, the Bible is full of such promises: Gal. 3:13, Eph. 2:8-9, Titus 3:4-7, and Rom. 7:21-8:2 Beyond this, He promises that He won’t abandon us or the work of faith that He has begun in us, but He will finish the work, Php. 1:6 and Rom. 8:38-39.

God also promises to give those caught in sin new futures. My personal favorite is found in Joel 2:25. After Joel tells God’s people that four waves of locusts are coming as a work of God’s judgment against sin, he speaks God’s promises to them, ‘I will repay you for the years that the locusts have eaten’.’ No only will He forgive, but He will restore to the people those things that they have lost as a consequence of their sin. God promises to do the same thing in many other places, such as Jeremiah 29:11-14. His grace and mercy are great; He is worthy of praise!

We can also seek and find strength in a third kind of promise, that God will supply grace for strength in resisting temptation and living by faith. Peter writes: ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.'(2 Pt. 1:3-4) Paul expresses another promise of God’s power unleashed in us by faith in Ephesians 3:20. By our own admission, we have failed to experience this in the past, but our experience doesn’t mean that the promise isn’t true. Rather, we have simply not experienced the fulfillment of the promise in our lives yet!

God’s work

The Bible is remarkably explicit in detailing the sins of God’s people. In reading of God’s work in the lives of other sinners we can find the greatest hope. God has healed and restored many sinners so that He is able to use them to accomplish His work. I remember the initial shock when a preacher pointed to the fact that 5 of those that Matthew lists in Jesus’ genealogy are sexual sinners: Judah, Tamar, Rahab, David, and Solomon. Their sin didn’t prevent them from being in the line nor did their sin keep them from being listed.

God uses the church to restore redeemed sinners. He provides instructions for this kind of work in Galatians 6:1 and in 1 Corinthians 5. The church should exercise discipline for the purpose of bringing the sinner back into fellowship. This is the work that we need to be doing in relationship with each other, asking the difficult accountability questions and urging that sexual boundaries are maintained while praying for each other and speaking the words of forgiveness that restore. James urges us: ‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed’ (5:16). In his book, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoes this: ‘A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.’ The brother not only hears the confession but speaks the truth of the Gospel in response, ‘You no longer need to remain dead in your sins; Jesus died to make you alive. Go and live in Him.”

‘When we return to our sin, we often find it difficult to read the Bible. We quickly forget God’s character, that He loves us and has acted in order to forgive us. We also forget His promises,that He is not done working in us and still has plans for our lives to give us hope. We neglect the evidence of His finished work in the lives of His people, both those recorded in the Bible and in history.

In the book, The Heart of a Servant Leader, Jack Miller recounts the story of Brownlow North, an evangelist in Great Britain whose ministry began about 1858. North lived a life of known before entering ministry. Attempts were made to prevent him from entering the ministry and later to keep him from preaching. On one occasion North took a letter detailing his sins into the pulpit and read it for all to hear. He acknowledged the truth of the letter, but used the letter to proclaim the wonders of the Gospel. Miller writes: ‘The very thing that Satan hoped to use to destroy North became a powerful evangelistic tool in his daring hands.’

God makes ugly things beautiful. He did it with a crucifixion. There is good reason to hope that He will do it with you.

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle and our Resources for Men.

The Pursuit of Purity

Psalm 119:9: ‘How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Thy word.‘  Matthew 5:8: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

Pursuing purity is a reality for every believer in Christ. Yes, even those who struggle with sexual addiction and lust. What seems impossible with man is possible with God. God is able to transform us through the renewing of our mind and lives.

I see purity as an attitude of the heart that will result in a lifestyle change. It is an active decision every day to commit yourself to the pursuit of purity. ‘One day at a time’ is the expression used in AA. Each morning you decide for moral purity. Keeping yourself pure according to ‘Thy word’ requires a daily plan. Essential to your plan is another heart attitude, humility.

Humility is best reflected in the example Christ set for us to follow. Paul, in Philippians 2: 3-8, reminds us of the importance of focusing on the needs of others and not exclusively our own, which so characterizes our selfish nature. Humility of mind reminds me daily that, apart from Christ, I can do nothing. I am dependent on Him to be able to live right. Pride is the opposite of humility, an attitude that says I can do this myself without God. Just remember where that attitude (pride) got you.

So the commitment to be morally pure is a daily one, where you build new patterns of thinking and behaving motivated by a change in heart. Peter put it this way in 2 Peter 1:5-8:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Job made a covenant with his eyes to not look lustfully on a woman. Learning to turn away from lustful thoughts requires the daily discipline of replacing old thoughts and sinful patterns with new and God honoring ones. In your daily plan, be sure to include scripture memorization, mediation, and study of God’s word. Find a bible study group or take a class with others. Learning the scriptures and encouraging one another makes studying enjoyable and enriching. Doing this also helps you build relationships where you can develop accountability and fellowship.

Another part of your daily plan in pursuit of purity is to have a means of confession or honest discussion about your thought life. I know that when we admit any thoughts that bother us to another, the thoughts lose their power. Having another person pray with you can really encourage you. James 5:16 is a reminder of the power of confession, and Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us ‘to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.’ Having another person to share with also helps you overcome the deceitfulness of your own heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Asking someone to mentor you in the spiritual disciplines can really be helpful. Look for people who have walked with the Lord and have a mature walk with God. Ask your Pastor for guidance to find someone to mentor you. Sponsors, like mentors, are very helpful in your specific area of recovery. They guide and coach you in the recovery process. A spiritual mentor may not have specific knowledge about addiction, but would bring the wisdom and knowledge that comes with walking in relationship with God. You need both.

In closing, as you seek God in pursuit of purity, He will enable you to develop the disciplines that have been lacking in your life. Ask Him to give you a heart inclined towards purity. As Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle and our Resources for Men.

Chris Cole