Who Gets the Glory?

Who Gets the Glory?

The message this past Thursday at Recovery at Dayton dealt with the avalanches in our life and what we do when things start to cave in all around us.  It’s a powerful message by Mark Beebe and you can watch the whole thing HERE.

One of the main questions each one of us has to wrestle with – and this is true of everyone of us, addict or not – when life throws us a curve is this:

Who gets the glory?

Who gets the glory when an avalanche happens all around you?  Check out this story from Acts where two followers of Jesus get into a pretty big avalanche.  Look and see how they answer the question, “Who gets the glory?”

22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.

25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!

Can you believe that?  After being beaten and thrown into a dungeon, Paul and Silas gave glory to God.  Their avalanche didn’t steal God’s glory.

This has been one of the hardest things for me to learn and even harder to practice.  It’s so difficult in the midst of a storm to praise God.  I’m reminded of Job’s words after he lost everything – his family, his land, his home, his livestock – Job declared, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).   That is to say, even if this event and calamity is caused by God Himself, I trust that He is good and I will put my hope in Him and give Him glory alone.  That’s faith!  God, give me faith like this!

Because here’s the deal.  Someone or something is always going to get the glory.   In the midst of an avalanche, either:

  • you are going to get the glory because you will yourself to grit your teeth and get yourself through the mess,
  • your circumstances will get the glory because they will be all you or anyone else ever gets to hear about,
  • your addiction will get the glory because you’ll run to whatever compulsion it is that you think makes you feel safe,
  • or God will get the glory, and you’ll be like Paul and Silas singing praises to Him, trusting that God will bring you through this mess and certainly will not forsake you in the midst of it.

This is a hard lesson to learn and harder to practice.   It’s much easier, and far more recognizable, to give myself, my circumstances or my addiction the glory.  It’s so much easier to blame everyone and everything and to retreat into isolation and indulge in my drug of choice, whether that be porn, a pill, a drink, food or another person or whatever.  It’s downright unnatural and weird to sing praises to God while life is crashing around me.   But that, and perhaps that alone, is the difference between a defeated life and a victorious one.  The difference between an addicted life or a sober one.   The difference between a broken life or a holy one.

I’ve discovered, and Mark shares this in his video message linked above, that the following wisdom found in A.A (Alcoholics Anonymous) helps me tremendously:

One day at a time.

When a disaster happens with my kids or a meltdown occurs between my wife and I or something at work just doesn’t go like I expected or I get that phone call from a family member that someone is sick, or I wake up to find I’ve been hacked and my bank account is empty, I can handle giving God glory for the next 30 minutes.  I can do one day at a time.

It’s when I begin thinking I’ll have to do this all week, or all month, or for the rest of my life that I get paralyzed and feel this is impossible.   But I can do one day at a time. I can focus today on giving God glory no matter what happens today.  I can trust that He will be with me today.  All day.  And tomorrow, by God’s grace, I can wake up and do it again.

When Paul, the same guy who gave glory to God from a prison, had a “thorn in his flesh,” a constant avalanche about him, he prayed that it be removed but heard these words from Jesus:  “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8-10).   One day at a time.  

Who gets the glory in your life?  I pray that when the avalanche comes (and it will come!) you would run to the strong, loving arms of Jesus who has everything you need for today.  His power works best when you come to him in need.  One day at a time.

So you went to the altar and your life didn’t change? Welcome to the club

So you went to the altar and your life didn’t change?  Welcome to the club

I have heard it from others nearly as many times as I have lived it myself:

I went to the altar and asked God to take away my addiction to pornography (or insert any other compulsive behavior) but when I woke up Monday nothing changed.  Why won’t God heal me?

For many, many years I walked that dusty road between the pews and knelt at the altar, confessing my sins from the past week and pleading with God to take my affliction away.   And for many, many years I woke up Monday wondering why God hadn’t answered my prayer.

This cycle went on for nearly 2 decades until another godly man who had been down the same road I was on and was now living a victorious Christian life told me the hard truth I needed to hear.  I’m not sure if I had heard this prior to his entrance into my life or not.  Perhaps I had but simply was not ready to receive it.  Sometimes truth falls like seeds onto rocky ground and just lays there.  Sometimes it takes a great upheaval – like the loss of everything in my life – for that rocky, fallow ground to be broken up just enough for that seed to take root.   In any event, I was finally ready to hear from this man what I’m about to share with you now. He said,

Your kneeling at the altar is not the end of the fight but the beginning.  It is to say I am powerless to do this on my own but I am choosing to trust that Jesus will be fighting alongside me as I pass from death into life.   And anytime you are being reborn it’s going to be painful.  It’s going to be a fight.  Welcome to the club.

The “club” is real, vital Christianity as opposed to the passive, vapid religion I had long been living.   For far too long I had been under the delusion that if God really wanted me to be free from sexual sin He would set me free.   It was as though I expected some magic wand to tap me on the heart and take away all the compulsive tendencies.  That I would wake up Monday free from lustful thoughts and impulses.

But that never happened.  At least not for me.   I rejoice with those who experience such radical transformation overnight but my experience, and the experience of most people I meet, is that it’s not so instantaneous.

But it’s every bit as radical.

It’s radical if you understand the truth I shared above.  It’s radical if you change from seeing yourself at the altar as some passive consumer coming to be magically delivered and see yourself instead as a broken man or woman kneeling before your king to be knighted, and rising thereafter to enter the war from which you have long been absent or oblivious to.  

Monday is not the day to wake up expecting to be free from impure thoughts but the day to rise up and don your helmet and go to war, fighting for the first time on the right side of the battle, knowing you have beside you the one who already conquered sin and death.

battle

Turning your life over to God doesn’t mean you wake up the next day and your addiction is gone. It just means you pass from being dead to waking up in a UFC cage match. It means you finally enter the fight. It’s going to be a battle but one you don’t fight alone.

One of the first and greatest Christian thinkers in history, Augustine, is also known as the patron saint of sex addicts.  He struggled mightily with lust as he was coming to know Jesus.   In his book, Confessions, he describes well this battle to which our trip to the alter enlists us:

The enemy held fast my will, making it a chain with which he bound me tight.  Out of my perverse will came lust, and the service of lust ended in habit, and habit, not resisted, became necessity.  By these links, which is why I called it “a chain,” hard bondage held me in slavery.  My new will, which had begun to spring up in me freely to worship You and to enjoy You, O my God, the only certain Joy, was not yet able to overcome my former willfulness, made strong by long indulgence.  Therefore, my two wills – the old and the new, the carnal and the spiritual – raged in conflict within me.  They tore my soul apart by their dispute.  (Confessions, Book 8).

In a few deft lines, Augustine brilliantly captures the hell of addiction.   What we have for so long been indulging becomes our master, and when we kneel before a new Master, Jesus, our freedom from the former life will not come without great struggle and sacrifice.   Being reborn is painful, and cannot be done alone.

So, when you went to the altar your life didn’t immediately change.  I am by no means saying you should not continue to make that trek to kneel before your king.  Do it daily, in fact.  Do it until – and even beyond – the truth of what you’ve read here, and the grace of Almighty God, explodes the rocky ground of your heart and you rise up finally willing to enter the fight that many of us, and all of heaven, have been waiting for you to fight.   Remember, you don’t fight alone.

Welcome to the club.

Win the battle in your mind

Win the battle in your mind

In the course of my own recovery and through counseling many others I’ve concluded this one simple truth:

our mind is a battlefield.

Every compulsion, every relapse, every giving over to whatever is our “thing” begins in the mind.   If I had a penny for every time I heard, or said myself, “I was having a really good day, and then this image/thought entered my mind and I….”  I’d have a lot of pennies.

I wasted many years of my life and did a lot of damage to myself and others because I never learned (and nobody taught me) how to win the battle in my mind.   In fact, I never really understood that I was at war!   While I often would say I was “struggling” with pornography what I really meant was this:  A lustful thought keeps entering my mind and 99% of the time I cave in to it.  That is not the picture of a person struggling but of being a doormat (For more on that topic read “Are you REALLY Struggling against habitual sin?”) 

If you are serious about kicking your habit of looking at porn (or whatever else you have a compulsion towards) you will need to get serious about a few things.  Here’s a short list…

1. Get serious about this warfare thing.   Really.  Some segments of Christianity will play down the warfare imagery in scripture, others glorify it.  You need to get away from both and simply, yet hugely, take it seriously.   A cursory read of Scripture makes it abundantly clear that there is a battle for your soul and there will be winners and there will be losers.  The enemy is always prowling like a roaring lion seeking one to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  It’s no surprise that included in this admonition by Peter is to “be alert and of sober mind.”   You need to know that when you determine to pursue holiness in body, mind, and soul, you will be entering a battle with the enemy who has studied you.  He knows where to trip you up, he knows what thoughts will seduce you, he knows how to cause you to stumble.   So be alert!   Take this warfare motif found throughout all of scripture seriously, and view it as God’s textbook written solely for your benefit to know how to win not just the battle but the war.

2. Get serious about your thoughts.  The bible teaches that we ought to take every thought captive to be obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).   Surely this is to include suspending those lustful thoughts (or other compulsions) and surrendering them over to the blood of Jesus.  Any thought contrary to the revealed will of God ought to be – and can be! – brought into obedience with Christ.  Do not fall for the enemies lie which says your thoughts do not really matter.   Jesus said that if you have even the intent of lust in your heart it is as good as committing adultery and that if you harbor anger you have committed murder (Matt. 5:27ff).  He also taught that it’s what is inside us that defiles us.  Clean the inside of the cup (which will include your mind!) and all will be clean (Matt. 23:26)!   Your thoughts matter to God.   And they will either lead you to life or shipwreck you again and again.

Know this:  Just because a thought enters your mind does not mean you have sinned.   As I said above, the enemy will bombard you with all sorts of schemes and make you believe you are justified to dwell upon them.  You have a choice when a sinful thought crosses your radar:  Chew on it or spit it out.    Keep reading to learn how to do the latter.

3. Get serious about fighting.   Your most valuable weapon in the fight against your thoughts is prayer.   I teach my guys in recovery and my church in recovery (because we are all in recovery) to pray instead of think.  When I would struggle with impure thoughts and had determined I would not be a slave to them any longer I began praying the mercy prayer almost with every breath I breathed.   It would be on my lips when I rose and when I laid down at night.  I would recite it hundreds of times throughout the day and even more when I was bombarded with temptation.  I would go to bed exhausted from praying but victorious.   And guess what?  Over time the battle got less and less intense.  Over time I realized that I was “being transformed by the renewing of my mind” (Rom. 12:1-2).  My mind was actually learning to think -and pray – in new ways.  I was taking every thought captive to obey Christ.

The first wave of attack against any enemy force is going to be the hardest.   And the bloodiest.   If you are new to this sort of warfare you can expect some casualties.  But don’t give up!   Surround yourself with like-minded soldiers who are fighting the good fight as well.  Call them consistently and constantly, particularly in the early stages until you get some traction (60-90 days minimum).   It won’t be long before you are the one others are calling, and you’ll be sharing your experience, strength and hope with them.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Phil. 4:8)