Earnestly Desire God
- THE RECOVERY SERIES - APRIL 22, 25, 2021
For me, the word Recovery brings up memories from over the years of people trying to recover from various kinds of addictions. Twice in Mesa I preached through the 12-step program. It was encouraging to look over to my left at the section where several dozen alcoholics and drug addicts were seated together. They helped me. As I’d preach through the 12 steps of recovery, they’d come up after a sermon to say, “Be sure to tell them this…” From their own experience, they knew recovery was possible; they had achieved it—and were receiving the blessings of clean living by their decision to turn to God. They all admitted God existed, and they earnestly believed in God.
The process of recovery
They were recovering from the shame, sorrows and struggles that had beaten them up during the years when they handed themselves over to their addictions, gave their enemies the victory. But now they were winners and they wanted to help other people recover as well. The reason I preached the series wasn’t that we had a church full of alcoholics. We didn’t. But we did have a church full of addicts who’s defects of character were hindering them from seeing the care of God. These “defects of character” could be old beliefs that aren’t working (for example: “I’m incapable of love,” or “I’m not good enough” or “People will always let you down”), or they could be personality defects such as being quick to anger, being judgemental or envious, being a perfectionist or a procrastinator, or holding too high of expectations of others. These defects are the blocks standing in the way of our ability to experience the love, relationships and life God so desperately wants for all of us. Until we can clearly see these blocks, we struggle to admit we are powerless. Alot act as if either God doesn’t exist or God can’t help in my situation. They believe in God, but not earnestly.
So while I’m talking with you today about recovery, I have bifocal vision: the short view—what we’ve been through and are trying to recover from because of Covid-19, wildfires, ice storms, etc. And the long view—finding relief from our own inner demons, addictions we’ve been battling for too long.
5 points of admitting powerlessness
Back when church members were teaching me about AA (alcoholics anonymous), one of them gave me a copy of the Serenity Bible, which included the 5 points of admitting powerlessness. which says It’s important to practice these principles in order to break one’s addiction cycle. Here are the points:
- Pain that hurt so much you want some kind of relief
- Reaching out to the addictive agent for that relief, such as work, food, sex, alcohol, gambling, or a co-dependent relationship, whatever we cling to to ease the pain.
- Temporary anaesthesia: Numbing yourself with that addiction, hiding from the pain and hiding from yourself.
- Negative consequences: going broke, gaining or losing weight, desperately seeking sex—sex without love, drinking way too much, binging on shopping, etc.
- Shame and guilt—which result in more pain or low self-esteem—and then more reaching out…ad infinitum
And what keeps the cycle spinning?
1) fear of going through the pain of withdrawal; or, just as deadly:
2) denial:…(your definition for denial)
So—How does recovery begin? Recovery from the effects of a pandemic, recovery from social chaos, recovery from spinning out of control…
It begins when we quit pretending or making excuses. It begins by admitting we have a problem here—I have a problem here—I am the problem here.
Everyone struggles with this, including Adam in the beginning. God asked him, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” [Gen 3:12, 13] You see, with us addicts, it’s always somebody else’s fault. And as long as we blame somebody else, we don’t recover.
Sometimes we even blame God. This is why in AA the 2nd step is so important: “I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.” In other words, no recovery without belief in God.
Think about it. I have a bad temper because I choose to have a bad temper. I choose to smoke. I choose to do dumb things, destructive things, to drink, to do drugs. How do you know it’s my choice? Because you’ll hear me say, “That’s just how I am.” “I’m only human.” Notice how you never hear anyone say, “Hey, I couldn’t help it. I’m just compassionate by nature. I had no control over my generosity. No, if it’s good we want the credit. If it’s bad we don’t want the blame, so we make excuses, pretend, accuse others. And you know what that leads to: No Recovery.
Self-proclaimed victims don’t recover.
Which brings us to God. To earnestly believing in God—which is the absolutely essential step toward recovery. Try this on for size. It’s Psalm 6:2-4
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
3 My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
4 Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Did you catch that last line? Save me–not because I’m worthy, innocent or deserving or can’t handle this pain, but because of your unfailing love. It’s your love that will help me recover—if I earnestly want to recover.
Here’s another one:
For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight. Ps 72:12-14
The key to all of this—and I hope you heard it when I read it—is the crying out. For he will deliver the needy who cry out… This is acknowledging that we need him. It is my confession that I can no longer go at it on my own and that I want help and that I earnestly believe there is a God and that God wants to help me.
Ps 142:1-3 has seemed so appropriate for all of us in this pandemic.. and the ice storms, and the wildfires, and the financial devastation that has crushed so many. To say nothing of the personal and family crises. Let me read this passage—and you see whether it speaks for you as well:
1 I cry aloud to the Lord;
I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
2 I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.
[And then, directly to the Lord:}
3 When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.
There’s a moving story in the NT in the 9th chapter of Mark. On this occasion Jesus has been up in the mountain praying with his closest friends and he was transfigured before them. It was an awesome moment. But as they came down the mountain, they saw the rest of his disciples. There was a hubbub. His disciples were distraught. A man had a son with what Mark’s gospel calls an evil spirit–Matthew’s says he had epilepsy. The father is nearly beside himself. He has brought the boy to the disciples for healing, but they can’t help him. The boy’s condition is frightening. When he is smitten by it, his father says he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, becomes rigid, and sometimes he is in danger of being thrown into the fire. The father is scared. I’ve been that scared myself. I know the feeling.
When Jesus gets to them, he does something shocking. He scolds his disciples for their lack of faith before addressing the problem. Then he turns to the father:
“How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“If you can?
If you don’t remember anything else I’m saying today, please remember these next words:
“Everything is possible for him who believes.”
Immediately the father exclaims, “I do believe: help me overcome my unbelief.”
Do you identify with this father? I do every time I read this passage. Not just because of his compassion for his son, all of us parents identify with that, but because of the honesty in his response: “I believe, but I even need help believing.” And that doesn’t offend Jesus at all. He goes ahead and heals the boy. There is enough faith for that.
So the word to us from this episode is simply to start where we are. We don’t have to pretend beliefs we don’t have. We do need to add to our faith earnestness. No pretense, no play acting, just honesty, earnestness. It’s enough. Jesus doesn’t call for heroics and certainly doesn’t like pretending. Just – honest, earnest belief.
Since we know there is God and we’re not it, we turn earnestly to him. That’s the way to full recovery.
we need to find a different word than earnest. It’s a great word for speaking, but harder for seo.