Healing Three Plagues – Regret for the Past, Fear of the Future, and Daily Addictions
As we grow older and experience both isolated and repeat failures in our lives, we often become plagued by three very harmful things: Regret for the past, fear of the future, and daily addictions. These afflictions grow in the leaf mold of our failures, and if they are not quickly identified and treated, they fester at an alarming rate. Each have the ability to attack our spiritual lives in very different but equally devastating ways, and the only way to heal them is with a daily dose of “manna;” that is, a daily reliance upon the grace of God.
This means we tackle the journey of life one day at a time. And that day is today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Today.
Hebrews 3:12,13 “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Hebrews 4:7 “… just as has been said before, ‘TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.’ ”
Matthew 6:25-34 “… do not be worried about your life… But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself…”
God wants us to wake up each morning with a confident assurance that no matter what the day brings, whether it’s all sunshine or all rain, God’s grace will be there and it will be sufficient. Just like the Israelites woke up each morning and found all the manna they could ever want for the day already waiting for them, each day we have to decide to trust that God is going to provide us with all the grace we could ever need for that particular day.
What God doesn’t want us to do is wake up each morning fixated upon something that occurred in the past. He also doesn’t want us worried about something that might occur in the future. And He doesn’t want us planning on doing something wrong today. Each of these destructive habits prevent today from becoming a day wherein we can draw closer to God, come to know His Joy and Peace, and serve Him.
We need to learn to receive the gift of life as it is given – one day at a time. We have to master the art of living today well, in a manner that is glorifying to God. And with this art we must learn to deal with the things in the past, present, and future that keep us from discovering and fulfilling God’s plan and purpose for our lives. But how?
Let’s begin with the art of living today well. As finite creatures with limits to what our minds, bodies, and spirits can handle at any given moment, the journey of our lives can sometimes become overwhelming. The disappointments, temptations, and fears of the past, present, and future are often too much for us to handle given the fragility of the human condition and the harshness of this fallen world. You might think you are a tough guy and can handle anything, but you can’t. If you haven’t figured that out, just give it time. You will.
God has certainly figured that out, and so He doesn’t expect or even want us to try and take on all of these burdens at once. Instead, He wants us to focus on making good decisions today; that is, from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. He wants us to concentrate our efforts to follow His Son’s example on what happens between these two markers.
Don’t fixate on things from the past you can’t change, and don’t fret about things in the future you can’t control. The decisions made in our past cannot be altered, and the decisions to be made in our future cannot be foretold. So it’s a waste of time worrying about either one! Why agonize over things that cannot be relived or that may never be? It’s today’s decisions that matter, and so we should focus on meeting today’s challenges with choices that will please God, based upon our knowledge of God’s Word and the guidance of God’s Spirit. And as we learn to do this, slowly but surely the problems associated with our past, present, and future will lose their hold over us.
Philippians 4:4-20 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!… Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me (Paul), practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you… for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me… And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Peter 5:6,7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
Now let’s consider regret for the past. Not only do all of us fail, but all of us also fail spectacularly. It doesn’t matter who you are, either you have or you will experience tremendous failure in your life. Failure is an unwelcome visitor that arrives at everyone’s doorstep sooner or later. The bell rings. We open the door with big, friendly smiles on our faces. And an avalanche of failure comes crashing down upon us.
Later, after we dig ourselves out of the rubble, if we are not careful these failures can become obsessions in our lives. We sit around brooding about mistakes we made somewhere in our past that really tore us up, or continue to fill us with shame, or terribly hurt someone we love, and we allow these things to haunt us like ghosts. We become fixated on the apparitions of the past, and lose touch with the reality of the present and the hope for the future.
But as we learn to live today well, our focus on making good decisions today redirects our thoughts from the past to the present. It grabs us by the ears and forcibly turns our heads, from a frozen gaze backwards at the things in the past we cannot change, to a forward facing posture that allows us to experience and engage with the present. It rends our eyes from the paralyzing stare of the ghosts of the past and points them towards the living.
Then as we wake up from the dream-like slumber of a defeated man or woman held down by their past, we can rise up and begin to live again. We see the great drama of life unfolding around us, and a desire to assume our part within it awakens. And if the good decisions of this new day begin with a review of all the promises in God’s Word relating to His love for us, His ability and desire to forgive and renew, and His plan that assures us of a hope and a future (to name just a few), we can shake off the arthritic effects of regret and take hold of today with a firm, confident grip.
Philippians 3:12-14 “… I (Paul) press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus… one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Hebrews 12:1-13 “… let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith… strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”
And as we begin to practice the art of living today well – learning to focus our energies on handling the things we encounter each day as true followers of Christ – legitimate things from our past may surface; that is, not those things we cannot change, but rather those things we may have an opportunity to redress.
Knowing the difference can be tricky. We have to consider the thing in the light of God’s Word with a prayerful reliance upon the guidance of God’s Spirit. But if our hearts are humble and truly seeking God’s will, it will be revealed (as we saw earlier in Chapter 6). And if we discover there is something we should do to redress a problem in our past in a way that is glorifying to God, we will find the wisdom and strength to do so. Or if there is something that needs to be left in the past, God’s Word and Spirit will help us pull out a shovel and give it a proper burial, where it can turn to dust and haunt us no more.
Matthew 5:23,24 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Romans 6:4-23 “We were therefore buried with him (Jesus) through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life… For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin… In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus… offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace… You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness… What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Micah 7:18,19 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression… You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Hebrews 10:22 “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience…”
With the issues from our past either redressed or laid to rest, we are now facing in the right direction. We no longer sit lethargically down in the middle of life’s road and gaze woefully back at the path we have travelled, full of a debilitating regret that prevents us from moving forward with a spring in our step and a light in our eyes. We are standing up, straight and tall, facing forward. But what do we see?
This is where fear of the future can stop us in our tracks. We lift our foot to move forward, but our eyes lock onto the horizon and we can’t quite make out what’s there. So we set our foot right back down exactly where it was and spend ages speculating on what might be out there in the distance. We squint our eyes and crane our necks, and all too often we imagine the worst.
And so we never move forward. We are just as paralyzed as when the past wrapped itself around us and dragged us into the dust; and we are equally oblivious of the present. We completely miss out on all that is going on around us, both for our benefit and towards our destruction, and never make the choices today that can improve our lives.
Fear of the future is in a sense the opposite of regret for the past. In the past we see ghosts of things long dead. In the future we see monsters that are yet to be. Instead of fixating on things we can’t change, we become frightened of things that are merely speculation. Regret holds us back. It pulls at us from behind. Fear opposes our progress. It repels us from ahead. Both are empty phantoms we must learn to choose not to empower.
Matthew 6:25-34 “… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
When we focus on living today well, the lock of our gaze on the horizon is broken, and instead of looking way far ahead and trying to figure out what we are seeing, we limit our gaze to what is plainly in our sight. Each day we concentrate on the obstacles and opportunities within our field of vision and meet them with the faith, hope, and love that come with a humble dependence upon our Heavenly Father. Then as a new day dawns and we are a little further down life’s road and new things come into view, we engage them with these same virtues.
Psalm 5:2-12 “Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray… in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly… Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness… make your way straight before me… let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”
Lamentations 3:21-25 “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.”
And as we begin to live today well, making good choices as they are presented to us day by day, we may indeed be presented with opportunities to sensibly plan for the future. This is another part of living today well. Of course we are to plan effectively for the challenges of tomorrow. We are simply not to fear them, and thereby allow them to rob us of the Joy and Peace God wants us to know today. Just as we may have legitimate opportunities to redress things from the past, we will also have equally legitimate opportunities to prepare for things in the future. A daily reliance upon God’s Word and Spirit will give us the grounding and traction we need to prevent our common sense preparation for tomorrow from slipping into a destructive fear of the future.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I (Paul) give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction… keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…”
1 Peter 1:13-22 “Therefore, prepare you minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.’… Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”
In dealing with regret for the past, we correct the direction we face, from backward to forward. In dealing with fear of the future, we correct our tilt. We learn not to strain to see unknowable things at impossible distances, and instead to rend our gaze from the horizon and focus on the important things right there in front of us. We are facing the right direction on life’s road, standing straight and tall, with our eyes focused on those things within our field of vision that we can successfully encounter today. What could possibly stop us now?
The answer is: Daily addictions. This plague is very different from the other two, and sometimes the most difficult to cure. Here our focus is not incorrectly placed way back in the past or way out in the future. It’s right where it’s supposed to be, on the things of today. But our progress down life’s road is at a dead stand still, not because of something haunting or frightening, but because of something utterly enticing.
We are all born with strengths and weaknesses. Our weaknesses are a part of the nature to sin we’ve looked at before in this study. Included in our weaknesses will be voracious appetites for things within the fallen world that are cheap substitutes for the things of God that lead to Joy and Peace. They have the powerful effect of temporarily distracting us from our unhappiness, and when our hearts are prideful they are tremendously addicting.
What sort of daily addictions are we talking about? There are as many as there are people on the planet. They include the more obvious addictions, like alcohol, drugs, and sexual sins. People also become addicted to fame, fortune, and power. There are addictions to violence, gambling, and crime. And there are also more subtle addictions that can be just as harmful, such as gossip, entertainment, or even food.
We become addicted to these things because they temporarily distract us from our unhappiness. They are a balm that for a moment soothes the misery and despair that inevitably come from defying God and rejecting His grace. But as we saw earlier in this chapter, they cannot make us happy and they cannot last. And because they cannot last they are extremely addictive. We need a daily fix to keep our misery at bay, and each day that fix gets harder and harder to come by.
The first time we drink alcohol, it’s not very hard to get drunk. Our bodies are not accustomed to the drug, so a couple of beers can have us flying high. But the more we drink, the more it takes to get the same effect. Our bodies build up a tolerance to the influence, and what originally took a couple of beers eventually takes a bottle of hard liquor, which along with its intoxication eventually brings death to spirit, mind, and body.
Our daily addictions work the same way. They start with something small but pleasurable that requires growth in order to sustain its effect. It doesn’t have to grow much, just a little with each indulgence, but the resulting sure and steady momentum creates a powerful addiction that enslaves and then destroys everything we are.
We become addicted to these things because they temporarily distract us from being unhappy. They are an oasis within misery, and when our hearts are full of pride, we quite naturally pursue these pet pleasures to ward off the unhappiness that comes from defiance of God. And often they work quite well – for a limited period of time – until they inevitably ruin us.
Overcoming daily addictions can be one of the most difficult things we face in life. Although the pleasures they bring are temporary and destructive, they are also powerful and effective while they last. Much has to take place within our souls in order for us to conquer them, and some (especially chemical dependencies) may require professional help.
If you need professional help, by all means get it! There is absolutely no shame in that, and be encouraged – there are wonderful resources out there available to you. Go to them, and receive them as a blessing from God to help you get back on the right path.
With that caveat, for purposes of this study we will focus on six basic things that must happen in everyone in order to break an addiction.
First, we must: Identify our addictions. This is sort of the common sense place to start. We have to carefully examine our lives and pick out those errant things we cling to that prevent us from walking humbly and happily with God. We must look for the things holding us back and down, and often this isn’t quite as easy as it might seem.
2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves…”
Some addictions are fairly easy to identify as harmful. Problems with things like drugs, gambling, or pornography have long been recognized as addicting and destructive. That doesn’t stop millions of us from turning to them every day, but we do so knowing our behavior is dangerous and wrong.
Other addictions can be less overt but equally harmful. Inordinate time spent at work or play can destroy our relationships with God and family just as effectively as drugs or alcohol. If a parent is always at work or some social club, or if a child is always in front of the television or computer, the family will have a very difficult time drawing close and growing together in their faith, as God intends. Work and play certainly have legitimate places in our lives, but when out of balance they become daily addictions that must be broken.
Some addictions sneak in under our radars disguised as virtues. We dedicate ourselves to some worthy cause, but then in our fervor to accomplish something great we fail to live up to other important responsibilities to God and family. We are willing to compromise in certain vital areas because we see our mission as a higher cause, but in truth we have grown addicted to something that is preventing us from becoming the man or woman God wants us to be.
A simple, common sense test to determine if something is an unhealthy addiction is whether it introduces anything into our lives that is adverse to the things of God. That something might be an overt sinful act, or it might be a more subtle sinful omission. Either way, it prevents us from living a life that is pleasing to God and that will bring us the Joy and Peace for which we long; and it must be overcome. Pray, and humbly ask God to help you identify any unhealthy addictions, and your loving Heavenly Father will not fail to do so. No one wants you healthy and free more than Him!
Psalm 139:23,24 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Lamentations 3:31-42 “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone… Why should the living complain when punished for their sins? Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the LORD. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: ‘We have sinned and rebelled…’ ”
Once we have identified our addictions, a second thing we need to do is: Acknowledge we have a problem. We have to confess to God and to ourselves that our addiction is not some trifling matter, but rather a serious issue that prevents us from walking with God. We have to admit we are addicts. Before we will ever be able to break an addiction, we must humbly acknowledge we can’t quit on our own and we need God’s help.
Jeremiah 3:13-15 “Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God… Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.”
Proverbs 28:13 “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
Denial is perhaps addiction’s greatest ally. If we can convince ourselves we don’t have a problem, then there is nothing for us to quit. Our minds are extremely adept at concocting intricate webs of denial and self-justification in order to ease a wounded conscious that knows it is doing wrong. But in order to destroy these ruinous things, we must get down on our knees before God and admit both that they exist and that they are a problem.
Psalm 32:1-11 “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered…and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found… Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’S unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”
A third thing we need to do is: Recognize the harm the addiction brings into our lives and the lives of others. We have to take a long hard look at the toll the addiction is taking on ourselves and those we love. We must see the temporary distraction is not worth the damage attendant to its use, because all too often our focus on the pleasure blinds us to the havoc walking hand in hand with the distractions of the world.
This is important, because it provides the motivation we need to make a lasting change. If we view our additions as innocuous, we will never give them up. We have to be painfully aware of the hurt to ourselves and to those around us caused by addiction in order to find the determination we need to change our thoughts and actions.
Jeremiah 8:5-17 “Why then have these people turned away?… They cling to deceit; they refuse to return. I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle… Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?… They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD… ‘See, I will send venomous snakes among you, vipers that cannot be charmed, and they will bite you,’ declares the LORD.”
2 Corinthians 7:10,11 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done…”
A fourth thing we must do is: Recognize the blessing breaking the addiction would bring into our lives and the lives of others. This is the flip side of the previous step. It’s the positive motivation for change. God promises that when we chose to honor and obey Him, He will guide and bless us. He will lead us down a better path, one that will bring us true Joy and Peace. And not only will breaking an addiction bless us, but it will also bless those around us, like our family and friends. That’s better than indulging ourselves in our addictions, and this realization blends with the other steps to provide us with the foundation we need to break free from destructive habits.
Hebrews 12:1-14 “… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood… Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 11:13-15 “So if you faithfully obey the commands I (God) am giving you today – to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul – then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.”
Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Proverbs 20:7 “A righteous man who walks in his integrity – how blessed are his sons after him.”
Isaiah 49:23 “… those who hope in me (God) will not be disappointed.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 “but just as it is written, ‘THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.’ ”
These first four steps bring reality to our lives. We see what our addictions are. We admit the powerful hold they have on us. We see how they damage our relationships with Christ and others. And we see how our lives will improve if we are willing to break free. Now we are ready to take the remaining steps necessary to bring lasting change into our lives.
And so a fifth thing we must do in order to break addictions in our lives is: Choose whom we will serve. We now see the two paths before us clearly and accurately. One leads towards the things of the world that can temporarily distract us from unhappiness, until they destroy us. The other leads towards the things of God that build up true and lasting happiness – in other words, Joy and Peace.
Deuteronomy 30:19,20 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days…”
Joshua 24:15 “… choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…”
Down the worldly path we serve our own pleasures, and so this road will often appear to and legitimately be the easier and more pleasant road (at least in the short term). Down the godly path we serve the Lord, and it is often (at least in the short term) the more difficult and demanding. In truth the terrain of these two divergent paths will be totally dependent upon God’s short and long term plans for our lives, and what initially appears to be pleasing or challenging may turn out to be something entirely different. What are certain are the final destinations of these two divergent paths. The way of the world leads ultimately to misery and despair. Every time. The way of God leads ultimately to Joy and Peace. Every time.
Psalm 37:1-11 “Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade… Trust in the LORD and do good… Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.”
Isaiah 57:20,21 “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’ ”
Ecclesiastes 2:1-20 “I (Solomon, perhaps the most powerful and wealthy man to ever live) said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’ But that also proved to be meaningless… what does pleasure accomplish? I tried cheering myself with wine… I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards… I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well – the delights of a man’s heart… I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor… Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom… Then I said to myself… ‘What then do I gain by being wise?… This too is meaningless.’ So I hated life… All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for… So my heart began to despair…”
Job 20:4-8 “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’ Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found, banished like a vision of the night.”
Romans 2:9-11 “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil… but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good… For there is no partiality with God.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
And so we are presented with a choice between the two, and we stand or fall by the decisions we make. Overcoming an addiction that afflicts you daily will require a conscious choice to reject the distractions of the world in favor of the promises of God to fill you with Joy and Peace if you will follow Him. There must be a specific moment when you finally stop yourself and choose to get down on your knees, repent of your addictions, and commit yourself to serving God. Absent this defining moment, where you choose who you are going to be in this life, you will never conquer an addiction. It’s not going to happen by accident or on its own. You are going to have to make it happen (through the wisdom and power of God’s grace), and that begins with a conscious choice to serve your Creator, rather than your addictions.
Hebrews 4:7 “… just as has been said before, ‘TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.’ ”
Ezekiel 18:30-32 “… I (God) will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit… For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”
And finally, in order to overcome the daily addictions we have identified, acknowledged, confessed to be harmful, seen the benefit of breaking, and chosen to be liberated from, a sixth thing we must do is: Follow Christ daily. Once we have made the foundational choice to serve God instead of our addictions, we have to build upon this foundation with daily decisions to follow Christ. Obviously, it’s not enough to make a resolution to change and then go right back to the habits that got us in trouble in the first place. We have to follow up our resolve each day with choices that are honoring to God, not concessions to our addictions.
The key here is that we must learn to follow Christ “daily.” Not for the rest of our lives, or for a year, or a month, or a week. Daily. One day at a time. This brings us back to the art of living today well, by relying on the “manna” of God; that is, His daily allotment of grace.
If you set out today to conquer all of your addictions forever, with the idea that after this day you will have all the strength you will ever need to forever be free from (fill in the blank here with your particular addiction), you will fail. Every time. You might make it for a little while, but ultimately you are destined to endure relapse after relapse, as your addiction catches up with you and pulls you down.
Why? Because the manna of God is not designed to fill you once and sustain you forever. It’s designed to fill you daily and sustain you for that one particular day. Tomorrow without fail it will be there again waiting for you to sit down and eat, but it will still only sustain you for just one day.
We saw the reasons for this earlier in this study. God wants us to depend upon Him day by day, with a daily trip to the throne of grace to receive His manna, because there is no other way for us to walk with Him consistently. We are too weak and wayward in our pride, and the distractions of the world are too powerful and enticing to our sinful natures, for us to somehow find the strength today to overcome our addictions for the rest of our lives.
Proverbs 30:7-9 “Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ ”
This theme is prevalent throughout God’s Word. When Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, He didn’t say to ask for this year’s bread or this month’s bread. He told us to ask for our “daily” bread. He also instructed us to “take up our cross” and follow Him “daily,” not forever. The Bible even states God bears our burdens “daily.”
Luke 11:3 “Give us each day our daily bread.”
Luke 9:23 “Then he (Jesus) said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’ ”
Psalm 68:19 “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”
That’s because the only way to break an addiction is to focus on conquering it today. Not tomorrow or the next day or the next. Just today. We can’t agonize about what happened yesterday, and we can’t worry about what might happen tomorrow. We have to focus solely on what is going to happen today, and trust that God will keep His promise to give us all the grace we could ever need to honor Him each individual day.
This doesn’t mean that breaking the addiction is going to be easy. Most likely it’s going to be pretty hard; otherwise it wouldn’t be an addiction. But it will be possible, and it will be worth it, if you will truly seek it. God’s Word says so.
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
1 Peter 4:19 “Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”
Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
2 Corinthians 4:17,18 “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Galatians 6:7-10 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…”
Psalm 126:5,6 “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”
If your mind is focused on how you are going to overcome an addiction for the rest of your life, deep down inside your mind is going to tell you that you can’t do it, and it’s right. We absolutely cannot gather all the spiritual resources we need to conquer an addiction forever and somehow stockpile them for the coming war. But we absolutely can overcome our addictions today, because all the spiritual resources we need for today are packed in to the daily dose of manna God provides to each of His beloved children.
Then as we learn to live life one day at a time, mastering the art of living today well, we break our additions through a daily walk with God that leads us away from the world’s distractions and into the destiny God had in mind when He chose to create us. This is how we conquer our addictions forever. Not with the burst of some lone magic bullet that destroys the temptations of the world so they can no longer plague us, but with a daily renewal of a powerful relationship with God that shields us from the relentless call of temptation, until one day we leave this world behind and enter the doors of eternity hand in hand with the One whom in life we chose to walk with daily.
John 10:28,29 “and I (Jesus) give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
1 Corinthians 15:52-58 “… the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed… For this perishable must put on the imperishable, this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?’… thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”