You may be stuck in the worst rut of your life. There looks like no way out, no way to change the situation, no possible break in the constant pressure of dealing with it. Complete and utter helplessness has overcome you because there is not a thing you can do about it. That is the bad news.
Yes, from a perspective of sight, things may not look so good. To his followers Jesus looked dead and it looked over. That's what they saw. But if we have learned anything about God, he is not predictable in the way he demonstrates his almighty power of Redemption.
We can imagine how distraught his followers were when he did not just come down from that cross and walk away, triumphant over the situation. It typifies our reaction as humans that our perception of what God will do is somehow connected to our logic. That's why what looks so bad to us seems like it can only stay that way- our finances, our addictions, our relationships, our families. Logic dictates a tragic outcome.
Something amazingly simple happened though when Jesus died. He took a few days to come back, just like it takes us some time to go through what we have to go through before we can make an epic comeback. His comeback was the most epic, but it shows us that we have to kill the situation we are in before we can resurrect the new outcome.
One day he looked like a mere man; the next like a triumphant son of God. One day we look like all is lost; the next we look like a hero for weathering the storm. But the lessons learned during the time when we were in the hell storm tell us not to return there anytime soon.
Here's the really good news- the God who invented redemption is with you in every moment of every day, and he knows when you need a hand to lift you up. But when he gives you his hand, don't be surprised when you see the nail marks in it.
That was the price he paid to lift you out of that rut.
I remember it too well. I was 12 years old with aspirations of being a pretty good tennis player in the midst of playing three other sports as most young kids do.I was undefeated, that is until I faced the 13 year old Diego Lapuente. It was brutal, I did not score a point in two sets. That ended my brief tennis career.
What was the most brutal was that his serve must have come at me at 100 plus MPH which is slightly under today's average pro speed. I am not sure I even saw the ball after it left his hand. It was a nightmare. But as always, once we come the the Lord, the lessons of the past begin to make perfect sense.
Jesus left us with the message of servanthood. It is rampant throughout his own words in scripture, "The greatest among you will be your servant" Matt 23:11,
"For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve......" Mark 10:45.
In simple today words he is saying to us, it's Your Serve and its okay if you do it greatly, and with great speed.
People are always questioning me as to why we continue to enjoy desserts, donuts, pizza and other assorted foods at almost all of our meetings. My answer, is simply, we are serving, and then we are serving again. Feed the body, and the soul begins to listen better. When we truly serve others so they can see we care and have no agenda except to spread the love God so richly bestows upon us, the serving multiplies.
That is how it all began, with a bunch of common folks meeting together and serving each other. And it multiplied, and it multiplied. We can take all the modern church planning and boil it down to a simple catalyst. When we serve, they see our service then they become the servers because the one who served us served himself up for us.
I remember why I joined the Marines, especially when seeing this new wave of recruiting TV ads that show they are first to fight, running toward danger rather than away from it. For some reason it is in my DNA, loving every adrenaline charged moment of charging toward the battle.
In several moments of reminders during the past few weeks, that feeling has dominated my time. Knowing that in each step we take in this ATB ministry, we are right there in the middle of this battle to bring folks from addiction to the hope of salvation and recovery. It is a spiritual battle, one highly documented in scripture, and though the circumstances have been modernized from farmers and fishermen at risk, to a world of heroin, opiates and meth addicts trying to find their way out of darkness, the battle is the same.
It will never be pretty, never sanitized and always a dig into the foxholes of every day warfare. This modern day battle is made for those who want to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Jesus was often distraught that the disciples he trained became dependent upon him when they couldn't get things done in faith, and they turned to him for answers even after he had shown them the way. We certainly feel that way today as well, as this battle is cunning and baffling, requiring divine guidance at every dark and twisting turn.
The Front Line is filled with failures of being knocked down and getting right back up to fight again. Along the way it can get discouraging for support troops who have never experienced the phenomena of this addiction but, trust me, God knows the struggle, and the message is the same. You get knocked down, but you are never out because he has already won the battle for us.
Yes, the disappointment and emotional roller coaster of dealing with those of us who are so fraught with an addictive nature is dirty and hard, but if you study Jesus ministry, you will see that is exactly where he spent most of his time. Because of Him, that's exactly where I want to spend the rest of my time......
On The Front Line!
Anyone in a 12 Step program will recognize this title and immediately understand where they think I am going, but that is not the case. For sure we do not stop thinking badly in our addictive and early recovery state, but it does improve if we work the Steps and have a sponsor/mentor to run things by. But there is something else.
The real Non-Stinking Thinking though comes when we begin to think as God thinks. We certainly can't comprehend his thoughts but we can understand the basic concept for making good decisions through his instruction manual, which really hones in on the secret from Jesus teachings. And good decisions are the result of planting the right thoughts in our mind, especially when the bad ones show up. Easier said than done?
In his devotional for March 8, My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers nails it for me. Here are a couple excerpts and my comments:
To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin, but to surrender his whole way of looking at things. Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else.
Our whole way of thinking as a dysfunctional individual involves usually pride, selfishness and greed unless we were trained otherwise, which means we may actually know what good thoughts are, we just fail to turn that into positive action. That was my case, my Mom taught me well, I just didn't listen, until now. So now, over 33 years of recovery I am thinking much better, doing better things but they are not always right, because I am still a flawed human being. But they are a whole lot better.
To grasp something else, I have to constantly stay in touch with God to immediately change the picture in my mind so I can go from bad to good
thoughts. In the Steps, Step 11 says we must improve our conscious contact with God, therefore we see his nature up close and personal and then the choice is up to us - our thoughts, his thoughts, which side are we now on?
If you are faced with the question of whether or not to surrender, make a determination to go on through the crisis, surrendering all that you have and all that you are to him. And God will then equip you to do all what he requires of you.
Spectacular thoughts by him, and an amazing twist. It's not just about us getting through bad times or stinking thinking, it's about what God can do with us as a result of a victory he gives us in that moment of triumph. As we think of the consequences of our actions, we need to think, how will this affect the future of those who are affected by what I do, and then what effect of what I do will reflect the image of God and those who will hear my story?
That's called Non-Stinking Thinking!
How we loved the thrills, the curves, the up into the sky slow ride before letting loose on a series of downhill, up and over, down and around, seemingly jolting you out of your seat roller coaster rides that left us breathless! I liked one so much that I rode it 11 times. Crazy.
That's an amusement park fantasy ride, but when it becomes real life, the ride doesn't leave us so breathless. It often leaves us speechless. Great highs are often followed by even greater lows, some orchestrated by our own self sabotage. Then there are those moments when someone or something also leaves us breathless, but they leave us before we are ready to have them do so. Disappointment sets in and lingers almost to the point of never wanting to be hurt that way again.
You could speak that way of relationships of all kinds, but for this blog we will only speak about the one on one we develop through searching for Christ and our identity in him. I am sure God, who is infinite in all ways, may just cringe a little when we turn our backs on him, though he always remains open to our turning around. But we humans, always finite, have trouble with that, especially in a ministry like ATB where we go out of our way to help people who are really lost.
When someone we have worked closely with either works us for money, time and support and runs away for something the program calls cunning and baffling, we are hurt no matter how much faith and Jesus we have in us. The Roller Coaster Ride just got very scary because we don't feel like it is worth another disappointment.
But it is, because it is not about us, it is about Him, and doing what he asks of us, and that is to do the will of God regardless of how it makes us feel. Believe me, I know this, have failed at this and come back with a resolve that what we do will not ever be about me so that if someone goes on a relapse, that is between them and God, I will have done my very best to keep them on the good side of sobriety.
If the focus is off ourselves, then we are able to absorb the blow on His behalf, as He absorbed the blow for us!
This one I have ridden many more times that 11. We just cannot get enough because He gave us more than enough.
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.