Recently, local radio station WHKP conducted an interview with former First Contact Peer & Discipleship Director, Josh Staton, regarding the release of his new book “Overcome: Biblical Responses to Destructive Reactions“. The book, currently available on Amazon, is a leader’s edition, complete with handouts and teachers notes, and is ideal for a group study in a Sunday school class or support group. Josh developed this study while serving at First Contact, where the class materials are being used as an introductory level of support for individuals struggling with addiction. Josh has recently started a publishing company, Cabin in the Woods Publishers, in Hendersonville, NC. Congratulations, Josh! Well done!

Listen to the audio interview with Josh Staton here.

Interview #2 Thursday, 12/3/2020

 

Overcome: Biblical Responses to Destructive Reactions Leader’s Guide on Amazon.com

Overcome: Biblical Responses to Destructive Reactions Leader's Guide on Amazon.com
Bible Study on Overcoming Addictions by Joshua Staton, Discipleship Director for First Contact Ministries.  Lesson 17 of a series.

Self and Sacrifice

Analog vs. Digital

Most, if not all New Year’s resolutions are aimed at making us better versions of ourselves. Start that diet, work out more, learn a new language or give up smoking. Regardless of the want, without commitment, sustainable change is impossible. What we discuss for this post is one of the hardest biblical principles to be consistently and mindfully aware of. And the only easy way I can think of, is to lay a framework for a comparison using the following electronic signals: analog and digital. Follow along in lesson 17 of our Bible study on overcoming addictions.

An analog signal is best described using the word intensity and a scale of 0 to 10. Analog describes things like how loud the volume is, how fast is the fan spinning. The curious thing about this type of signal is that it is observed best over time. Time affects our perception and interpretation of analog. Over the course of time, analog signals tend to trend one direction or the other, much like our lives and the choices we make.

A digital signal is either a 0 or 1. It is either on or off. These signals are commonly referred to as binary system. Think of digital as a coin has either heads or tails, it is a light switch that is either on or off. Many complex systems can be built from this framework, because of the logic behind it. That logic is based on the argument, “Is this thing on or off?” This sort of argument occurs every single moment of every single day in our lives, just in a different fashion. So, just as an experiment for a moment, try to imagine all the decisions going on inside your mind right now. Now to make it a little more complicated, try to ascertain if those decisions are self-based or spiritual-based. Staggering, isn’t it?

Binary Logic

Some sacrifices are the ones that reveal themselves over time in a chronologic analog fashion. When we repeatedly choose something that we are willing to give up for something else, convinced the payment is worth the price. Some of these components: family, friends, employment, health and reputation. Which of these have you had to sacrifice for your drug or alcohol use, had to sacrifice for a promotion at work, sacrificed for your own personal wants?

Jesus was quite clear of this truth when He said “we cannot serve two masters…” Trying to serve the self and Christ at the same time are contrary to each other, their wants are different. This is especially true when it comes to thoughts of who you used to be competing with thoughts of who Jesus wants you to be. Once you accept Christ, your identity changes as well as your investment. In this regard, sacrifice addresses the issues of ownership. This conundrum, as it appears to be, is as simple as a choice, yet as complex as the analyzing of patterns and trends. For us, this subject of sacrifice is merely a question of a 0 or a 1. Are we going to serve ourselves or are we going to serve Jesus?

A most likely premise

Since we live in such a me-centered society, this is no easy topic to broach without stepping on some toes. Understand my intention, I am not here to beat you up as I have said before. My goal is to help you live the Christ-centered life as best as possible and fill in some of the cracks that I have stepped in. In our anchor verse, Peter is writing to God’s chosen people to remind them who they are and encourage them to be what God wants them to be as well as a warning.

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:10-11


He is saying to them, yes, that is who you used to be, but that’s not who you are now, you are worth more that what you have sold yourself for. He is trying to instill in them their true identity; God’s people, not whatever desire the heart of the self may have at the moment.

What may seem like a sacrifice is nothing more than separation anxiety with the articles we have found to be comfortable in this world. When we do this, we submit to the world to give us our identity. Which is flawed logic. The world is primarily responsible for showing us things to be desired. Then we sellout for them. The world changes every minute, how can you expect to have any form of stability when that is your bedrock? I’m not downing the world, I’m saying our Father in heaven does not change, He is steadfast and capable of not only giving but showing us how to live in our new identity. The only way to do this is to ask the question:

Whose are you now?

Bible Study on Overcoming Addictions

Application – a Bloody Mess

This is a digital question and it is constantly being asked all the time, whether we know it or not. How you answer this over time will determine what your analog signal is; do you lean more this way or that way? Do you find that you constantly revert to who you used to be, serving self or do you find your actions falling in line with your heavenly identity? Has drug use stolen your worth? Has anger destroyed your investments in life? This identity goes hand in hand with our investment, which we will discuss next.

Many components are necessary for success. Determination, motivation and hard work. For things that truly matter though, sacrifice is essential. Sacrifice is hard and it is costly, especially if you have a particular attachment to the thing being given away. Because to sacrifice for something means that you believe it the cause, not with words, but with actions and possessions. There better be a reason and it had better be a good one. Refinement is war.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Luke 9:23

To sacrifice things that mean something to us takes receptiveness, willingness and commitment. In many ways it is an investment in something better. It means we not only see value in what it is we are sacrificing, but that what we get in return is worth more than what is being sacrificed. What is standing in your way of better? What is in your life that needs to be given up, that is not producing good fruit in your life? These are the things that need to be offered up. Just be aware, chances are they will not give up easy, especially if you hold on to them too tightly.

The battle for the self will always rage on. Some days will be easy, others will be a slaughter. Some days you’ll make progress in one area only to find you are losing ground in another. Understand the severity of the decision to fight the self. It is a choice we make every moment of the day. And thankfully for us, Jesus made that decision to sacrifice for us. In fact, He sacrificed everything:

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:8

This Bible Study on Overcoming Addictions is part of the discipleship program at First Contact Ministries in Hendersonville, NC.

Did you miss the other lessons in this series? Click see the entire Bible Study on Overcoming Addictions series.

We always look forward to meeting new people at our Tuesday night support group meetings at 6:30 pm, located at Mud Creek Church in Hendersonville, NC.  Our classes are designed to teach biblical principles for addiction recovery through discipleship.  Our goal is to show the love of Jesus by supporting those who need it most.

For more information or to purchase “The Resistance” by Josh Staton to use as a Christian leadership book, or curriculum for an addiction recovery class, please visit: The Resistance: Becoming A Servant Leader Through the Beatitudes Christian Leadership Book

Bible Study Lesson on Addiction - Week 16 of the Overcome Curriculum by Joshua Staton

Anger & Clarity

Miosis – Lesson 16 of the Overcome Bible Study Lesson on Addiction

One of the more problematic results of anger is that it clouds your vision and blinds you to facts, impeding decision making. But usually, we find this out after the fact. After we cool down we normally realize we shouldn’t have said that. Then you get the honor of having to be on clean-up detail. This is not a fun place to be, and if you frequent it too many times, you’ll find yourself casually purchasing an apartment there in the realm of lost compassion from those you have hurt. This becomes your new living arrangement. And no matter how much you think you can keep the different areas of your life compartmentalized and un-affected from anger, it will eventually spill over, just like every other sin. We think we can hide it when we have to, until it outgrows the closet and bursts into the living room, when you are entertaining in-laws. Learn more about the concepts of anger and clarity in this “Overcome” Bible Study Lesson on Addiction.

You see, there is a strange cathartic stage, if you will, much like the first real moments of sobriety, where the scales have fallen off of your eyes and you begin to see. You begin to see things that you didn’t know were there, you see things that you never paid attention to in the past, mostly yourself and your actions. This nauseating stage can be likened to when you wake up to a bright beam of sunlight that has found its way through the tiniest of cracks in your bedroom window curtains and landed upon your pupil. That instant that your pupil constricts, that slight twinge of pain, squinting and scrunching your face to somehow shut your eyes even tighter to block out the sadistic ray… time to face the day.

The conflict that goes on during this time, when you really begin to see who you are, can be contrasted between darkness; operated by anger, and light; clarity, being who we once were versus who we were made to be. This light may be foreign and initially discomforting, but once you get used to it, it makes going back into the darkness all the more repulsive.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

John 8:12

Opening a Can of Worms

I opened up a can of worms the first time I taught this specific class when I asked the question “What makes you angry?” Which has led me to including the following disclaimer: It is not up to me or another person to validate or invalidate your anger. All I can do is point you to scripture. I do not have the spiritual discernment to judge the motives or heart of another person, I can’t even judge my own properly.

Chances are that, based on my possibly faulty perspective, I have a 50/50 chance of looking at the situation wrongly to begin with. Then it becomes a heads or tails if I make the right or wrong decision. Why, because I may not have all the correct information and my own personal experience and taste regarding the subject. Which leads us to our next stop in this discussion, righteous anger and our own point of view.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

Ephesians 4:26

If anger is something you find yourself dealing with, then just as with any other sin, we must make ourselves as aware as possible with our inner self. Often, we find ourselves justifying our anger. There is such a thing as righteous anger, or indignation. While anger is ok and a part of life, we must be especially careful to not chalk up outbursts to righteous anger. The easiest way to do this is asking yourself do you get angry at everything else God gets angry about, or is it only a few select items. What makes you angry, may not make me angry. Likewise, there are a few issues I have a personal history with that have become burdens to me when I see them occur or I am the recipient of such treatment. In other words, I am not necessarily angry with them offending God, but more the fact that I have been offended. God’s word is pretty clear on this point:

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

Romans 12:17

It’s not a question of do you get angry or if you get angry. It’s more a question of why do you get angry and how do you handle it. Many times, when anger strikes it is in my weakest areas and people are watching me to see how I am going to react. It’s during these opportunities that come at the worst times, a chance for others to see Jesus in me, not the me within me.

The Roaring Lion

Truth be told, there are so many applications and directions we could go with this scripture. So, please hear me, what I teach out of this scripture is not the only thing there. There are other nuggets that can be drawn out such as: adversary, prowling, watchful or even generational. But for the intent of this study, I want to define a few words to tease out a logically implied cost.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

To devour means by any and all methods necessary, to consume entirely. To eat you up. Anger is typically built up and compounded over many situations and circumstances. It develops as we think about, talk about and get worked up about. We become ticking time bombs when we collect and find it hard to contain during the bottling process, firing passive aggressive warning shots across the bow of those who have offended. Like Chunk so clearly put in the Goonies, “That’s all I can stand, and I can’t stand no more!”

To be sober-minded and watchful is a choice. It is a quality and a description of that choice. It is not a feeling, but rather an intentional call to action, to be alert. Sometimes it is best to walk away from an argument. Sometimes it is actively choosing to starve the anger instead of feeding it. So much of gaining this clarity is from dwelling on scripture itself. Making a choice to apply scriptural guidance rather than scratching the itch of vengeance.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James 1:19

Overcome Bible Study Lesson on Addiction – Week 16
Application – Dredging

In a bit of transparency regarding this topic, I allowed many of the wrongs done to me in my younger years to generate feelings of anger and anti-social behavior. This anger resulted in a self-imposed isolation and de-valuing almost every other human I came into contact with. Because of allowing the trauma and anger to devour me, I became a drastically different person than what I imagined God designed me to be originally. Much of how I handled anger resulted in me misunderstanding God and directed misplaced hate towards Him for allowing the rejection, neglect and abuse. Handling anger wrongly cost me years and relationships I will never get back.

The main point is this, if you constantly find yourself erring on the side of anger as the go-to reaction to “unpleasant” things, there is a chance that you are allowing yourself to be devoured, and this isn’t one of those pictures of buzzards sitting on top of a carcass out in the desert, it is a lion with its head buried in the gazelles’ ribcage eating it from the inside out. With anger, everything can change in a moment and it usually does.  Below is a graphic of two words imposed on each other. See if you can figure out this visual puzzle:

Bible Study Lesson on Addiction - Anger Clouds our Vision

Anger clouds your vision and your reasoning. Powerful emotions like anger clouds your vision, it blinds you and obscures your vision, like clarity in who Jesus is. We do not want to devour ourselves or others. Know, that whatever the offense, Jesus’ death on the cross paid it. This is especially difficult when it appears that God is not bringing justice to the situation. We are all screwed up, and we are all in debt. We do not want to allow the devil to drive us to want to devour others, any more so than wanting to be devoured ourselves.

The “Overcome” Bible Study Lesson on Addiction is part of the discipleship program at First Contact Ministries in Hendersonville, NC.

Did you miss the other lessons in this series? Click see the entire Overcome Bible Study on Addiction series.

We always look forward to meeting new people at our Tuesday night support group meetings at 6:30 pm, located at Mud Creek Church in Hendersonville, NC.  Our classes are designed to teach biblical principles for addiction recovery through discipleship.  Our goal is to show the love of Jesus by supporting those who need it most.

For more information or to purchase “The Resistance” by Josh Staton to use as a Christian leadership book, or curriculum for an addiction recovery class, please visit: The Resistance: Becoming A Servant Leader Through the Beatitudes Christian Leadership Book

Overcome Bible Study for Addiction Recovery by Joshua Staton

Hubris & Humility

A Breeding Ground – Lesson 15 of the Overcome Bible Study for Addiction Recovery

Pride is considered the grandfather of all sin.  Pride allows you to adopt the mindset that you are indeed the center of the universe.  It is subtle and makes you a poor student. Pride encourages comparison and selfish expressions.  If you don’t believe this fact, engage in the following rudimentary experiment: go an entire day without referring to yourself or your achievements… Follow along in this lesson of the Overcome – Bible Study for Addiction Recovery.

There are numerous quotes that address pride.  There are also a multitude of verses in scripture that examine pride as well.  There is no shortage of literature on this topic, from Nietzsche to Solomon, from Oedipus Rex to Jesus Christ.  There is just something repulsive and repugnant about pride in humans, so much so that we hate it in others, yet condone it in ourselves.  Which leads me to believe that the sin in me recognizes the sin in you. At this point it is no longer a question of denomination or profession. We all agree, Christ follower or atheist, pride is a quality undesirable in others, yet we tolerate it within ourselves.  While the antithesis to pride, humility, is a trait we all wish our fellow man to be endowed with but find difficult to volunteer ourselves to this practice.

As I mentioned in the introduction post of Overcome, it has been quite an undertaking to translate a group meeting into a blog posting.  One of the components to the original design of the class was using a celebrity personality who had succumbed to one of the destructive reactions we cover and juxtapose a testimony from an individual who embodied the biblical response.  In this translation, I have removed the celebrity references because I did not want to drive a lot of back and forth and risk missing the entire point. With that being said, I will make this one statement; throughout the development of the original class material, it has been harder to find individuals who have recovered from addiction, than those who have passed away either due to or as a result of.  Tragically, I believe it is because of the very topic we discuss in this post.  

The problem with pride is that the one suffering from this affliction is they are never wrong, which means they will struggle with being humble.  They literally believe they are right, deep down in their heart. Now it is easy for me to be on the other side of the keyboard and point my finger at all of the people whom I believe are prideful, especially when they disagree with me.  But for some reason, we all fall into the following observation:

While we are violently aware of pride in others, we exhibit blissful ignorance on our behalf for the same affliction.

A Question of Perspective

The word hubris is a fancy word that means excessive pride, self-confidence and arrogance.  The bible refers to this as being stiff-necked.  So, for the duration of our discussion, hubris, pride and arrogance will be used interchangeably.  In the book Mere Christianity, CS Lewis calls pride “the great sin.”  Albert Einstein was famously quoted saying, “the only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance.”  While God does not have a sliding scale when it comes to sin, we need to be particularly mindful of the dangers and products of pride:  anger, bitterness, rejection, burden, exhaustion, disappointment, gossiping and comparing. While this is not an exhaustive list, let’s focus on the last one for a moment, comparing.

When we compare, we look either up the food chain or down the food chain.  While looking up the food chain could generate inspiration, it usually results in the reactive emotion envy. However, looking down the food chain could generate compassion, it usually results in pride.  When we start this comparison, we suddenly become aware of the shortcomings of others and foster the deadly feeling of self-importance. When we engage in this activity, we become dismissive of others and talk down to them in posturing manners.  Many things can breed arrogance; house, money, car, job, spouse, looks, talents, even knowledge.  Regardless, the things that we feel most prideful about are the areas we feel the most superior and powerful in.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 11:2

Notice the wording of this verse, he says when pride comes, not if.  I believe, because Solomon was especially specific in his request when God asked him what should he be given.  Solomon answered “a discerning heart…” With that knowledge, I have to logically assume Solomon was well equipped to observe and report the many motivations for what we humans do, he could reasonably deduce human behaviors and actions.  After the comma, he uses the word then.  This is a cause and effect statement, a formula.  Pride consequently leads to disgrace: the perpetual remorse of conscience.  What goes up, must come down. Proverbs is laden with this type of structured advice for Godly life.  And, as it turns out, Solomon had quite a bit to say about the dangers of pride, reference verses 18:12 and 16:18.

Still a Student

Look at the last section of our anchor verse but with the humble is wisdom.  This is the understood contrast and within it lies the heart of addressing pride.  We have the negative consequence to partially reinforce against pride, but we need the positive reward to move from discipline to growth.  In other words, we chose to open ourselves to instruction. While pride makes people unteachable, humility makes us a willing student.

Words like humble and humility sound repulsive and leave a bad taste in our mouth when we say them, don’t they?  It is because it goes directly against our self-based nature and culture. You don’t have to teach a child how to be selfish.  However, as we get older, we learn to disguise this nasty little characteristic. Before too long, it takes a conscious act of the will to show humility.  That is if we can resist the urge to tell everyone about our benevolent actions. But once we come to Christ, we acknowledge that we can’t do it and it isn’t all about us.

Unfortunately, we will always fight against being self-based creatures.  The proclivity in our spiritual walks is to exhibit humility in the early stages, but to give way to pride as we grow further away from our moment of salvation.  This usually occurs unintentionally… more of a creeping effect. We stop looking at the log in our eye and start looking at speck in other people’s eyes. When we do this, we no longer focus on our growth, but comparison to others.  We no longer need to learn anything… we know it all. And most importantly, humility is a necessary catalyst for good to not only flow into your life, but out from it.

Overcome – Bible Study for Addiction Recovery
Application – Shifting

As always, Jesus gave us a walking model of humility and its value in His Word.  We are all familiar with Him washing the disciples’ feet at the last supper found in John 13.  He got up before dinner and put Himself in a position of humility and washed their feet. What is especially important for us and our topic, is that in His position of humility, He gave us an illustration of our need for Him.  He had to put himself in that position to do what needed to be done, for each of us. “The servant is not above the master” means that when we only think of ourselves, we become our own master. We must choose to put ourselves in the position of serving others, not ourselves, especially with the gifts and talents we find reasons to be prideful with.  The best way to jump-start this process is to simply ask the next two questions:

  1.  Why have you been given these gifts?  I am certain that He did not bless us with talents for us to turn our backs on Him and generate self-confidence.  More often than not gifts become idols and instruments for worshipping ourselves, not at all what their intended use was when they were given.  Gifts and talents are meant to glorify God, the one who gave them. They are intended to benefit others and be a reflection of the giver.
  2. How are you using them?  The fact that we have been given something does not imply that it is being used, let alone being used properly.  I can attest to this fact just by looking at the kids in our house. We buy them toys and they use them as hammers.  We give them tools and they become guns. Has He blessed you with artistic skill, a beautiful voice, athletic prowess, mechanical mind, the ability to wordsmith, a wonderful family?  We have to be intentional with how we are using these gifts. If they terminate on themselves and do not glorify God, inspire or benefit others or make some sort of contribution, they are failing at their intended purpose.

The “Overcome” Bible Study for Addiction Recovery is part of the discipleship program at First Contact Ministries in Hendersonville, NC.

Did you miss the other lessons in this series? Click see the entire Overcome Bible Study for Addiction Recovery series.

We always look forward to meeting new people at our Tuesday night support group meetings at 6:30 pm, located at Mud Creek Church in Hendersonville, NC.  Our classes are designed to teach biblical principles for addiction recovery through discipleship.  Our goal is to show the love of Jesus by supporting those who need it most.

For more information or to purchase “The Resistance” by Josh Staton to use as a Christian leadership book, or curriculum for an addiction recovery class, please visit: The Resistance: Becoming A Servant Leader Through the Beatitudes Christian Leadership Book

Bitterness & Joy

A Phenomenal Mirror – Lesson 14 of the “Overcome” Christian Recovery Curriculum

Let’s jump right in and rip the band-aid off, shall we?  Can you trust your heart to lead you correctly in every decision life may throw at you?  How do you know your answer to this question is truthful and accurate? The simple answer to both questions:  you can’t. The heart is responsible for many things that are wonderful; poetry, love songs, weddings. As well as many things that are horrible; jealousy, divorce and murder.  The spiritual heart, as it turns out, is a phenomenal mirror that reflects the inside of the person of whom it dwells within. Follow along in this lesson of the “Overcome” Christian recovery curriculum to learn more.

We will use a fundamental engineering maxim and an analogy to illustrate this concept of form following function.  Imagine a plain water bottle. It’s intended function, its purpose is to act as a container for liquids, specifically for water.  That is its main function. While in a pinch, it may make a useful funnel when you are stuck on the side of the road and need to add oil to your car, or it can even hold pre-mixed pancake batter on a camping trip.  But by and large it best serves its purpose as a container for water, regardless of its form.  

So, with that basic premise, how is a water bottle and a 55-gallon drum any different in function?  One major piece we took for granted, the ease of use. At times it is easy to focus on the forest and miss the trees.  Some pieces of knowledge we take for granted and never really question why we have those beliefs and where did they come from?  And even more poignant, what function does it serve? Our spiritual hearts are much the same. We know it is there and we know what it is supposed to do, but don’t really know what questions we need to ask for it to reach its full potential, as God designed it.

Our application tonight will be a reiteration of a previous application and for some it will be the single hardest thing they will ever have to give up in their entire life.  So, trust me when I say this isn’t going to be easy. It is one thing to cover bitterness when life is good. It is a completely different subject when you have just been reminded of why you are bitter to begin with.  It is a strange animal when you can’t see God because of the storm that has surrounded you and you have to rely on your faith that He is who He says He is.

A Relational Heart Disease

The Hebrew word for heart translates to the inner man, the mind, the will.  It is the same idea for the Greek word that Jesus uses in Luke 12:34, which translates to the thoughts or feelings.  So, if we take this metaphysical concept for the heart, it is the central part of us that is responsible for generating much of who we are, how we perceive life and what we do with life.  The heart was created to generate compassion, mercy, care and love, not hate and strife. It was created to house the spirit. And what’s more, we are completely incapable of judging another person’s heart.  Only God is able to discern what is within the heart. This truth makes the next set of observations all the more complicated.

Since bitterness is a relational heart disease, it just doesn’t manifest on its own.  When our spiritual heart is diseased it is no longer capable of guiding us and we become more reactionary in our decisions.  What may be a feeling of love today can just as easily become hate tomorrow. The heart is equipped to evolve and mutate based on what we feed it; projected expectations and fulfillment from other sinners, impatience to have our demands met and inconsistent emotional reactions.  A diet based solely on these inputs results in feelings and thoughts such as:

  • Don’t these people see how much I have sacrificed and worked on this, how can they not care?  I give up.
  • I’ll show them.  They will miss me when I am gone.
  • How could you God?  Why did you allow life to turn out this way?
  • Why did I trust you?  You have hurt me for the last time.  I will never forgive you.
  • Over my dead body.
  • Hurry up, why are you so slow?

You have to understand the why, what, how of the disease to properly treat it.  In other words, what is the root cause regardless of the form it takes.  We all want to be accepted, feel important, respected by someone else.  And when those feelings aren’t met, we are hurt. We feel angry and rejected. Sometimes we get over those feelings quickly, but sometimes, dependent on the offense and the offender we may choose to wallow in our bitterness.  Wallowing results in festering and further infection. That infection is commonly called a grudge. But in actuality it is a lack of forgiveness and showing of grace, especially when the offender is a loved one.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

In attempting to understand that which by all accounts is non-understandable, I ask you to open your bibles and interact for a moment.  Go to Jeremiah 17. Pick up at verse 5 and go through verse 8. In these verses, God is describing the folly of trusting in man. The futility of trying to find value and appreciation from other people.  Since bitterness is relational and does not operate in a vacuum, we must not act surprised when other people fail at validating us. God’s design was not built that way. We are trying to make it function in a means that was never intended.

Likewise, in our anchor verse, God also describes the folly of trusting and following one’s own heart.  As Proverbs 14:10 says, “The heart knows its own bitterness…” Why? Because it keeps a record of all the wrongs that have been done.  It keeps a tally and corresponding payment it expects. And until that payment has been made, it accrues interest, making it a debt that can never be paid.

However, in verses 7 and 8, God describes what it is like to trust in Him, to joy.  Joy is not happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances and situations. Joy is not based on your bank account or how much your spouse approves of you.  Joy is a peace, a contentment, an ease of the soul. It is always in development and isn’t dependent on the world to sustain it. It is a confidence in God being who He says He is, in control and not subject to changing His mind like we are.  Joy is found in Jesus and it is a peace that guards your heart:

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15:11

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

“Overcome” Christian Recovery Curriculum
Application – The example has been given

There are many moments in recovery and your walk with God that make absolutely no sense in the temporal realm of the day to day steps.  As we progress down that road, the truth never changes, but our understanding should expand and evolve as we are stretched through faith, obedience, experience and introspection; vital components needed to take our next step in this lesson.  Begin with the following question:

What has robbed you of your joy?

During this time of introspection, pay close attention to your heart as offenses are brought up.  This is a good first step at learning how to discern your heart. Do you find yourself justifying feelings or emotional reactions to past hurts?  Do you find yourself speeding past certain memories of events? Do you find yourself eager to do what you can to repair the relationship? The answers to the questions are a good reflection of the temperature of your heart.  

What we are attempting to do, on a much smaller scale is to model the same forgiveness Jesus showed to us on the cross.  He was willing to die to cover our wrongs. He was willing to die to reconcile us to an eternity with Him in heaven. He was willing to lay aside whatever debt and pay it on our behalf, all because the relationship was that important to Him.  He chose to forgive. We must also choose to forgive.

The “Overcome” Christian recovery curriculum is part of the discipleship program at First Contact Ministries in Hendersonville, NC.

Did you miss the other lessons in this series? Click see the entire Overcome Christian recovery curriculum series.

We always look forward to meeting new people at our Tuesday night support group meetings at 6:30 pm, located at Mud Creek Church in Hendersonville, NC.  Our classes are designed to teach biblical principles for addiction recovery through discipleship.  Our goal is to show the love of Jesus by supporting those who need it most.

For more information or to purchase “The Resistance” by Josh Staton to use as a Christian leadership book, or curriculum for an addiction recovery class, please visit: The Resistance: Becoming A Servant Leader Through the Beatitudes Christian Leadership Book