Overcome- Christian Addiciton Recovery Guide

Regret & Discernment

The Aftermath- Lesson 8 of the “Overcome” Christian Addiction Recovery Guide

We all make mistakes, some worse than others.  However, the tragedy is when we make mistakes that could have been avoided.  Feelings such as regret, shame and guilt often accompany this type of mistake.   The best way to judge such decisions is by observing the outcome, what it produced, destroyed, solved or created.  Did it result in failure or success? Working backwards we can gauge the validity and motivation for many decisions we make, and whether it produced the intended outcome. Follow along in this lesson of the “Overcome” Christian addiction recovery guide to learn more about making decisions without regret or shame.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.  I’m sure we have all made decisions we have immediately regretted.  Most of these decisions, I would wager, have been made in the heat of the moment when emotions were high.  Was the situation appraised logically or was it based on feeling? Did we know better, as my grandmother used to say, but just didn’t do better, even though we have seen the outcome at least a dozen times or more?  Hangovers, arguments and knee-jerk reactions come to mind.

Many individuals I have worked with in the past quantify their sobriety in years, months and days.  However, whether it was their first or hundredth attempt, many measure their recovery in hours. This observation, along with observing myself, has led me to the following statement:

Regret will always follow the decision to rebel.

Deductive Reasoning

The context of the following scripture is Paul writing to the church in Philippi when he was imprisoned for his spiritual beliefs.  He could have chosen to conform and keep his head low, but he didn’t. He chose to do what was right even though it cost him his freedom and eventually his life.  By human accounts, this could be considered a bad decision. Thankfully for us, God is divine and at the wheel, not a human.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6

Before we go any further, I want to delineate the difference between guilt and shame using another of my grandmother’s sayings.  Are you sorry you did it, or sorry you got caught?  Guilt is sorry for doing it, shame is sorry you got caught.  Guilt is Godly conviction, shame is not. Regret and remorse are products of disobedient decisions.  It is when we go against that still, small voice that helps and instructs us. Some call it a conscience, I call it the Holy Spirit.  

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14:16-17

The more you listen to that little voice, the louder it gets.  The less you listen, the more silent it becomes. It’s the idea of whatever you feed is going to grow.  The good news is that we don’t have to stay in this state of regret. Even when Adam and Eve were dealing with their regret, God was preparing a plan.  We do things we will regret because it is part of our sin nature. We love to do something we have been told not to do. Shame has been just as responsible for relapses as has pride.  Regret is a breeding ground for creating a perpetual cycle of self-loathing, in which we tune out that little voice that says come back.

Embrace the Process

With the price being high for regrettable decisions, we have to first understand what it is we are risking.  Some poor decisions are recoverable. Some are not. We risk hurting ourselves and those we love. To do this, we go back to a section of the verse in Philippians, He who began a good work in you.  There is a context of progression here.  A process of God refining your character.  It is the same sort of progression that is identified in the following verse:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

1 Corinthians 13:11

Discernment is accepting Godly counsel and statues for proper living.  It starts off small and grows larger. Like a masterpiece that God is painting, you are an investment of love.  Learning to make decisions that you won’t regret is a large part of the good work Paul speaks of. When you come to Christ, He begins the transformation process, a good work

We define discernment the way the Hebrews and Greeks did, the idea of considering and examining.   Discernment is asking what will this decision cost me or others? It is fighting the urge to react.  It’s the idea of making decisions you won’t regret. Not being driven by desires or emotions and having to pay the price for failure.  The goal is not to do something stupid today, that I will have to pay for tomorrow.

The “Overcome” Christian Addiction Recovery Guide
Application – 1 Simple Statement

We will finish out our topic with a contrast of two of Jesus’ disciples.  One of them made a horrific decision and chose not to deal with it, the other made an equally horrible decision, but addressed it.  One committed suicide because of remorse, the other repented and received grace.

Judas betrayed Jesus for some money.  He listened to Satan and allowed a poor decision to lead to regret, which ultimately resulted in him taking his own life:

And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:5

Peter on the other hand was adamant that he would never betray or deny Jesus.  To which Jesus responded by telling him that he would in fact do so. After experiencing this heartbreak and repenting, Peter would become the rock on which Jesus built His church.

And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Mark 14:72

Discernment is not just about knowing better, it is about acting accordingly.  Through repentance, God develops our character and carries on a good work. It is about obedience and striving to do better, not stay in the same rut.  Just because we have made bad decisions, does not mean we continue making them. Which leads us to our one simple statement:

If regret doesn’t lead to repentance, it will only lead to remorse.

The “Overcome” Addiction Bible Study 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 Addiction Recovery Guide 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 Addiction Bible Study Lesson 7

Exhaustion & Renewal

Market Saturation – Lesson 7 of the Overcome Addiction Bible Study

This life is not easy.  Period. We constantly fight, tooth and nail just to scrape by.  We rely on tools given to us by this world to obtain the treasures commercials flaunt in front of us.  Relying on our own strength, we only get so far in life to the end of ourselves, paying a price we are just not prepared to pay. Follow along in this lesson of the “Overcome” addiction Bible study, to learn how to combat the exaustion with God’s renewal.

We are all familiar with advertisements and how they manipulate us, right?  Like this, follow them, buy this, eat this, wear this, listen to this, watch this, date her, date him, work here, drive this, vote for this person, accept this, ignore this, be this person, hate that person, this will make you popular.  But wait there’s more…  TV, movies, music, check-out line in the grocery store… shopping, credit cards.  And for all my 90s kids: extreme. 

We are saturated with the world.  And it encourages conformity. Conformity by the need to feel accepted and dependent on others to make decisions for them, through imitation, compliance, identification and internalization.  Some level of conformity is required and expected in social contexts. Wearing clothes for example, bathing, manners… I take this as a given, however. What we are going to be discussing is the fruitless search for fulfillment and the toll it takes on us through physical, mental, emotional and spiritual exhaustion, in the striving to be part of the exclusive beautiful people, to impress the self.

The First Commercial

From my studies in marketing, there are two little rules; create the demand and supply the solution.  For us, the demand is created by attacking our identity and sowing doubt. Make it appear to be a need, even though you may not have been aware it was something you know you needed.  Something is wrong with you, you are lacking.  Then the solution is supplied by appealing to your self-doubt.  This will make you whole.  You are welcome.  In other words, you want the consumer to buy into the idea of the product, not the actual function of the product.  The world is a master at propagating the herd mentality and we must be aware of it. 

After doing some research, I found the very first sales pitch, and it was in the bible.  The first section of verses records creating the demand and the second section refers to the solution supplied.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’

Genesis 3:1-3

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Genesis 3:4-6

We are exhausted.  For some of us, right now the suffering we are enduring is exhausting.  For others, it may be patience in dealing with difficult people. For others, it may be a negative environment.  And for most of us, it is recovery and restraint. Over the course of this topic, I want you to think about the following question:

What are you buying into that promises to make you whole, and what is it costing you?

Do Not Be Conformed

Our anchor scripture comes out of Romans 12.  I like to refer to this chapter in Romans as You’re a Christ follower, now what?  There are three major points from the scripture; simply put:  Do not be conformed, be transformed, for your good. With that as our road map, let’s look at our verse:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

Conform is a verb that essentially means to agree with or be similar to.  It is the idea of being joined together and identifying with, as well as passively submitting.  This first section of this verse is instructing us to not look like, think like, act like or desire to be like the world.  When this occurs, you become desensitized to certain issues via indoctrination. You agree with what the world says about a topic and adopt its perspective and stance on it without consulting God and asking what His thoughts and perspective are.  Conforming promises much but never fulfills it and you always need more… Then depression kicks in because the false promises and misplaced expectations. The bad thing is that we want the deception to be true, because our identity hinges on it.

Ramifications of conforming to the world usually results in working 90-hour weeks, not seeing your kids or your spouse, turning to drugs and drinking to fulfill the emptiness that the chase has left you with. Conforming leads to medicating the disappointment, and instilling value systems in those that look up to us that confirms this is what life is about, constant exhaustion and disappointment.  We seek material, substances and experiences to fill the void, and during this journey we subliminally believe it will somehow give meaning to life. This is what Paul is warning us against. There is a spiritual cost associated with conforming to the world, which leads to buyer’s remorse.

Be Transformed

But to be transformed by the renewal of your mind, we have to understand a few things.  In the course of my years, I have learned that if I have mental agreeance with something, I will usually adopt it into my value system.  While this isn’t always the case with spiritual matters, I do believe that when God pulls back the curtain and you get a glimpse of something, it leaves an imprint.  To be transformed, insinuates a dramatic change.  And the best way to fully grasp this word is to look at the roots of the word itself.  Transform is a word that is formed of two different words, combined to illustrate a thought or observation.  Trans means across, beyond, through.  When the word form is added on to it, it takes on the meaning of a change in shape, focus, direction.  The word transform actually comes from another word, Meta meaning to take on a form that embodies an inner essence and morphoo, to change after being with.  Metamorphosis. Just think of a caterpillar for a moment…

To be transformed means not only our appearance, but our inner essence changes; our beliefs.  If our beliefs change, then our thoughts change, our value systems change and ultimately our actions change.  This is not talking about an improvement but making something new. We exchange our thoughts and the world’s thoughts for God’s thoughts.  We are renewed by meditating and dwelling on God’s word. It is an active choice. And coming into contact with Gods’ Word will always illicit a response.  Rejection or transformation. 

Overcome Addiction Bible Study
Application – For your Good

God loves you, whether you excel or fail.  If He didn’t, I’m convinced He wouldn’t have sent His Son to come to earth and die, so that we would have a choice to accept Him and salvation.  With that knowledge, we will conclude our topic for this post with the third major part of the scripture; For your good.  For a long time, I looked at God as this cosmic killjoy that played chess in the heavens.  My immaturity affected my beliefs, which in turn appeared in my actions. I couldn’t have been further from the truth: the truth that God only wants best for us, although we may not feel that way.

We buy into many things every day: worth, success, lust, selfish ambition, objects, substances.  Much of what exhausts us is responsible for the gap between what the world says about something versus what God says about it.  There are many things we have grown complacent with in our lives and have given up the process of being transformed for the good, to simply be conformed.  For application, we can take a rather simple action step, that begins with a question I asked you earlier:

What are you buying into that promises to make you whole, and what is it costing you?

The “Overcome” Addiction Bible Study 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 Addiction Bible Study 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 Study Guide Lesson 5 - Anxiety and Confidence

Anxiety & Confidence

Your Own Personal Goliath – Lesson 6 of the Overcome Recovery Study Guide

Worry, doubt, panic, distress.  Quite often these symptoms are brought on by stress and are motivating factors that can actually have physical effects on our bodies, not just our minds.  Thoughts do in fact have power and many times come in the form of debilitating paralysis that can many times end in cardiac arrest or the need to self-medicate.  But the bigger question is… what do you gain from all of this worry? Follow along in this lesson of the “Overcome” recovery study guide, to find out.

What is anxiety, in your words?  Throughout this topic, I will use the words anxiety, worry and doubt interchangeably.  This is a difficult topic to define in origin and the many avenues it travels, so let’s get a fill in the blank out on the floor you can be thinking about during an analogy we are going to use in a minute.

I trust God the least with_____________ 

Anxiety is my imagination running wild, fearing the outcome, fearing the punishment and repercussions from past decisions.  But in the mind of the anxious person, anything and everything bad is possible. Many times we are vulnerable to it just by waking up.  We don’t typically look for anything good to happen. And when we worry, we lose any form of peace we had and we lose assurance because we have ceased to trust God.  Those of us who suffer from anxiety are not only damaging to ourselves, but become infectious to others, by unintendedly stealing their joy and confidence by planting seeds of doubt.

Anxiety, loss of control, holding our breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop, Weight of the world on your shoulders, sink or swim, study long study wrong, crack under the pressure.  It is urgent and requires immediate attention. And the only way we know how to deal with it is to escape and find something to take the edge off. This comes in the form of various distractions.  Not really dealing with it when it eclipses our acceptable level of worry. It no longer becomes manageable and starts to manifest physically within us.

An Analogy

Open your bibles to 1 Samuel 17.  We are going to look at one of the more famous accounts in the bible.  In this story we have a scene that is developing, and I want to draw a parallel to a few points of it as it relates to our topic for this post.

Goliath was a Philistine champion, who was a monstrous man.  In other words, he was a massive problem for the Israelites. He intimidated them and challenged them.  In his challenge he even gave them a reward for victory and a penalty for failure. For forty days he continued to taunt and challenge them, but the Israelites were afraid and paralytic. Until a little boy named David approached the king with a proposition.  Keep this in mind, we will return to it a little later.

Origin

In a section (Matthew 6:25-34) of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches about anger, lust, prayer, money, criticizing others and worry.  This sermon would be the first mass teaching Jesus engaged in. So many nuggets can be found in this sermon for daily living, which affects not only our spiritual lives but also our eternity.

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Matt 6:27

For this verse of scripture, I want to do a word study on the word anxious.  In the KJV, the phrase taking thought is used instead of anxious.  If we go to Strong’s Concordance and trace back the phrase taking thought to its origin, you get many words that all point to the idea of distraction and doubt.  The way I interpret this is simply worry will not produce anything useful.

Anxiety and confidence are rhythms or cadences we get into.  Doubt and confidence are questions of trust and responsibility.  And I would be remiss, if I didn’t at least acknowledge there is a measure of anxiety bred into us from our original parents.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Genesis 3:8-‬10‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“Overcome” Recovery Study Guide
Application – Appraise and Assign

For our application, I want you to draw a simple graph, like the one below.  We are going to use this as a visual layout for a logical assessment. In the graphic below, I have started you off with somewhat of a head-start just to get the ball rolling.

To diagnose anxiety, we have 4 questions that must be asked:

  1.  Is this something I am responsible for?  Am I doing things that are actively increasing my level of anxiety; poor financial choices, known and habitual sin?
  2. Or is this something I am not responsible for?  Is this a question of another’s decisions or something outside of my control?
  3. Is this a possible concern?  This is typically considered invalid in the world of logic.  I could win the lottery…
  4. Or is this a probable concern?  These are considered valid.  …but it’s not probable that I would win the lottery.

Do you trust God in all things?  Do you trust God to keep the sun shining, to keep the earth spinning, to wake you in the morning, to place breath in your lungs?  Do you trust Jesus when he said he was leaving for a period of time to prepare a place for us? Do you trust him with the big stuff and the little stuff? If you do, then have confidence that he is looking out for you in all things.  We have to give up ownership of what we are worrying about.

Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-‬7

‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬We will close out this post by finishing up the beginning story in Samuel.  Ask yourself, what is your goliath? Is it probable and valid? Is it something you have created and need to take some steps to reconcile?  Do you need to confess and repent from those decisions? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then take action as David did in the below verses: step with a singularity of purpose with no hesitation, but instead confidence.

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

1 Samuel 17:48-‬49

‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬The “Overcome” Recovery Study Guide 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 Recovery Study Guide 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" - Recovery Curriculum by Joshua Staton. Used by First Contact Ministries as part of their addiction / recovery support group curriculum.

Trauma & Healing

Battlefield Triage – Lesson 5 of the “Overcome” Recovery Curriculum

Whether from our environment or self-induced, traumatic events often consume us. Bitterness, anger and depression are often rooted in these events. When we have not properly grieved or healed, these wounds only grow deeper and more infected.  Without proper care, the wounds are able consume us and we set up permanent residence there.  As you’ll learn in Lesson 5 of our recovery curriculum, forgiveness is integral for healing.

Without proper attention to wounds, we resort to battlefield triage…just to get by; shove it back down, get over it.  Back in the old days, before antibiotics and medical advancements, the cure was hack a limb off, cauterize the wound shut or use leaches.  Many amputations back then could have been prevented, and still many were due to unsterilized equipment and barbaric surgical method… leading to unnecessary infections, which led to amputation.

Growing up in the south, I have heard my fair share of crazy old-timer’s cures, some like blowing cigar smoke in your ear to cure aches.  Many people still prescribe to this sort of thinking, which essentially is the backbone for the psychological term the Placebo Effect, which basically means, if you believe enough in it, it will work.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe there is some actual proof some of my grandmother’s cures work, such as vinegar in the sink to keep gnats away.  However, an entire industry sprang up in the 1800s that relied upon this same sort of thinking, reference Snake Oil in your down time.

I know for many of us, the ideas of the 1800s seem archaic and idiotic, that we are so much more enlightened now.  We think this is crazy, but the same thing is being done today… Take medications for example; not really addressing the problem but instead creating just enough side effects to mask or distract.  We have our own snake oil now-adays, we just don’t call it that.

Bitter Medicine

Before I go any further, please understand what I say is meant to educate, encourage and engage you.  This is a difficult topic to unpack in such few words and I want to be as intentional as possible.  Since dealing with trauma feels like chasing phantoms, it makes logical sense to look firstly at what trauma produces and what produces trauma at the same time.  Much of this reaction is tied together and cannot be easily separated into neat little categories.

Briefly, trauma is a direct result of what others have done to us and what our reaction is to the offense.  Trauma relies on the ripple effect to reach maturity.  For many of us, we are victims of generational trauma.  We repeat things we have seen, good or bad.  We are still ironing out things our grandparents folded up wrinkled and put in a drawer… some of the things we deal with are generational baggage and sins.  With family, who needs enemies?

Simply put, words and actions can produce trauma.  Something someone said in the heat of an argument, an action by a loved one.  These are all events that we perceive and then interpret.  Unconsciously, we assign value to the event and it becomes a subject of thought and eventually becomes a memory, which soon dictates how we perceive and live life.  When this occurs, we become desensitized to those words and actions and the maturity cycle begins.  This cycle will ultimately dictate whether or not we become producers of future traumatic events or be held bound and captive by the past events.

There is one caveat to this topic.  If you are in the valley of a traumatic event, find someone to talk to that you can confide in and trust.  Find a fellow believer and let them minister to you.  When an individual is in the midst of addiction that has suffered traumatic events, the proclivity is to hunt for something that will medicate.  Something that will kill the pain.  Without consciously recognizing it, we feel justified in selling ourselves snake oil, no matter how little it does or how bitter the taste.

Scar Tissue

Cut a major artery and they tell you to remain calm, why?  This is another promise from Gods word.  With this verse we need to stop, slow down and try to form a picture in your mind.  Picture being wounded… this is trauma and our response or reaction to it subconsciously motivates and encourages our next step.

He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

Now, picture that wound is infected… This is the long-term effects of unforgiveness in our lives…  relationships, work, everything.  If we react to trauma wrongly, it will soon infect every area of our life.  However, if it is handled properly, it can heal and become stronger.  I recently read a quote that said a surgeon could be judged by his or her skill by the amount of scar tissue that formed during healing.  An excellent surgeon could essentially make a wound disappear.  To some extent I believe that is possible, given the realm of man, but we have access to a much greater Surgeon, that will not only heal the wound, but make it a source of strength not only for us, but others.

Connect the Dots

If the event is front and center in your mind and you are aware of it, all it requires is the choice.  However, if it has been buried deep, we have to begin by looking at the past and our current actions and seeing what dots connect.  For me, this was best done with a notebook and solitude.  What we want to see is if any of the dots we have connected are partly responsible for our behaviors, or are they so deeply rooted in us that they subconsciously led and direct us throughout the day?  As you are made aware of these events you must then take them to God to get His perspective on them.  To realize where we reacted wrongly and take the next step of learning how to respond correctly. 

 “Do you want to be healed?”

John 5:5-9

Realize and understand we live in a fallen world and unpleasant events are going to occur.  We are sinful, all of us.  We humans are a messy species.  Sin always leads to pain.  We hurt people we don’t know, they hurt us and most of the time we are hurting people we do know.  Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.  The wounds we are talking about are the ones we can’t see, the broken hearted. The question we have to ask is, do we want to be healed?

“Overcome” Recovery Curriculum
Application – A Choice

A simple, but possibly the hardest choice you will ever make will take us from trauma to healing: the choice to forgive.  We are told to forgive.  It is not just a suggestion, and it takes trust in God to do this.  We are told to forgive, because it is for our good.  Forgiveness, in this regard, is for deliverance from the pain.  Forgiveness is choosing to no longer let the wound direct your life.  It doesn’t matter if you think they deserve forgiveness or not, whether they have asked you for it or whether they have repented for it.  Forgiveness is not for the other persons’ benefit.  It is for yours and it works.

Understand, I am not trying to be a snake oil salesman.  I speak from experience.  Forgiving those who seriously injured me in the past has been a catalyst for further spiritual growth, freedom and joy.  Spend some time this week searching your heart for unforgiveness.  If any is found, I ask you to at least entertain the thought of giving up the debt they owe you.  The verses below illustrate this point.  And if you need additional inspiration and motivation to undertake this noble task, pay special attention to the last one…

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Col 3:13

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34a

The “Overcome” 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 Recovery Curriculum.

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 Recovery Bible Study by Joshua Staton at First Contact Addiction Ministries in Hendersonville, NC

Burden & Comfort

A Choice of Yoke – Lesson 4 of the “Overcome” Recovery Bible Study

Why do you strive?  What are you working for?  What do you invest yourself in?  These are questions many of us think about, but never really answer.  Longevity and legacy are words that even fewer of us think about.  Unfortunately, more questions exist regarding this topic than answers, depending on where you look.

If you could go back and choose any field to work in, what would it be?  If it is anything different than what you are doing now, then I must ask why?  For many of us, it may be a simple answer and for others it may be a complex one.  Regardless, we are tied up in labor for most of our lives.  When we came into this world we were given a yoke, one that the world would spend much of our lives adding to.  We are burdened with schedule and over commitment, obstacles, continual struggle, temptation to sin, achievement and past sin.

And regrettably, we typically identify with the source of our burden and the struggle more than asking the question why do we struggle against this burden?  Is your burden right now something you are interested in or invested in?  These questions may not make very much sense presently, but I am confident by the end of this post the answers will reveal themselves.

You may be thinking, I’m pretty content right now, no huge burdens.  Let me ask you a few more diagnostic questions then if this is you, do you find yourself spending sleepless nights thinking about the same thing?  Do you feel exhausted most of the time?  Do you have a lack of joy even doing things you used to enjoy?  Does it feel like your Christian walk has become a hobby?

I asked a question earlier that had the word interest in it.  The reason for this is Nikola Tesla said “the major difference between a genius and others is their imagination and level of interest.”  By all accounts, Tesla was considered a gifted man, many years before his time.

However, if you weren’t gifted, then Malcolm Gladwell has stated that if you want to become what is considered world class in any field you choose, you must spend 10,000 intentional, deliberate hours practicing that discipline.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have been gifted, such as Tesla.  I’m far too old and far too lazy to want to learn something new, at least that is what the human side of me says.

So, the major question is, are you putting effort into what counts and are you at all interested in it?  Why did you choose the yoke you have on now? Do not miss this, although we are born with a yoke, we have a choice.

Choices of yoke

For some of us, this may come as news.  Vulgar, repulsive news.  We have an actual choice in life as to what yoke we put on every single day.  One yoke has the sole intention of getting you lost and tearing you down.  The other yoke is there to build you up and guide you.  When you take one yoke off, the other one goes on.  We will have a yoke regardless.

Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matt 11:28-30

To best understand what Jesus is saying, it would do us good to first understand some of the terms and their implication to our topic.  A yoke is something that is hitched up to pull a load.  A yoke is a human invention to pull more, faster, further.  It is not the invention of the animal wearing it.  The world’s yoke is demanding and unforgiving, while the yoke of Jesus is forgiving and full of grace.  One yoke tells you the grave is calling, and the hours are few.  The other says there is an afterlife and I love you.

A good way to know what yoke you have on is look at what you are serving.  Where are your hours going to and for what?  This will ultimately determine the burdens you carry and whether they are tearing you down or building you up.  For me, it was hitting rock bottom and knowing there was nowhere else to go.  I reached the end of myself and all I could do.  You realize you can no longer live life this way.  This is a place that helps you understand what your yoke is. 

The word burdened.  Heavy laden means to be overloaded with burden.  It can describe a heavy heart, beaten down, calloused, jaded or collapsing.  Burden many times comes in the form of unconfessed or unrepentant sin. 

Next, the word weary.  Weary is a fancy way of saying fatigued or tired.  Weary is the feeling that comes from being burdened.  And yes, it is highly possible that you can become weary even while doing good things.  However, God’s word is fully aware of this:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

And finally, the word rest.  Rest conjures us pictures of refreshing; mental, physical, or spiritual.  Sometimes you just need a nap, or a burger.  But for this context, it implies spiritual rest.  Make no mistake, we are not either/or creatures.  We are both/and creatures.  Physical and spiritual.

I have recently begun to ask God to please revive me through the burdens and almost seemingly endless sources of additional burden.  Not to save me from it, but to use it to revive me.  I’m not sure if it is working or not, but it has shifted my perspective from burden to purpose.  And that is the major take away concept…  shift from the burdens that are tearing you down to gospel purposes for building up. And in that shift, burden becomes purpose once you apply a gospel perspective to it.

“Overcome” Recovery Bible Study
Application – Exchanging Yokes

Shifting gears, let’s explore this concept of giving up a yoke to put another one on.  Over the years, I have realized that it is impossible to sustain a total lifestyle change unless God is involved.  So, with that in mind, I propose the following exercise.  Find one thing in your life, that you know you need to give up ownership of the yoke to Jesus.  This will be something that is not producing fruit, helping others and is currently tearing you down.  Exchange that time and effort spent with time in God’s word.  You will make an active choice to focus on substantial purpose.

The disease of the self is the disease of sin.  When we treat a disease wrongly, it has the ability to evolve and mutate, building resistance.  We burden the disease just enough to make it stronger and take a deeper root within us.  The way we get from burdened to comfort is the same way we should treat a disease.  Correctly.  We must prioritize our time with God.  To make that the most important relationship you have.  By doing so, we can recharge by intentionally slowing down and focusing on what is important.  Take the following verses and dwell on them during whatever time you find where you are not distracted and able to focus on God and your life.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:2

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.

Colossians 3:23

The “Overcome” Recovery Bible Study 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 Recovery Bible Study.

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