This two part sermon looks at events from the life and reign of King Hezekiah as he found himself and the nation of Judah in the sights of Senecharib, king of Assyria. His example models a powerful strategy for victory over the many, and various, ways that the enemy of our soul attacks us. I pray it helps you more clearly comprehend God’s deep desire to see His children live as over-comers!
Lessons from the Enemy
If you’ve been struggling with addiction, you’re not alone. Statistics say that over 20 million Americans from the age of 12 and older are addicted to alcohol or drugs—sometimes both. But there is hope. Around one-third of alcoholics are able to completely recover. It’s never too late to start the path to recovery.
Look for a Christian Recovery Program
Christian rehab programs (often called faith-based programs) are more effective than their secular counterparts, and studies show this to be true. The dimension of faith in these programs leads to lower numbers of relapses and more sustained positive results. Faith in God and a supportive community of believers brings an added strength to the recovery process.
The Celebrate Recovery program at The City Church is one such community. Not only is it a safe place to share and grow, but it also offers the kind of accountability needed for long-term recovery.
Consider Taking Time Off Work
When addiction is limiting your ability to be effective at your job, it’s advisable to take some time off work to focus on recovery. Many times, people feel they can’t afford to do that. However, there are some options you can consider.
- Family Medical Leave Act: If you’ve worked at your current job for at least 1,250 hours over the course of the past year and your employer employs at least 50 people within 75 miles of your worksite, you may be eligible for the Family Medical Leave Act. While the FMLA won’t provide an income while you’re off work, it does afford you the option to take up to 12 weeks off work and gives you the guarantee of a job of similar responsibilities and equivalent pay and benefits when you return.
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP): Some employers offer employee assistance programs that can be used for personal or work-related problems, such as addiction. An EAP usually offers free and confidential consultations and some short-term counseling services.
- Health Insurance: Check with your health insurance plan to find out if they offer any coverage for substance abuse, mental health, and behavioral health situations. This will help to cover the costs you may incur.
Take Steps Toward a Different Lifestyle
For recovery to be fully effective, it’s important to follow the treatment plans prescribed to you by doctors, behavioral health counselors, support group leaders, and others. In addition to seeking the help of professionals, surround yourself with family members and friends who will encourage you in your goals for a different lifestyle. You may need to break off or limit contact with those who will drag you back into addiction.
Take steps toward establishing healthy sleeping, eating, and exercise habits in your daily life. When you attend to the legitimate needs of your body, it will strengthen your ability to say no to substance abuse.
At Celebrate Recovery, we celebrate every step that a person takes towards a happier, healthier lifestyle. Consider joining us each week on Monday nights to learn and grow with God and with others.
Sometimes, it can seem like life is getting you stuck in the mud. Maybe there’s an art project you’ve been meaning to start on for several months or a career change you’ve been wanting to make or an invention you’ve been wanting to develop. The daily demands of life can feel like anchors that hold you down, but here are a few tips that can help you get started moving forward.
Let Go of Baggage
Philippians 3:12-14 talks about “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” Often, we interpret this to mean that we need to stuff negative emotions into a dark corner and move forward. The problem is: they’re still there and they’re still affecting your ability to be successful.
In order to move forward, you’ll need to identify emotions that are keeping you stuck and process them with God, and often, with caring people like your church, your friends, or even Christian counselors. Things like depression, anger, stress, anxiety, and the like, are indicators of hurts and pain that are underneath the surface. Because we are human, we feel, and emotions are valid things that help us to identify what is going on under the surface. You may need to consider allowing someone else into the process to help you walk out Philippians 3:12-14 in your own life.
Cut Out a Few Things
Often, there are a few things that are either completely unimportant or are entirely made up of other people’s goals for you. These things could be that 1,000-page book a friend gave you that you “absolutely have to read by the end of the week” or a career path that your family approves of or that TV series you’re addicted to.
What are the things that you could, or even should, cut out of your life? At the same time, make sure you’re not cutting out your family or your closest relationships. Share your goals with your family and friends—they may be the best accountability partners in your life.
Develop Some Achievable Goals
When we think of accomplishing something big, we often think of the project as a whole. For instance, if you’re wanting to remodel the living area of your house, you can get caught up in visualizing the finished project, but struggle with a plan for getting started. Here’s where you’ll need to grab a piece of paper and break it down into a list of bite-sized projects that are more achievable (i.e. obtain permits, buy supplies, fix the bad vent system, and so on).
The same goes for almost any goal you want to accomplish. A long-term goal rarely happens all at once. Sometimes, it needs to be developed over the course of several months or even several years.
Moving forward is not an entirely elusive thing. Paul experienced a lot of setbacks, but he continued to move forward, spread the gospel throughout Asia, and wrote a large portion of the New Testament. As Hebrews 12:1-2 advises, we too can set aside the weights that so easily hold us back and run the race with endurance.
Every person has some habit, behavior, or hang-up that they want to change. One person might be hoping to lose those extra 50 pounds while another might be wanting to change his/her tendency to flair up into a quick temper, and yet another would love to finally get a bit more organized (after all, it gets really inconvenient to keep losing your car keys). Whatever the issue is, it’s easy to feel stuck in a cycle of victory and defeat. Is there a way to achieve lasting change? We’d all love to know.
Take One Step
Often, the person wanting to lose weight focuses on losing 50 pounds. But it’s so much easier to focus on losing one pound. It’s also more effective. What is one step that you can take each day that will take you toward your goal? Perhaps it’s as simple as drinking a glass of tea before dinner or switching out the ice cream in your fridge to a lower-calorie frozen yogurt. The person who wants to get organized might start with the junk drawer in the kitchen instead of trying to clean out all ten closets in the house in one day.
Identify Your Triggers
Do you reach for a cookie when you’re stressed? Do you binge-watch movies on weekends? HALT is a concept used in many circles to help people identify what is fueling their bad habits and behaviors. It’s important to literally halt (i.e. stop) and ask yourself what you’re feeling when you’re tempted to relapse. Are you:
- Hungry? This includes physical and emotional needs. Are there needs in your life that are not being met? Your body might be craving nutrition. Your emotional self might be craving affection, understanding, or accomplishment.
- Angry? Anger is a legitimate emotion, but it’s only the symptom of something deeper. Is it possible for you to calmly and constructively address the person or situation that you’re feeling angry about? If not, it’s important to find a way to express your anger without hurting others. Some activities that can provide a therapeutic outlet are exercising, cleaning, punching a pillow, or expressing yourself through a creative outlet.
- Lonely? Loneliness can happen when you’re alone or when you’re in a group of people. It’s more of a feeling of being isolated or misunderstood. It’s important for you to develop a human support system so you have people to reach out to when you’re feeling down. If a supportive friend isn’t available, it can also help to go to a meeting, go on a walk, visit the library, or run an errand—something to get you out of the house and into interaction with other humans.
- Tired? Sometimes, you simply need sleep. When you’re running on low cylinders of energy, every negative thing can be magnified. Do your best to get a solid night of sleep every night. Your spirit, soul and body will be refreshed and your outlook on life improved. A nap or a jaunt to a favorite relaxing spot, such as the lake, coffee shop, or bookstore, can also rejuvenate you.
Remember That It’s a Process
If you fail, refuse to beat yourself up. You are not a failure just because you ate that triple-fudge chocolate cake. You can get up and try again. The American culture tends to expect fast results, but change often happens in slow, and sometimes tedious, increments. Don’t ever allow yourself to give up.
Reward yourself each time you make progress. This starts a connection with positive triggers in your brain that reinforce positive actions. Keep a log of your progress and celebrate how far you’ve come. Share your progress with others. That will also reinforce your progress.
The City Church is a church in Redding that has created a place for people to experience personal change in an encouraging environment. We’ve found that a Christ-centered, Bible-based, 12-step style of program is incredibly effective. Perhaps you should give it a try.
According to one study, less than 18 percent of the American population attends church regularly. Another study reveals that about 1.2 million people are leaving the church every year. That translates to 3,500 people per day. How can the American church engage with those who are leaving the church or who are already outside the church?
Create a Place for the Holy Spirit
Throughout history, when churches opened the doors to the move of the Holy Spirit, thousands were saved, baptized, healed, and activated (Acts 2). These thousands did not need to be convinced or coerced into joining the church—they joined of their own accord. On the other hand, when churches shut out the Holy Spirit, they tended to turn to forms and rituals and their congregations tended to dwindle. The Holy Spirit is often the most uncomfortable Person of the Trinity and the temptation to contain His move is a real thing.
People aren’t leaving the church because they aren’t spiritually minded; they’re leaving because one person of the Trinity is missing. The interest in spirituality and the supernatural is growing in America, not dying. Americans are seeking substance and that substance is found in a living, dynamic God.
Every human being has an innate desire to belong. If that place of belonging isn’t found in a church, people will find it elsewhere. Community doesn’t automatically happen, especially in the increasingly culturally diverse churches of today. The local church must actively facilitate small groups or home groups where people can build relationships with a core group of people on a regular basis. These small groups and social groups can also become places outside of the four walls of the church where people from the local community can connect and engage. It’s a less threatening environment.
In larger churches, it might be necessary to evaluate whether there are any social groups that are being left out of the small group structure. For instance, churches usually have places for families and youth groups, but is there also a place for singles, single moms and dads, and divorcees? The number of unmarried adults in the American culture is now more than 50 percent of the adult population. Smaller churches may not have the resources to create a group for every social group, but a real effort should be made to find out who is in the congregation and the community and to determine what kinds of social groups might be beneficial.
Create Practical Answers to Solutions
What are the social problems in your community, and how can your church become a part of the answer? For instance, in Redding, there is a large problem with drugs and alcohol. In response, we have developed a Celebrate Recovery program where people can be healed of the things that are keeping them stuck in cycles of addiction or emotional pain. Is there a network within your church for taking care of the practical needs for those in crisis? Do you have teams of people who serve at the local shelter or community service center? When people have their practical needs met, they are more capable of becoming thriving, contributing members of the church and community.
There may be people leaving the church, but churches and networks that incorporate all three of these very important values are growing. The Foursquare church is one such place. Like Aimee Semple McPherson, we must be committed to engaging the spiritual, emotional, and practical needs of our culture.