They have struck me, but I was not hurt;Proverbs 23:35
They have beaten me, but I did not feel it;
When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?
Just about any word could be substituted for “drink” in this passage, since this lesson is about overcoming addictions. We are talking about a thing that has control over you, controls your thoughts, which leads to destructive actions. Drugs, lust, anger, vengeance, pornography; anything that blocks you from your primary love to the Lord.
We will discuss the topic of overcoming addictions from a spiritual perspective, not a medical one. It is our hope that you will take advantage of any good medical help you need—any good counseling or support groups that are available.
We understand that there are physical reasons some have a greater inclination to drugs or alcohol, but on a spiritual level, every addict bears personal responsibility for his or her decisions. In this lesson, we will assume you are ready to take responsibility.
There are five important points we will discuss in this lesson that will help one who is struggling with addiction. The first, obvious point we want to make is that the best way to overcome addiction is:
Never begin something sinful that can lead to addiction.
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.1 Timothy 6:11
The best way to avoid addiction is to avoid sin. If there is a support group to help you stop something, you should probably never start it.
I was at a lectureship a few years ago, and I listened to a gospel preacher, who is also a recovering alcoholic, talk about how he started drinking. He began drinking with his friends in his youth. He then began drinking every weekend, and over the years that followed the pattern was set. He went from drinking socially to not being able to make it through the day without alcohol in his system. I listened to him describe the pain that drinking brought into his life, and listened to him describe how difficult it has been for him to overcome this addiction. He made the statement, “Oh how I wish I had never taken that first drink!”
Remember the Creator in the days of your youth.Ecclesiastes 12:1
We will battle things in our adulthood that we thought were harmless in our youth. Run from these things. However, what can we do if we have already developed a habit that is controlling us? The place where we must begin, and brings us to our second point.
Get into a right relationship with God so He can help you.
He who covers his sins will not prosper,Proverbs 28:13
but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
I don’t have to tell you that it is difficult to leave the past behind; you already know that. Many make the mistake of trying to wait until they have everything right before they come to Christ for help. I can respect that thinking to a degree. However, you must come to understand that you cannot get everything right without Christ, or else He never would have had to come. It’s kind of like a skydiver waiting until he hits the ground to open his parachute. That parachute is there to help you on the way down to the ground.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:14–16
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.James 4:7
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.1 Corinthians 10:13
This is a significant statement all by itself, but when one considers the audience to whom Paul was writing, it makes it all the more powerful.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:9–11
Although they used to have lives defined by sin and addiction, they were able to overcome these sinful habits with the help of God.
The third thing that will help us overcome addiction is the ability to:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.2 Corinthians 5:17
Do not let your addiction define who you are. In other words, don’t have the attitude: “Well, I am an addict first and foremost.” No, you are a child of God who is working to overcome the evils of this world! I have known so many people who cannot overcome sin, because they cannot get past the fact that they have been forgiven and that is not who they are anymore!
Do not lose heart if you slip up as you work with God’s help to overcome an addiction in your life. Overcoming is a process. A good friend of mine, who is also a preacher, used to have a bad habit of using swear words before he was a Christian. He worked hard to overcome it, and he did. We were together one time and a driver almost hit us, and a swear word came out of his mouth. He had not used that type of language in years, but something that he thought had been buried resurfaced. He couldn’t believe it, but it happened. Thankfully, he didn’t allow it to develop into a pattern. He asked God’s forgiveness, forgave himself, and went on. Life is about getting up one more time than you fall.
For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again,Proverbs 24:16
But the wicked shall fall by calamity.
A fourth thing that will help overcome addiction is:
Replace the addiction with good things.
When we give up something we enjoy, a hole remains. That friend I described earlier overcame swearing by praying each time he slipped up. Initially, he would have to pray for forgiveness several times a day until eventually swearing was no longer a part of his life. He told me, however, that because he was praying so many times a day he developed a habit of talking to God in prayer. Other things that will help are Bible study, assembling with the saints, helping others that are battling the same thing you are fighting.
Along these lines we must avoid the places, and sometimes even the people where the temptation is the strongest. Rather than going to the place where you participated in the activity you are trying to overcome, go to places where you can be a help to others.
Last, one of the most important things that can be done to overcome addiction is:
Have someone you can confide in for help.
Have someone who can be an encouragement to you, someone you can call when the temptation is strong. With God’s help you can overcome addiction. I remember that preacher I mentioned earlier who is a recovering alcoholic making this statement:
As I stood there drinking, I became disgusted with myself and what I had become. Fifteen years earlier, I had a drink. That day, the drink had me. In my youth, I drank for pleasure’s sake. I remember thinking highly of those who abstained on the grounds that God would not approve. I also remember thinking that they were being overly cautious and bound by law. Yet, fifteen years later, I realized they had been freed by God’s law.
There is never a command given by God that is anything but for my own good. Rather than fighting the words of God, submit to them and you will find true freedom.