Sermons
Sunday Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Hope In the face Of Addiction - May 21, 2017

1 John 2:15-17

Over the last few weeks, we've been talking about relationships with Friends and Family. We've tried, to be honest, and real. These relationships are messy. We'd like to idealize them or pretend our family has it all together, but the reality is, we all have stuff...Even church people. We all have struggles. As we look at families and relationships, one of the realities we need, to be honest about is addiction. Addiction dwells and sometimes lurks, in most of our families...most probably all of our families. It takes on a variety of shapes and forms...alcohol, cigarettes,

drugs, prescription medications, money and spending, gambling, pornography, and even food. Sometimes the addictions are obvious and known. Sometimes addiction is generational and has passed from father to son or mother to daughter. And sometimes, addiction hides away from awareness.
Growing up, my family didn't talk much about addiction. We didn't see a lot of it across any of the generations. One elder in our family was called a "drinker" and while one family member called him an alcoholic, others just said he drank a lot. And by the time I came around, he had stopped, not attending meetings or participating in a program, he just stopped drinking...so I didn't know him in any of those ways.
For a lot of years, addicts were "those people" and I only knew addiction as something that related to drinking and drugs. It really wasn't until I was in seminary, working on my Masters, that I began to have any real interaction with addiction or recovery. In my first year, I was assigned as a chaplain at the Carpenter's House. It was a long-term recovery program for men. When I went, I sat in a group and then would do individual counseling sessions with anyone who signed up. It was there I got to know the men and was privileged to learn their stories and have them share some of their deep deep struggles.
It was there I learned that recovery isn't a linear process where you start here and "finish" there. But it's a cyclical process. I learned that relapse isn't about "going backward", so to speak, but it's about hitting those trouble spots in your cycle and not having, or using, the tools needed to get through with resilience. At the Carpenter's house, we had men from all walks of life who dealt with their struggles by drinking and using. Some were truck drivers, others were white collar professionals and everything in between. Some were raised in the crack houses, others got into it because of an abuse, and still, others had casual drinks that then, with time, they couldn't reign in. And, we had men that were there for the first time, others who were there for the 5th or 6th time, and I remember a few who were there for the 13th and 14th times. Which is to say, recovery isn't easy. And if you've ever been or loved an addict who has relapsed, you're not alone.
And that's not even to speak of the other addictions...which deal with similar struggles wearing different masks...overeating, pornography, spending, and prescription meds. We find lots of ways to assure ourselves that we're ok, or that were not like those "other addicts"...or any addicts, but when we use stuff, food, drinks, or drugs to feel differently, to hide our demons, to silence the voices, to run from our failures, or to pretend we're ok, then we've bought into the lies of temptation and addiction.
Y'all addiction is hard. And recovery is hard. Just because recovery is good for us, doesn't mean it's easy. It takes commitment, it takes determination, it takes support, and it takes sitting down to confront and battle the demons of the past. The demons may be memories, the demons may be failures, and the demons may be negative self-talk, it might be the voices that tell us we're not worthy, not good enough, not smart enough, not important, not valuable, or ever going to measure up.
Maybe you're here thinking, I'm not an addict. This isn't for me. Maybe you're not an addict. And that's great. But I'd venture someone you love is dealing with an addiction. And I'd guess that even if you're not beholden to drugs or alcohol or spending that you've felt the temptation to use things to make you feel better...maybe it's a couple of beers after a hard day at work, or an extra piece of chocolate cake to soothe your heartache, or a new pair of shoes, or an extra fishing pole, not because you need one, but because you enjoy a little "retail therapy". You may be able to walk away and say no if you're challenged, something not everyone can easily do, but regardless, you know the feeling....of seeking something external to help something internal.
And the reality is that addiction isn't just about the vice. To stop gambling or stop drinking or block those websites doesn't fix the true problem. The heart of the problem isn't the pictures or the pills or the joint, which doesn't mean you can keep at it. The heart of the problem is our deep need to be enough, to feel better, to find solace or comfort, to know we are more than they say we are, to know we are more than we think we are. And unless we deal with those things, we don't ever really get better.
Our scripture for today says, "15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; 16 for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 And the world and its desire[a] are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever."
It's easy to look for worldly things to help us. We know them. They're tangible. They're generally easy to find. But here's the thing, they don't satisfy. And they don't fix. God tells us, "I can give you more than the world can. I can give you things that do satisfy and do fix....that won't cause you harm along the way. I have eternal gifts to offer: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity and self-control. Would you choose them instead? Would you choose me instead?"
It seems so simple...choosing God who is eternal and gives good gifts over choosing the things of this world that are perishable and not always so good. But in the moment, it can be impossibly hard. (Grab a bottle) This is handy....and I'm pretty sure I know how it will make me feel. (Grab the snack food) This is cheap and it distracts me for a bit. I know there's pleasure in it. And people say, "choose God instead" and then I go looking for God and God can be awfully hard to see or touch. But that doesn't mean I should stop looking. God wants to be found and has good gifts when we empty our hands of these other things, then I can be ready to receive the forever gifts of love, joy, patience, kindness and gentleness...and if I'm really ready to receive them, then I might be able to savor the experience more. If I'm not distracted or numb, then I can begin to feel peace and calm, hope and light, joy and goodness.
But I have to choose. And I have to surrender. And that choice isn't just for me and it isn't just for addicts. For anyone who wants to claim Jesus as Lord, say they are a follower, a disciple, a Christian, then that choice is for you....do you choose Jesus or do you choose the world? And not just today, but in the days to come each day.
As we prepared for this service, I talked to a good friend of ours who has over 25 years of sobriety. He said, "The biggest thing for me is that I have to remind myself daily...that God has and always will forgive me and love me. [That's] my program. I just know it is working today and pray it works tomorrow." It's a daily choice, even after 25 years of sobriety. It's a choice to believe in God's love and grace more than he believes the self-defeating voices around him.
And that choice is for us too. Will we choose the world or will we choose God? Will we choose condemnation and self-doubt, or will we choose grace and forgiveness? Today the choice is ours to make.

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