Addiction: Who’s In Control (Part 4) February 19 2018
(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")
Last time, we talked about one of the great “hope verses” of the Bible, I Corinthians 10:13 (“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able …”). And we discussed how we often forget the verses immediately before and immediately after verse 13. “Therefore let him who stands take heed that he does not fall” (verse 12). And “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (verse 14).
BCF’s “Victory over Failures Plan” (or VOFP) is built around this biblical idea that, even as believers, we are all susceptible to sin and that we need to have a specific game plan to put into practice the commands to “take heed” and to “flee.” In the VOFP, one of the six worksheets is called the “Overcoming Temptations Plan,” and it is a very practical and biblical approach to having victory over temptation, in the power of the Holy Spirit. If you have struggled with a temptation or still are (and that would include most of us), this would be a great way to begin cooperating with the Lord to transform your life, as He has with so many others.
The “Overcoming Temptations Plan”
It would be good if you went through the study of biblical principles that goes along with the whole VOFP, but because we don’t have room for that here, we’ll go over a few key points on the Overcoming Temptations Plan, since the topic is Addiction. As we studied in Addiction Blog No. 2, victory over temptation and sin comes through putting off the old self, with its sinful practices and instead being “renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new self,” (Ephesians 4:23-24) with its new, righteous behaviors. Often, if we focus on the put-on, the put-off becomes much easier.
The Overcoming Temptations Plan has three sections: it has space for you to first identify ways in which you have previously fallen to a particular type of temptation and sinned (the put-offs). Next you would identify the righteous pattern to be established instead (the put-ons). Both of these are brought forward from the previous worksheets in the VOFP. The focus of the Overcoming Temptations Plan then turns to “My plan to respond righteously the next time temptation arises,” which is where you would get very specific about what to do that next time.
As students, those of us who tended to procrastinate learned to study furiously (a.k.a. cram) leading up to important exams. But we also learned that this strategy didn’t work so well with “pop quizzes.” One way to think of your plan is to think of temptations as a series of “spiritual pop quizzes.” You never know when temptation might present itself, but unless you are prepared, guess what? A spiritual “F” is very possible. Having a “spiritual F” may sound like an oxymoron, but you know what I mean.
Let’s Start with Our Thought Life
To deal with temptations associated with addictive behaviors, your plan will need to consider three parts of preparedness: 1) thoughts, 2) speech, and 3) actions. So let’s take thought life first. Jesus said in John 14:26, when he was preparing the disciples for His death and departure “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit … will bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” It will be more difficult for the Holy Spirit to bring God’s Word to our remembrance in the midst of the temptation if we do not take the “all that I said to you” seriously. We need to listen carefully to what God says.
And if you want to be a Psalm 1:3 person, that is, one who is “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season…” you need to start with the put-on in verse 2: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” In Christian circles today, we don’t emphasize Scripture memory very much, but for all of us, especially for believers who are struggling with temptation, Scripture memory is a vital practice that the Holy Spirit can use to transform our thought life, and give us victory over temptation.
Jesus, Himself, in the temptation in the wilderness responded three times to the devil “it is written” (Matthew 4:3-10). He has certain advantages over us as far as knowing the Scriptures, but it points to the importance of taking the Word into our minds/hearts so that we might be prepared, just like Jesus was. In other words, if we want to take temptation seriously, we need to take Scripture reading and Scripture memory seriously. Lesson 2 in the Self-Confrontation manual, pages 41-42 has four example plans for Scripture memory, but there are many other ways, in this age of technology. You might want to pair up with a friend and give them free reign to ask you, unannounced, and in love, “OK Steve, give me I Corinthians 10:12-14,” or whatever verses the Lord leads you to memorize. Make sure these verses are related to your area of temptation. The things we remember from Scripture can then be used by the Lord to impact the way we speak and act.
As to our speech, there is a temptation not to be truthful with our family and friends about an addiction. We might try to hide what we are doing. We might be tempted to lie about it when confronted. We might verbally strike out against someone when they inquire about whether something is wrong and whether we need help.
So part of your plan could include making pre-arrangements with your “Proverbs 27:6 friends,” as we discussed in Addiction Blog No. 2. If you are serious about change, they should have the freedom to talk with you very directly, per the “faithful are the wounds of a friend” of Proverbs 27:6. Your family would be a great place to start, humbling though it may be. Probably a significant percentage of the 64,000 drug overdose lives lost each year might have been saved if those struggling with drugs were to provide their family and friends with the freedom to “wound them” with loving reminders, even lovingly stern reminders. A true friend will lovingly step in anyway, but pre-arranging this may also help you to remember not to put yourself in the path of that temptation in the first place. It is similar to a surgeon using a scalpel in surgery to heal you from inside out, from the specific area of the problem.
We talked about examples of this in prior addiction blogs: a pastor’s friend who would not go into a hotel room until the management had actually taken out the TV; and Shashi’s high school Bible study leader who had to quit playing professional baseball (when he became a believer) because it was the area where he failed in the anger problem he faced. We talked about how radical some of these things might sound, but to these believers, it was part of acknowledging how vulnerable they were to their temptations. Ultimately, the actions you put down in the Overcoming Temptations Plan are between you, the Lord, and those who come alongside you to help in your struggle with addiction. Some of these actions may fall into the category of put-offs, while others may be put-ons. Just remember that the put-ons are especially important, and there are some examples of those in the sample VOFP in the Self-Confrontation Student Workbook. But to give you some example ideas of actions that could apply in certain circumstances, consider the following:
- If it involves anger at another person such as a family member or co-worker: Make a list of ways to bless the family member or co-worker with whom you are tempted to be angry, and look for opportunities to bless him or her, using Romans 12:9-21 as a guideline.
- If it involves abuse of prescription medications: Have a family member monitor the medications for you and to take those meds out of your own control.
- If it involves alcohol abuse: Keeping absolutely no alcoholic beverages in your home.
- If it involves certain foods: make arrangements with the family not to bring that food home from the grocery store.
- If it involves pornography: Moving the computer to a room where it is always visible for others to see what you are watching. Or if you live alone, work with a friend to put controls on what you can watch.
- Set self-imposed time limits for video games (and for some people that might be zero)
- Unsubscribe from any TV channels that are likely to have sexually oriented programming
- For almost any addictive behavior, making arrangements for family members to track you any time of day or night with GPS.
- Never go to places where you might be with a person you are wrongly attracted to, and certainly never be alone with that person.
Wherever there have been addictions, there have also usually been broken relationships. The VOFP provides biblical guidance elsewhere on forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as ways to simply grow in your walk with the Lord. Also related to the Overcoming Temptations Plan is a plan to live righteously in our daily practices of life (Worksheet 4 of the VOFP). Some of the principles and examples provided above may be ones you will find even more pertinent for the Daily Practices Plan. Suffice it to say that the reason we usually fall to temptation is because we are thinking about ourselves and not about loving God and others. So for all these situations, ask the Lord for wisdom in how you can bless those around you. It’s amazing how much trouble (and grief for others) you can avoid by following Jesus’ example of not "coming to be served but to serve" (Matthew 20:28).
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