Tuesday, August 23, 2016

THE POWER OF PERFECT FAITH

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!
Mark 9:23,24 NLT


“When I was driven to my knees by alcohol, I was ready to ask for the gift of faith. And all was changed. Never again, my pains and problems notwithstanding, would I experience my former desolation. I saw the universe to be lighted by God’s love; I was alone no more.
-Bill Wilson founder of Alcoholics Anonymous

The Power of Imperfect Faith

Coming to believe that we can be restored to sanity is an expression of faith. Faith, which is often confused with religious tradition, is more of a trust and confidence than anything else. Faith is more personal than religious, although faith may be a part of one’s religious convictions. Whereas many of us have previously experienced religion as a controlling set of rules that masquerade as belief, faith is more of a fundamental confidence that leads to effective life giving action. Religion is doing things in an attempt to make ourselves right. Faith is believing that God is making us right and this leads us to doing what is right. This is not to say that faith doesn’t play a necessary role in religion because it does. Religious people of all kinds express their faith in ways that help keep them mentally and emotionally balanced. The ways that healthy people, religious or not, live out their faith are lessons that are essential for us to learn as recovering addicts.

Faith is a trust; a trust and confidence that can be known as a deep abiding conviction of the heart and the mind. A deep abiding conviction of faith is the foundation of a healthy and happy life. It integrates the heart and the mind. Faith that is real is the abiding belief that God can and will do for us in our recovery what we have been unable to do on our own, no matter how hard we tried. Faith is a reaching out, an opening of the mind and the heart to possibilities that we had ignored or opportunities that we had refused in the past. In faith we trust in God and we trust in the people that God brings into our lives who can help us in our recovery. In faith we come to believe that God will provide all that we need to recover and that our responsibility is to simply supply the honesty, the openness and the willingness to do the work of recovery. In faith, God provides everything that we need to recover. In faith we know that if He doesn’t provide something that we think we need, we accept that we don’t really need it after all.

Real faith is honest and in touch with reality. It never defies the facts. Our friend that we read about in Mark 9, verses 22 and 23, gives an honest expression of his heart and his mind. On the one hand he cries out desperately, hoping for help for his son and at the same time expressing the weakness of his faith. He seems to be torn but really he’s just being human. Jesus recognized that amidst his struggling expression of faith he was really expressing a faithful struggle of hope and belief. Jesus knows that our honest faith is never without doubt. From this story we can learn to have faith in God’s empathetic care. We can have faith that Jesus, who the Bible says is God in human form, understands what it means to be human. He understands the struggle of faith, the faithful struggle to believe that God will connect to our weak faith all the power and resources necessary to accomplish His healing love and care in our lives. Our friend in this story seems to understand this, and it is necessary for us to understand this as well.

In Step 2, we are putting our faith in God and not in ourselves, which would lead us back to our addictions. Nor is our faith in our own faith which is nothing more than wishful thinking and superstition. In Step 2 we just believe, as faithfully as we can, that God will come through for us. It’s really very simple. A weak faith that trusts in a loving and powerful God is more than sufficient to meet any of the demands that we will face in our recovery. And, as we struggle faithfully to believe in God’s care and love we can know from this Scriptural record that Jesus will carefully give us all that we need just as he did for our friend in the scripture. Our faith doesn’t need to be perfect because our faith is in God. He takes care of the rest.


Monday, July 18, 2016

BE STILL, BE QUIET, LISTEN

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. John 4:14, The Message

For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Psalm 107:9, NLT


"Let therefore our chiefest endeavor be, to meditate upon the life of Christ."
- Thomas a Kempis

Be Still, Be Quiet, Listen

Relationships are a two-way street. We need to share what we think and feel with others and we need to be good listeners, too, if we want successful relationships with those we care about. Our relationship with God is no different. He listens to what we say and we need to listen for what He has to say to us.

Meditation is a practice that is committed to hearing God’s voice and understanding the directions He gives us. We have worked very hard in our recovery, but meditation will be different from the work we have done so far. This is because meditation is not about doing anything; it is about quietness of mind, relaxation of body and openness of heart.

Meditation is the flip side of prayer. It completes the dialogue that takes place between God and us. We speak when we pray, but we listen when we meditate. In fact, prayer without listening to God is probably not healthy for us. Our prayers become very self-centered if we don’t listen to what God has to say. Very often the best thing we can do for our spiritual growth is to stop. Stop working. Stop playing. Stop everything. Be still. Be quiet. Listen. We should set all our distractions aside so we can make time and space in our minds and our hearts for God alone, so we can listen for how He comes close to us in the time and space we create for Him. As we do this, He will reorganize our wants and our worries in ways that are healthier for us and more useful for His purposes. God speaks to us not because of our special abilities, but because we are listening, wanting to hear what He has to say to us. Actually, He is always speaking to us. But it’s only when we listen that our ears will tune into what He is saying.

Learning to listen to God is simple but, just like learning other things, it takes some practice. We learn to meditate by meditating. We start, get distracted, start again, get distracted and then start again. With time we learn to become more capable of hearing and discerning the voice of God. This is not effort like most of us think about effort because it takes nothing from us. We just open ourselves up like we would open our hand to accept a gift. It’s like going outside when it’s raining if we want to get wet. It is the simplest of all things we do. It’s like enjoying music which requires no physical effort on our part. Listening requires only the intention and desire to accept the sound that someone else makes. It’s natural; like a mother’s intuitive ear that is tuned to the slightest sound her sleeping child makes. Meditation - listening for the sound of God - is a filling of our heart and mind with God’s heart and mind. It gives us a deepening friendship with Jesus because Jesus appreciates us listening to Him like any friend of ours would appreciate it when we listen to them. And as we listen – meditate that is – we can expect God to speak to us at the spiritual level.

Our imaginations will run freely as we meditate, like a child’s does. This is a good thing because God gives us imagination for a purpose and while our addictions deaden our capacity for creative thinking, meditation enlarges our capacity for creativity. Listening for God opens us up to the wonderful world of possibilities and goal setting. We will believe all sorts of wonderful ways that God will reveal Himself to us, change us, restore us and use us. But there is one thing we must never lose sight of. God has no obligation to serve us. He has committed Himself to love and care for us eternally, but He is not obligated in anyway to give us everything we think we should have. We must not allow meditation to become a breeding ground for selfishness and self-centeredness, which are most dangerous when they take on a religious tone. Guard against self-deception. If we are serious about walking with God, we will prefer obedience over comfort and blessing.

The discipline of meditation helps to balance our minds and our emotions and the best way to make the most of our commitment to this discipline is to meditate on Scripture. God gives us His Word to help us build a well-balanced point of view. The Bible is the most obvious and consistent way that He speaks to us. It is the grounding rod of everything we do in our walk with God. Making Scripture a daily part of our lives keeps our disciplines of prayer and meditation centered on God and His will for our lives. Without a consistent dose of Scripture we will never have a strong walk with God. And, no matter how much we study the Bible, our disciplines will be ineffective if we do not have the foundation of deep personal humility which comes from brokenness. Humility helps give us a balanced view of God’s word. And we have to have a balanced understanding of Scripture in order to have a balanced perspective about our lives.

The purpose of Scripture is to reveal God to us, not to give us knowledge. Just learning facts about God and Christian history really doesn’t do us a whole lot of good. This doesn’t mean that facts aren’t important because they are. They give us reference and context to help us better understand the compassion that God has for all people. Our goal in studying the Bible makes all the difference. Do we want to increase our knowledge about God or do we want to increase our closeness with God? This is the profound question that is always before us.

For you see, the Bible is more than just a history book. It contains the breath and life of God. Our commitment to meditate on Scripture opens us up to inhale the breath of God. This will transform us. The love, the friendship, the instruction, and the eternal message of compassion that are in Scripture will move off the pages of the Bible and into us. We should think of Scripture in the same way that a man who’s dying of thirst would think about water. We should want it like someone who is starving would want a pizza. We want to drink it, eat it, consume it. We want to get Scripture into us so that it can nourish us, strengthen us and make us healthy and strong. Taking God’s Word into us will teach us to listen intently, to speak softly, and to live powerfully.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

RECOVERY IS A GIFT, BUT IT IS NOT FREE

We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23, 24, NIV

Our privileges can be no greater than our obligations. The protection of our rights can endure no longer than the performance of our responsibilities.
- John F. Kennedy

Recovery is a Gift, But it is Not Free

The kind of work that we do in our recovery program helps us to better recognize the work of God in our lives. We can now begin to see that we have been made for supernatural purposes and that it is possible for us to fulfill the destiny that God has planned for us.

God created us with a plan. He has divine purposes in mind. As we prepare ourselves to make amends, God is preparing us to pass on to others some of the goodness that He has given us. Our life, addiction and recovery is all part of God’s plan. He is the master creator who specializes in bringing goodness out of tragedy. This is what our Step Eight recovery work is all about – turning bad into good. It is all about the turning of bad into good. We are now ready to begin directing goodness into the lives of others whereas before it had been directed into our own lives. Our personality, our talent and our charm will never be enough to do this. We will have to have God’s help and He will be sure to give it to us. Our friends and loved ones need a love that is not based on who we are. They need a love that is based on who it is that we are created for. Any attempts that we make by our own power alone, no matter how great, sincere or committed will inevitably become little more than co-dependency without the connection of real love, which only comes from God.

The power to love and live well is a gift from God and it comes with profound. spiritual and social responsibilities. God provides the power but we are totally involved; the part we play is indispensable. Our place in the universe begins to make sense as we begin to figure this out. As we develop authentic, God-centered relationships, we become whole and well-balanced human beings that are able to live out our responsibilities and fully enjoy the pleasure of giving and receiving.

Our job and responsibility at this point in time is to make a list of the people whom we have hurt. There are no excuses. No ifs, ands, or buts. Excuses, procrastination and delay for any reason are understandable, but unacceptable. Excuses stop our recovery dead in its tracks. There is no reason to delay.

List names of people we have harmed.


Monday, June 27, 2016

REACHING OUT FOR HEALING

We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent." Luke 5:31,32 NLT

“Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness… . Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is though a voice were saying: ‘You are accepted.’” -Paul Tillich

Reaching Out for Healing

It is not likely that anyone will visit a doctor when he is healthy. It’s only the weak and suffering who need a doctor’s care. In the past we have denied the sickness and suffering in our lives but in Step 1 we admitted our problems and we accepted the fact that we could not manage our lives on our own. After all, it’s been the pain from our addictions that’s motivated us to get help. Furthermore, we have to be honest with others if we really want to recover. We must honestly admit our problems in order to get the help that will help us to change. Only a crazy person would go to a doctor and then not be honest about what he really needed.

God is the Great Physician, the One who will ultimately heal us from our addictions. In Scripture we have a historical record of how God has healed the sick and suffering through the person and life of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God never turned away from those in need. When people in pain came to God with their hopeful sincerity he always responded by healing them. Jesus, in giving God’s grace, not only cured the outer illnesses, He healed internal illnesses as well. The healing that Jesus offered to others helps us to understand that we are loved and accepted by God, and that his love and acceptance is available to us even before we knew that we needed it. As God heals us internally, spiritually we receive an empowerment that helps us to heal emotionally and psychologically. Spiritual health and psychological health go hand in hand. This hand in hand kind of health is the unifying, integrating work of grace.

Today God continues to work through human beings. Just as Jesus heals us for eternity, there are people who can help heal us in our day-to-day lives. In order for us to recover from our addictions, it is necessary for us to seek out and accept help from various God-given resources like medical doctors, mental health professionals and recovery support groups. These people and organizations are the most common ways that God help us recover from our addictions. They are to us on a day to day level what Jesus is to us on the eternal and spiritual level. As God through Jesus heals us internally, these people help us to see the acceptance of God and His love and healing become a reality in our lives every day. Remember, no one recovers alone.

OUR JOURNEY HOME
Insights and Inspirations for Christian Twelve Step Recovery
Copyright David Zailer, 2011