Summary: a sermon that goes along with our Celebrate recovery ministry, covering the different steps.
Mark 14:38 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
We’ve been talking the last seven weeks about coming out of the dark, exposing our problems to the light of God’s love, and watching Him heal those habits, those hurts, and those hang-ups that mess up our lives. We’ve been in this series on the Road to recovery for seven weeks, and many of you are seeing some great changes in your life. We Praise God for being a life Changer… Amen?
But today I want to talk about how do you maintain your recovery? How do you not lose the progress you are making in your Christian life?
The fact is, growth is not smooth. The Road to Recovery is jagged. It’s two steps forward, one step back. It isn’t all easy. You have problems, you fall back into self-defeating patterns. That’s called relapse. The alcoholic goes back to drinking. The overeater gains the weight back. The gambler goes back to the casino. The workaholic fills up his schedule again. We tend to repeat the patterns of our past. It’s very easy to slip back. It’s easy to slip back into old hurts, old habits, and old hang-ups.
Today I want to look at what causes a relapse and then the maintenance step, which is Step 7 on the Road to Recovery, on how to avoid a relapse.
First, I want you to understand that relapses happen in a very predictable pattern.
First is complacency. You start getting comfortable with short-term gains. You start saying, “I don’t need any more help, my pain has been reduced, not eliminated but reduced, but I can live with reduced pain.
The second is confusion. That’s when you start rationalizing, saying, “Maybe it wasn’t really so bad after all, the problem really wasn’t that bad, I can handle it myself.” You start forgetting how bad it was.
Then you go to compromise. You go back to the place of temptation. You return to the risky situation that got you in trouble in the first place, whether it’s the bar, or the mall, or thirty-one flavors, or whatever. You go back to that place. Like the gambler who says, “Let’s go to Vegas, we’ll just see the shows.” You start compromising.
The catastrophe is where you give in to the old habit, old hurt, and the hate comes back, or the resentment comes back, or the old hang-up. You need to understand that the collapse is not the relapse. The catastrophe is not when the relapse happens; it started much earlier. The catastrophe is simply the result of the pattern that happened.
Why do we fall back? Why do we, even when we know which way to go, when we know the right thing, why do we tend to go back on what we know is the right?
I. WHAT CAN CAUSE A RELAPSE?
1. Reverting to willpower.
Galatians 3:3: “How can you be so foolish? You began by God’s spirit, do you now want to finish on your own power?” You start off trusting God, and Step 1 is I’m powerless to change, but Step 2 is God has the power, Step 3 is I’m giving it to God.
And you let God make those changes in your life, but after a while you start thinking, “It’s me that’s doing this, I’m making the changes. It’s my power.” And you resort to good old willpower and that doesn’t work. You have a few successes and suddenly think you’re all powerful, all knowing and can handle everything.
It’s like the middle-aged lady that went to New York and went up to the twenty-third floor of an apartment, knocked on the door, a beautiful young lady opened the door, incense wafting out, music playing, and she’s wearing a sarong or a sari, she’s clapping little bells and she said, “Are you here to see the great Bagone? The one who knows all, sees all, tells all, understands everything, is in ultimate control?” She said “Yes, tell Sheldon his mother is here.” We all need somebody to tell us when we’re Sheldon. We all need someone to say, “Who are you kidding?” The Only one we kid is ourselves.
And God will let you relapse and relapse and relapse until you realize you can’t do it on your own. He’ll just let you fall, one hundred, two hundred, three hundred times till you say, “God, I can’t do it. Zechariah 4:6: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit says the Lord. You will succeed because of My Spirit.” Only God has the power to take away those defects. If you go back to will power you’re going to relapse. If you’re thinking, “I’ll just try harder,” forget it.