I had worked in poverty ministry for a long time. I have seen many people rise out of the despair and bondage of a life filled with drugs, alcohol, and financial destruction. I was a grueling time filled with joy and many time, despair. The despair was linked to watching people refuse to accept the basics of healthy living and, most importantly, refusing the freedom of Christ into their lives. Today, I want to begin walking through some of the reasons that people would not make the change in life. This will be a series of articles that may take some stigma away from our thinking and how we can support and challenge hurting people with the truth of the Scripture.
I was leading a group of addicts in a study of the book Walking the 12 Steps With Jesus Christ. (Ray Geisel) The third step, as with all 12 step support groups, is to surrender your life and will over to God as you understand Him. This, in my opinion, is the most crucial step in the process and the one that gets skipped the most often. I was teaching on the decision to be free completely from the bondage of sin and as they walked in the new freedom, they could finally break the bondage of addiction. A man that had been an addict told the group that change was not possible because he had been told for years in AA that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. First we discussed why he spent years in AA and was still using. It stemed from the fact that while he wanted to quit, he felt that since he was always going to be an alcoholic, he never saw anything else. It is a common belief in addiction circles. This may also be why AA can only tout a 50% success rate in their Big Book, with National Addiction Centers studies stating that of that rate, only 27% are sober for more than a year. (nationaladdictioncenters.org) This is not just an addiction issue. Although many in homeless shelters and Rescue Missions are addicted, as a former director and case manager, the idea that what a person believes, or refuses to believe, has an effect on their movement out of poverty. A false belief is normally taught directly, such as the AA teaching of once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, or it is indirectly taught. Indirect teachings are as simple as T.V. ads for quick cash loans. The commercials are stated that if you need cash now, just come in and get a $1500.00 signature loan with easy payments. The problem is that payments may be $200.00 per week or more. The deep issue here is belief. If someone believes that they are always going to be an addict, they will always have a crutch for relapse. Those that rely on the payday loan believe that this line of credit will keep them out of financial trouble, for a period of time will always be a slave to financial struggles.
Please understand, these two examples are given as that, examples. The idea of false beliefs leading actions, attitudes, and thoughts something every person suffers from in a variety of settings. Proverbs 23: begins with: “For as a man thinks in his heart, so he is…….” A belief defines us, it drives us, and it determines how we respond to the world around us. If someone believes in their heart that children are neither male or female, they will say that they are raising a gender fluid child. If a person believes that they are always going to be an addict, they will always be an addict. The model of many groups, churches included, is that if you just stop doing certain activities, you will be transformed. This is nonsense. Romans 12:2 says to not be conformed in the patterns of the world, but be transformed.….in the renewing of your mind. (emphasis mine) What renews the mind? It is not the wisdom of men, but the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a person. The change factor is the belief of something new, and then training the mind through that new capability. The Holy Spirit is only available to people that have a new belief. A belief that Jesus paid the price for their sin on the cross and He was raised from the dead as the Living God (LORD). This new belief brings with it the Spirit og God to dwell in a new creation. It then allows the mind to be open to the truth of the Scriptures for training in righteousness, or right standing, and a new fellowship with God. Only then can a person have the ability to be transformed in their mind. The patterns of the world say that we will always be a…..fill in the blank. It will always tell us that if we would use this service, or buy this, or use this chemical, we can find peace, happiness, good friends, have a better life, but the Word of God tells us:
‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10
When we help the addicted and the poor realize that their circumstances and decisions are based on faulty beliefs, we have open doors to share the hope that is in Christ Jesus with them. I do not know how the man in that class is doing today. All I know is that on that day, when I showed him that Jesus is the answer to being free from being called an addict, he lit up and said he was recommitting himself to the teaching of Jesus. We talked afterward about having to break the physical addiction, which was going to be hard, but to remember that God would surely hep him if was serious about the renewal of his mind. So it is with all of us.