24 Hours with a Christian Alcoholic: A Prison Letter

Something I have learned along the way, I am compelled to share with you for the edification of Christ’s Body.  I am an alcoholic.  I know, that sounds terrible doesn’t it?  True, there are a lot of negative connotations that come along with that title.  However, I, by the Grace that was bestowed upon me, do not drink any longer.  But, one of the precious truths I learned from AA was life is measured by the yardstick of 24 hours.

I remember going to a camping retreat with my church and other same-named churches from around the state and arriving late for the affair.  Because the campground was packed, I ended up below the main campground with the other late arrivals.  The group that I camped with was comprised of all very young men (say 19-21 years old); I, however, was 40 years young at the time.  Not a big deal at all, I have two sons about their same age!  As you probably know, in a Christian walk, nothing is by chance.  The weekend was an incredible blessing that I cherish often in remembrance of the Truth that moved around like a big, black lab looking for someone to play with.  The Word that was poured out through the mouths of those that were anointed was life-changing to say the least.  Anyway, I remember one night in campfire devotion with my three young counter-parts, we were directed into a discussion concerning what nature of ministry God had for each of us.  One person said that they had been called into children’s ministry; one said he had been called into worship leadership; the other wasn’t quite sure yet.  When it came around to me, I’m sure they expected a 40 year old man to be firmly entrenched in some type of ministry.  But alas, that was not the case.  You have to realize, I was about a year or so sober.  That is not a bad thing, but in alcoholic years that is still a young pup!  I was an avid member of AA at the time, and rarely missed my daily meetings.  If you are not familiar with the program, let me share a little information.  Meetings are not a group of drunks sitting around being sad.  It is very much like a little church!  Except, you have to leave all pretenses at the door, and the price of admission is complete honesty.  Imagine if we had koinonia where we sat around and laid our lives out to each other with complete honesty, minus the fear of being judged!  What fellowship that is.  When we confess our sins to each other, it is more liberating than I can explain, and unless you have experienced such brutal honesty and outpouring of love, you are definitely missing out.  So anyway, this mentality of the AA process brought me to the response of what God had called me to do at that time:  live 24 hours at a time.  That was my response.  I was being honest.  What God had planned for me rests right here in this exact moment of time.  Well, this really caught the guys off-guard, and they asked me to explain what I meant.

In simple terms, the principle beckons us to focus on today and today only.  With alcoholics, every day takes on a life of its own:  that’s why you will hear them say that they have been sober for 43 days or 4 1/2 months, etc.  Each day is a celebration of a release from bondage!  And what we set our mind on is simple:  I am free today from alcoholism (addiction, pornography, just insert any sin here) and I rejoice that I have been given another day to do the right thing as a free person.  We don’t know about tomorrow, and we sure can’t dwell on the past; but today, I am free!  When a person is in the grips of any type of sin, we know the wages of sin is death.  For we know this is a spiritual death and could ultimately be our mortal death.  The problem of being a Christian and in the grips of sin is especially agonizing.  You can feel your spirit and your heart slipping away, day-by-day.  You don’t wake up one morning and decide that you are an alcoholic (you may wake up and admit it though).  If you are honest with yourself, you have watched yourself deteriorate daily; and eventually, you drink to forget what’s right in front of your mirror.  When the cycle of death has been taken from you, and I do mean taken, you cannot help but be thankful.  As a Christian, the shame and guilt of being so lost in sin makes us feel unworthy to even approach God.  It is a nasty cycle.  Meeting every day or every other day, whatever the case may be, gives us a chance to celebrate together and help others who see our happiness.  You can’t keep what you don’t give away.  People who are suffering want to see what you have as hope for what they could have; if your light isn’t shining, you are still in some type of bondage.

The young men listened as I laid it out as best I could.  I felt awkward and thought, surely, these guys will think I’m some kind of loser.  I was wrong, as usual.  They were inspired to respond by saying that that was a powerful perspective.  But the conversation progressed to each person’s current bondage in sin.  Oops, where are we going now?  The young men each expressed sin in their life that was putting them in fear for their relationship with God.  Not surprisingly, the major theme was internet pornography.  You know, I heard that a lot that weekend; it was even lifted up in prayer after one of the sermons.  I’m sure the Lord got an earful enough that weekend about internet pornography, to ban Satan from these particular children for good!  I believe in the power of group prayer so much that I can say in boldness that those boys are delivered from their bondage and moving forward with the task at hand.  Anyway, they asked for my input on the matter, and my reply was simple:  go one day without looking at pornography.  You can be free today.  We don’t worry about tomorrow; tomorrow may never come, but you control your decisions today.  When you wake up on day two, go one more day without pornography.  Every day, start the same way in prayer and ask God to free you from bondage.  Skip prayer, and you skip your power to defend yourself.  Just that simple.  So I went from being self conscious, to an alcoholic sage!  God is awesome.

What does all this teach us about not worrying?  You’re going to love this; ready to be humbled?  If not, please save yourself the agony and stop reading.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we see the perfect example of how simple Truth can grow into a whole system of life.  Many have used the Lord’s Prayer and expounded upon it; all glorious teachings and I love reading other Christians’ perspective on this scripture.  I am going to focus on one part of the prayer that normally gets read or spoken so quickly, that it leaves only a trace of impression like a shooting star out of the corner of your eye.  “Give us this day, our daily bread”.  What does that really mean and what are the implications?  It doesn’t say, “Give us this week, our weekly bread” or “Give us this month, our monthly bread”.  The Bible is an amazingly powerful source from God:  in that, a lot of times, we have to at least consider what it doesn’t say as opposed to always trying to understand the direct meaning.  For example, once I struggled with what pride really was, but I couldn’t hear the Lord’s definition until he showed me what pride wasn’t.  There are many explanations of how to be humble, but you are hard-pressed to find any definitions of what pride is!  It’s almost like we all know what pride is just by being human and God contrasts this with what it is like to be holy and humble.  The same applies here.  Jesus said to pray this way.  What way?  The word-for-word version, or could He have meant praying in spirit, based on these guidelines?  I think the later; because, if it were from memory or repetition, we would be in danger of reciting religious rote.  Taken in the light of a spiritual life, the implications are astounding.

The Lord’s work is daily, in the present, in your heart, as a way of life.  There are too many examples I could give you, but I won’t bore you with what you already know.  Our King warned us not to worry; He didn’t suggest that we not worry.  “Do not…” is pretty self-explanatory.  Remember, we see this phrase in English and have no choice but to recognize the flippant nature of something that reverberates like, “Oh, don’t worry about it”.  Jesus is not meaning it lightly; He means it simply as do not do it!  Why?  Isn’t it human to be concerned about responsibilities, cares, bills to pay and mouths to feed?  Why, if we don’t concern ourselves about these things, the children could starve!  We could lose our home!  We could be taken off to jail!  Now what good is that?  There is a huge difference between being a good steward and taking care of your loved ones and responsibilities, as compared and contrasted to worrying about those same things.  Worry is anxiety; anxiety is born out of fear.  Fear not good.   The phrase “fear not” is salted through Christ’s ministry as He bestows peace to those who believe.

Imagine if you will, Peter’s life.  Before Christ parted from him at the ascension, He told Peter how he would die.  Nice. Thanks buddy.  Why did Christ put this seed in Peter’s heart; was that really necessary?  I praise God that He did; and here is why:  Can you imagine living every day of your life knowing beyond any shadow of a doubt that you would be beaten, cursed, mocked, jailed, and eventually crucified upside down?  How could you possibly focus on anything else?  It would keep you up at night, greet you every morning, eat with you at every meal, and be on your heart at all times, distract you when you are trying to pray, unless…

Unless you obey your King’s request that you live in the spirit through His Spirit.  You see, the reality of following the Messiah, is unreal.  We can’t know this great mystery with our souls, with our minds and bodies.  We have to willingly come to the source and live not by bread and water alone, but by “every Word that proceeds from His mouth” and by drinking “living water”.  How on earth is this type of existence possible?  You pray, “Give me this day, my daily dose of Your Word and Your living waters”.  You can conquer and be victorious daily.  It is impossible to live spiritually any other way if you follow what Jesus tells us to do.  So if you are a listener to the Word, but not a doer, then you know the consequences.  We are called to daily supplication for our own good!  You cannot have victory without your daily dose of Truth.  Is that so hard to do?  Ask any recovering alcoholic how hard it is.  Damn hard!  But, alas, it gets progressively easier if you follow the suggestion of your all-knowing, all-powerful King.  One thing that really gets me going (and I mean I’m just as bad as anyone) is we, as Christians, live sometimes like “we got this”.  We sometimes see the Bible as a book of suggestions on how to live a productive, peaceful life.  Bull crap!  The only productivity, real productivity, is the work that is done to further God’s kingdom.  Again, He told us what His ultimate goal was.  And what about this peaceful business?  Walk into an establishment and start sharing the gospel, and see how peaceful it becomes!  Have we lost the immediacy of our calling?  Are we so selfish and self-centered that we are ashamed of His name?  Don’t do that; we don’t want Him to be ashamed of us when we stand before Him in His glory.  Jesus Christ’s clear message is this: that we daily ask for our daily sustenance as spiritual forces of light; without it, we have no chance.  Otherwise, He would have said weekly, monthly, or some other measure of time.  Is it clearing up a bit now?  Your God is spirit, His image in you is spirit, and He wants to be praised, blessed, and prayed to, all in the spirit!  That is impossible unless you bring yourself daily into His sweet submission and be yoked with Him.  So you can be protected, be productive, be joyous, be peaceful, be holy, and to most of all be of use to Him.

If we are worried or anxious, aren’t we admitting fear?  How many times does the Lord tell us to “fear not”?  Why can we not see the solution to fear?  We can’t see it with our eyes; we have to see it through the eyes of our hearts in spirit and in truth.  If you wake up in the morning and not take the time to “charge your spiritual batteries”, there is no doubt that the liar and the thief will be waiting for you, and he is very clever!  It’s raining outside; bring your rain gear, unless you want to get wet.  A true disciple of Christ has to wear his full armor every day, not sometimes and not every now and again.

It is the ultimate in selfishness to worry.  Why?  Because you are focused on yourself.  Focus on self is not a good thing; it never has been and it never will be.  Everything that Christ teaches pushes us away from ourselves and puts the focus on Him.  Him!  How awesome is our King that He promises that if you will do this one thing (put Him first in your life) that He’s got your back?  So simple and yet so profound, don’t you think?  It’s like a type of Heavenly magic; a supernatural state of knowing that God keeps His word.  Want more faith?  Follow the directions.  Want to be happy?  Follow the directions.  Want to live without fear?  Again, follow the directions.  We cannot complain about what is or what is to possibly be or how unfair life is because we are too focused on His peace.  Jesus is a full-time job.  I pray we are all up to the challenge of living 24 hours per day with the King at our side.  Muslims pray 7 times a day, like clockwork.  Other religions have rigorous regimens of duty.  Are we so free that we forget to pray every morning to at least remind us that He is in control?  If you want to be in control, be my guest; you can have it.  I don’t; I’ve lived long enough in bondage!  What power He has appropriated for us, and we look at that power as an option or a suggestion?  And then we want to complain about how hard it is?  Seriously, how pitiful are we; we are called to be soldiers for the most honorable and perfect cause, and wander into battle daily with nothing more than the promise to eventually go to heaven.  That’s sad.  Let’s not walk with the Almighty God if we can’t follow His orders.  We need to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” and make it a daily habit to learn how to live today in Christ.  The solution to worry is easy; hope we don’t take it for granted.  The Devil hopes we do!  Told you it was humbling…

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