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Road to Recovery #2 - “Where to Get Help when You Hurt”

Adapted from Rick Warren, Celebrate Recovery
Mar.3/13 Ps.103:8-14; Heb.11:5-7

A reporter went out to cover the story in an area where there had been some extreme flooding. When he arrived, he noticed a woman sitting on the roof of her house as things were floating by. The reporter climbed up on the roof and the first thing he saw was a chicken coop floating by, then he saw a horse, then he saw a VW bug floating by. Then after a few minutes he saw a hat float by, but after it got about twenty feet past the house the hat started floating back upstream. Then it got about twenty feet on the other side of the house it started floating back down again. He watched this seven or eight times and finally he asked, “Ma’am, do you have any idea what that hat is?” She said, “That’s just my crazy husband. He said he was going to mow the lawn come hell or high water.”
    The problem we have today is that a lot of us are still focussing on the lawn, while the home is floating downstream!
    Last week we noted that all of us need recovery because none of us is perfect. The world is imperfect, we’ve all been hurt, we all have hang-ups, we all have habits we’d like to change. Everybody needs recovery. The steps are the same regardless of what your problem is, whether it’s a hurt, a hang-up, or a habit. We noted that the root cause of all this is my desire is to control things. The more insecure you are, the more you want to control things: you want to control your life, you want to control other people’s lives, control your environment – in short, You want to be God. You want to be at the centre of your universe. When we try to control everything it ends up with fatigue, frustration, and failure.
    How do you break out of that?
    You have to get past denial. Denial is what keeps us from moving into recovery. We excuse ourselves: “Really, it’s no problem…Really, I’m fine…It’s not a problem, I can handle it.” We excuse ourselves and we accuse others: “If my wife would just get her act together, then our marriage would be just fine.” And we play the blame game; and we’re very shortsighted. Someone asks, “How you doing?” And we bluff and reply, “Well, I’m good, so far, under the circumstances…So far, so good.” Newsflash: You just jumped off a building and are halfway down, you haven’t hit bottom yet! So denial keeps up appearances but makes things worse in the long run.
    What’s the antidote to denial? What will make me finally face up to my problems? God’s antidote for denial is pain. We rarely change when we see the light; we change when we feel the heat. We don’t change until our fear of change is exceeded by the pain. Most people never really move into recovery until they’re forced to move into it because there is no other option.  God uses three denial busters, things to get your attention, to draw you to move into recovery from things that have messed up your life.
1) Crisis: Illness, stress, lose your job.
2) Confrontation: Somebody cares enough to say, “You’re blowing it.” Somebody loves you enough to confront you in truth and love and say, “You’re missing out.You’re about to lose your family - your health - your job.” Somebody confronts you. An old saying in Texas: “If somebody calls you a horse’s rear, ignore it. If two people call you a horse’s rear, look in the mirror. If three people call you a horse’s rear, you’d better go out and buy yourself a saddle.” If three people call you a workaholic—buy a saddle. If three people call you an alcoholic—buy a saddle. If three people say you need to get some help—buy a saddle. Pain is like a fire alarm. It goes off, warning you something is wrong in your life. If you had a fire alarm go off in your house, what would you do? Well, apart from those times when the oven’s on and an old spill is smoking, and you go and wave a cookie sheet at the alarm until it stops! But say it’s the middle of the night and the alarm goes off – would you say, “Oh, that stupid fire alarm!” and take the battery out and go back to bed? No, you would do something about it, you’d go find out what set it off. But often in our life when we hear the fire alarm of pain, instead of looking for the source and dealing with it, we just try to cover up the sound. We cover it up with food, alcohol, sex - many  different things. But it doesn’t deal with it. God’s trying to use these alarms to get our attention.
3) Catastrophe: I hope God doesn’t have to use that in your life. When the bottom falls out, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally—when the bottom falls out and you hit bottom, what often happens is that He steps back and lets us feel the full impact of our own stupid decisions. “You want to be God? OK, but here’s a taste of what it’s like without Me shielding you.” And He’ll just step back, remove His protective hedge, and let you be god. And then you reap what you sow, and you feel the full impact that causes a catastrophe in your life.
    We said last week that the first step in recovery is to REALIZE I’M NOT GOD, and ADMIT I’M POWERLESS TO CONTROL MY TENDENCY TO DO THE WRONG THING AND admit MY LIFE IS UNMANAGEABLE. That’s the first step, the reality step.
    The second step is what we call the HOPE step. Step 1 says, “I admit it.I’m helpless.I’m powerless.” Step 2 says, “There is a power.(That’s the good news.)There is a power you can plug into to handle things that you can’t handle on your own.”


This second step is based on Hebrews 11:6 - “Anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” There are three parts to taking Step 2 in this road to recovery.


Most of you have no problem in this. There aren’t that many atheists left anymore. Reginald Bibby in a 2005 study of Canadians found just 7% did not believe in God. In the United States, there are fewer atheists now that there were 50 years ago. Why? Because we know more about the universe today than we did fifty years ago. The more scientific discoveries we have, the more we find out about cosmology and the origins of the universe, fewer people are willing to stick their neck out and say, “I believe it all just happened by random accident.” Now we have computers that are able to compute the odds of all these things just happening in place; information science comes alongside to help us calculate how infinitesimal would be the odds of the highly complex structure of even a simple protein essential to life happening without design, so very few people say, “I believe it happened by random accident.” Today it takes more faith not to believe in a Creator than it does to believe in one! You could take a watch completely apart, put it in a paper bag and shake it up, and for it all to come out exactly as a watch, the odds would be pretty incredible. But the world is full of watches! (Biologically speaking) And if you multiply that times a zillion…multiply out of sight the odds of it all just happening. Where there is a Creation there has to be a Creator. Where there is an effect there must be a cause. Where there is design there must be a Designer. The origins of time and nature have to be timeless and supernatural – otherwise you’re stuck with a circular fallacy, assuming your conclusion from the start.
    The more we know about the universe, the more we are convinced that there is a Creator. Acknowledge His existence. Romans 1:20 “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power, and his divine nature have been clearly seen.” Ps.19 “The heavens declare the glory of God.” In fact, the Bible says it’s foolish not to believe in God - Ps.14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Irrational, illogical not to believe in God. If you have problems with that, check out Kirk Durston’s website sqyblu.com which has evidence for the existence of God. The point is, God changes lives today; God exists.
    The real issue for most is not, “Is there a God?” That’s a given for most people. The real issue, “What kind of God is He? What’s He really like?” The problem is, we have some very strange ideas about what God is like. A lot of us get our ideas about God by thinking He’s like a parent, our father or mother. That’s dangerous, because our parents weren’t perfect: if your father was aloof and unloving, had a hard time showing affection (like a lot in my parents’ generation) then you tend to think God the Father is aloof and unloving. If your parent was somebody to be feared, then you tend to think, “I need to be afraid of God.” If your father was abusive, then you tend to think God is abusive. If your parent was uncaring, then you transfer it over to God. But that’s actually a form of idolatry – instead of God making you in His image, you make God in your image.
    Every once in a while you might hear someone in the media say, “My idea about God is…” Wait a minute - who made you the authority? Just because you have a certain idea about God, does that mean it’s right? No! So if somebody creatively asserts, “I’ve always thought of God as…” - big deal. They’re probably wrong. Frankly, it matters not what you or I conceive God to be; what we need to understand is, What’s He really like?


The second step in this recovery is not just to acknowledge God’s existence, but to also understand His character. What’s He really like? Until I know what God is really like, I can’t trust Him. We’re not going to trust something or someone that we don’t know about. Fortunately God wants us to know about what He’s like. So He came to earth a couple thousand years ago in the form of a human being. He came as Jesus Christ. And the eyewitness testimony recorded in Scripture said this is what God is like. Because He revealed Himself, through “special revelation” in addition to “natural revelation” that we see around us in the stars and molecules, we can know what God is like. That’s why we celebrate Christmas and Easter - God came into the world to show us Himself, and how much He loves us.
    Colossians 1:15 “Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God.” Hebrews 1:3 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being...” Jesus said to His disciple Philip in John 14(9), “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” If you want to know what God is like just look at Jesus, because He’s the visible expression of the invisible God.
    If you read about Jesus and study His life you’ll learn a whole lot about God. Specifically three things  that we learn about God from Jesus help us get over our habits, hurts, and hang-ups:
(1) God knows all about my situation. I learn that God knows all about my situation, because He knows my habits, hurts, and hang-ups. He knows the good and bad. Some of you have had a tough week, or month, or life. Look at what the Bible says, Psalm 56(8): “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record?” Isn’t that wonderful? The Bible says that God knows you up-close and personal. He’s kept a record of your tears. Someone might think, “Nobody knows the hell I’m going through in this marriage.” You’re wrong, God does. “Nobody knows how I’m struggling to break this habit, but I can’t get it out of my mind.” God knows. “Nobody knows the depression and the fear that I’m going through.” God does. And He’s kept a record of your tears. He knows it all. Nothing escapes His notice. Psalm 31(7): “You’ve seen the crisis in my soul.” God is aware of your needs and the Bible says He knows what you need - even before you ask for it! He sees the crisis in your soul right now. Psalm 69(5): “You know how foolish I’ve been.” Sometimes we want to forget this part - we don’t want God to know all the dumb stuff we do. The fact is, there is nothing ‘off the record’ with God. You always have an audience 24 hours a day. He knows the good days, the bad days, the dumb stunts pulled, the foolish decisions, and amazingly He still loves you! The fact is, God is not shocked by your sin. If you do something wrong God doesn’t go, “Oh no, how did I miss that?” He knew it was coming, long before you did. Ps.139(3f), “You are familiar with all my ways.Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.” He even knows why you did it, what motivated you, even when you don’t know your own motivation. He’s not shocked, He’s not surprised, He’s not disappointed - He knows you.
(2) God cares about my situation. Psalm 103(4,13f): “The Lord is compassionate and gracious...abounding in love...As a father has compassion on his children...He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” God knows what we’re made of—molecules—we’re frail, we’re not super human. Tender and sympathetic - that’s the kind of God you serve, who knows you. God wants to be the Father many of you never had. Tender and sympathetic. God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jer 31:3) How can that be? How can God love me and His love never quit? He loves me on good days, bad days, when I serve Him and when I don’t, when I’m right, when I’m wrong. How does He keep on loving? Because His love is unconditional. It’s not based on your performance, like maybe your parents’ love was; it’s based on God’s character. The Bible says God is love (1Jn 4:16). And He says “I’ve loved you with an everlasting love.” He not only knows about your situation, He cares about it. “God showed His great love for us, by sending Christ to die for us” (Romans 5:8).
    Those who’ve been working the Twelve Steps know that this Step 2 is the Higher Power Step. I’d like to introduce you to your Higher Power today: His name is Jesus Christ. He, Jesus Christ, is that power you can plug into, because He knows about your situation, He cares. The best news of all: He’s got the power to change it.
(3) God can change me and my situation. That’s good news! God can change me and my situation. Sometimes He changes me, sometimes He changes the situation. Sometimes He changes both. But He’s waiting on you to do it. And He’ll supply the power. Notice Paul says in Eph 1:18f “I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great His power is to help those who believe Him”—the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
    Do you ever find yourself paralyzed by procrastination? “I know I need to do this but I just can’t get started!” Do you ever feel like “I just can’t get on top of things”? He says, “I’ve got the power.” What’s the supreme example offered here in Scripture of the power God has available to those who believe? Raising Christ from the dead and seating Him in the heavenlies far above all other power and regime! If God can raise Jesus Christ from the dead, He can raise a dead relationship. He can raise a person back to health. He can set you free from an addiction. He can help you close the door on the past so those memories stop haunting you, if you trust Him.
    Luke 18:27 “What is impossible for men is possible with God.” The Bible says nothing is too hard for God. You protest, “You don’t understand my situation.I’ve tried to change but I can’t.” Nothing is impossible with God. As Gabriel told young Mary when announcing the virgin birth, “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Lk 1:37) And that situation that seems hopeless, isn’t. There are many examples of people in the church who were in “impossible” situations and God turned them around. There are people whom some thought would never change in a million years, but they did - because of the power of God. [VIDEO EXCERPT]
    Don’t postpone dealing with it because of a lack of power on your part; power is available through our Higher Power, Jesus! The longer you postpone your pain, the further recovery gets away. The longer you deny it, postpone it, say, “It’s no problem, it’s not a big issue, I can deal with it, I can handle it,” the fewer days you have on this earth being all God meant for you to be. Some people, when they have pain that is intense because of some present problem, get stuck in the past and instead of dealing with the current problem, focus all their life on the past. They get into the “Paralysis of Analysis”, always asking, “What was wrong with me back then?!” That’s like driving a car looking in the rearview mirror all the time. A rearview mirror is helpful because it gives you perspective, and looking at your past does give you perspective, but if you only look at your past you don’t get into the present. Can you imagine driving a car where the rearview mirror was bigger than the windshield? A lot of people are like that. They’re stuck in the past and can’t get on with the present. As John Regier says, just telling your damage-story over and over to secular counsellors doesn’t heal it, it just causes it to congeal into cement. Whatever you focus on tends to repeat. If you just keep living in the past, you tend to repeat it.
    This recovery series is about spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is the process of expanding that windshield and shrinking the rearview mirror, so you can get on with the present. How do you do that? You acknowledge that God exists. You realize what He’s like; that He cares and understands, He loves you and wants to help you.


It’s not enough just to believe in God. Most of you believe in God, but that hasn’t wiped away the hurt. You’ve got to plug in to the power and that’s more than just believing. Here’s what God has to offer: Phil. 2:13 “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” God says, “Willpower on your own is not enough; good intentions are not enough.What you need is My will and My power to help you change.I will give you the willpower.” Perhaps you respond, “I don’t even know if I want to change.I’m scared to death of change.” Then you say, “God, I’m willing to be made willing. I don’t even know if I want to change.” You probably don’t until the pain exceeds your fear of change. But you say, “God make me willing to be willing to change” and then He’ll give you the will and the power to plug into Him.
    What happens when I open up my life to God’s power – when I ask God to send the Spirit of Jesus Christ into my life? What does it do? Does it turn me into some kind of religious nut? The Bible tells us exactly what happens when we invite God’s Spirit into our lives. 2Tim 1:7 “The Spirit that God gives us fills us with power, love and self-control.” That’s what I want in my life. First, I want power in my life. I want power to break habits I can’t break. I want power to do the things that I know are right to do but I can’t seem to do them on my own. I want power to break free from the past and let those memories go. I want power to get on with the kind of life God wants me to live.
    Then I want love. I want real love. I want to be able to love people and have them love me and let go of hurts so I don’t build up all these walls and have fake intimacy, but have genuine intimacy because I’m not afraid of really loving and I’m not afraid of really being loved.
    That’s the kind of power and love that God gives. Then the verse says “self-control” / self-discipline. Obviously, I want that. You want that. What’s a “disciple” without “discipline”? You’re not really in control until Christ is in control of your life, and the Master masters the circumstances of your life. And then you understand what it means to get it all together for the first time in your life because you’re not trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Power, love and self-control.
    There is a principle in the universe - simple, but profound: that principle is that things work best when plugged in. Toasters, blenders, televisions, radios - things work best when they’re plugged in, and God meant for you and me to be plugged in to Him.


“How do I plug into God’s power?” Real simple: Believe and receive. Jn 1:12 “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God...” The Greek word for “right” (exousia) can be translated power (69/103), authority, right. Power to change! First, I believe that God exists and I believe that He does know and care and have the power to help me and then I receive Him into my life— “Jesus Christ, put Your Spirit in me.” You do that by using a four-letter word. The second step of recovery involves a four-letter word, and I want to challenge you to use this four-letter word today. It takes courage to say this word: HELP. I need help. God I need Your help in my life. The Road to Recovery is not easy. It means facing up to some real problems you haven’t wanted to deal with. It means taking some risks. It means being honest, trusting God. But when you take this second step all of a sudden your recovery is no longer simply a matter of will power –  God says, “I will be with you.” Isaiah 43(2f) TLB: “When you go through deep waters and great troubles I will be with you.You won’t drown.When you walk through the fires of oppression, you won’t be burned up.” God says, “I will be with you this next week, month, year as you face those issues you’ve been afraid to face in your life.”
    Where are you hurting today? Are you going through some deep waters? Do you feel like you’re going under for the last time? Are you going through the fire right now and the heat’s on in your life? You think you’re about to get burned up or burned out? Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and say, “I just can’t get the power to change; I feel powerless”? There is a Higher Power you can plug in to; His name is Jesus Christ. The name above all names. I invite you to open your heart and life to Him today. Take this second step. Let’s pray.