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Road to Recovery #3 - "Letting Go"

Adapted from Rick Warren, Celebrate Recovery

Mar.10/13 Matthew 11:28-30


There was once a pet-store delivery truck going down the road. And every stop light the driver came to, he'd run to the back of the truck, grab a 2x4 and start beating on the side of the truck. Nobody could figure out what he was doing, so finally somebody asked him, "What are you doing?" He said, "This is only a two-ton truck and I'm carrying four tons of canaries - I've got to keep two tons of them in the air all the time."

For some of us, that's a picture of life! Many people are out there today beating themselves, trying to keep it all in the air so it doesn't come crashing down. We have a tendency to get stuck in life. We get stuck in relationships. We get stuck with habits. We get stuck in grief when we lose a loved one. We get stuck in anger. We get stuck in our work, or maybe in a sexual relationship. And then we can't get out of it and then you're hooked into a cycle. Once you get stuck, then you start feeling guilty that you're stuck. You say, "I wish I could get out of this but I can't." And then you have a lot of guilt after you can't get out of it and can't change, and then comes anger and you say I should be able to change and you get angry at yourself. And then your anger turns to fear that I'm never going to get out of this. It's got control of me. I'm going to end up in the hospital. Then your fear eventually turns to depression and you start feeling sorry for yourself and have a pity party and you resign, saying - "I give up, I can't change." And you start the cycle all over again and get further stuck.

How do you break out of that "stuckness"? That's what we've been talking about for a couple of weeks.

Step 1--Admit it, I've got a problem. Reality step - "R" for Realize I'm not God.

Step 2--Hope step--Not only am I powerless but God has power and He is willing to help out. He knows my problems and cares about my problems and cares about me. He knows everything going on in my life. He's offering to help me to change. And that's the Hope step. Letter "E" in 'recovery' for Earnestly believe that God exists and has power to change me.

But it's not enough just to know that God will help you. You have to take action. You've got to make a decision. You've got to walk across the line.

STEP 3-- (letter "c" in 'recovery') CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE TO COMMIT ALL MY LIFE AND WILL TO CHRIST'S CARE AND CONTROL. This step is based on what Jesus said in Matthew 11(28ff): "Come to me all you who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me for My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Jesus says, "Come to Me." It's God's invitation. I will make your life easier. I will lighten your load. You will have relief. You will have release. You will have rest. You will have rejuvenation. Give Me control and care of your life and watch what I do. I will give REST - the Greek word means "to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect his strength; to give rest, refresh." Reminds me of Peter's preaching not long after Pentecost in Acts 3:19: "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord..."

What a deal! Why would anybody turn that deal down? Yet perhaps some of you have heard this before yet you've never acted on it. It's like having an unopened gift. God says, "I want to give you this gift of relief and release and recovery and yet you've done nothing about it." What keeps us from taking this Third Step, this important step? What causes me to procrastinate giving my problems to God and to delay surrendering my life to the care and control of Christ?


1) Pride will keep me from admitting I need help: Prov 18:12: "Arrogant people are on the way to ruin because they won't admit it when they need help." How many of us men find it hard to stop and ask directions? Arrogance - you hate to admit you need help. Prov 10:8: "The self-sufficient fool falls flat on his face." Maybe you're not ready to take this step. Maybe you're not ready to say, "I give control and care of my life to Christ.I'm not ready yet to do that." All you need is a greater dose of pain. God will gladly allow it to get your attention!

2) Guilt will keep you from taking this step: I may be ashamed to ask God to help me. Ps 40:13: "For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see." Ever felt that way? Blinded, obscured by the mess, even ashamed to look up. I don't want to ask God for help. How many times have we asked God for help and made a promise and then broken the promise? "God if you just get me out of this…" Perhaps you're embarrassed to ask God for help. Guilt and shame are holding you back. You say, "You don't know all the things I've done wrong.I couldn't go to God and ask for help." You're wrong, dead wrong. There's no sin that God cannot forgive (except that of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is probably not your issue). God wants to help you. Don't let pride or guilt keep you from taking this step. He wants to forgive your guilt.

3) Fear: I'm afraid of what I might have to give up. What are you afraid of if you commit your life to Christ? What are you afraid will happen if you give God care and control of your life? What, that He'll turn you into a priest or nun? (Maybe you'll be the next pope!) You say, "I don't want anybody controlling me." Who are you kidding? You're being controlled all the time. It's just that you choose who you're being controlled by when you let God control your life. Otherwise, whether you realize it or not, you wind up being controlled by the enemy, the prince of this world. Sin enslaves. Those 3 foes - the world, the flesh, and the devil - have their hooks in you. You're controlled by the opinions of other people. You're controlled by hurts you can't forget. You controlled by habits, hang-ups, by the imperfect way your parents brought you up and the inbred response patterns you saw them use.

Do you know what freedom is? Freedom is choosing who controls you. When you give your life into the care and control of Christ, He sets you free. He said in John 8(31f,34), "Those who sin are slaves to sin, but if you hold to my teaching and are my disciples, you will know the truth, the truth will set you free." Hear that? Jesus says, "I set you free." Folk icon Bob Dylan sang, "You're gonna have to serve somebody / Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord / But you're gonna have to serve somebody."

"You're going to have to serve somebody." Even if it's your own ego. Real freedom is choosing who your master will be. So what are you afraid of? What are you holding on to that you think, "I can't let go of this in order to give my life to God?" A relationship, an ambition, a habit, a lifestyle, a possession? Jesus challenges that - Mk 8:36, "How does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process?" Is anything worth more than a person's soul, your very core? No.

When you take this Third Step you give up everything and then you never had it so good. Because He takes what you've given Him, He turns it around, He adds new meaning, new significance, new vitality, gives it back to you in a whole new way.

If you've been afraid to yield your life to the care and control of Christ, you may be fearing that He might make you some fanatic, some nut, that you might have to give up ____ (fill in the blank). Don't worry about the specifics of what you might have to give up. If you focus on the specifics you'll never make the greater decision, which is the step to recovery. Just come to God and say: "God, I don't even know what I want to give up, but I do know I want my life to be under your control, so, God - here is a blank cheque." And give God a blank cheque: "Here's my life." Let Him take care of the rest. Don't be afraid.

4) Worry can keep you from surrendering your life to the care and control of Christ. We confuse the decision-making phase with the problem-solving phase. Back in 1963 when JFK announced publicly, "We're going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade," that was the decision. Had all the problems been solved when he made that decision? No. If you're a good manager you know you never confuse decision making with problem solving. If you confuse them, you never make the decision. You have to make the decision, then solve the problems. Kennedy said, "We're going to go to the moon," then it was NASA's problem to figure out how to make it work.

You make the decision and then you solve the problems. If you wait for all the stop lights to turn green first, you'll never go anywhere. You can't solve all the problems first. You make the decision. "I open my life to the care and control of Christ.I've got doubts, questions, fears, worries.I don't know how it's all going to work out.But I know it's the right thing to do.So I just do it."

Some 40 years ago I myself took this third step and said yes to Jesus Christ. "I don't understand it all, but Jesus, if You're real, come into my life.I'm empty and alone and I want the joy I see on the faces of Your people." I opened my life to the care and control of Christ. Even today, many years later, I'm still sending out changes of address saying, "No, I don't do that anymore; that's not the new me, that's the old me." I'm still making changes of address. Don't let worry bother you and keep you from making the decision.

The Christian life is a decision followed by a process. Same with recovery. It's a decision followed by a process. All I'm talking about today is the decision. OK, let's do it, let's go for it. In the church we have a process called discipleship. That takes time, it helps you become all God wants you to be. What we're talking about today is just the first step.

When you make this step, what's happening is God gets a beach-head in your life (like when the military establishes a beach-head prior to capturing the whole island). The Bible calls it conversion or being born again. It just means God gets a presence in my life. Does that mean everything in my life is perfect? Absolutely not. It means God's in your life, He's got a beach-head and the rest of your life He's going to be setting you free, little by little by little. It's a process. So don't worry about it! Just trust God.

Maybe you worry that in this battle you couldn't hold on and hold out. God says, "Don't worry - it's not your job to keep it.I do the keeping." Ps 121(5,7 NRSV) "the Lord is your keeper...the Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life." Speaking of His sheep Jesus promises, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." (Jn 10:28) Peter urges (1Pe 5:7), "Cast all your anxiety on God because He cares for you." So God's saying, "I care for you.I hold you in My hand." A loving parent when crossing the street with young children will hold their hands, and keep holding on even if they struggle a bit and try to wriggle free; the parent keeps holding on to protect and guard the young child. God holds us, and whatever God asks you to do, He'll enable you to do. Philippians 1:6 "God who began a good work in you will keep right on helping you to grow in His grace until His task is finally completed."

5) Doubt: "I want to believe but my faith just seems so small." You need to recall the man who brought his son for healing to Jesus in Mark 9(17ff) - his son suffered from a seizure-demon that would sometimes throw the boy into fire or water. When he asked Jesus to help them "if you can do anything", Jesus retorted, "'If you can'? Everything is possible for him who believes." The man got honest with the Lord and exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Then Jesus cast out the seizure-spirit. Maybe you need to say like that fellow, "God, I want to believe that You will help me with my life.Help me with my unbelief." That's good enough. Have you been supposing a person has to have a big faith? Look at what the Bible says: "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for you." (Matt 17:20) It's not the size of your faith that matters, it's the size of what you put it in, the size of your God. You can have giant faith, put it in the wrong thing and get no results. Faith is not the issue. The issue is what you put it in. A little faith in a big God gets big results! Don't let any of these things keep you from taking this step.


What does it mean to take this step?

1) I accept God's Son as my Saviour. I need to be saved. I need help. I realize I need Him in my life. "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved," Paul and Silas told the anxious jailor at Philippi (Ac 16:31). What does this mean? It means committing as much of myself as I understand at this moment to as much of Christ as I understand at this moment. Is that good enough? That's good enough!

2) I accept God's Word as my standard for living. Ever notice that equipment runs a lot better when you follow the instructions in the manual? From now on I've got a manual that I'm going to live my life by. Some graffiti on a wall offered this opinion: "This life is a test, it is only a test.Had it been an actual life you would have been given an instruction manual to tell you what to do and where to go." What that graffiti artist didn't know or maybe acknowledge was that, fortunately, we do have an instruction manual. It's the Bible. Jesus, God's Word incarnate, held up Scripture - God's word 'written' - as infallible ("Can't be broken" - Jn 10:35) and authoritative ("not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" - Matt 5:18) and our chief warning (more convincing even than someone rising from the dead - Lk16:31) and life-giving ("the person who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me HAS eternal life" - Jn 5:24). God says this is your standard by which you evaluate life around you - 2Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is inspired by God [God-breathed, literally] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness..." The Bible is your yardstick, the Manufacturer's Handbook; accept it as your standard.

3) I accept God's will as my strategy, as my goal in life. "God, what do you want me to do?" The first question to always ask is: "Lord, you woke me up this morning.It obviously means you have another day for me, a purpose for my life.What do you want me to do with it?" As David says, "I delight to do your will." (Ps 40:8) I seek first God's will. "God, I'm willing to do anything, anywhere, anytime.I don't even have to understand it, but I'm living my life on Your terms because You made me for a reason.You have a purpose and I want to fulfill that purpose that You made me for." And so God's will becomes my strategy for life, whether I understand it or not.

4) I accept God's power as my strength. Philippians 4:13: "I can do everything through Him [Christ] who gives me strength." No longer do I have to rely on my own energy. Things work better when they're plugged in. You get plugged into God, you don't have to be so tired all the time, you can tap into His refreshing and strength. Knowing God gives gumption. God says, "I will give you My power to be all I want you to be." In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, "I stand at the door and knock.If anyone hears My voice and opens the door I will come to him and will dine with him" (have fellowship with him - not just grab a doughnut at the drive-through window at a Tim Horton's, but more like spending a good chunk of the evening at a Chinese buffet). Jesus says, "I'm standing at the door of your life and I'm knocking and I'm saying I want to come into your life," but He's a gentleman. He'll not beat the door down! Step Three means to open the door. The key that unlocks that door is willingness. Define it this way: "'Willpower' is willingness to accept God's power." You don't need willpower; you need willingness to accept God's power in your life, go by His controls, His system. [VIDEO - Richard Ellis, IamSecond.com: from hurting bad enough to consider killing himself, to finding God through an unlikely friend, connecting with the Story of the Bible and God being "for" him]

Pilots, when they fly planes, fly always either by IFR or VFR. IFR stands for Instrument Flight Rules. VFR stands for Visual Flight Rules. Every pilot is flying by one or the other. With IFR, when you taxi out on a runway, you tune in to the control tower, you submit to the controls of the system, you set your instruments, and it's a done deal. You're controlled by the instruments--a very safe way of flying. But with VFR - Visual Flight Rules - you just kind of taxi on the runway, look around, looks OK, and take off and just fly around and use your sight. VFR is fine as long as you can see everything - if it's clear weather and not a lot of traffic. But one day, if you fly enough you're going to eventually hit bad weather. You're going to get lost in some clouds and at one point you have to pick up the microphone and say, "I need to switch over to IFR" and you submit to the controls of that channel. All airlines fly IFR. All pros fly IFR but a lot of amateurs fly VFR. The Aviation Authority says that a lot of these small plane crashes could have been prevented if the person in the cockpit, when they got lost in the clouds and weather, had simply picked up the microphone and said, "I need help." Are they going to do that? No. Think a pilot wants to admit he's lost? Admit that he needs help? He wants to control it on his own, be his own boss, set his own destiny even if it does mean flying into that mountain or tree. No, you've got to trust your instruments - submit to their control, not rely on your own faulty internal resources.

Maybe you've made it along pretty well to this point in life flying VFR and you've controlled everything, kept a firm hand on the joystick, but it's an inevitable part of life that you're going to have bad weather. You're going to hit the tough spots. You're going to hit clouds where you flip upside down and you don't even know which direction you're going. At that point you've got to pick up the microphone and switch to God's system. Surrender to the care and control of Christ or else you're inviting disaster!

And be sure you let somebody else know of your decision and making this commitment. Let's pray.