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Road to Recovery #8: "RECYCLING MY PAIN"

(adapted from R.Warren, Celebrate Recovery)

Matthew 5:3-12 and Selected Scriptures


Pain is something we all experience at one time or another. It's a very necessary part of life - none of us would be here if our mothers had not gone through the agony of giving birth. Earlier this year a video came out in which two male Dutch TV hosts had midwives hook up electrodes to them which would simulate two hours of labour pains (search for "Dutch guys giving birth"); laughter at first turned to screams and cursing. One of the young bucks couldn't stand it, he opted to quit part way through - something that's not an option during actual childbirth. But a mother's pain is redeemed (I understand) by the reward, the miracle, of a new living breathing baby having been brought into reality.

In today's message we conclude our series on Recovery by looking at how we "recycle our pain" - bring good out of even what hurt.


Two thousand years ago Jesus went up on a hillside and set down and preached the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount. Some translations render "blessed are" by "happy are" (the poor / meek / merciful etc): it's as if Jesus started that most famous sermon ever by saying, "I want to give you eight steps to happiness, eight principles that will bring happiness to your life." Today we call those eight principles the Beatitudes (L.beatus 'happy').

This 8-week series "Road to Recovery" is about overcoming your hurts, habits, and hang-ups that have messed up your life. There's a striking similarity between the steps for recovery and the Beatitudes. These sayings Jesus gave two thousand years ago summarize the steps to recovery, they're the biblical basis for what we've been learning the past eight weeks.

V3 "Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor." That's Step 1: Realize I'm not God, that I'm powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and my life is unmanageable. Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor, that they know they don't have the power to make the changes that God wants to make in their lives.

V4 "Happy are those who mourn for they shall be comforted." You don't have the power to change, but don't worry about it, God's going to comfort you. He'll give you the power. Step 2 is "Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and He has to power to help me recover."

V5 "Happy are the meek." Meekness does not mean weak - it means under control, it means strength under control. A stallion that has been broken and tamed still has the same amount of strength, but once it is broken and domesticated it was called a "meek" horse. It is strength under control. Step 3: "Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ's care and control." That's what meekness is all about. If you take that step you're meek.

V8 "Happy are the pure in heart." Step 4 is "Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and another person I trust." In order to have a clear conscience, in order to have a pure heart, I must clear out the garbage.

V6 "Happy are those whose desire is to do what God requires." That's step 5, "Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects."

Then we saw two verses in the Beatitudes about relationships: v7 "Happy are the merciful"--to people who've hurt me and v9 "Happy are the peacemakers"--to people I've hurt. Step 6 is "Evaluate all my relationships, offer forgiveness to those who've hurt me and make amends for harm I've done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others."

Last week we looked at Step 7, the "maintenance step," what keeps you on these other steps. We do that by "Reserving a daily time with God for self examination, Bible reading and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and gain the power to do His will for my life."

This week we look at the last step; Y in the word RECOVERY stands for Yield: "Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others by both my example and my words." God wants to use your experiences to help other people. He wants to use YOU. He wants to recycle the pain in your life for the benefit of other people. Usually we think God only uses real gifted, talented people. That's not true - God uses ordinary people. Usually we think, "God use my strength;" God says, "No, I don't want to use your strength; I want to use your weaknesses." That gives Him glory, it has to be a "God-thing" when it's not coming from our own natural abilities. People are helped when you're honest about your weaknesses; if you share your strength, they say, "Bully for you, but I'll never have that!" But share your weaknesses and they say, "I can relate to that." As you share from your hurts, habits, and hang-ups of things you're recovering from, through that vulnerability God wants to use you and that's what Step 8 is all about. "Yield myself to be used by God to bring this good news to others." When you understand this, that God uses your weaknesses and pain, life takes on a whole new meaning. When you begin to practice this step, you have genuine recovery. The proof of recovery comes when you begin to focus outside of yourself - That means you've really recovered. You stop being so self absorbed - my needs, my hurts, my problems--and you start saying, "How can I help other people?" The proof of recovery is that you want to help others, not just keep focusing on what's happened to you.

Two questions: why has God allowed my pain? And, how can I use my pain to help others?


Many reasons, but we only have time for four this morning:


A choice. Genesis 1:27 insists we humans were made in the image of God. How are you like God? Among other things, God gave you a choice. You can choose good or bad, right or wrong, evil or life. God says, "You can reject me or accept me. It's your choice." Why? God didn't want a bunch of puppets. He could have made you to have no free will at all. He could have made you in such a way that every day you bowed down three times and prayed, and you always did what's right, never what's wrong. That would have been coerced conformity. But God wanted people who love Him voluntarily. You can't say you love somebody unless you have the opportunity to not love them. You can't say you're good unless you've had the option to not be good, to be bad. So God has given you free will and free choice. That's symbolized by the tree in the garden from which Adam and Eve were commanded not to eat.

Free will is not only a blessing but it's also a burden, because sometimes we make dumb choices, we're not programmed to automatically skip the poor options. And the dumb choices cause all kinds of painful consequences in our life. So it's good that I am free and I can choose, but it's bad because I often choose the wrong thing and that causes pain in my life. I can choose to experiment with drugs; if I get addicted, it's my fault. I can choose to be sexually promiscuous; if I get a disease it's my fault. God would like for you not to have this pain, but it's part of the package that comes with the free will."

Not only does God give you a free will, He gives everyone else one too. Sometimes they don't do the right thing and you get hurt as an innocent victim. Some of you have been hurt deeply by a parent, a former spouse, a teacher, a friend, a relative; God could have prevented that hurt from happening to you. All He would have had to do would be to take away that person's free will, their capacity to do wrong. But if He had done that, to be fair, to be a just God without favourites, He would have to take away your free will, too. You see the dilemma? The problem is that by having a free will we get blessing, but we also get a burden. And God says, "I'm not going to overrule your will." Those who choose not to obey God are choosing hell - unbelievers choose to go there by rejecting everything that He does. God "wants all [people] to be saved" (1Tim 2:4), it's as if He's saying, "I love you, I want you to be a part of my family." If you respond, "Forget it God," thumb your nose, and walk out the other door, you can't blame anybody but yourself. There is a free will, a real choice, for which we will be held responsible. Deuteronomy (1:2ff), "I am giving you the choice between God's blessing or God's curse.There will be blessing if you obey my commands."


God uses pain to get our attention. Pain is a warning light, a buzzer, an alarm. It says, "Something's wrong; pay attention!" Pain is not the primary problem; your depression, your anxiety, your fear is not what's your root problem. It's a warning light that says there's something else that's your problem. Pain's just a symptom of your real problem. Pain just signals, "Something is drastically wrong in my life." It's God's megaphone: God whispers to us in our pleasures but He shouts to us in our pain. "Wake up! Something's wrong." Proverbs 20:30: "Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways." We don't change when we see the light but when we feel the heat. 2Corinthians 7:9 Paul says, "I am glad not because it hurt you but because the pain turned you to God." It got your attention.

Rick Warren's cousin could have been voted "Most Likely to Succeed" in high school. He was a brilliant kid in school, lived in Texas, his dad was a millionaire. He had everything at his fingertips, the most popular kid in the city. He grew up and became a semi-pro golfer, great businessman, Mr.Charisma. And then he got into cocaine. He started dealing cocaine. He got thrown into the federal penitentiary. While in lock-up he gave his life to Christ, and he came out of that prison and started Exodus Ministries, Inc.to help ex-cons reactivate themselves into normal society. He said, "The greatest thing that happened to me was going to prison." God uses problems and uses pain to get our attention.

Remember the story of Jonah? Jonah was going one way and God said, "I want you to go the other way." So He provided a typical Mediterranean cruise for him. And at the bottom of the ocean in Jonah 2:7: "When I had lost all hope I once again turned my thoughts to the Lord." Isn't that a great verse? God uses pain to get our attention.


Paul's example, 2Corinthians 1:8-10 (TLB) "We were crushed and overwhelmed and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves, but that was good for then we put everything into the hands of God who could save us and He did help us." You don't know that God is all you need until God's all you got. When you've lost it all and it's all falling apart, you realize He's all you got. And He IS all I need! If you never had a problem, you'd never know God could solve them. God allows pain to teach you to depend on Him. Psalm 119:71: "It was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to Your laws." The truth is, some things we only learn through pain; it's the only way we learn them.


Pain changes us, makes us humble, sympathetic, sensitive to others 'needs. We become more able to relate to others' hardships. This is what Step 8 is all about: Yield myself to God to help other people. The truth is, pain prepares you to serve. 2Corinthians 1:4 "Why does God do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them the same help and comfort God has given us."

Everybody needs recovery of some type: mental recovery, physical recovery, spiritual, social, relational recovery. We all have hurts, habits, hang-ups. Nobody's perfect. Who can better help an alcoholic than somebody who struggled with alcoholism? Who can better help somebody dealing with the pain of abuse than someone who was abused themselves? Who can better help somebody who lost his job and went bankrupt than somebody who lost his job or her job and went bankrupt? Who can better help a couple of parents who have a child, a teenager, who's going off the deep end than a couple who had a child that went off the deep end? God wants to use and recycle the pain in your life to help others, but you've got to be open about it and honest. If you keep that hurt to yourself, you're wasting it! God uses your hurts, your hang-ups, your problems to help other people.

There's a great story in Genesis about Joseph. He was so mistreated! People did incredible things to this guy. He was good guy, he didn't deserve the pain in his life. One day all eleven of his brothers decided to gang up against him and sell him into slavery. And then they went back home and told their dad he'd been eaten by a lion. That's what I call a dysfunctional family - major problem here! He's sold into slavery and taken from Israel into Egypt, into a whole foreign country, a prime example of human trafficking, and is sold into slavery there. He's doing his job, he's keeping his life pure, yet his master's wife tries to seduce him, and he says, "No that wouldn't be right." So she tries to take advantage of him but he escapes and she cries, "Rape!" He's falsely accused and thrown into prison. The guy's whole life is downhill all the way. But God knew exactly what He was doing, teaching Joseph humility and forgiveness and faithfulness, gifting him in management and spiritual discernment, putting him in position that resulted in him being raised up to second in command in Egypt. And God used him to save not only one but multiple nations from destruction and famine. Later Joseph's brothers came to him to get food; when they find out who the governor really is they expect to have their heads cut off, but Joseph insists in Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." God's bigger than those people who hurt you. No matter what other people have done to you, God can turn it around and use it for good!

God never wastes a hurt. But you can waste it if you don't learn from it and you don't share it with other people. How can other people be blessed if you don't share the problems you're going through with them to encourage them by how you made it?


This is what Step 8 is all about in the Road to Recovery. 1Peter 3:15 is the basis for Step 8: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that you have.But do this with gentleness and respect." You need to be prepared to give an answer to How did you make it in life? How did you recover? How are you recovering? Be prepared.

One suggestion is to make a list of all the experiences you've had in life to this day, positive and negative. Ones you've caused and ones you didn't cause. Then ask, "What did I learn from that experience? How did God help me make it through that tough time?" Ask God, "How did You help me through that tough time?" Maybe even write it out on paper. Then ask yourself, "Who could best benefit from hearing my story?" The answer is people who are going through, right now, what you've already gone through, who are just a little bit behind you in the process. And you say to God, "I am available." Then get ready. Because if you get ready to share the good news of how God has worked in your life, God will wear you out! There are people who need to hear your story all over this world, who are going through what you've gone through.

Sometimes God wants you to take the initiative - this is called intervention. Galatians 6:1-2: "If someone is overcome by some sin, humbly help him back onto the right path, remembering that next time it might be you who is in the wrong. Share each other's troubles and problems and so obey our Lord's command." Notice this is commanded here. God doesn't say, "It's a good idea if you share;" He says, "Do it." If you are a believer, you are to share in the problems and troubles of other people. That's a command. If you're not doing it, you're not obeying God.

Because you have a story to tell and God doesn't want you to waste the hurt, the problems you've had, here are three suggestions in sharing your story. How do you share?

1) Be humble. We're all in the same boat. We're all fellow strugglers. When you share your story, when you witness, it's basically one beggar telling another where to find bread. You're not saying, "I've got it all together," because you don't. You're getting it all together. You're on the road to recovery. As you're getting it all together, be humble and say, "We're all in this together; here's what happened to me."

2) Be real. Be honest about your hurts and faults. You help other people by being transparent, vulnerable, honest about your hurts. It helps them open up. Also, when you share your story, it not only gives hope to them but gives healing to you. Every time you share your story with somebody, you get a little bit stronger. You're healed a little bit more. You begin growth. People join Celebrate Recovery because of their pain, but they stay in Celebrate Recovery because of their growth. It keeps them growing in their life.

3) Don't lecture. Just share your story. God wants you to be a witness not a defense attorney! You don't argue anybody into heaven. You don't force anybody into heaven. You just share -- "this is what happened to me..."

Now, as we draw to the close of this series, here's a challenge to take four action steps:

A) If you have not yet committed your life to Jesus Christ, do so today. What are you waiting on? The greatest tragedy would be for you to go all the way through this series, hear these great truths, and the hope that it brings, and not do anything about it, like stepping across the line, giving your life to Christ. If you haven't done so, do so today!

B) Write your story out. Take some time to set down and look at "What has God done in my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and how can He use that to help other people?"

C) Commit yourself to some church family for support. Attendance is not enough for recovery; it takes commitment and it takes relationships.

D) Ask God to give you somebody you could share your story with, to share the good news of how God can make the difference in somebody's life. The world is full of people who need your story and if you don't tell it, where are they going to hear it from? You are the only Bible some people will ever read. They wouldn't be caught a hundred yards from this church. They'll never hear me, but you have a story that can reach them, that they can identify with. God wants to use you. Share your story with normal people, because you can reach people I could never reach, because your experience is different from mine. Once you step across the line, become a believer, why doesn't God just take you on the fast track to heaven and get you there quickly? There are two things you can't do in heaven. You can pray in heaven, sing, sleep, eat, relax, have fun, fellowship with other Christians, read your Bible. There are only two things you cannot do. One of them is sin. It's a perfect place. The other is tell the good news with people who have never heard. Which of those two reasons do you think God leaves you on earth to do? Obvious isn't it? The moment you step across the line, you become a carrier, you become a missionary. It's called the Great Commission. It's part of your job description, if you claim to be a believer, to share the good news with other people. There are people who need to hear your story. You don't have to be a Biblical genius; you just say, "This is what happened to me." That's the most powerful kind of story anyway. "I don't know where all the verses are...This is what happened to me." Nobody can refute that. That's a personal experience.

Acts 20:24: "Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus." What is that work? "The work of telling others the Good News about God's mighty kindness and love." There is no greater accomplishment in life than helping somebody find assurance of heaven. Because when you do that, you've made a friend for eternity. When you get to heaven, God's going to say, "This is great; you're here.Did you bring anybody with you?" You make a friend for eternity when you share Christ. There is no greater accomplishment than to have their eternity secured, no greater joy, no greater satisfaction, than helping somebody be introduced to Jesus. God wants to use you! Share your story. He made you for a purpose. You may never be a MOTHER in an earthly sense, but every believer can be a MIDWIFE co-operating with God's Spirit in bringing about new birth, spiritually speaking. That's exciting! The most significant thing you do with your life is first, give your life to Christ, become a part of a church family, get involved in a ministry, start sharing your story. It will far outlast anything you do in your career, far outlast anything you do in your hobby, because what we're talking about here has eternal implications, getting people from darkness into light, from hell into heaven, from an eternity without God to an eternity with God, and people will be thanking you the rest of eternity. There is no more significant cause in life!

I challenge you to take this eighth step with me: "I yield myself to be used by God to bring this good news to other people, in my example and in my words." Let's pray.