Relapse Isn't Mandatory (Part 1)

I literally got arrested on my honeymoon.

My wife and I were coming back from our dream vacation in Punta Cana, eager to begin our new life together. We were still on our honeymoon high, giggling and flirting as we waited in the customs line. This joy soon turned to sober fear.

The agent put us in a small room with only a few others and told us we couldn’t use our cell phones. An hour later, I was called up to the counter and told I had an active arrest warrant from my addiction days. I broke the news to my new wife, who I’m sure was wondering what kind of man she married. They handcuffed me and took me to a small holding cell, where they searched and questioned me. They even took my shoestrings!

Four hours later they transported me to jail. When we arrived, the correctional officers made us aware the warrant had been taken care of years ago and they released me back to my beautiful bride.

This is oftentimes how our past works. It pops up at the most random times and lands us where we never thought we’d be; back in those familiar handcuffs.

I’ve seen this happen far too often in many friends' lives. After weeks, months, or even years of sobriety they end up enslaved again--cuffed to their vomit. Leaving the holiday at sea, they return to the mud pies in the slum. Many have even died, thinking they can still handle their normal dose, but their tolerance had diminished.

Many addiction specialists have declared that relapse is part of the recovery process. The graves of thousands have taken their advice, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Many have been set free for good, never to return to their ex-lover. The Holiday at Sea has become their eternal home. How can this be your reality? How can you have complete freedom forever? How can you have lasting joy? 

Jesus sheds some light on this in Luke 8, in the Parable of the Sower.

And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (verses 4-8)

Jesus then explains this parable to His disciples.

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. (verses 11-15)

In this parable Jesus shows us the spiritual journey of four different types of people. Three of them fall away, but one perseveres until the end. These examples shed light on some of the main pitfalls we need to watch out for, as well as give us hope and show us the pathway to remain faithful and free forever.

Pitfall #1- The Devil

The first pitfall Jesus tells us to watch out for is demonic opposition. In the parable, the devil prevents the hearer from ever believing, but he is a continued antagonist for the believer. We see this in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve are tempted in the Garden of Eden. Satan comes to the woman, as the man stands by passively, and questions what God had said. This is his main tactic. He will twist and question what God has clearly said, so you will turn away from following Jesus and return to what you know leads to death. “Did God actually say…? You will not surely die. God is holding out on you.” His tactics have not changed. “Did God actually say you shouldn’t get high? You won’t surely die if you get high or drunk one more time. God is holding out on you by not letting you feel good.” He has destroyed millions by these lies.

Peter warns us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Paul does too, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:11-12). We have a real spiritual enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy everything good in our lives. Not everything bad that happens in your life is caused by the devil, but you do need to be aware of his schemes and how to make war on them.

Paul continues, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:13-18a). The only way we can win the battle against the enemy is to clothe ourselves in Jesus’ armor: truth, righteousness, faith, readiness, and salvation. We also must learn how to use God’s Word and prayer to murder demonic attacks. 

This battleground takes place mainly in our minds. The enemy doesn’t come with a pitchfork and red horns, but with a thought that sounds beautiful and freeing, but is contrary to what God says. Rather than entertaining these thoughts, we must learn to “take them captive and make them obedient to Christ.” When one of these crazy thoughts enters my mind, whether it’s a thought to use drugs, demonic lust, or unbelief, I handle it in the same way. First, I pray, asking God to take this thought away, and replace it with what is true. This takes care of many demonic thoughts, but if it still remains, I reach out to a godly friend and expose the lie to him. I ask him to speak more truth to me and pray for me. This step is never easy because darkness hates the light. Then I turn my attention and thoughts to something excellent, like serving someone else or listening to a sermon or worship music.

The devil is a liar and is a pain in the you know what, but you have the power to overcome him. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed” (Isaiah 54:17a). The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of you, therefore, you can live in victory over all demonic opposition.

In the next few blogs, we will look at the other 2 pitfalls of lasting freedom and the pathway Jesus gives to forever freedom!

Application:

  1. What about God’s Word is the enemy currently questioning in your mind? How are you combating these lies with truth from God’s Word?

  2. What lies do you need to expose to a godly friend? Call them right now to get their perspective and have them pray for you.

  3. Take some time to pray and ask God to help you to never fall away. Ask him to protect you from relapse and give you a vision for what a fruitful life of forever freedom may look like.