All Bill Wilson needed was one drink for him to be hooked. “I had found the elixir of life,” he wrote. But soon his elixir escorted him down a very dark path as alcohol became the driving influence in his life.
He failed to graduate from law school because he was too drunk to pick up his diploma. So instead, he became a stock speculator and enjoyed success traveling the country with his wife, Lois, evaluating companies for potential investors. Lois, however, had a hidden agenda: she hoped the travel would keep Bill from drinking. However, his constant drinking made business impossible and ruined his reputation.
Four times he was committed to a hospital in hopes that he could find deliverance from his addiction, which he was told would lead to an early death.
Eighteen years after his first drink, he met an old drinking buddy who had been sober for several weeks—something Wilson was unable to do. The influence of his friend led to his sobriety, and their friendship resulted in the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous.
While regularly criticized by the medical community, Alcoholics Anonymous has achieved success far beyond their critics. What is the secret to their success?
Please join us as we explore this topic in our daily Bible conversation.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Jeremiah 16:16-18:23. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) As western culture moves from modernism to post-modernism, the heart becomes an ever-increasing influence in our beliefs and the decisions we make. We’re told to “follow our heart.” While ignoring our hearts is foolish, we need to remember that our hearts can also lead us astray. In fact, according to this verse, our hearts can deceive us, too.
At the end of our reading (Jeremiah 18:18-23), we see a veiled reference of retaliation toward Jeremiah. He’s been thrown into a pit because he called out the sin of Judah’s leaders. Jeremiah paid a price for obeying God.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3. Paul’s words in 4:1 echo Jeremiah’s choice to obey God: “live in order to please God.” I wrestle with this because my deceptive heart wants to please people or live for myself. In this particular context, Paul is referring to sexual purity. “Avoid sexual immorality” he writes. The Greek word for “sexual immortality”—porneia—applies to sexual acts outside the boundaries of marriage. Our society and deceptive hearts try to convince us that our sexual practices don’t matter. But they do. Paul addresses a root problem underlying our sexual habits. All too often we don’t want to live with self-control. Again, we want to follow our deceptive hearts, which only lead us to destruction—both spiritually but also relationally.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
In his final hospital stay, Bill Wilson reached the end of himself. While lying in his hospital bed depressed and despairing, he cried out, “I’ll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let him show himself!”
Suddenly, Wilson was engulfed in a sensation of bright light, a feeling of ecstasy, and peace. Not only did he experience an encounter with God Almighty, but he later considered this an important step in following Jesus. He never drank again for the remainder of his life.
This experience provided the foundation to recovery for every alcoholic:
- We are powerless over our addiction.
- Only a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
- In order to recover from our addiction, we must turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him.
Originally, Alcoholics Anonymous was a Christian organization, heavily influenced by an intriguing Christian movement called the Oxford Group.
The secret to recovery from addictions should really come as no surprise. God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength” (Jeremiah 17:5–6).
We want to save ourselves. Heal ourselves. Relying on outside help is an admittance of weakness. We’d like to overcome our sins and demons on our own. Yet the truth is, we can’t save ourselves. Nor can we heal ourselves and make ourselves better. Friends are important, but they can’t cure us. Our help only comes from above:
But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7–8
When we battle addictions or demons like depression or discouragement, we must recognize that the solution to our problems never come from within: “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise” (Jeremiah 17:14).
Sometimes working harder at our problems only makes them worse. Surrendering, working less, yielding to God, helps us realize that true change can only come from God.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- In what areas of your life are you trying to hold together on your own?
- What prevents you from surrendering them to God?
- What lies do you choose to believe?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.