“The Unmanageable Life”

At Gateway Church in Austin, we began our series called The Unmanageable Life.

Living right is hard work. In fact, it’s impossible. The more honest among us are open about our struggles with things that always seem to knock us down. The rest of us attempt to play the part of a good person on the outside, but deep down realize we are living a lie on the inside. It’s time to get honest about how powerless we truly are in managing our lives. Let’s explore how to take that first step toward truly becoming the person God created us to be.

Next Steps:

Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

“The Unmanageable Life” Next Steps

Message Video:

Message Notes:

The song “Demons” by Imagine Dragons blew up in our culture because it taps into a reality
that so many know, but still deny—that there are things inside of us that nobody knows with which we struggle. There are dark places in our thoughts, in our secrets, that we hide from others.

I’m guessing that in Covid-19, a lot of those hang-ups, harmful habits, or addictions are
manifesting in ways that are becoming unmanageable, but you don’t have to stay
stuck! Today we’re starting 2 series through the 12 Steps, the next 4 weeks we tackle The
Unmanageable Life, then for 3 weeks The Restored Life.

You may think: “I’m not an addict! The 12 Steps aren’t for me!”

I think you’ll soon see this IS for you. It’s for all of us.

Here’s why: I’ve found over the years, there’s a quality of life and freedom that’s available
to us that’s all around us. It’s what we want, what we desire, what we were made for, and we
get little tastes of it. Like when you’re driving down a scenic road on a summer day, the
windows are down, the music’s blasting your favorite song, you’re not troubled or
worried—you feel free in your soul—you feel loved, you feel alive, you’re singing at the top
of your lungs even though you can’t sing—but you can’t help it—you’re soul is bursting with
Life, so full of happiness, that happiness doesn’t describe it (JOY describes it—it’s true Joy).
It’s a small taste of Life Eternal.

It’s what Jesus declared that He came for
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full. John 10:10

The Life we all long for—free of the unmanagable worries, fears, inhibitions, crutches—so
alive your emotions can hardly contain it, bursting with life.

  • Maybe it comes watching an awe-inspiring sunset
  • Experiencing the rush of victory in a major business deal
  • Maybe it’s sitting around late at night with close friends or family
  • Looking at your new born baby sleeping.

All these moments are little glimpses of the Life God has for us—the Life and Freedom we
all long for—yet you get glimpses, but we all struggle with character defects, pride, control,
fear, worry, hurts and all the many ways we try to cope. These block the fullness of life God
wants for us, but we can change and grow as people. We don’t have to stay stuck in the same habits and
patterns from year to year.

Recovery From The Scriptures

The 12 steps we’re going to walk through over the next 7 weeks have helped more people break free, from seemingly hopeless habits and addictions, or stubborn patterns of behavior.The steps were coined in the recovery movement of the past century, but they’re really as old as the Bible. In fact, Bill W. who wrote down the steps acknowledged that they came straight from the Pastor of Calvary Church, Dr. Sam Shoemaker, who led Bill W. to faith. Dr. Bob, co-founder of the steps, emphasized that the steps came from studying the Bible. The reason the steps work is because they lead people to a spiritual experience of God. At the root, they are simply spiritual practices that allow the God who loves us to live his life in and through us.

Listen to how the founders of the 12 steps describe it:

“The great fact is just this, and nothing less: That we have had deep and effective
spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward
our fellows, and toward God’s universe. The central fact of our lives today is the
absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which
is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we
could never do by ourselves.” -The Big Book of AA

This 12 Step path is simply a way to live the life God intended you to live—full of love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, truthfulness, and self-control.

We’re going to look at these 12 steps applied not just to addictive behavior, but any harmful
behavior that ultimately does damage to us, to others or our relationship with God.

So it doesn’t matter if you’re a Meth addict or just a grumpy, joyless Christian—you can change for the better. Whether you are spiritually skeptical or even atheist, or if you’ve been a Christ-follower for decades—if you will stick with us these 7 weeks, do some work or your own by taking these steps, you’ll see growth. Not only that, I’m confident you’ll find freedom, relief, and a new vision of life that blows doors on anything you’ve experienced so far.

These 12 steps are really just Biblical disciplines for spiritual growth, and they form a pattern for living. A way of living and thinking and viewing life from a new perspective. So in many ways, they are not at first what they seem. You don’t do step 1, step 2, step 3 and then you’re done with those steps…instead, you soak yourself in this process of living these spiritual disciplines–it’s not linear, you must plunge in and live in it, then you get it.’ It’s like making pickles – you all know, you’ve made pickles, right? No neither have I, but supposedly when you’re making pickles, there’s not really a step by step process – you just dunk the cucumbers into saltwater, fully submerge them, and after a while of soaking in it, they’re changed to pickles. In order to really “see” how these 12 steps work in your life, you must plunge in and soak in the process for a while. You don’t just learn about it, you work it. That’s what I want to challenge you to do. Work the process over and over.

These steps are not just for dealing with addictions or recurring patterns – they are a way to live that will allow God to bring spiritual depth into your life, no matter how long you’ve been following him. And you’re gonna need some people to do these steps with you.

Text “connect” to to 512-402-3773 or go to gatewaychurch.com/recovery to Join A Group! We have groups meeting online—experiment, risk, try something new for 7 weeks—you have nothing to lose, but a lot potentially to gain.

The wording of these steps was adapted from AA. Step One says:

“We admitted we were powerless over ________________ that our lives had become unmanageable.” [Fill in that blank with any area where you have been stuck].

Step One has to do with our deep-seated fear of letting go. Our fear of turning over control of ourselves, or of others, or of our futures. Step One confronts our fears of admitting we’re weak and powerless in some areas—that we can’t fix our problems, fix our friends, or fix our circumstances, no matter how hard we try. But we do try hard. And this is the paradoxical roadblock to growth—if we have to be
perfect, if we must remain in control of everything, if we can’t admit we’re powerless—we’re
stuck.

Step One takes us down a path of rigorous honesty.

That’s why we’ve had a motto around here from day one “NO perfect people allowed.” Because there are no perfect people, but when we play that game, putting on your best churchy-face to mask your real struggles. we all stay stuck. We pretend, so we can’t help each other grow. Honesty takes us down a path of spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection. Where we stop pretending we’re perfect and we admit our problems.

Whether it’s facing powerlessness over alcohol, drugs, pornography, or anger, lust, fear, or social media—or like me fear of social media. Until you admit it, you’re stuck. But this is really hard to do isn’t it? To admit we’re not in complete control?! So we pretend it’s not a problem.

  • But we can’t stop drinking to relax, we can’t stop smoking, we can’t stop hurting the people
  • around us.
  • We can’t stop the sexual addiction, or looking at porn, or jumping from relationship to
  • relationship.
  • We can’t stop worrying incessantly, spending compulsively or working constantly.
  • We can’t stop eating too much or eating too little.
  • We can’t stop the panic attacks, the hurry-sickness, the bossiness.
  • We can’t stop trying to control situations or people around us, or feeling anxious about the
  • future, or about money, or managing people’s opinions of us.

Whatever it is, it’s making life unmanageable. Our family or friends have tried to tell us it’s unmanageable, but we won’t listen. And slowly but surely these patterns destroy our lives—but we won’t admit it. Step One says, until we admit we’re powerless—we’re stuck.

I want to look at 3 Excuses that keep us stuck in life.

Excuse #1: This Isn’t For Me

What’s funny is that most every person who has ever overcome an addiction—no matter how
slight or how bad—has thought “It’s not that bad. I can control it. It’s not like I’m One of
Them.” So, if you are thinking, “I’m not sure this applies to me, can you say…Denial?” Seriously,
think again.

Most people have secret addictions they deny.

When we see others in stuck places, but they can’t Admit it—they blame, make excuses, anything but admit they need help—that Angers Us! Doesn’t it! We get disgusted and contemptuous toward such proud, arrogant people who won’t admit their problems and grow!

But have we ever considered, maybe others see the same tendency in me?!?

Why is this so hard? Why is it hard to say “I’m powerless over my bad attitude, I’m powerless over my depression, I’m powerless over my bossiness, I’m powerless over pot, lust, I’m powerless over buying on credit, I’m powerless over chat-room fantasy?”

What is it for you? Why can’t we be honest with ourselves? I think it comes from a need to remain in control.

Let’s get honest—just for a second—then you can go back to pretending. How in control are
you, really?

Do you really want to cling to the delusion that you’re life is manageable as is? YES! We do. We still don’t want to admit we’re powerless. Why?

Something inside us fights being fallible, less-than-perfect humans. There’s a word for it—it’s called Denial. When you can’t admit you’re powerless over your sin and it’s making life unmanageable—You’re in Denial. I asked everyone to spot one habit, pattern, or character defect to go after working the 12 steps—I’ll bet many of us couldn’t think of one, right. And you didn’t ask those closest to you, because you didn’t want to hear it. Right. Cause those around us see it way before we do. But even when everyone else sees it, we find ways to deny it.

A workaholic kept bringing home a big briefcase full of work home every night. His kid was always asking, “Dad, can you play with me tonight?” Every night he got another excuse, “Not tonight son, but next week, things will settle down.” Finally the kid asked, “Dad, what’s in the big case?” “It’s my work.” ‘Why do you bring your work home every night?” the kid asked. “Because I can’t finish it during the day.” “Well, why don’t they put you in a slower class dad?”

Our family sees it, our friends see it, but we deny it.

  • “It’s just a season of life.”
  • “It’s his/her fault, not mine.”
  • “I could stop if I wanted to”
  • “It’ll get better after this deal goes through.”
  • “I don’t drink as much as Joe.”
  • “It’s not that bad.”
  • “It’s my boss causing these problems.”

We find every excuse in the book to not just admit we’re powerless. I’ve done this before. I’ve blamed my stress or unhappiness on my circumstances. Then I changed circumstances—and found the same demanding people and stressful challenges. I changed again—and no matter where I’d go these problem people or demanding deadlines followed me. You know what I finally realized? Everywhere I went, I was always there! Often you and I are the only common denominator to all our problems.

The scriptures say, “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there!” Jeremiah 6:14.

Denial just keeps the wound festering. The truth is every single person in this room needs help. Every one of us has sin patterns, nasty habits, addictions, character defects God wants to help us change. But if nothing changes…nothing changes.

8  If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  9  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  10  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. 1 John 1:8-10

God forgives everything—but we have to admit it to be free of it. If we can’t admit it, these things slowly destroy our peace. They slowly destroy our relationships. They slowly destroy our lives. What keeps haunting you again and again?

What monster do you need to face?

Honesty is where change begins.

How many of us have said to ourselves “I’ll never do it again.” How many of us have done it AGAIN?

I hate being powerless. And then we feel so much guilt and shame and condemnation. But there’s good news! We’re not alone. Look at what the apostle Paul who wrote much of the New Testament said:

“What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. 16 So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. 17 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! 18 I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it.” Romans 7:15-18

We’re not alone! Even the apostle Paul felt the powerlessness of monsters that grip us. And just admitting it starts us down the path to change. God can’t help us if we claim we don’t need help. Denial is the primary symptom of the sin disease—we don’t think there’s a problem because we think we ARE in fact, right. When those around us tell us there’s something wrong—we deny, we argue our case, we defend ourselves—why? Because we MUST be right—we CAN’T be wrong. Why? Do you think your God? No? Then why must you defend yourself so? Why Can’t you admit there’s a problem?

As the recovery movement realized:
“Selfishness—self-centeredness: that, we think, is the root of our troubles [and to get
better]…First, we had to quit playing God.”

When I try to operate as the Center of my life—I inevitably try to control people, or their image of me, or how things go or what others do—because I have the sense that I know what’s right, how things should go (how to run the Universe).

Eventually, I come face to face with the pain of reality (pain is a gift if we’ll receive it)—the pain of conflict with others, the pain of life not going my way, the pain of God not obeying my every wish, the pain of not being able to fix others lives or even my own—all this brings us to a crisis point

We go one way or the other here at this fork in the road—we try to manage the pain, or deny it to stay in control OR we admit we’re powerless and seek a Higher Power (God).

Managing the pain and fear leads to all kinds of compulsive behaviors.

Paul, who wrote “I can will it but I can’t do it”—was told this by God.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

To admit honestly to ourselves and God that we cannot live out who God created us to be in our own power—that’s the key that unlocks God’s power in us. Said another way you cannot live God’s way apart from God. Step 1 is meant to be a moment by moment daily awareness that you walk through the rest of your life. It’s meant to be a perspective from which you live.

And it is foundational to the rest of the steps. This step is the honest motivation we need to tap into a power greater than ourselves for help.

Excuse #2: I Am Already Free.

Some of you are thinking, “I’ve been a Christian a long time. I am free.” So you’re thinking—this doesn’t apply to me. “The 12 Steps are for people with serious problems.”

The Pharisees told Jesus, “we’re not slaves” yet they were blind to prideful character defects.

Too many Christians repel loved ones because they’re “right” and “righteous” in the worst sort of way. They know the Bible, go to church, and know all the right doctrine, do all the ‘right’ things—but they are not growing in love, joy, peace, patience, the fruit of the Spirit.

So if I asked those you live with: Is there any pattern or habit or character defect you see that I could work on in this 12 Step series? Is there any fruit of God’s Spirit lacking, love, joy, peace, patience, self control? Ask them—they’ll tell you.

Look at your life through the lens of the Spiritual Life God wants me to experience—try it.

The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

When you hold up this mirror to your life, what do you see?
Are these things growing or diminishing in your life?

Excuse #3: I’m Too Far Gone.

Some of you are thinking the opposite of “It’s not for me, or I am free.” You’re thinking—“I’m Too Far Gone.” You’re thinking—“You don’t know what I’ve done—how terrible it was. There’s no hope for me. I’ve tried and tried and tried. I’m uniquely an impossible case.”

That is a lie!

There are people in our church family who felt the same way—and they found Life and
Freedom. You know people who were once hopelessly addicted to Meth, Crack, Heroine, sex, Alcohol.
People who couldn’t forgive themselves for the abortion they had, for the adultery they committed, for the crime they’d covered up, for the children they’d harmed. You know people who had such horrible things done to them, they felt uniquely scarred, stained, marked, evil, hopeless—but they found Freedom, Hope, Forgiveness, Life. No one is too far gone for God—that’s how Great God is.

What the founders of the 12 Steps realized is we were never meant to do Life apart from the Author of Life. Remember what they discovered that I quoted from the Big Book:

“Our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.”

That’s what Jesus came to show us—Grace. It’s what we all need.

So what is that area or sin or stuck place or pattern or issue of control that you’ll focus on through this series. Can you start by saying “I admit that I’m powerless over [it], and my life has become unmanageable?” It’s the beginning of a Life and Freedom you’ve yet to experience.

Work the work this week around it, come back, join a group to process.

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