At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series called The Unmanageable Life.
Have you ever asked God for something and felt that he didn’t respond? Maybe He did, but your view of Him kept you from understanding His answer. Could a misconception or a faulty understanding of God be getting in the way of living your best life, the life He created you to live? Let’s explore how to look to a power greater than ourselves to work out our unmanageable lives.
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.
Hey friends, if we’ve never met before… my name is Kenny.
I serve as Campus Pastor at our Central Campus… but, even more importantly today, I’m a follower of Jesus and I’m in recovery for addiction and codependency.
Last month I celebrated 16 years of freedom crystal-meth addiction!
We’re in week 2 of teaching series we’re calling The Unmanageable Life, where we’re exploring God’s Heart while examining our own – through the lens of Scripture and through these 12 steps of recovery… where here in our community, we’ve seen so many people, including our staff and volunteer leaders, experience life, healing and freedom from all kinds of addictions, wounds from the past and destructive patterns.
Friends, if you’re just jumping in with us today, online or in person… I want to welcome you and I want you know that, here at Gateway, we’re all about helping people explore God and become a unified community of growing and multiplying Christ followers… so, whether you’re exploring faith or wanting to grow as a follower of Jesus, this is a safe place for you to do so today!
Last week we kicked-off the series talking about Step One… where we admitted we were powerless over _______ (the effects of our separation from God) – and that our lives had become unmanageable. In fact, if I remember correctly, that was right before the Cowboys admitted they were powerless… RAMS PIC …and that Los Angeles had become unmanageable.
This week I’m going to walk us through Step Two and I want to show you 3 ways that Step Two functions in moving us forward in our journey toward living in freedom.
Step 2: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
One of the first things that some of you are going to hung-up on today is the phrase “restore us to sanity” …why? Because that implies a current condition of “being insane” in one form or another… and for so many cultural and clinical reasons… some of us aren’t comfortable with that word.
Step Two Points Out Our Insanity
Insane – In a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction
In election years… you see this come to life with family around the holidays.
Let me give you a working definition of the word insanity, that I learned early in my recovery. This might help some of you who aren’t sure if this is for you.
Insanity: Doing the same thing, over and over again but expecting a different result each time.
Friends, that’s addiction in a nutshell… but we don’t all struggle with addiction… and so for those of you who don’t… here’s another application you might find helpful.
As many of you already know, Jeni and I have three boys… 11, 9 & 8… and with each pregnancy, we wondered… even hoped at times, that we might have little girl to help bring a little balance to The Force in our home… but after 3 boys, it had become pretty clear that, with me… Jeni was destined to be a “boy mom”!
Over the last 8 years since our youngest was born… I’ve been asking Jeni if she would consider us trying again because I was sure that if we were to have just one more child, “this time, I was going to give her a girl”… to which, my sweet wife would say, “No, you won’t… you’re just going to keep filling our house with more boys… and I already have my hands full with the YOU and the 3 we have… not to mention, don’t you think you’re too old?”
BUT THEN, it was late last year, when Jeni started saying… ya know honey, it would be cool to have a little girl around here … and I was like, YES IT WOULD! …Daddy’s little princess? … YES, THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT!
“Seems like 2020 would be a great year to have a baby??”
And so earlier this year, by God’s Grace, we got pregnant, and we were so excited to go to the OGB and, for the first time in our life together hear the words… “It’s a girl!” Nope! We’re having another boy! GREENFAM PIC (Week 37 – Prayer!!)
…now, it may sound to you like my wife is the one struggling with insanity in our marriage… same thing… over and over… expecting diff results… etc
Honey, you know I’m totally kidding! …and seriously, the next one is definitely going to be a girl… I promise!
See friends, most of us aren’t comfortable with the idea of insanity… because we view it as a weakness that’s being exposed
Here’s something I find very interesting… here at Gateway, we say,
No Perfect People Allowed. And most of us would say we love that, right?
But many of us don’t really believe that. Let me explain.
Most of you believe that everyone should be able to Come As They Are to Gateway and they don’t have to “be ok” – or pretend like they have it all together – or have it all figured out… and that’s the DNA of what makes Gateway the place we call home!
The problem is, many of you don’t believe No Perfect People Allowed applies to you!
The thing(s) about you that YOU VIEW as flaws or weakness are the very things you so often try and cover-up when you come to church or are in community with others.
Even as I bring this up… some of you are starting to tense up, right?
- I mention weaknesses and you say… “what weaknesses?”
- …”I don’t want people to judge me”
- …”What if people realize I don’t belong here?”
- …that I’m not strong enough… smart enough… good enough… pretty enough
That’s why so many of us work so hard at trying to hide our weaknesses… because we don’t want people to really know what’s going on in our lives.
Last week, we looked at these words from 2 Corinthians 12… where the author had been asking God to remove something from his life… something that to him, felt like a “thorn in his flesh”— but what was God’s response?
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. 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
Step 2 points out our insanity… it exposes our imperfections and weaknesses… these areas that we don’t want people to see… yet these very weaknesses in our lives need to be exposed and dragged out into the light.
I want to encourage you today… just name it! Write it down… or say it out loud… or if you’re married, punch your husband in the arm or smack him in the back of his head when you say it out loud. I don’t know why… I just know my wife does that when she has a-ha moments, and it seems to really help her.
- I’m drowning in debt… and can’t stop shopping online
- I’m dealing with codependency… I’m dealing with control
- I need to drink just to get through the day
- I’m angry all the time
- I know this is Texas… but I hate country music (I’m with you)
- I’m abusing prescription drugs
- I’m addicted to food, gaming, pornography… fill in the blank
The sooner we acknowledge the insanity of the brokenness in our lives, the sooner we’ll give up on trying to manage it. (Remember Step 1).
Step Two Tells Us We’ve Been Unconscious
The first part of this step says,
We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
When a person comes to… it means he/she was unconscious, not thinking or checked-out. Coming to is ‘waking up’ to a whole new way of thinking.
So, if Step 1 was about admitting our powerlessness, step two is the beginning of looking towards the solution. Einstein had said,
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
I’ve been in recovery for 16 years and walked quite a few people through the steps in that time… and I’ve found that Step 2 is where people start to awaken to the reality that faulty thinking is what got us into the mess/stuck place we find ourselves in.
And after many failed attempts at chaos-management and damage control, we also realized that our very best thinking is what caused so much damage and negative consequences.
See, again… I’m a recovering addict… and as addicts, we had been on autopilot towards a course of self-destruction. Most of us fully realized that what we were doing was unhealthy, destroying our finances, our careers, our marriages and families.
But we were unable to stop the behavior. (That’s Insanity)
I started reading The Bible while I was in jail in 2004… the chaplain of the jail gave me a Gideons Bible and told me I should start with the Gospel of John. So I did… and I couldn’t put it down. (and I had a little time on my hands)
When I finished, didn’t know where to go next, so I just kinda did that, “hey God, if you’re there… show me what to read next” …and I ended up in Romans, where I read these words as I was still coming out of the darkness and the fog of my addiction…
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to WAKE UP from your slumber… the night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So, let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. – Romans 13:11-14
For so many of us… we don’t want to wake up, because we’re afraid to feel or face the things we’ve been running from or trying to avoid.
We’re looking for something outside of ourselves to remedy our worry, sadness or anger… something that pacifies our loneliness… or numbs out the pain we feel.
All these things are just cheap substitutes for what we’re really looking for… peace, love and joy.
All of these ways that we choose to act-out usually just lead to more shame and regret… that leads to more lying and covering up… that leads to more fear and worry… but we don’t want to feel that… so that leads to more destructive choices, addictive behaviors, bad relationships… and moral compromises…and the cycle continues in a downward spiral of doing these same things over and over again, expecting different results each time.
- We don’t need another pill… these don’t really even work anymore… I only take them to avoid getting sick from withdrawals.
- We don’t need another show to binge… we only turn on Netflix as a distraction.
- We don’t need another bad relationship or regrettable hook-up to remind us how desperate we’ve become for attention… even negative attention.
- We don’t need anything else in our closet… or another gadget we’re never really going to use
- We don’t any more pornography… because we already have a mental hard-drive full of images that will never go away… and besides, I’m never satisfied anyway because my addiction always wants more.
What we need is someone who loves us enough to jump in our mess with us… and who’s powerful enough to rescue us and heal us.
Step One, if worked properly, leaves us feeling empty. We have admitted our own powerlessness and the unmanageability of our lives.
So we are left saying, “If I am powerless and cannot manage my life… who can?”
We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
This step in our recovery awakens us to our need for hope and the seed of faith that God has given us.
Step Two Awakens Our Faith
This begins the process of trusting that a power greater than ourselves is at work in our lives. We prepare for Step 2 by acknowledging that we don’t know everything about God. Many of us have a distorted view of him.
In the book Victory Over the Darkness Neil Anderson says it like this,
” When people struggle with their faith in God, it is not because their faith object has failed or is insufficient. It is because they don’t have true knowledge of God and his ways. They expect him to respond in a certain way or answer prayer a certain way- their way, not his- and when he doesn’t comply they say,”Forget you, God.” The problem is not with God. He is the perfect faith object. Faith in God fails only when people have a faulty understanding of him.” Neil Anderson – Victory Over the Darkness
For anyone who’s been really struggling with faith, have you considered this…
How might misconceptions or a faulty understanding of God be getting in the way of your faith in him?
When I was incarcerated in Los Angeles, after well over a decade of meth addiction… porn addiction and sexual brokenness that went all the way back to when I was a kid.
I couldn’t imagine a world where God could still love me… or could ever forgive me.
I couldn’t forgive myself, so why would I think God would either.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
- I was sitting in a jail cell, wondering if God could ever love someone like me… HE ALREADY DID
- I was wondering if God could ever forgive me… HE ALREADY HAD
- I chose to run from Him… but God never left me.
So many of us would say that we’re searching for God… but friends, God might just be the worst Hide & Seek player in the universe. He’s pretty easy to find.
American author and philosopher, Dallas Willard says,
“God’s address is at the end of your rope.” – Dallas Willard
…he also authored these words in “The Divine Conspiracy”
“We must understand that God does not “love” us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word “love”.” – Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
Recovery happens when we come to believe that God is for us… not against us.
That’s really important, because for many of us… this journey is going to begin with some grieving… because as we step out of denial and begin to get real about the insanity in our lives… and we wake up to our need for hope…
we also need to know that, “believe” is an action word.
Step Two says…We came to believe
“We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”
Dallas Willard, The Renovation of the Heart
As we come to believe that God can and will restore our lives… it’s important that we understand that part of how God is going to do that, is he’s going to show you things that have become idols and vices… things you depend on to make you feel like you’re in control… things that you’re going to need to let go of… why?
LETTING GO has to happen before we begin LETTING GOD
So again, the journey of healing often begins with needing to grieve and mourn the loss of things that you thought were going to make you happy, secure or loved… but now you see them for what they really are… and you might need to mourn that loss.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says…
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
This is God’s way of saying, to all of us who have been stuck, who know we are powerless… I’m going to comfort you by jumping in the trenches with you.
You are not alone in this battle!
The prophet Isaiah wrote…
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31