Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine . . . Isaiah 5:22
I exercise for an hour or two (almost) every day and sometimes, I’m tempted to think that I’m pretty athletic. Recently though, I had the opportunity to observe those whom I would call professional – or heroic- athletes. These individuals obviously spend hours more a day in the gym than I do, and frankly, they put my ability to shame. I’m jealous, but I also realize that I simply do not have the time – much less the skill – to do what they do.
Being really good at anything usually requires a lot of time, commitment, and effort. Nowhere is this truer than with addiction. To be a hero at drinking wine, as Isaiah put it, takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice. This became evident in treatment where I met others, who had also given up careers, homes, families, and freedom to be addicts. Treatment was like a hall of fame for those who had sacrificed everything to get where they were.
The one enslaved to any destructive appetite (greed, gluttony, gambling or pornography), often surrenders his health, dignity, faith, possessions, career or family. This is radical commitment, and pointed in the wrong direction, it is disaster.
We should not be surprised then, that faith and recovery would similarly require so much of us. Because we are saved by faith and because salvation is a free gift of God, we often mistakenly think that following God is simply a belief that requires no effort and costs us nothing.
Christ dispelled this kind of thinking though: Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16:25). He insisted that if we call ourselves his disciples, we must daily deny ourselves to follow him in radical obedience (Luke 9:23).
If we would rather be known as heroes of faith and recovery, than as heroes of drinking or addiction, then we must apply the same time, effort, and sacrifice that we applied in our destructive appetites. If we want transformation and if we truly desire life, joy, and peace, instead of misery, slavery, and destruction, then we must radically commit to following God with our whole lives.