I Resolve to Be More Disciplined

I Resolve to Be More Disciplined

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13

In my drug use, I made up my mind a thousand times to stop. I’d clench my fists, pray, and promise God that I’d never use drugs again. I thought discipline meant flipping a switch in my brain. Every time a new year rolled around, it was another obvious opportunity to once again decide to stop using. Within a few days of telling myself I was done though, I’d find myself using drugs again. With every bottle of pills, I promised myself it was the last time. A thousand decisions to stop though, simply meant a thousand failures. Why? Why couldn’t I just choose discipline?

I failed at changing my behavior because I engaged in no actual behavioral change. I thought discipline and sobriety meant simply deciding that I didn’t want drugs anymore. The problem was that I was addicted and I still very much wanted drugs. I did nothing to change except try to change my mind, which wasn’t a plan for change at all. It was simply a plan for failure.

Today’s passage provides some insight into my problem. In it, the apostle Paul wrote that if we want authentic life, then we must continually put to death the deeds of the flesh. Paul had his struggles and Paul understood addiction (Romans 7:15). But he also knew that following Christ didn’t mean just praying it out or making up his mind not to do something. No, abandoning the old life meant daily doing whatever it takes to put the old behaviors to death.

That is what my addiction taught me – If I want to be free from a self-destructive behavior, then I must engage in radical change, doing whatever it takes every day to cut that behavior out of my life.

I know those who’ve experienced miraculous, instant change. They’ve prayed and been delivered from a specific addiction. We can and should pray for this, but miracles are rare events. For most of us, God will insist that we engage in radical obedience, doing whatever it takes to put to death our self-destructive behaviors. God, what do you want me to do to cut this thing out of my life? For some, this will mean getting rid of our smart phones to abandon pornography. For others, it will mean radical change in shopping, cooking, and eating patterns to abandon a food addiction. Some of us will need to go to treatment to address our drug problem.

Whatever our struggle is, it probably isn’t going away simply because we resolve on New Year’s Day to never do it again. Radical change requires radical change, today and every day. This is the Christian life (Luke 9:23). This is obedience. It is often only in our radical obedience that God transforms us. Thankfully, as we abandon self to follow God, we do find the new life. We don’t get there though, just by deciding it in our brains. Rather, we find the new life, by daily doing whatever it takes to abandon the old one.

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