RECYCLING MY PAIN
A summary of recovery
Over Two thousand years ago Jesus went up on a hillside and set down and preached the greatest sermon ever preached. It was called the Sermon on the Mount. He started by saying, “I want to give you eight steps to happiness, eight principles that will bring happiness to your life.” Today we call those eight principles the Beatitudes.
We’ve been in a series for eight weeks called Breaking Free—overcoming your hurts, habits, and hang-ups that have messed up your life. When you compare the Beatitudes with the steps of recovery you see a connection. Once again there is a Biblical basis for all that we have been sharing over the past eight weeks.
Matt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That’s Step 1: Realize I’m not God, that I’m powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and my life is unmanageable. Blessed are you who know they are spiritually poor that they know they don’t have the power to make the changes that God wants to make in their lives.
Matt 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” You don’t have the power to change, but don’t worry about it, God’s going to comfort you. He’ll give you the power. Step 2 is “Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and He has to power to help me recover.”
Matt 5:5 “Blessed are the meek.” Meekness means strength under control; it does not mean weak. A stallion that has been broken and tamed still has the same amount of strength, but once it is broken and domesticated it was called a meek horse. It is strength under control. Step 3: “Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.” That’s what meekness is all about. If you take that step you’re meek.
Matt 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Step 4 is “Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and another person I trust.” In order to have a clear conscience, in order to have a pure heart, I must clear out the garbage.
Matt 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” You have a desire to do what God requires of you. That is Step 5 “Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects.”
Then you have two beatitudes that are all about relationships…Matt 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful” thats for the people who have hurt me. And Matt 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers” thats for those whom I have hurt. Step 6 “Evaluate all my relationships, offer forgiveness to those who’ve hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.”
Last week we looked at what we called the “maintenance step,” what keeps you on these other steps. Step 7 “Reserve a daily time with God for self examination, Bible reading and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and gain the power to do His will for my life.”
This week we close out the series with Step 8, Y in the word recovery stands for Yield: “Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others by both my example and my words.” This is such great step…one of the more frequent questions I get as a pastor is about purpose. “Why did I go through that?” “What does God want me to do with my life?” God wants to use your experiences to help other people. He wants to recycle the pain in your life so that we can help others who are stuck in similar places that we have been. He gives you a purpose!
Last fall I read a book by Samuel Chand called Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth
In this book Chand writes “Reluctance to face pain is your greatest limitation. There is no growth without change, no change without loss, and no loss without pain.” He goes on to say, “You’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain.”
This is what is so counter cultural about God’s kingdom…We think,” God can’t use me, I’m not gifted or talented or skilled.” We usually think “God uses our strength.” But more often God says, “No, I don’t want to use your strength; I want to use your weaknesses.” When we are honest about our weaknesses…God uses that because people can say, “I can relate to that!” When you share from your hurts, habits and hang-ups the things you are in recovery from…God uses that…that’s Step 8. Yield myself to be used by God to bring this good news to others. Remember what Jesus said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” When you come to this step and practice it…then you have genuine recovery! Recovery is when you begin to focus outside of yourself. You begin to recycle your pain!
Maybe you are sitting there and you are thinking God uses pain? Why? If God was good would he just alleviate all the pain? Let’s talk about that for a moment. Why does God allow pain?
One answer is…Pain is a result of free will. We were made in God’s image…that means that God gave us choice! We can choose good or bad, right or wrong, evil or life. We can choose to reject God or accept God. True love must include choice. God could have made a bunch of puppets…however puppets can’t love. You can’t say you love somebody unless you have the opportunity to not love them. You can’t say you’re good unless you’ve had the option to not be good, to be bad. So God has given you free will and free choice.
Because of that free will, humans time and time again make poor choices. I have made poor choices, you’ve made poor choices…and each poor choice comes with all sorts of painful consequences.
- I choose to sleep around…contracting a disease is my fault
- I choose to experiment with drugs…getting addicted is my fault.
- I choose to put long hours in at work week after week…destroying the relationship with my wife and kids is my fault.
That pain is part of the deal with free will, we all must deal with the consequences of our poor decisions.
Not only do I have free will but everyone else does too. That means that sometimes we get hurt simply by being near others…we get lied to, cheated on, abused, and on and on. God can prevent those things from happening…but to do that he would have to take away each person’s free will. And God says, “I’m not going to overrule your will.” God doesn’t send anybody to hell; you choose to go there by rejecting everything that He does.
Another reason why God allows pain is that he uses it to get our attention. Pain is a sort of alarm that tells us that something is wrong. My youngest Liza is two and incredibly sneaky, when things get quiet and you can’t see her…you know she is up to something. Like this…this happened on Thursday morning. However a few weeks ago she was in our bathroom and grabbed Anisha’s curling iron. Somehow she turned it on and and a few moments later Anisha hears her screaming, she runs into the bathroom and sees her clutching her hand and the iron is on and on the floor. The pain from the hot iron screamed at Liza…stop holding the iron…danger! A few blisters were the result of Liza’s choice to play with the curling iron.
Pain is not your problem. Pain just says, “Something is drastically wrong in my life.” It’s God’s megaphone, “Please let me help you change!” God uses pain to help us see our need for Him…but remember he will not force us to surrender.
Remember the story of Jonah? Jonah was going one way and God said, “I want you to go the other way.” So He provided a typical Mediterranean cruise for him. And at the bottom of the ocean Jonah 2:7: “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord.” Isn’t that a great verse? God uses pain to get our attention.
God uses pain to teach us to depend on Him.
I love what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:8–10 “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
All that pain…was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God. Many times it takes hitting rock bottom…when you’ve lost it all and it’s all falling apart, you realize that God is all you need. God allows pain to teach you to depend on Him. The truth is, some things we only learn through pain, think back to the testimonies we have heard throughout the series. They all shared lessons they have learned through pain, life’s greatest teacher.
Another reason for pain is that God uses our pain as a ministry to others.
God allows pain in my life to give me a ministry to others. It makes me humble, sympathetic, sensitive to others ’needs. This is what Step 8 is all about: Yield myself to God to help other people. The truth is, pain prepares you to serve.
Once again listen to Paul, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Everybody needs recovery of some type, We all have hurts, habits, hang-ups. Nobody’s perfect.
- Who can better help an alcoholic than somebody who struggled with alcoholism?
- Who can better help somebody dealing with the pain of abuse than someone who was abused themselves?
- Who can better help somebody who lost his job and went bankrupt than somebody who lost his job or her job and went bankrupt?
- Who can better help a couple of parents who have a child, a teenager, who’s going off the deep end than a couple who had a child who went off the deep end?
God wants to use and recycle the pain in your life to help others, but you’ve got to be open about it and honest. If you keep that hurt to yourself, you’re wasting it.
Take Joseph for example, he was a young guy, and obvious to the rest of his brothers he was his father’s favorite. His brothers resented him because of that and came up with a plan to get rid of him. While they were out working they tied Joseph up and sold him to slave traders on their way to Egypt and then told there dad a wild animal mauled him and killed him. Joseph arrived in Egypt worked for a few years managing the house of an Egyptian official, he was then accused of a crime he didn’t commit and thrown into prison. Spent around 7 years forgotten in an Egyptian prison. Then eventually was brought out by Pharaoh and through series of God ordained events found himself second in command of all of Egypt, where he helped Egypt prepare for a great 7 year famine that would come on the land. Eventually his brothers come down to Egypt looking for food. The family was reunited…but his brothers were scared…they thought Joseph will surely get revenge. I have always loved Joseph’s reply, Genesis 50:20 – “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Joseph had incredible pain and yet God used it to not only to grow character in Joseph but ultimately provided a way to help not just a few people but entire countries of people searching for food, and finding it in Egypt. What would have happened if Joseph said, “I am clinging to this bitterness, at the first chance I am getting revenge”…God’s plan for Joseph’s life would have been wasted. Joseph decided to use his pain to help others.
How do I use my pain to help others?
This is what Step 8 is all about in the Road to Recovery. 1 Peter 3:15 is the basis for Step 8: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” This step is all about sharing your story. This includes pain that we caused and pain that someone else caused. Here are a few questions you need to process through in taking this step.
- Ask yourself, “What did I learn from that experience?” Write it down
- Ask God, “How did you help me through that tough time?” Then write it down.
Many of these testimonies that you have seen have been written down because thoughts become more clear when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.
- Finally ask God, “Who could benefit from hearing my story?”
Most likely it’s someone who is behind you a little bit in the recovery process, who is going through what you have gone through. When that person is revealed…simply say, “God, I’m available.” Get ready, because there are people who need to hear your story all over this world, who are going through what you’ve gone through. Have you noticed that this series is all about spiritual growth? These steps are about discipleship, this is God’s plan for the church to make disciples.
Let me give you a few suggestions in sharing your story. We all have a story to tell and God does not want you to waste the hurt, the problems you’ve had. How do you share:
- Be humble. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all fellow strugglers. When you share your story, when you witness, it’s basically one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. You’re not saying, “I’ve got it all together,” because you don’t. In sharing your story the best thing you can say is “Me Too.” I have been there, I felt that…here is what help me.” Me too resonates, because it comes from a place of humility.
- Be real. We’ve seen this modeled by those telling their stories the past seven weeks, as they’ve stood up here or on the screen and opened up themselves, been transparent and vulnerable and real. Do you realize the courage it took for those people to do that? I’m grateful to be a part of a church family where real people can share real problems and real solutions without feeling put down or feeling guilty about it. We are committed to maintaining that atmosphere of acceptance in this church. You help other people by being honest about your hurts. It helps them open up. And when we are real…it opens the door for healing and growth in our own lives.
- Don’t lecture. Just share your story. God wants you to share not be captain of the GCC debate team. You don’t argue anybody into heaven. You don’t force anybody into heaven. You just share—this is what happened to me.
I would like to introduce you to Tony Smith, he is a leader at Celebrate Recovery at Soul Harvest Church in Cloverdale.
Tony Smith’s Testimony
Throughout this series if you hear one thing I hope it is this, Our God is a God of second, third , fourth, chances We are a people of the second, third, fourth chance.
As we close out this series I want to encourage you to do 4 things…
- If you have not yet said yes to Jesus Christ, do so today. What are you waiting on? The greatest tragedy would be for you to go all the way through this series, hear these great truths, and the hope that it brings, and not do anything about it. Step across the line of faith and give you life to Jesus today. We have prayer partners who will be hear at the end of service to help you with that.
- Plug into Celebrate Recovery, Tuesdays at 6:30 (door 5). Attendance is not enough for recovery. It takes commitment and it takes relationships.
- Write your story out. Take some time and ask “What has God done in my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and how can He use that to help other people.”
- Unleash Compassion and ask God to give you somebody you could share your story with. The world is full of people who need your story and if you don’t tell it, where are they going to hear it from? You are the only Bible some people will ever read. You have a story that can reach them, that they can identify with. God wants to use you.
I challenge you to take this eighth step with me: “I yield myself to be used by God to bring this good news to other people, in my example and in my words.”