I Can't -- Step 1
"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:14-24)
TThe apostle Paul well described the feeling of powerlessness that is so essential to the healing process of recovery and restoration -- sanctification. Even now, with many years of recovery behind me, I must recognize my own powerlessness in order to continue to walk the narrow path that leads to heaven. Some think that strange, but Jesus strongly indicated that He practiced this same discipline. "But Jesus never sinned", you might say, and that's right. The Bible is very clear about this (Hebrews 4:15
). Otherwise, He would not have been the perfect sacrifice for my sins.
I wonder if one of the reasons that Jesus never sinned was because He recognized the powerlessness of His own human flesh. Look at what He said about that: "... Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself..." (John 5:19
). Not only did He admit his own powerlessness, but He also spoke of His reliance on His Father God. "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30)
In a similar way, Paul went beyond the recognition of, not only his powerlessness, but his sinfulness too: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." (Romans 7:25) "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4)
Friends, as strange as it may seem, there is hope of a better life when we recognize and admit our own weaknesses. "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
. "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." (1 Peter 5:10)
As humans in need of help, we tend to put on a facade that says, "I can do it myself. I could fix my own problems, if I had any." It's great to have a positive attitude, but are things really that great? Can I really fix my own problems? Or, do I just make myself feel superior to others, thinking that my issues are not nearly as bad as theirs? Or, maybe I try to become an authority on everything, so I can tell others what they are doing wrong. Maybe this gives me some temporary relief from the reality of my own inadequacies. Or, maybe I spend large amounts of time doing good deeds for my community or my church, hoping that this will somehow ease my pain, or give me the victory over those sins that so easily beset me. Or maybe I continually pursue higher, more prestigious degrees, hoping that education will bring me peace and happiness in my soul.
Does any of this sound familiar? Are you in denial about your true condition, as I have been (and in some ways, may still be)? It has been a difficult thing for me to realize my own issues, and my own powerlessness over them. But one of the ironies of recovery (the process of sanctification, as some call it), is that the only way to resolve those sins that so easily beset us, is to admit it, and acknowledge our own powerlessness to resolve them on our own.
Here are a couple of quotes that I really don't like: "There are but two powers that control the minds of men -- the power of God and the power of Satan." (Temperance, p. 276) "Satan takes control of every mind that is not decidedly under the control of the Spirit of God." (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 79). WOW, I thought I could do my own thing -- control my own mind. But, it seems that it is more complicated than that. It wasn't until I began to understand my own powerlessness, that I was able to begin my recovery process.
God invites us to come out from behind our facade, to get real with ourselves and admit that everything is NOT OK, and that we are powerless over our lives. Yes, it's painful. But the pain has been there all along, just festering into more and more damaging thoughts and behavior.
Isn't it time to face that pain instead of just stuffing it, hoping it will go away? Isn't it time to acknowledge that we need the help of a higher power outside of ourselves? My own personal experience is that it is well worth the pain, to gain the peace and serenity that follows. It's unfortunate that I had to sink lower than a snake's belly before I began to understood my own powerlessness, but that's what it took for me. And, no matter how low you've sunk, there is still hope for you. You too can have a better life, and YOU ARE WORTH IT! Why else would Jesus make the ultimate sacrifice when He died to pay the price for your sins, and mine.
Jesus says, "Yield yourself up to Me; give me that will; take it from the control of Satan, and I will take possession of it; then I can work in you to will and to do of My good pleasure." (Messages to Young People 154) And I guarantee that His good pleasure is infinity better than our default -- satan's evil pleasure.
"When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." (Matthew 9:36
Have you ever felt weary and scattered? I sure have. There seems to be no lack of problems to deal with, projects to complete, temptations to face, schedules to meet, and hard decisions to make. These things all serve to remind me that, of myself, I am powerless. On my own, I will spin out-of-control to a place I don't want to be.
But, thank God, I don't need to be without the Good Shepherd. I am not alone. When I am feeling weary and scattered, Jesus has compassion on me. And, His Spirit works in me to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13
), as I choose to surrender my will to His.
But, will I recognize my powerlessness and my great need? If I don't, then I will continue to be weary and scattered. It is only as we admit our powerlessness and realize that our lives are unmanageable that true recovery can begin.
The battle is raging. The artillery of our enemy is aimed to destroy each and every one of us. If we do nothing, we will surely die! The enemy we face has been in battle for thousands of years and has millions of warriors at his command. Unprotected, we will not survive, "for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12
). Our "...adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour"
(1 Peter 5:8
). If we live life our way and on our terms, we will surely fail. We CANNOT be the master of our own destiny.
After trying to fight this battle on my own for many years I finally came to understand that I was powerless. My life had become unmanageable, and I was helpless to do anything about it. The good news is that, in retrospect, I see now that this is exactly where I need to be. "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." (Galatians 6:3)
In a battle, it seems strange to admit powerlessness, still expecting victory. But, humble honesty about our true condition is vital in being able to proceed to the next step toward engaging in the war that we MUST win.
Jesus said, "... The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do... I can of mine own self do nothing... I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:19,30
). Whenever I read these amazing words of Jesus, I am both humbled
I am humbled
to realize that neither can I do anything good without God (John 15:5
). It is part of my personality to be a get-it-done kind of guy. That's not a bad thing. But if I do it my way, rather than God's way, I am destined to failure. And, if I try to do things that God is not calling me to do, it profits me nothing -- I'm likely to fail.
I am encouraged
to realize that I can experience power in my life, as Jesus did, in spite of my own powerlessness. The apostle Paul once said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)
. So then, the question I have to ask myself is, "Will I cooperate with God? Will I be honest about my own powerlessness and choose to trust and obey Him? Or, will I continue to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results?"
Egotistic: Thinking very highly of oneself; vain; boastful; indifferent to the well-being of others; basically... selfish.
Altruistic: benevolent; considerate; generous; humanitarian; kind; basically... self-sacrificing.
The Christian walk, to me, seems to be one of a lifetime of progression. It often begins with a highly egotistical view of life with a perception that "I am the center of my world. It's all about me"
. Then, as we allow the love of God to constrain us (2 Cor 5:14
), we become less focused on ourselves and more focused on God; more interested in the welfare of others; more altruistic.
For me, a great place to start (and keep coming back to) in this process is to remind myself of the words of Jesus, when He said "I can of mine own self do nothing... I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father"
). That's humbling... Why should I think more highly of myself, than Jesus thought of Himself? I want to be more like Jesus :-)
"For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." (Romans 12:3)
My human tendency is to consider myself well-able to handle whatever life brings to me. I want to be in control, but when I consider the awesome power and goodness of God, I can't help but resonate with the Psalmist, when he said, Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah; for I am withered away: O Jehovah, heal me; for my bones are troubled. (Psalms 6:2
). Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalms 51:5
). O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24
For 25 years, I insanely fought my sinful nature in the same way -- expecting different results every time temptation came. But, just has 2+2=4 -- every time I figure it -- so did I continue to get the same results -- failure, guilt, and shame -- every time I tried to solve my problems MY way. I thought I could fight it myself. I thought God would give me more strength of will so that I could have the victory in MY strength. But, I continued to get the same results -- wretched failure.
Though sinless, Jesus said that even He "can do nothing of himself" (John 5:19
), so why did I pretend that I was OK? Why did I think that, after being saved by Grace, that I could live my life on my own? Why did I think that I could be the master of my own destiny?
It is a central paradox in the process of sanctification, that admission of powerlessness is key to receiving victory in Jesus. The apostle Paul said it this way: "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10
It was only when I began to accept the impossibility of having enough strength to fight this battle on my own, honestly admitting my need, that I was ready to accept the power of God in my life to give me victory over my addictive behaviors. It was only when I began to accept that I am a wretched creature that a path to healing began to open up to me. I began to find a new way to use my will power -- not so much in fighting, but more in trusting the God of my understanding to lead me in the paths of righteousness. To Him, I give all the honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
I'm a pretty healthy guy. I eat well, like to hike the mountains, and and do many tasks around home that require a good deal of muscle power. But, years ago, due to over-confidence in my power, I pulled a muscle in my lower-back. All of a sudden, I realized just how fragile my "power" is. Even the simplest of tasks became difficult. Working out at the gym became impossible. Walking was slow and arduous. Even the simple task of tying my shoes was barely possible. I had to admit my powerlessness and ask my family and my chiropractor for help. This sudden change from power to powerlessness resulted from overconfidence in my ability. I'm thankful that my body healed, but it took at least a month.
Have you ever been over confident in your power to do the right thing, or to not do the wrong thing then, all of a sudden, find yourself failing and falling? I have. Have you ever been over confident in your ability to control people or things and then all of a sudden find those people rebel against your control and/or find things falling apart. I have. I think it's human nature (especially for men) to want to be in control of everything and everyone around us, and of our behaviors. But, in our over confidence, we often find our "kingdom" slipping out of our control.
Jesus said, "... without Me, you can do nothing"
The irony is that as long as we hold on to that allusion of power our lives tend to become more and more out of control. And, at some point, we sink so low that we begin to admit just how fragile and powerless we really are. We begin to realize that our lives have become unmanageable. Just as my pulled muscle disabled my whole body, the realization of my true condition of powerlessness can disable my whole emotional being.
Like the "prodigal son", who lost all his power when he spent all his money then ended up at the hog farm, starving nearly to death (luke 15:11-32
), many of us have let our issues get so out-of-control that we feel like there is just no way out. But, the irony of recovery is that when our resources run out, when we finally give up on doing things our own way, that's when God is able to step in and do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.
But, "if we confess our sins to [God], he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness" (1 John 1:9
). "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results" (James 5:16
). Then, know that you "can do all things through Christ, who strengthens" you (Philippians 4:13
So, there IS hope. When we learn to be honest about our problems and we admit our powerlessness over them, we are then able to reach out to God and trusted friends for help. That's how our healing begins. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. I've been in recovery since 1994 and I wouldn't trade my recovery experience for anything.
"It works if you work it, and YOU ARE WORTH IT!"
It's amazing to me that my Lord and Savior -- who healed the sick, raised the dead, and sacrificed His life for me -- would say that He can do nothing without His father(John 5:19,30
). As I ponder the implications of that statement, I am humbled. How could I possibly be so proud as to think I can somehow do more than Jesus? For, without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5
The Psalmist said it well: "I am pained and bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. I am faint and sore bruised: I have groaned by reason of the disquietness of my heart." (Ps 38:6,8)
I'm a "Can-Do" kind of guy. I love my family. I love my work. And I can enjoyably do many things. But, in all my doings, I am painfully aware that I have limitations. My sinful nature is not gone and I can't fix it. Many years of cultivating my sinful nature have strengthened it far beyond what I was born with, and it is still present within me (Romans 7:17-21
The more I understand my limitations, the more I am willing to surrender those things as unmanageable, and lean on Jesus to give me the strength that I need for today. As I practice this, God works in me to change me to become more and more like Jesus. That's just what I need!
In my carnal nature, I was powerless over those behaviors that brought myself and others great pain. But during many of my 25 years of destructive behaviors, I didn't think I was powerless. I figured I could stop whenever I wanted to. I guess I did have a sense that I would need some help from God, but I thought I could control His power in using it to do whatever I wanted in MY time and in MY way. I believed in Jesus as my Savior and friend, and I said that He was my Lord. But, I was Lord of my life. I was in control (at least I tried to be), not God.
"Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:19,30)
. "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5)
My recovery process did not start until I began to admit that, of mine own self, I could do nothing to stop those destructive behaviors that were in control of my life. Without this admission, I see now that I would never have been able to believe that God could restore me to sanity (Step 2), or enter into the progressive ("work of a lifetime") process of becoming a man of God (Steps 3-12). I praise God for getting through to this stubborn, willful man that I am, that I am powerless without Him.
It is good for me to remember that I don't have all the answers and that I am powerless over many things in my life. And, it is comforting to realize that Jesus too was totally dependent on His Father(John 5:19,30;8:28
), just as I am dependent upon Jesus.(John 15:5
My carnal nature wants to take control of my life and live it MY WAY. But experience has taught me that this attitude only brings me, and others, more pain. Peace comes in recognizing my dependency, choosing to continually ask God for guidance, then choosing to follow as He leads (Steps 1-3). When I do this, life is always worth living :-)
Often, it helps to talk these things through in a safe environment with others, who also are able and willing to be honest about themselves and their faults. We confess our sins to God (1John 1:9
) but we also confess our faults to each other (James 5:16
Small, 12-Step group meetings are safe places to be honest. Check one out for yourself...