Dear Faith Partner,
I have spent the past month teaching and sharing around the theme “Breaking Free and Staying Free”. From large to small groups we have taught God’s plan for overcoming strongholds and addictions using His Word coupled with practical real life application: the results have been outstanding! I believe most people want to be free, but just do not know how to “Break Free and Stay Free”.
I asked one of my daughters in the faith, Minister Nicole Atkinson, who is also a licensed counselor, to write this month’s RBPM partner letter to share principles to overcome addictions. Be encouraged and strengthened by her words and know it is God’s desire that you live free.
Thank you for your continued trust and covenant commitment. We are grateful for you and continually pray God’s peace and grace for you and your ministry.
Your Covenant Partner,
Richard B. Peoples, Sr.
How to Overcome Addictions
As a church body, often we find it difficult to talk about addiction. Usually, when we think of the body of believers, the overall consensus is that we have overcome the challenges of addiction or we fail to place emphasis on teaching about this topic because it is easily disguised with a friendly smile and the persona that “everything is ok.” In actuality, addiction is a stronghold. Bishop Peoples taught an entire series in reference to “Breaking Free and Staying Free” from every stronghold. A stronghold is a prisoner locked by deception. One who is living life by something that is not true; thought patterns (mental hindrances) that keep us locked into negative beliefs and defeating behaviors, which keep us in bondage. We understand we have a real adversary who tries his best to keep us distracted and in bondage. This is a war that is taking place in our thoughts that cause our behaviors to turn into habits that end up becoming strongholds.
We learned a foundational scripture and antidote for strongholds in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
Since we know we have divine power to destroy strongholds, we are to utilize this power from God to abolish addiction. As we think about addiction, we have to really understand what this word encompasses. By definition addiction is a stronghold, the fact or condition (having significant influence) of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity. This speaks volumes as it is not only narcotic drugs, but it involves any substance (alcohol, tobacco, opioids, etc.), thing (people, social media, money) and activity (work, exercise, gambling). One taps into the realm of addiction when they crave a substance, thing, or activity to the point where they absolutely have to indulge in that behavior even when adverse consequences may be present.
Statistically, 208 million people in the world consume some form of illegal substance. Approximately 21 million Americans struggle with substance abuse. One of the top reasons for divorce among Christians is ongoing adultery/pornography, drug or alcohol abuse/addiction and financial problems. Addiction is REAL. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV) “I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. Addiction does not occur overnight. It creeps in with subtle enticement and by the time we realize we are entangled we have created a problem. Help is here!! Believe and accept that fact. God loves us and sent Jesus to the cross for our sins. Addiction is buried in the grave. We are free in Christ Jesus. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed (John 8:36).
Indicators of Addiction
There are two types of addictions, which include substances and behaviors. Some indicators of addictions may include:
- Behavior changes: The individual no longer enjoys normal activities, isolation, change in attitude, loss of purpose, depression, anxiety, and highly irritable.
- Imbalance of behavior: Spending money they do not have, excessive shopping, excessive debt, workaholic, and engaging in behaviors regardless of adverse consequences.
- Change in appearance: The individual’s personal hygiene decreases, rapid weight loss, or weight gain.
- Substance use as a way to deal with challenges: For example the need to have a drink, smoke, or engage in a substance sure when stress arises to balance their emotions.
Practical Applications to Overcome Addiction
Addiction is usually a “best kept secret” until one comes to the realization they want and need help or the addiction has intruded on their life in such a manner that they warrant an intervention before total destruction arises. Some practical steps that can be taken to overcome addiction include:
- Get an accountability partner: Someone the individual trusts, who is reliable to hold the individual accountable regardless to how difficult or resistant the individual becomes.
- Seek guidance: There are so many organizations designed to help individuals overcome addictions: individual, residential, outpatient counseling, and support groups. Counseling helps deal with the underlying issue that usually leads to addictive behaviors, which are the challenges of life.
- Remove access to the addictive stimuli: If possible refrain from environments of temptation, change friends, and social activities.
- Journal: Write down your values and goals and post them somewhere visible. This way you can see your purpose and what you are striving to attain.
3 Ways to Overcome Addiction
- Put God First: Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
- As we surrender ourselves to God and come before His throne of grace, we are cultivating our identity in Christ. Which is made in the very image of God. Addiction is not an attribute of God. The more time we spend with God the more we deny our cravings for the things of the world. Bishop Peoples often says “Starve your flesh and feed your spirit.”
- Ask for God’s help. Psalm 121:2 “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” In putting God first He knows and understands our position in this earth. He sees the challenges and many distractions that come to deter us from the narrow path of righteousness. It is our covenant right to call upon the Father in the time of need. Ask for help when life is overwhelming and when we know the right choice, yet we still find ourselves engaging in inappropriate behaviors. God said we have “divine power.”
- Say “NO” to My Flesh: Romans 6:12 “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” Galatians 5:24-25 “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
- Our flesh is crucified therefore we must make a conscience effort not to put back on our sinful nature. Let it go! We must deny the desires of our flesh. We do this by being alert and sober minded and allowing the Holy Spirit to be our Guide. We know right from wrong. Most of the time people do not need to tell us when we make a mistake, we already know. Saying “no” to our flesh requires action on our part to seek the things of God and to refuse anything contrary.
- Go all out with Jesus- Give myself over to him; I am no longer my own: Acts 9:3-4 “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”
- Here we find Saul who is later renamed Paul, being a persecutor of the followers of Christ. He was dealing with a stronghold and even an addiction. He was addicted to tradition, what he believed was knowledge and being right. On the road to Damascus he had an intervention with Jesus Himself. In that instance Paul forsook all and from that day forth followed Jesus. He dedicated his life to spreading the gospel and going all out with Jesus. He denied himself and understood the principle “My life is not my own.”
As leaders and teachers of the Gospel we must deal with our own strongholds and teach others how to overcome every hindrance to include addiction. Through accepting the gift of grace and knowing without a doubt that Christ has set us free and we are free indeed.
Minister Nicole Atkinson
Faith Outreach Church