After over three decades in ministry, I can confidently say that one person cannot force another person to make a genuine spiritual decision. I have talked people into praying a commitment prayer – which they were apparently willing to do just to get me to just shut up – but it became pretty clear there was no genuine faith there. Instead, personal faith is just that, personal, and no one can force it on someone else. I can encourage and support you, but you will only make that decision when you feel God drawing your heart to respond.
In my twelfth year here at Helping Up Mission, I can also say with confidence that I cannot make someone quit drinking or drugging. I can participate in an intervention with you, point you in the right direction and support you as you decide to try – but I can’t make you stop.
About four years ago, my wife and I started a 12 Step recovery group at our church in Frederick County, called Recovery for a Lifetime. Our format is quite similar to Celebrate Recovery (CR), and like CR, we believe the 12 Steps are Biblical principles for an everyday spiritual walk. That explains the power source for people over drugs and alcohol.
So our group is for anyone who admits they are struggling with any issue in their life – we use the CR line of “hurts, habits or hang-ups.” A majority of our folks have alcohol and drug addiction backgrounds, but others attend because they struggle with depression, gambling, pornography or overeating. A number of our folks have family members in addiction and use our group like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.
Since we know we can’t make anyone believe or quite drinking or drugging, we need to simply live what we believe and be willing to pass it along to anyone interested. This week, at the end of our meeting, Jen asked if we could talk. She is Jewish, in recovery and has been coming to our group for about a year with her NA sponsor. She told me that last week she made a spiritual decision to begin a personal relationship with Jesus. Of course I was very happy for her. It doesn’t matter what our ethnic or religious background, we can all have an exciting and meaningful daily spiritual walk with the Lord.
Jen went on to say that she had gone to churches and CR groups before, but felt labeled as different (“Jen the Jew”) or, on the other side, pressured to receive Jesus. At our group, she said, she felt accepted and comfortable from the beginning. None of us had buttonholed her about anything, but accepted her as someone looking for help and support like the rest of us.
Jen’s story reminded me that we cannot talk people into either the kingdom or recovery, but God knows how to draw them into both! Here at Helping Up Mission, we pass along this wonderful truth to everyone who enters our doors, but we understand how it works. The 12th Step is actually based on the Biblical injunction to “go and tell” others – since this stuff is working pretty well for me and it is my privilege to pass it along to you. Welcome to the kingdom, Jen, join us in our spiritual walk and help us pass it on to someone else.
One life at a time,
Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director