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Refreshment in Refuge

    by Gina Burgess

Breaking the Chains of Sin
Date Posted: January 8, 2017

Last time we talked briefly about making that conscious and deliberate decision to quit ________. The importance of this step cannot be emphasized enough. (If you missed it, here’s the link. I do strongly encourage you to read it first if you are serious about breaking the chains.)

If you recognize there is a problem, admit that what you are doing is wrong, but if you make a decision to quit doing it, the flesh will win out every time. Sounds counterproductive to say, “Don’t make that decision to quit.” But, there is something about deciding to quit and actually following through. Ever break a New Year’s resolution? But, how often do you give something away and then go back to the person or organization and take that something back? Ah! Did the light go on?

It is important to have God-thoughts as we grind up our sinful habits. Temptations are extremely strong when we let them roll around in our heads. It’s like saying, “I’m not going to think about pink umbrellas,” but that’s all you picture in your head. “I’m not going to think about chocolate chip cookies! No, really, I’m not going to think about their yummy goodness.”

According to the University of Baltimore the neurons in our brains initiate thoughts and memory. Without getting too technical, a synapse, which does the work, either excites or inhibits the neuron, and when a neuron is excited enough, it causes action such as winking at a girl or reaching for a chocolate chip cookie. This is why they say making a conscious decision to accomplish a goal – breaking an addiction – is imperative to literally accomplishing it.

Numerous stimuli can create a longing for whatever we are addicted to. Our adult brains have about one trillion nerve cells with each one of those attached to about 20,000 other cells. (No wonder smashing our thumbs with a hammer hurts so badly.) Our brains can create a well-traveled pathway toward our addiction in less than 30 days. It takes at least 40 days to break that path. Therefore, no one is perfect, and we are usually our own worst critics, so don’t beat yourself up if you slip up and travel that path again.

Therefore, we need to dig deep into Scripture to counterbalance the triggers/stimuli. We have to give our brains a more healthy well-traveled path.

Most importantly - Develop a spiritual hunger for God - the closer you draw to God, the less you will want ______________. Learn to seek God every day with your whole heart and mind. Ask Him to help you do this. That will take a lot of work up front, but as you draw closer to God, you will notice a marvelous thing happen. Your hunger for Him intensifies and you will look forward to your times with Him.

Scriptures to pray and hold fast to while breaking the chains:

Now we are at the part where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. The decision has been made, the temptations have been recognized, and you have a daily list to check off in order to deal with those pesky temptations (see below for the checklist), so now it’s all smooth sailing, right? Not by a long shot. Now begins the real battle. Now is when Satan will dig in his heels and begin the battle against your success in earnest. Now is when you fight more than just your fleshly desires, the Spiritual Battle begins, and Satan will be using every fiery dart and piercing arrow in his quiver.

My dad bought me the six weeks of patches so I could quit smoking. (Bear in mind this was right after I’d been served with divorce papers.)The first day wasn’t so bad because I kept busy. The second day was a bit harder, but the fourth day I was climbing the walls. My heart was racing, my hands were shaking, my stomach was churning, my mind was craving.

I read some research that said if you drink a lot of water, it flushes the nicotine out of the system so you don’t have such terrible cravings. That wasn’t true for me. I was awash in water, I sloshed when I walked down the hall, and still the cravings were unmanageable.

In a flash, the hunger for a cigarette overwhelmed me, and dropped me to my knees. I cried out to God in such deep desperation it is a wonder no one came rushing in to check on me. I prayed and prayed for Him to take away this crushing desire. He asked me one question, “Gina, do you want to go through all of this again?” That question brought me up short. It said several things, the number one thing was that I absolutely would quit one day, and the only question was when I would quit. I could yield to temptation and then go through the whole thing again at a later date or I could face the demons to complete the battle now. So... Emphatically I cried, “No!”

I wish I could say that I got off my knees and never desired another smoke. That didn’t happen, but from that point, the desire subsided with each patch I applied, and with each day that I followed through with my decision to give that desire to smoke to my Lord. It was a daily decision for me until one day five weeks later I realized I hadn’t thought about a cigarette all day. What a milestone. Today, I’m like one of those people who I detested when I was smoking. When those who do smoke around me, I try hard to remember what it was like when I was quitting and God grants me the grace to be quiet.

Which brings me to the major point of this journey: When we pray within God’s will, His grace abundantly flows through us. Make it a daily thing to pray God’s word over yourself. The more you pray His word, the deeper within His will you root, the more nourishment you receive, and the better fruit you will produce. Pray God's word, the scriptures and insert your name and your particular habit in places that are appropriate.

God told Cain when he got angry, Genesis 4:7 “If you do well, is there not exaltation? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is toward you; but you should rule over it.This was before Cain succumbed to his anger and murdered his brother Able. God knows before we do something and the Holy Spirit will warn us.

Pray: Father, sin is beckoning me, help me to rule over it. Put Your desires in my heart.

Proverbs 10:18 He who hides hatred with lying lips, and he who sends out a slander, he is a fool.

Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise shall be wise, but one associating with fools shall be broken.

Proverbs 14:16 The wise fears and departs from evil, but the fool rages and is sure.

Pray: Father, please surround me with wise friends with good counsel, keep the fools far from me. Please help me to depart from this evil or cause this evil to depart. Imagine the temptation is this raging, hungry lion. Then be sure to put those iron bars between you and the lion. Walk on by that lion. It would be foolish to walk up to the cage and stick your hand inside, and try to pet any rabidly wild animal. Yet, people will consistently stalk temptation, petting it, cuddling it, all in the guise of “just thinking about it, I’m not hurting anyone.” God will protect you from temptations, but only if you don’t stick your hand in the cage or open the cage door. That is the way of fools.

God knows precisely what we are facing. He knows how hard it is to break addictive behavior. David prayed an extremely emotional prayer in Psalm 381 A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance. O Jehovah, do not rebuke me in Your wrath, and do not chasten me in Your fury. 2For Your arrows sink in me, and Your hand presses heavily on me. 3There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger; nor peace in my bones because of my sin. 4For my iniquities have passed over my head; as a heavy burden too heavy for me. 5 My wounds have putrefied and rotted because of my foolishness. 6 I am bent down, I am bowed down exceedingly; I went mourning all the day. 7 For my loins are filled with a burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. 8 I am exceedingly benumbed and crushed. I howl from the groanings of my heart. 9 My Lord, all my desire is before You, and my sighing is not hidden from You. 10 My heart throbs; my power forsakes me! And the light of my eyes, they also are not with me.

God knows this is how you are feeling, but pray it anyway. Talk it out with Him. Bring everything to Him, every thought, every temptation, every joy, every baby step, every victory. He is much bigger than any problem or addiction that Satan can fathom.

Psalm 16:1 A Secret Treasure of David. Watch over me, O God, for I take refuge in You. Pray: LORD Almighty, keep me safe, keep my heart and my thoughts pure, for I take refuge in You, and You banish sin from Your presence.

Psalm 26:2Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; let the fire purify and make clean my thoughts and my heart. Pray: Lord, your deepest desire is that your children look like you with the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Guard my mind and let no unseemly thoughts burst into full bloom. Guard my heart, for out of the heart comes the essence of the soul. Keep my heart from harboring evil desires. Put to sword all those desires that are not of your making. Psalm 51 Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not from your presence, but draw me close to your heart so that your desires are my desires, your will is my will. Keep me with a short leash, LORD, so that I may not sin against you.

There are so many verses in Scripture which have these same messages. How many of the Psalms are David’s cries for help from the Almighty? Remember that Jesus prayed for you specifically just before He went to the cross (John 17:20-26). He counted you worthy of His life. No greater love has a man that that he lays his life down for his friends. That is the kind of love Jesus has for us, yes, just as we are, warts and all. Jesus sees past the shame to the joy beyond the cross and beyond our sin. Take heart in that. See beyond the addiction to the joy of freedom, and hold fast to that because God’s hand is fastened around you. Nothing can snatch you from His hand, John 10:28-29.

When we give this sinful habit to God, we are setting our expectations high that God will take over the process of breaking the habit. Each and every time the mere thought of this addiction appears in our mind we must give it to God, lay it at His feet and expect Him to cut the chains which are attaching it to our thoughts.

The key is to let go of the habit when giving it away. What chains lock us to this habit? I call them triggers, but scientists call them stimuli. Recognizing the triggers, then giving those specific triggers to God unlocks those chains and makes it easier to break the habit.

Ask yourself this: Do you want to be a slave to _________? Why let something inanimate enslave an otherwise beautiful human created in God’s image? Is there anything else you would rather do with the money you are spending on ________? Do you really want to go through all this pain again?

Once you have completely decided to quit and have given the triggers to God, then there are some things that you must do to ensure your success.

Daily Checklist… (this was compiled so long ago I don’t know who initially penned it. I do know that I’ve added to it.)

[ ] Tell someone you intend to destroy all sources to your addiction, and to take serious preventative measures. (Food addiction is a little different, but you still must have an accountability partner. Make sure they come do a surprise spot check at least once a week to check your cabinets for junk food.) Ask them to follow-up on your plan (share this plan with them). Find a priest, pastor, or counselor.

[ ] With complete reckless abandon, scour your house and DESTROY all things related to the addiction. (This means actual destruction as in burn, shred, destroy – It does not mean give to your buddies or friends or donate junk food to the food pantry, or leave it so someone else can find it - even by accident at the city dump). When you see these items (and triggers) literally destroyed with by your own hand and with your own eyes, there is a tremendous psychological benefit that equates to breaking the habit.

[ ] Choose a destruction method so the materials can no longer be used for their
intended purpose, and can NOT be repaired. Take these same actions if you happen to store pornography in a storage unit or somewhere else other than your home.

[ ] Destroy credit cards that facilitate the use of addiction
[ ] Destroy personal items that remind you of a life that you wish to leave.
[ ] Destroy video rental cards
[ ] Destroy photos that remind you of addictive encounters.
[ ] Destroy business cards that remind you of a past you wish to leave.
[ ] Delete email addresses from your computer or online email to cut off your access to those you've been in unhealthy affairs etc. You might need to either purchase a brand new computer or reformat/install a new operating system so that saved passwords and saved websites are totally removed from restoration.
[ ] Completely scour your computer and destroy all references to things that support the habit such as websites (favorites or bookmarks), photos, email addresses, websites you have created, recipes for unhealthy food, get off ALL mailing lists that help support your addiction. Get a NEW email address and destroy your old one. Only make the new address available to the SAFE people you know. Delete all electronic cookies. Leave no stone unturned because when you least expect it, anything could trigger a relapse. Think about it, do you really want to go through all this again?

[ ] Destroy books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, posters, calendars, clothes, paraphernalia that support addictive/sinful behavior of any sort. Replace the car scent thing that could trigger an unhealthy thought process.
[ ] Take your computer and put it in FULL VIEW IN THE MOST occupied place in your home. Addictions of sexual nature thrive in the dark - Get your computer out of the shadows.

[ ] Destroy all software that supports the habit – gambling software, games etc.

[ ] Get an internet filter and use it. Just remember that you can override any filter so it will be only as good as you allow it to be.

[ ] Place a block on any 900 phone calls.

[ ] Cancel all subscriptions to any questionable material. Call Sports Illustrated and get them to alter your subscription so you do not receive the swim suit issue but all other issues. (You will be glad you did!) Cancel catalog subscriptions like Victoria Secret or Taste of Home for food addicts.

[ ] Work as hard as you can, and do everything within your power to restore your marriage. Call upon the power of God for restoration. (You will have to earn your spouse’s trust back, but it will be worth it.)

[ ] You must admit that you are deluding yourself with any "safe sites," so you and
you alone have the responsibility to do something about this little sneaky/peeky game
that leads you to something worse. It is precisely like an alcoholic saying "I won't drink, I'll just lick the outside of this glass of rum.” You wouldn't drink just a "safe" amount of arsenic, would you?

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Biography Information:
Gina Burgess has taught Sunday School and Discipleship Training for almost three decades. (Don't tell her that makes her old.) She earned her Master's in Communication in 2013.

She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.

If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection

Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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