Action. Sounds so innocuous. But what is it? As I prepare to talk about taking ACTION at Celebrate Recovery this week at First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, I have been thinking a lot about this word. Dictionary.com defines action as “the process or state of acting or of being active” or “something done or performed; act; deed.” Clearly, actions are something we DO. Another definition describes actions as a physical or mental act that we consciously will. In other words, we cannot “act” against our own will. Our actions are chosen, not passive. Our actions can feel huge – say changing jobs – yet, make no more than a small impact on our lives in the long run. Or, they can seem teeny-tiny – say eating right one meal at a time – and make a lasting, positive impact on our health and longevity. We don’t always know what our actions will bring about before we take them. But, often times, we do have at least a rough idea.
So why then do we so regularly fail to take an action when we know it will help us? For example, I am always thinking or talking about going to the gym, but I almost never take the action to actually get there. I spent years saying I should take a class, go back to school to finally get that degree, and get a better job, but then I’d watch “just one more” episode of whatever on Netflix instead. We know beyond a doubt that actions like these will only help improve us, yet we do not act, we do not will. We say things to ourselves like “I’ll do it later” or “Yeah, I really need to do that”. But, we don’t. Or, we say we are waiting to decide. I can spend months wasting my gym membership, trying to decide which class fits my schedule. Just like I spent years in an unfulfilling career because I did not register in school. These choices, what seemed like inaction, were actually actions, too, though. Choosing to watch TV or continue unhealthy behavior is an active choice.
What about the actions we take that we know full well we should not? I wasted so much time doing what I knew I should not. Enabling my former husband’s addiction because I did not want to face and deal with my co-dependency. Or eating terrible foods, knowing that they will have a negative effect on my health. These were actions, too. Enabling, eating, avoiding school, avoiding the gym – all actions.
As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 17:9, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” I was “stuck” in this place for most of my young adult life, thinking that I “could not” do anything to change things. I thought my actions did not matter or make any difference. But that was a lie! The truth, that I learned when I began attending Celebrate Recovery, was that there was a particular action – a crucial shift – that I needed to make in order to gain the power I needed to improve all of my actions.
You see, as Principle 3 states, I must “Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.” This is an action! It requires will; it is a physical and mental act. It fits every definition of the word – ACTION. Until I did this, I felt powerless, and always chose the wrong action. But, once I finally got this through my head, and I surrendered completely to God – took the action of committing my whole life and will to Him – everything changed! Each little choice became easier, as I was empowered by the Holy Spirit to take more and more action. Philippians 2:13 expresses it perfectly, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him.” After this crucial action was taken, all of the others took on new meaning and significance.
So I encourage you today. If you have not ever taken the ACTION of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, please do so today! If you have wandered from your faith and are struggling to choose the right actions, take the step today to recommit yourself, your will, all of you – to Him. I promise, you won’t regret it. It’s time to get up and take ACTION!
In Step 6, we take another important step in our recovery: we begin actively submitting to the changes we know need to happen. By this time in the 12 steps, one has written out his/her inventory and been honest about not only the offenses of others, but one’s own wrongs toward others (and self). And, confession and forgiveness supposedly followed. But, before we experience victory over our compulsive and/or addictive behavior(s), we have to voluntarily submit to a new way of living. This does NOT happen overnight! And yet, there does have to be a starting point. Sometimes people say they stopped doing substance abuse overnight, or they stopped cheating on a spouse. Even when behaviors are stopped, we will be vulnerable to other ways of escaping, if we do not replace the unhealthy behaviors (sinful, problem behaviors) with righteous patterns. This calls for honesty before God and renewing our minds – setting our minds to embrace and stand on the Truth in Scripture.
An important part of practicing this step is having humility. In my own life, codependency has been an issue for which I sought help, both in counseling years ago, and, in an ongoing way, in groups and accountability relationships. The slippery slope for me is thinking I’ve got this, that I now can handle it on my own and without having to daily confess to God how much I need His help, that I am dependent on Him, and telling God that I want to keep turning things over to His control, especially those things I want to fix or control in others’ lives. Christ’s humility is such a model and example for us! When the Bible tells us that He learned obedience from the things He suffered, I am reminded (and, still somewhat mystified) that even Jesus learned obedience! He willingly humbled Himself to take on our human limitations. How much more I need to humble myself before my Lord!
When I get to the core of why I don’t experience victory and freedom from my issues, I go back to asking what is keeping me from surrendering totally to God’s will and control in my life? A barrier for me is that I do not (at times) truly believe that God can take care of some things without my help, or that He won’t or might not do what is best. How prideful! How ridiculous! But, if I’m really honest, that’s a core sin – pride, lack of trust. While in my head, I know a right concept of God, in my heart of hearts and in my everyday life, I fall back into failure to practice what I say I believe. I allow unbelief and doubt to go unchecked right alongside my faith. Scripture warns us about this and says we will be double-minded in all our affairs. I don’t want to be like that! Thank God for His Word of Truth and for the Holy Spirit who convicts me when I willingly go against what God tells me to do. Confession, forgiveness received, and committing anew to submit – yield – to God’s Sovereignty is what I have learned is my only way to the victory. With His help!
I have experienced victory, yet it is not 100% constant. I am thankful for his promise in Philippians 1:6, that He is faithful to complete the good work He began in me (our sanctification and glorification)!
Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.
Happy are the pure in heart. Matthew 5:8
We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16
I heard someone say one time that as Christians, we are quick to say we are all sinners….but we are reluctant to admit that we actually do sin. This step requires us to admit that we sin not only to ourselves and God but to another person!!!
The God part was not as hard for me when I came to this step…..I know He knows my heart, my motives, my thoughts and my actions…..so I knew that I wasn’t telling Him anything that He didn’t already know. Although I was pretty deep in denial in the beginning, I did come to a point where I recognized my shortcomings and character defects after working through the first 4 steps. I had to come face to face with my weakness and sin if I was truly going to do an open and honest inventory.
BUT to tell another person….now that was an entirely different story. I am in recovery from co-dependency with people pleasing being one of the specific areas where I struggle. I was concerned how ‘telling another human being the exact nature of my wrongs’ might change how I was perceived by this other person……this person might not like me anymore….and being accepted and liked is the ultimate need of a people pleaser.
God encouraged me, however, to move forward with this step. In Proverbs 28:13 He tells us, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” In James 5:16, He says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
What I experienced when I was finally obedient and shared my inventory with another person, was not rejection but love and acceptance in spite of all the awful things I shared plus total freedom from the burden and weight of those sins. I no longer had to work at maintaining a façade of being the perfect person I thought everyone expected me to be trying to hide the dark side of my sinful nature….but I could relax and be who I really was – an imperfect person with a sinful nature who actually does sin!! Only through loving the Lord and leaning on Him can I overcome my hurts, habits and hang-ups and live the abundant life He has promised.
This was a real turning point in my recovery… I began to see trying to please people brought only anxiety, pain and a lack of self worth……focusing on pleasing God, however, brought peace, joy and contentment. John Baker sums up this step and principle this way: “In confession, we open our lives to the healing, reconciling, restoring, uplifting grace of Jesus Christ who loves us in spite of ourselves.”
Don’t let pride, shame or fear prevent you from experiencing the freedom that comes from confessing your sins to God, to yourself and to another human being. Recovery requires honesty. Psalm 32:3-5 says, “There was a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration…My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day until I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, ‘I will confess them to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”