This lecture will be our last one on step 12
Last time we talked a little bit about the miracle story of Bill Wilson. How a terminally ill alcoholic came to have a spiritual awakening and not only learn to become sober but also carry the message to other addicts marking the historical birth of Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 steps of AA, sponsorship, and sharing our lives- all of these tools are being used by drug addicts, alcoholics, and gamblers all around the world to solve their common problem of addiction. And currently in the United States, AA membership is estimated to be over 1 million. We know that God’s plan and will was behind this in order for such a momentous movement to be possible. And we also learned about how Ebby carried the message to Bill. In the same way, when we carry the message today, that message can save someone’s life, turn someone into Jesus’ servant, and a homeless person can become a millionaire. These miracles are happening today. Broken families are healed, they find new purpose in life, and live on with gratitude.
Bill, until the day he died, thanked Ebby for carrying the message to him. And he referred to Ebby as his sponsor until the very end. But what happened to Ebby after their meeting? To give you the spoiler first, the rest of his life was not so pleasant. And there is another message embedded in Ebby’s unfortunate story as well. Ebby came from a high class wealthy family. His parents and siblings were very well off financially and socially. Ebby was the black sheep of the family- the only one who fell behind. It is said that he was consumed by the thought “I am not good enough”. I must note here that this type of thought process is completely different in nature from humility. This type of inner conflict usually manifests in people in three ways..
1. They become lost wandering souls or addicts.
2. They build up a false sense of security and assurance with an illogical sense of ego and pride.
3. To be approved by those around them, they become workaholics and many times they become very wealthy people who seem successful.
None of these three ways are good ways to live. And these types of bad self image or inferiority complex often make it very hard for people to recover from addiction.
This burning desire to be approved others and recognized by them leads us to lie without remorse. And it makes people sensitive. They’re pride is easily hurt and they are quick to hold on to resentments.
But one day, Ebby receives the blessing of sobriety. And he carried the message to Bill and the result was extremely successful. But not too long after their meeting Ebby relapsed and to Bill’s remorse, Ebby continue to fail at achieving permanent sobriety. In the 1950s there was a boom in the number of alcoholics who recovered due to AA. And one of those recovered alcoholics had a rehabilitation center. And Ebby was allowed to stay there and he was able to stay sober for some time again. There was a thought Ebby had regarding sobriety. He believed that in order to achieve sobriety permanently, one must have a good secure job and a good wife. But when Ebby was sober for a few years, his girl friend ended up passing away. So what do you think happened? Ebby got drunk on the following day. I’m not saying that he did not understand anything about recovery. But he had remained as a immature person who refused to continue recovery. We can see this quite often around us. According to records, Ebby was dry, rather than sober, for about 2 or 3 years before passing away due to Emphysima- a disease caused by smoking. He had a good spiritual life, good family, he could have been happy and a useful tool of God. It’s quite unfortunate.
So what was the problem? I am telling this story because there is definitely something we can learn here. According to records, after Ebby carried the message to Bill, he did not follow up his own recovery with any actions. Numerous AA meetings were starting up in different areas. A lot of service and labor would be needed. But Ebby sat behind. Not in the frontline. And he was not even necessarily focused on working on himself through the step work. He just laid around being lazy. He was resentful for not receiving the recognition Dr. Bob and Bill were getting for being one of the original members who started AA. This type of attitude and refusal to grow led to his relapse.
Bill on the other hand, was not from a wealthy upper class family. (Actually his family was bankrupt). But he began spreading the message the day after he got sober. Not only that, he took the message he got from the Oxford Group and used it as the foundation to put together the 12 step, allowing many other alcoholics to find recovery as well. And he also tried to stay honest and humble in his life.
Of course he is not in any means a hero or a perfect human being. A scene from a movie based on Bill’s life comes to mind. Many years after AA got started Bill was on vacation in California. During his stay there he went to an AA meeting. After the meeting was over, he was meeting the members in that meeting. He introduced himself saying “Hi, my name is Bill”. But no one was recognizing him. So he started saying “Hi, my name is Bill W.” while emphasizing the W. And when nobody recognized him still, he sat down sulking. He was a little bit disappointed. It showed a very humanistic side of him. Bill continued to work on his spirituality and with faith he continued to spread the message and work on himself until the 1970s. And until his dying day he stayed sober.
Today I wish to speak on the part of the 12th step that says “and tried to apply these principles in all our affairs.” This means that we not only carry the message to other addicts, but we must continue to work on ourselves for the maintenance of our recovery. We need to be looking into ourselves as well as caring for others.
We can remember a time when we did not know that a new life and changes in our character were possible. Even if we wanted to change, we did not know how. It was a frustrating experience. And I’m sure there are some of us here who are at that stage right now. But I have this one hopeful thought. A firm belief. It may even be a farfetched delusion, but I cannot seem to thrust it from my heart. That is that no addict has to die, end up in jail, or be deported because of their addiction. And if there are any addicts out there who are living miserably wanting to die, they do not need to remain in that miserable state.
If there is ever a time in which anger can be useful and positive it is to be angry at ourselves and our miserable lives. When I see people living on at their bottom without feeling this anger, it makes me angry.
So does that mean that it is possible for anyone and everyone to find a new way of living? The answer is yes. It is not only possible to find a new life but also be happy in that life.
How? If we can try to be honest for a while and be humble and fervent this life is possible. If we think about all of the hardship and trouble we went through because of our addiction, the solution seems so simple in comparison. That is why I cannot let go of that one belief I have. The solution is simply our willingness to recover and God’s grace. And anyone can receive this grace.
In our immaturity and addiction, sometimes we feel that we are undeserving of God’s grace. But we must remember that God’s grace is given to anyone who simply desires it. Usually these people who desire God’s grace are honest and humble. And they seek God earnestly and act in faith. This is the “one day at a time, every day” deal.
And if we can turn our lives over to God and put him in the driver seat, what more worries and problems can we have?
And the steps are there to guide us through this. Honesty, humility, and willingness. It may seem like a difficult task and a tough road to be on. But when we think about all that we paid for in our addiction, it’s really a very easy and simple path. As you know recovery from our addiction requires more than just the spiritual awakening we experience. We are not cured after some minister prays for us and casts the demons away from us. It is not something we can learn in a few weeks and then simply go on with the rest of our lives. And there are no pills or medicine out there we can take on a daily basis to be free of our disease. Our God given treatment was shown in the 1930s to the members of the Oxford Group. In actuality, that message was not only meant for addicts but for anybody who is in need to salvation. But the addicts who heard that message were able to receive God’s grace. And those who were able to act in faith received the gift of recovery. They were like death row inmates who received new life.
The 12 step does not have any special concepts. All of these ideas can be seen in the Bible as well. It’s just that people, whether addicts or normies, fail to apply it in their lives, which is why there is no power to change their lives.
Through Ebby’s story, we were able to see that even through a spiritual awakening and redemption in Christ our thoughts and actions must continue to change and develop in spiritual principles. All of us have seen someone who received grace and was able to stop their addiction only to pick it back up not after too long. And some of us here have had this experience. Upon having this experience addicts go through a very devastating time. Much more than a normal person would after a failure. Addicts ask themselves “am I really a Christian?” “what if God has forsaken me?” We torture ourselves with these types of questions and due to the shame and embarrassment we feel, we abandon our fellowships. Or some of us take the opposite approach and start living a double life to avoid the embarrassment that comes with being honest in our recovery fellowships. I hope that any of these types of addicts can find recovery at our gilgal ministry. We each rely on God for our recovery and build it stronger as we work with each other. This is like a dramatic war story. Injured, hurt, surrounded by the enemy, and completely lost, a platoon of soldiers escape going through the enemy line. The soldiers treat other’s wounds, and although hurt themselves, they carry those more severely injured than themselves. They urge each other on yelling “Don’t die! You can’t die!” Praying to God begging Him to show them the the way to live. Recovery is like a war.
All of us have a common goal. To live. If we do not combine our strengths and knowledge and assist each other, then we will surely die. Even if we manage to live, it we’ll probably be miserable enough to feel like dying.
We did not all end up here together by chance. As we recover from addiction I pray that we can take the role of being a pioneer in our Christian community. I firmly believe that this is God’s will.
In order for that will to come true, first we must stay alive. Second, each of us must mature. Thirdly, all of us must be have the heart to give and serve. That is Christ’s heart. And these three things are possible when we follow the principles of the 12 steps. And applying the principles does not just mean writing some stuff down on a piece of paper. We must LIVE by these principles. It means real specific changes in our lives. For these changes we invest in ourselves and to experience these changes we carry the message to others.
But there is one problem. All of the people we carry the message to. Do they all believe and follow? I’ve met quite a number of people and shared the message with them but most of them do not choose this path. Even if they initially do choose this path of recovery, as soon as their situation is a little bit relieved they once again take their lives and their wills back and go on living the lives they designed yet again. And they start to get lazy with what they need to be doing for their recovery. And they start to do things they really shouldn’t be doing. The guidance and directions for their lives no longer come from God or from others. They continue to do so until eventually they no longer have a choice and fail to stay sober once again. And generally we disappear for a while.
For the past 21 years I’ve seen countless people go through this experience. And I’ve asked myself “Why did it have to turn out like this yet again?” here are some of my thoughts.
1. There are addicts who do not sincerely admit their powerlessness over their addiction. At the bottom of their hearts they have the belief that they can recover on their own. And that leads to failure.
2. Some of us think we are different. We think we are unique and special. They do not admit that they must invest in their lives like everybody else.
3. There are addicts who lack a personal relationship with God
4. Some addicts believe that simply quitting is recovery
5. There are addicts who do not have any friends in their fellowships and/or addicts who don’t get a sponsor. When they start to fall behind there’s no one to push or pull them along.
6. Some addicts never give the steps a full try. They never get to see what the steps can do for us and therefore never get the motivation to continue working the steps in their lives.
7. Some addicts never get out of themselves. They never escape self-centeredness. Selfishness is every addict’s true nature. And it goes against God’s will and the program of recovery. Therefore as long as there is a self centered force in their lives, they cannot experience true recovery.
But regardless of what state the addict may be in, we must carry the message to them. Our lives must change and we must mature so that we may draw attraction to those still suffering. And they may be more prone to try what we are suggesting. And when they try they will find themselves continuing to dive deeper into recovery. Everything we have in our recovery. All the things we are enjoying in this life of recovery are things we have received free of cost. Since we have received all of this so freely, if we come across anyone who wants what we have, it is our responsibility to suggest the way to receive their gifts as well. That is how they will join our fellowship and begin to trudge the road to happy destiny starting from step 1. They will soon receive God’s grace, salvation, and respond as they hear Jesus’ calling to harvest more men.
What is the hidden blessing behind Step 12?
What does God have in store for those who help others and follow God’s will?
I love this passage from Luke 4:18-19
18 “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
19TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”
I made it the representative passage for step 12. In these verses we can see God’s heart, his dearest wish, the methods of his works, and the directions to living our lives. It also tells us what true blessing is. Personally, I believe this passage sums up the very ultimate purpose of recovery.
My dear gilgal community
God does not assess our lives by outer appearance. Rather, He looks at the content and quality of our lives. If you were a CEO of a company, what would look at to assess your employees? Would you simply look to see if they are punctual? Or see if they stay in front of their desk diligently? Would you consider them an outstanding employee?
What’s more important is what kind of heart do they have and what type of work are they doing? And What kind of results are they producing? It’s the same with our lives. What conditions we were born into and at what age we passed away I do not see as very important. What we did in the time in between, how we lived during that time are what determine the value of our lives. Superficial routinely performed activities are not important in our spiritual live and recovery. What’s important is the true content of it. It doesn’t matter if everything looks okay on the outside if there is no actual substance within us. We may be able to trick the eyes of other people, but God can always tell.
As our recovery grows and deepens, what becomes increasingly important is not our appearance but our heart.
In Genesis chapter 4 there is a story about Cain and Abel giving their offerings to God. Cain was a farmer so he offered up his crops. Abel was a shepherd so he offered up a sheep. So why did God accept Abel’s offering but not Cain’s? That is because Cain did not spill any blood for the sacrifice. But in my opinion, the reason why God didn’t accept Cain’s sacrifice is not because he broke the rule of offering sacrifices but because there was a problem within his heart. When God didn’t bless his sacrifice Cain should have looked inside his own heart but instead he was infuriated. If Cain had the right heart a heart centered on God, would he have reacted this way? I think not. At that point he would’ve asked, what will you have me do?
There is a similar passage in Isaiah 58:3
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’
We are going through pain and agony to fast but why will you not respond God?
Having this type of self righteous argumentative attitude would not be the right way to fast. God’s focus is not on the actual act of fasting. He focuses on what our heart is centered in.
It is as it is written in Isiah 58:6-12. God does not care so much about the act of fasting. How we should interpret this is that God wants us to realize his heart. And when we carry his will our accordingly God is pleased and he blesses us. It is our attitude and the content of our lives God focuses on.
Prayer is, simply put, telling God about what’s in our heart and our needs. How does God respond to our prayer? He sympathizes with us, beckons us, and tells us he love us and that he is with us, letting us know of his heart.
This also is my wish. Would you be able to that for me? And have such blessing…“ And he tells us of such wish. And that is why he says, “The fasting that pleases me is…” in verse 6 and that is how he wants us to understand his wishes to us.
6. “The type of fasting which pleases me is the kind that releases the restraint from all tragedies, unyoke the binds, and free the oppressed.”
God tells us that what pleases him is when we free the oppressed. And among the oppressed, there are ones which we’ve oppressed in the past. Our spouses, our children, and our neighbors can be included as such.
And among such, there are ones that have been oppressed due to their environments. For example, the families of the addicts, our brothers and sisters in North Korea, and the children dying from starvation and disease are also included.
And then there are ones which have been oppressed with their personal problems. Personal problems such as the memories of the past related to the addiction. And some of us are slaves to the memories of having committed sins in the past. And it is God’s wish to tell them of the message of the salvation and message of the recovery.
In the book of Luke, chapter 4, verse 18 and 19, after being baptized, after fasting for 40 days in the desert, and after defeating the devil, Jesus declares as the following. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And if this is the mission of the Jesus, it is also our mission as well. Helping the prisoners, the blinds, and the oppressed are the wishes of God and understanding and accepting such mission is what God wants from us and also it is the way of living a life with spirituality.
7. “Share your food with the hungry, invite the homeless to your homes, dress the naked, and do not distance yourself from your relations.”
God is talking about helping the weak and the poor here.
And when God says not to distance yourself from your relations, he is referring to your family and friends. God is telling us not to turn away when they are asking for help. Disregarding the needs of others and striving only for my own happiness is not what God wants from us. Helping the addicts and their families are our responsibilities as we are the member of GilGal Mission. And if we do as we are told in verse 6 and 7, we will be blessed with what is promised in verse 8 through 11.
8. “If you do as you are told, you will shine as bright as the morning light, your recovery will be expedited, and the glory of the Jesus will surround you.”
9. “Jesus will answer when you are in need, I will tell you that I am here when you are seeking for me, and if you are able to stop your false beliefs and dreams,”
10. “If you are able to understand the troubled and satisfy the needs of the ones in pain, you shall shine ever so brightly in the deepest darkness so it shall be like the day,”
11. “I, Jesus, will always lead you so that your spirit will be satisfied and so that you shall always live in the Garden and your river will never lack water to flow in it.
God promises us that the dark and painful nights shall pass and his bright light of blessing will shine upon the path of our new lives. We no longer need to wander and be lost in the darkness. In the past, our worries, insecurities and feelings of futility had made us wander around aimlessly. And if we are not able to emerge through the light of hope now, we will eventually head back to the life of alcohol, drugs, and gambling. As we respond to the voices of God, we shall emerge through the center of light of hope.
Dear beloved family of Gilgal, we are all people who are in need of recovery. God promises us through these words that we shall be healed fast spiritually, mentally, and physically. God promises us that if we stop dwelling and drowning ourselves in the self-pitying, painful memories of the past and start listening to the words of God, our prayers shall be answered. God is telling us that we no longer need to live our lives as the slaves of Satan.
We shall be able to live in God’s leadership and protection. And with such our bodies will strengthen. And with our strengthened bodies, we shall sprint towards God’s promised salvation.
12. “There shall be ones among you who will rebuild where it had been destroyed, and they shall praise your name as the one who rebuilds and accomplishes.”
Everyone, they say that the most blessed are the ones who can rebuild where it had been destroyed. It is easy to destroy but it is also truly difficult to rebuild something which has been destroyed. Do any one of you feel that what has been destroyed in your life is being rebuilt by the power of recovery, hands of this fellowship, and the grace of God? If so, I urge you to start rebuilding the foundation which you had destroyed in your family and with your friends in order to start paving the road to recovery. And after doing so, please believe in the promises made by God.
In verse 12 it states, “there shall be ones among you who will rebuild where it had been destroyed.” God is saying that the next generation, the ones who had returned to Israel after being prisoners of Babylon, shall start rebuilding the Israel.
I’d like to believe that by the help and work of the ones sitting here today, the recovered and blessed will lead the way to helping the other addicts in need in our Southern California religious community. This world warns us more of the uncertainties of the future. And in such uncertain times, it is also the time for us to depend on the words of God and keep walking the right path. And it is because our collective goal is also God’s promise to love each one of us and his everlasting love to lead us in the right direction.
That concludes our study on step 12. Lets us pray
Thank you Lord for you love us and bless us with your grace. And I thank you for teaching us that you want us to spread this love and grace to our neighbors. We want to decide to follow Jesus’ footsteps today. Fill us with your spirit and send us to the poor, the enslaved, the blind, and the oppressed. Won’t you open their eyes, free them from their chains. And may your redemption and grace spread. In Jesus name, Amen.