Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Battle with the Bottle

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A recent report carried the following headline, “America’s Drinking Problem Is Much Worse This Century.” According to the article, “Americans are drinking more than ever before, a troubling trend with potentially dire implications for the country’s future health-care costs.” The number of adults who binge drink at least once a week could be as high as 30 million, greater than the population of every state, save California. One of the doctors involved in the study concluded, “Alcohol is our number one drug problem . . . Excess drinking caused on average more than 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year—more than twice the number of deaths from prescription opioids and heroin last year. The total includes drunk-driving deaths and alcohol-linked violence, as well as liver disease, strokes and other medical conditions.”[1]

The Bible is full of warnings about the dangers of alcohol, but perhaps the most vivid is found in Proverbs 23:29-35:  
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine.  Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.  In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.  You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.”

Notice all the side effects that come from having too much to drink: sorrow, self-pity, hangover, bloodshot eyes, hallucinations, slurred speech, instability of mind, staggered steps, deadening of the senses and eventually addiction. Show me where to sign up for that!

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If you are struggling with the issue of drinking, I want you to know that God’s warnings are in place not because He’s a killjoy, but because He’s a lifesaver. God’s danger signs are in place to maximize life. You might think of God’s moral laws like guardrails that are put on a windy mountain pass to keep the car from careening off the edge.   

Randy Alcorn has said, “A smart traveler doesn’t curse guardrails.  He doesn’t whine, “That guardrail dented my fender!” He looks over the cliff, sees demolished autos and thanks God for guardrails. God’s guardrails are his moral laws. They stand between us and destruction. They are there not to punish or deprive us, but to protect us.”[2]     

Moderation is not the cure for the liquor problem. Moderation is the cause of the liquor problem. Becoming an alcoholic does not begin with the last drink, it begins with the first. Abstinence is best, because it’s impossible to be bitten by a rattlesnake you never play with.

By the way, for those of you who think it’s fine to drink and it won’t damage your Christian witness, consider Paul’s words:

·         Romans 14:21: “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” 

·         1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

·         Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”   

When you drink in front of unbelievers, children and others who are looking to you as an example of Christ what message are you sending? If you know that there is someone who struggles with alcohol or has struggled in the past with alcohol abuse, out of respect for them the Bible says that we are to limit our Christian liberty for the sake of others. I think Ravi Zacharias gave us one of the best principles when it comes to understanding legitimate pleasure, “Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another is an illicit pleasure.”    

In one of his books, Max Lucado, comes clean about his struggle with alcohol. Lucado said, “I come from a family of alcoholism. If there's anything about this DNA stuff, I've got it.” For more than 20 years, drinking wasn’t a major issue for Lucado. But a couple of years ago, it nearly became one. Lucado recalled, “I lowered my guard a bit. One beer with a barbecue won't hurt. Then another time with Mexican food. Then a time or two with no food at all.”

One afternoon on his way to speak at a men’s retreat he began to plot: “Where could I buy a beer and not be seen by anyone I know?” He drove to an out-of-the-way convenience store, parked, and waited till all the patrons left. He entered, bought a beer, held it close to his side, and hurried to his car. “I felt a sense of conviction,” Lucado remembers, “because the night before I'd had a long talk with my oldest daughter about not covering things up.”

Lucado didn't drink that beer. Instead he rolled down the window, threw it in a trash bin, and asked God for forgiveness. He also decided to come clean with the elders of his church about what happened: “When I shared it with the elders, they just looked at me across the table and said, ‘Satan is determined to get you for this right now. We're going to cover this with prayer, but you've got to get the alcohol out of your life.’”[3]

No matter how out-of-control your addiction might be, Christ has the ability to break the chains of your dependence. You can win the battle with the bottle. -DM

[1] John Tozzi, “America’s Drinking Problem Is Much Worse This Century,” Bloomberg News, 7 August 2017 <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-09/america-s-drinking-problem-is-much-worse-this-century?utm_campaign=news&utm_medium=bd&utm_source=applenews>
[2] Randy Alcorn, The Purity Principle (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2003), 28.
[3] Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 81-88.