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Lessons from Nehemiah - Addiction and Recovery
This article is mainly for those who have what is usually called an "addiction" in their life, some ungodly habit that they cannot get rid of. The more effort they make the worse it gets, and it just keeps spinning out of control. According to our Lord's words, all sin is addicting. "He who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). Who hasn't experienced that? One lie leads to another. One drink to escape some problem leads to two or more drinks the next time. So in a sense we are all addicts, for who among us is without sin? However, certain things such as drugs, alcohol, lust, gambling, and over-eating are much more binding and enslaving than other sins.
A good description of an addict is a "city without walls," totally defenseless against the enemy. Satan comes and goes as he pleases and there seems to be no way to stop the stream of temptations, lies, and ungodly thoughts that he brings. After reading Nehemiah recently I realized that it is a book about recovery from addiction. Its theme is coming out of captivity and rebuilding the walls. It is packed full of lessons on how to rebuild the walls in your life and regain health and wholeness. Here are some of the main steps:
1. You realize that you are in a completely broken state, in great trouble and shame (1:3), and you enter into a time of mourning, weeping, prayer, and fasting (1:4). God has to open your eyes to this.
2. You humble yourself and pray, confessing your sins, and asking the King to grant you what you need for recovery (1:5 - 2:8). And the King shall grant you what you ask for, for His good hand will be upon you (2:8).
3. You start your recovery journey. Note that it is a several month journey from Susa where you are part of the Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem, the city of God. You're on the journey for months before serious rebuilding starts. You learn to be patient. Above all else endurance and perseverance will be needed. Also you realize that enemies will oppose you (2:9-10).
4. You inspect the walls and see where they (you) are broken and where your vulnerabilities to the enemy are. You might discover you have a father wound or a serious problem with shame and guilt or pride. Some sin or trauma from your past might have to be dealt with. You do it with "a few men with you" (2:12) who can see where you can't.
5. You gather materials for building the walls. Perhaps a Bible, recovery books, open and honest relationships with other godly men or women, etc. God's truths are like stones that are rock solid. You put them in place in your life when you believe them and act on them, and they become a wall and a fortress.
6. You do your recovery work, building the wall (ch. 3). Notice that priests and Levites did much of the work. A priest is an intercessor. Praying for others is important. You find yourself when you begin to lose yourself for others. The Levites were singers (worship is a very powerful and important part of recovery) and gatekeepers (keeping out unclean and condemning thoughts is essential).
7. You deal with the opposition. Satan will hate to lose his grip on you and will be "angry and greatly enraged" (4:1) and come after you with all he's got. He'll call you names and tell you you're nothing but a feeble ash heap and that recovery is hopeless (4:1-4). If that doesn't work he'll plot other ways to attack you and cause confusion in your life (4:7-8, 11-12). He'll send messengers to make you afraid (6:10-14). So you learn to pray for protection (4:9), you learn to work on recovery with a sword (the word of God, prayer) strapped at your side (4:16-18) to beat back all his lies and attacks. You decide that you aren't going to be afraid and you remember the Lord, the great and awesome God, and fight for your wives and brothers and children (4:14).
8. You rely upon others for support and you rally to each other whenever someone is attacked. "The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us." (4:19-20). Strive to make friendships with others in your situation so you can be part of a group of "brothers in arms" that can rally to each other when attacked. Have a place to sound the trumpet so others can rally to you and you to them.
9. You persevere in the face of opposition and never give up. You don't get distracted. "Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?" (6:3). You brush off the enemies accusations (6:8) and stand up to your fears. "For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, 'Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.' But now, O God, strengthen my hands" (6:9).
10. When the wall is done you set gatekeepers at all the gates. You let in good thoughts and keep out the bad ones. You let in friends who are a good influence on you and keep out the ones who are not. You learn to be mentally on guard and to capture the enemy's thoughts (7:1-4). After a while it becomes second nature to you.
11. You learn God's law and that leads you to repentance and you weep for your past sins. But, (and this is very important,) you also learn to stop grieving for them because you are forgiven in Jesus. "And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (8:10). Don't hang on to your guilt. Jesus dealt with it. Let it go.
12. You lead a life of worship and rejoicing and feasting on God's word (ch. 8). And when all your enemies hear of the work that was done, they become greatly afraid and fall in their own esteem, because they know it was God who did it (6:16). Hallelujah!!!
So give this book of Nehemiah a good prayerful reading. The walls were built in 52 days (6:15). It will take at least that much time to get your defenses back up. But even then the enemy can get in through any unguarded gate, so you have to continue to be watchful and alert. In the final chapter of Nehemiah we find that many years later the people had furnished an apartment for an enemy in the temple of God (13:4-9). Perhaps this enemy was pride which can take over once you stop sinning. Anyway, the main thing is to develop a close and intimate relationship with the Lord during your recovery, and He will alert you to all the schemes of the enemy and all the tricks he uses to get into your life, and how to kick him out wherever he might get a foothold.