“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”-Hebrews 11:6
What does it mean to be a believer? What is true faith that has the power to overcome sin? For me, I discovered life-saving faith outside of Christianity. Then I discovered how to apply that kind of faith as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I got sober in the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) when I was 21 years old. My sins were not washed away in baptism for another year and a half. Allow me to explain.
Right off the bat, let me establish a few things: 1) Sobriety is not salvation. 2) AA is not a substitute for Christ’s church. 3) The faith that saves demands confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, crucified, buried, resurrected, and ascended where he reigns as my Lord. AA demands no such statement of belief. So, what did the process of recovery teach me about faith? Let’s start with my personal misunderstanding of Christian faith.
As a young man, I understood “faith” as a belief that something is true. For example; if you hand me a science text book and it explains water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one of oxygen, I believe that is true. In the same way, I can believe the Bible is a book of facts and read the words, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”-Matthew 16:16. I can choose to accept the truth of that statement. But is that the kind of faith by which a person can live and walk (Romans 1:17; II Corinthians 5:7). Will that kind of faith lead me to crucify the flesh, walk by the Spirit, and cling to Jesus when the storms of life beat down on me? No. I need a desperate, trusting faith.
Almost no alcoholic wants to stop using drugs and alcohol. But we do get sick and tired of the life it forces us to live. Lying, stealing, abusing your body. Ruining every relationship in your life. Living in tents, cars, under bridges, and in my case, winding up in the Panama City Rescue Mission. When an addict hits bottom, he’s ready for a change and if you tell me going to meetings, working steps, and praying to God for sobriety works, I might just be ready to listen. I was ready for things to get better, and men and women in AA told me they knew the way. I believed them, put my faith in the principles of AA, and it happened. Faith in the program and it’s fundamentals worked. I submitted to them in faith and it changed my life. I prayed to God and he strengthened me to overcome my craving for alcohol and drugs (Ephesians 3:16; I John 4:4). Praise God I am sober and clean today!
It is my personal opinion, AA mimics Christian faith in how it works. The program insists on an understanding of personal powerlessness over alcohol and drugs, faith in a power that can and will help me stay sober, and willingness to turn my will and my life over to what AA calls a “higher power.”
Man on his own is powerless to obey every facet of the law (Romans 3:23). I am lost in sin and need a Savior (Jeremiah 10:23; I Timothy 1:15). God will forgive those who put their complete trust in his Son (John 3:16; Galatians 3:23-27). My Father in heaven will strengthen me to overcome the, “sin which clings so closely”-Hebrews 12:1. He is alive and real and hears me when I call. God opens, gives, and can be found when sought (Luke 11:9-13).
God loves me, I know he is real. Jesus loves me, I know he overcame death. The Spirit lives in me, I know he strengthens and comforts me to overcome sin. My life is not my own. I believe God is and rewards those who diligently seek him. I pray in faith. I walk in the light. I know Jesus’ blood cleanses me and heaven is my home. What can man do to me?