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  • Writer's pictureJimmy Alexander

The Real Hero in Recovery

We are all guilty of it. We have all done it to some degree. There was a time in our life, perhaps childhood even, where we claimed to have done something good even though someone else did it. I remember a time in my youth when my twin sister cleaned the entire house. Our parents came back from traveling and was thrilled to see such organization and cleanliness. My sister wasn’t around when they arrived home, so when they asked who cleaned the house, I immediately said, “I did! It took me awhile!” and stole the praise. I wanted recognition even though I contributed nothing. If we are honest, it is our nature to do so, but that doesn’t make it right. In the Bible, we are given a similar but more severe story of King Herod who did the same thing:

Acts 12:21-24 “On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man.’ Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”

We steal God’s glory when we accept praise that belongs to God alone. Herod blatantly took the glory and praise instead of giving praise to the true source- which was God. Herod had forgotten that it was God who made him and gave him a voice. He ignored the fact that it was God who gave him a place of authority. Everything good in Herod’s life was because of God, not himself. Yet, Herod ignored these realities and wanted to steal the worship and inevitably faced the consequences of it.

In successful recovery, this is one of the greatest struggles. Our culture idolizes people, particularly celebrities, and those who have radical success stories. People love to hear stories about how someone was in the gutters of life, on the brink of death, and through hard work and human effort overcame their circumstances and is now living the American Dream. People have a tendency to exalt human effort and wrongly give credit where credit is due.

I’ve experience this almost weekly having a recovery story myself. I once was a homeless drug addict and now living a life that society would consider a ‘normal life’ in freedom, sobriety, and joy. But I tell you the truth: it is not because of anything I did, but only because of all that Jesus did. As Jonathan Edwards once said, “The only thing I contribute to my own salvation was the sin that made it necessary”. I tried getting sober and strived in all human effort to change my behavior and enslavement to addiction- I couldn’t do it. Sure, I could get myself sober at times by mere will power and pride, but I could not, I repeat, could not change my heart’s desires for drugs. Did I have the power to change my heart’s taste buds? Could any human mentor, teacher, or program supernaturally change my affections and create a new nature in me? No way! Only God. People and places helped me in my recovery, but the root of all and any success is the mercy and grace that God provided.

When I share my testimony in a Church or a public event, I face some of the greatest temptations of self-exaltation afterwards. When I share my story (it’s really God’s story) I intentionally emphasize the point that I am a weak, pitiful, and sinful man who was saved by a strong, mighty, and good God. Yet, people approach me afterwards and say, “You should be proud of yourself. You did it! You’re such a strong man. You’re going to be a Rockstar in this community!”. I’m sure they mean well, but this often moves me to tears because it reveals that they have missed the whole point of my testimony. They did not comprehend the strength of God, the saving power of God, the glory of God and His entire work of grace in my life. They look at everything that Jesus has done in my life and try to credit it to my account. Like Herod, people will always try and point the finger at me, as if I was some hero. I was never the hero, in fact, I was drowning utterly in my own efforts. God is the only Hero. I have a choice in these moments to either accept this praise or give all glory to the God who did it all.

Let me give a common illustration. The only reason a football player makes it to the NFL is not because of the man’s mere effort, but because God created him with good health, a strong body, and the ability to make it there. Of course, the human perspective is to think the man worked hard to make it there- and I’m sure he did on his own free will. But we often neglect the fact that it was God that made Him, allowed Him, and gave Him the ability to do what he can do, and because of this- God gets all the recognition. It is the same in recovery. If we think for a moment that it was us who overcame the impossible grip of addiction- you are mistaken. Give credit where credit is due, to Jesus Christ who enabled you by His power and strength to not go back to drugs or alcohol. God is not a half-hero- He is the only Hero. Anything good in our lives, anything praiseworthy, anything marvelous or right, is because of God and for God’s glory. He alone raises the dead, gives us life, creates new hearts, rescues the lowly, and provides Eternal life. Can we do such things? To say so is silly.

Friend in recovery, recognize the source of your victory. Whether you are a 1 day sober or 50 years sober- it is by the grace of God. People will try to exalt you, but say to them humbly, “To God be the glory. To Jesus alone be all praise. Nothing in my hand I bring, but simply to the Cross I cling”. And when you find yourself being tempted to take praise for your recovery, repeat the words of John the Baptist again and again, “Jesus must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). In other words, you must step out of the spotlight because you don’t belong there. Jesus does. The spotlight provokes our pride. And in recovery, we are all well aware that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). There is a day coming when “the eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:11). Let us therefore make every effort to point the finger to the true Hero in our recovery, and not only in our recovery, but in every good thing that we have received from the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Romans 9:16, “So then, it does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy”.

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