Earlier this week, on March 24th, I celebrated 29 years since I stopped drinking alcohol. When I was younger, I never gave much thought to how much I drank – that is until I went for a periodic blood test and the results came up a little abnormal in one area – the area that normally indicates that you are consuming too much alcohol.
It was the first time that I ever thought about cutting down on the amount that I drank. After all, I felt great, only drank at certain times and never even considered that I had a problem. But the more that I studied it and thought about my patterns of life, I realized that while I didn’t drink all the time, my life tended to revolve around when I would be able to have my next cocktail.
And when I drank, it was always clear to me where the glass was, or where the next drink was coming from. I got into a rhythm of what are called “behavior chains.”
That means that I would look forward to a chain of events that would eventually lead to rewarding myself with a drink. When I got smarter about curtailing the behaviors that would inevitably lead to drinking, I learned that I could change a behavior early in the process and then I wouldn’t be as likely to fall prey to my weakness. To cut to the chase, it worked. I was very fortunate…
I quit drinking on March 24, 1993 and never looked back. That’s not to say that I don’t ever think about it – because I do – but I have never ever felt the super strong desire to go back to the way that things were before I quit. For me, it was easier than quitting smoking – which I also did back in the 1970’s before I was 30.
Frankly, not drinking made things much easier in my life. There were others in my family who dealt with drinking problems and I didn’t want to end up with a permanent problem. God was gracious to me and I had a much easier time than many other people who have admitted that they had an issue with drinking.
Of course, you know that I am going to connect this to the Scriptures. When I was in seminary, I took Greek for three years or so. It was during class one day that I came across a passage that I had heard in the English but now we were going to translate it from the original language. One of the wonderful things about working in the Greek is that every word gets studied and defined; and since my classmates and I weren’t very knowledgable in the beginning years, we studied much more intently than we may have normally done if we were only concerned with English.
Anyway, after studying in seminary with my classmates, I realized that Paul was trying to get us to focus exclusively on God and not on the things of this world. In fact, when I was ordained, I agreed to not drink alcohol at all – and Janet did the same thing. Of course, it was up to her, but we wanted to do ministry work together. It was really a help to me in my weaker moments to know that I had committed to an ordaining body that I was done with drinking.
Tonight’s verse is the one that we read in English and worked on to translate from the Greek. It is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – his most sophisticated church body. Paul reminds them, and us, in Ephesians 5:18-20, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (KJV).
Paul gave us great advice. It’s better to be filled with the Spirit than to engage in worldly activities that could get me in trouble. My encouragement this evening it to focus on the things above that can be even more intoxicating than anything you can think of here on earth. My prayer is that is that by worshipping with songs and always concentrating on God, we can become more like Him! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…