I spoke at a recovery conference this past week and it’s always an interesting question. Is my recovery from any addictive behaviors a human effort, or is it all up to God? There’s often someone there who always says we just need to trust God more. They often use I Thessalonians 5:23-24 to prove that it is all up to God. Paul writes, “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.” Sounds like it’s all up to God–until you look at what he said earlier.
It’s really a collaborative effort, as Paul says in Chapter 1, verse 5: “. .. the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.” Paul said it–the Holy Spirit confirmed it. Here Paul says it takes both me and God for genuine recovery.
Recovery Involves Reparenting
How did Paul relate to the Thessalonians people. He reparented them. Notice I Thessalonians 2:5ff: “. . . we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. . . . And you know we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy.” When we are in recovery, we often need reparenting in order to experience healing from our early woundedness.
Recovery is Painful
In l Thessalonians 2:14, Paul notes that there will be persecution. Others won’t understand. And back in chapter 1, verse 6, he writes, “So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you.” Anyone who has worked their recovery from any problem knows that it isn’t easy–there is suffering.
Recovery Requires Support
Paul doesn’t expect them to do it on their own. First, he sends Timothy to be a support for them (I Thess. 3:2). Then he reminds them that “night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to . . . fill in the gaps in your faith” (I Thess. 3:10). And then he encourages them to be a support for each other–”So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (I Thews. 5:11).
Recovery is a Learning Process
In recovery, we are being taught things we missed earlier in our lives. Paul tells them to “live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you” (I Thess. 4:1,2). Recovery doesn’t occur in a vacuum–that’s why there are meetings, sponsors, readings, and growth.
Recovery is Staying Alert and Staying Sober
Paul says it best: “So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be sober.”
Recovery is Multi-Faceted
Then, beginning in l Thessalonians 5:12 through verse 22, Paul lists a number of specific instructions they are to follow. Here is more of his teaching, in a very specific way. Paul refers to things like being clearheaded, encouraging the timid, taking tender care of the weak, and being patient with everyone.
Now, after going through all of these human efforts, we come to the two verses we started with (I Thess. 5:23,24). We can see now that when the human element is operative in recovery, God is active throughout the process, and he not setting out a principle–instead he is giving a promise. When we are faithful in our part, God is faithful in his part. “God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful” (verse 24).
Question: As you have dealt with the issues in your life, how have you struck the balance between your part in the solution and God’s part in the solution?