Why Instant Freedom is Rare for the Sex Addict
The apostle Paul said, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” (II Corinthians 4:16-17)
God transforms a man in two distinct ways: either through a miracle, which occurs instantaneously or through a process of change over an extended period of time. Many drug addicts who persisted in their habits for years, have been set free instantly upon coming to the Lord. God does not always choose to deal with them in this manner, although I have heard of many cases in which He has done so.
However, the Lord almost always deals with those in habitual sexual sin through a gradual, well-organized process of transforming the man into a new creation. In all my years of counseling men who struggle with sexual sin, I could count on one hand those who were instantly delivered.
Just as it has usually taken a man years to entangle himself into such a spiritual mess, it will take some time for him to work his way out of it. In today's “microwave” society, in which people get cured of their ailments quickly, we have become accustomed to expecting immediate results for everything we desire. As a result, people often get impatient with God's timetable. There are good reasons why change does not happen quickly.
One of the things we must realize is that if God were to instantly set us free, it would then be much easier for us to return to old habits. However, when a person has to fight and struggle to break the powerful grip of sin, he will appreciate the freedom he eventually experiences. All of the pain my wife and I have endured has had a real effect on me. It has enabled me to see the consequences of my sin more clearly. During those times of battling the temptations of sexual sin, I became determined to resist them, partly because of the price I had already paid. I simply did not want to have to pay such a price again; I knew the end result all too well.
One should also realize that God deals with man in His own timing. He knows when each person is prepared for the next step in the journey to freedom. The person dealing with sexual sin can often see no further than that seemingly insurmountable sin in his life. He wants to be freed of his sin and the suffering associated with it. Yet God sees the man's heart and his entire future. He knows there are many deeply-rooted issues which must be exposed and subsequently dealt with. God is often more concerned about exposing and expelling the underlying issues of the heart than He is about the outward sin with which the person struggles. Since the man is looking to Him for help, the Lord is able to use this critical period of his life to uncover other areas which are aiding and abetting his unremitting addiction to sex.
Oblivious to the fact that God has even greater plans for his life, the man bound up in habitual sin is inclined to be preoccupied simply with being set free. Delivering him out of the clutches of his sexual sin is only part of what the Lord desires to do in his life, though. For instance, the lack of love the man shows for those around him might seem to be a secondary issue, but it is a matter of extreme importance to the Lord. Yes, He wants to see the man delivered, but He is also concerned about the character of that man once he has been "loosed" from his sin. Will his selfishness simply be spent on being a work-a-holic? Will he live out the rest of his life with no concern for the lost who are going to hell around him? Will he continue to be self-centered with his family? Will those at work have to continually endure his temper? The man in sin often sees no further than the immediate freedom he desires, but the Lord looks at the long term results.
Learning to Fight
One of the things the Lord is accomplishing in the strugglers life through this process is to teach him to fight and hate sin. This change of heart comes about through the battle.
The Greek word which we translate as "overcomes" is nikao, which means to conquer or subdue. It comes from the root word nike, meaning victory. Thus, we learn that Christians are meant to conquer or subdue something. Some synonyms for the word conquer are surmount, prevail against, subjugate, master and overpower. These terms describe the kind of life the believer is expected to live and experience.
Consequently, the Christian sex addict must wage war against the sin that is dominating his life. Rather than giving him an instantaneous deliverance or a desired “quick-fix,” the Lord wants him to learn how to battle against it. Why? In order that he learn to hate evil as the Lord does. This is what victory is all about.
How Long will it Take?
An individual dealing with sexual addiction needs to understand that it takes time to overcome. How long it will take depends on two things.
The first is the depth of his involvement with sexual sin. Has the person been doing it for years? Has he been in denial over his problem? Has he been refusing to face responsibility for his actions? How deep has he gone into depravity? If there is proof that a deeply-rooted addiction exists, the time it will take to loosen the powerful hold that sin has had on him will be lengthy.
The other factor is the person's determination to find freedom at any cost. Personally, I would rather work with someone who has long-standing problems but is honest with himself and is determined to endure whatever he must so that he may come into real victory. Sometimes the man with the worst addiction is the one who finds the greatest freedom. Understanding his need, he knows he must find his way to God no matter what.
As you go through this process of coming into freedom, keep your eyes on the Lord, not on the sin. If you are always focused on how badly you are doing or your past sinful behavior, you will never sense any victory. On the other hand, if you “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth,” (Colossians 3:2) you will begin to see the One who is more than able to set you free.
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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