Hi everyone, Rob here. Today I’ve been reminded of these words in 1 Peter 5:6-11.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your fellow believers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
These instructions are not a one-and-done deal. They are reminders for us to live our whole lives with this kind of awareness. The death of the highly acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has rammed this home. In his teenage years and early 20’s he became a drug addict. He cleaned up his life and was sober for over 20 years. Last year he relapsed into heroin addiction and now he is dead at the age of 46. One news report described addiction like this:
Addiction causes chemical changes in the brain that remain long after a person stops using the substance, said Volkow, who described the condition as “a chronic disease with a very long duration.” Abstinence or substitute medication is often required to prevent the addict from losing control around his desired substance.
And just as someone who hasn’t ridden a bike for 20 years will still know what to do with a bicycle, an addicted brain exposed to its drug – even after a long break – will relapse to its old levels.
Studies have replicated this in animals, Volkow said: “Give them a tiny amount and they immediately escalate to same levels of drug taking as before” – which is why addiction is considered a chronic disease and overdose is common.
Hoffman’s “is a story that unfortunately is not infrequent.” she said, “to have an individual who takes drugs in 20s and stops for 20 years relapse in 40s and overdose.”
The lesson for me is that Peter warns us to be alert because we are all prone to letting our guard down and living out of our old self. I’ve been struggling in the last few weeks to be fully engaged at work and home, leading to irritability and stress. I didn’t use my summer holiday very well. I chose passive rest and not active restoration. I sat on the beach but didn’t seek God with all my heart. I didn’t seek my rest in him and came back only partially alive in him and partially a bit dead inside. Therefore, I’ve been wanting to check out which is an old pattern for me. The battle is on! I’ve let my guard down at times and paid a price for that, but the old self is not who I really am. Dead in my sins is not my identity. Becoming alert is becoming acutely aware of my true self in Christ. It’s becoming aware of how Satan is trying to erode my new and true identity as a son of the true Father and an intimate ally of the king. In the name of Jesus I take my stand as a new creation in Christ; as a forgiven and free citizen of God’s kingdom; as alive to God and dead to sin; as an engaged and alert warrior because I have laid down my burdens at his cross and embraced his life in me.
Hoffman was a courageous man. He battled his addiction for over 20 years. We need courage too but we also need wisdom. That is, we must fight with the Spirit’s leading and the Spirit’s strength. We need to be acutely aware of our status as sons and daughters of the living God and we must seek the life of Christ in us and allow it to rise up in us. May we be surrendered to God and alert to the devil’s schemes. May we be strong in our faith and filled with his love. May we be dead to sin and alive to God always.