Sometimes God helps people to have a sudden and total change in their vision, views, desires, actions etc. At other times God helps us to change slowly. I think that sudden change involves a miraculous reconnecting of brain branches and chemical reward systems. If you are anything like I am, you prefer this type of sudden change. I’ve known a lot of pastors who experience a sudden change in desire for alcohol or anger or lust and then preach that this is the only way that we can grow and change.–However, these same people come to my office and complain that there is some other area of their life that they have pled with God to fix and they still struggle with it. One man had a sudden change in his desire for alcohol, he then went to seminary and became a pastor, but now struggled with anger attacks.
Which approach should I seek? Both! First, seek the Lord’s will and ask for healing. Have the elders annoint and pray for you. Lord deliver me from temptation. Also, seek the accountability and support to not wallow in your sin even if God chooses not to just remove the temptation.
A normal brain takes three months of concentrated denial of the old responses and of practicing the opposite responses, to form new habits. The brain is very flexible even into old age and can grow new nerves from stem cell even in our 80’s. In addition, there are 10,000 incoming connections and 10,000 outgoing connections on each nerve! (Pause to worship the creator.) These will kill themselves go away,if not used, and new ones grown by repeated healthy responses.
AA suggests 90 meetings in 90 days because that is 3 months and by then we should have healthy responses replacing the old. Putting of the old and putting on the new can happen by an instant change or by 3 months of supported discipline.
Why does God sometimes prefer the slow approach? The benifits of the slow approach is that:
We learn to hate sin, Proverbs 8.13 The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil,
We need the brethren, Galatians 6.1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
We search the Word, Psalms 119.11Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
We learn to pray much, I Thessalonians 5.17 pray without ceasing
We learn to think twice before forming new habits, 1 Corinthians 6.18,and 10.14, 1Timothy 6.11, 2 Timothy 2.22 FLEE! FLEE!
We define what the opposite looks like, Romans 6.13 yield your members equal and opposite to the old ways
We lose our right to judge others who struggle, develop a message of hope for other strugglers etc. I Corinthians 10.13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that
ye may be able to bear [it].
We begin with reactions that SEEM right but lead to death, (thoughts, actions and feelings):
We realize that God’s way is not my way:
We define what that way would look like:
We humbly ask for help from God and others and thank God that He loves us despite our struggles,we thank him for the struggle itself:
We spot ourselves beginning to react in the old way and move our body members according to a growing picture of God’s way in action.
Then, after 3 months, we find the new way to be habit and wonder how we could have ever thought the old way made sense.
It is good that change should come at such effort. Otherwise we would be as wishy-washy and variable as the weather. Our brilliant creator has designed us so that who we are is fairly stable but so that we may change if that is needed, but only with prayer,fasting, support, and his grace.