You are walking through the supermarket; your gaze is floating between all the fresh fruit and vegetables as you consider your lunch. Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you behold the golden glow of that glorious corner of the building simply labelled ‘Bread’. Before you can say ‘baguette’ your body has floated across the epoxy coated vinyl, you have lifted your choice of olive focaccia, paid for it in the self-serve checkout, and are now consuming wheat in place of what could have been a balanced, nutritious meal.
Before going any further, I want to clear up that although I identified you, the reader, as the protagonist of my story, it is in fact myself that stars in this narrative all too often.
What drives us to make decisions? We often logically plan out our day – considering our health, our personal growth and our moral conscience – only to throw these plans aside at the call of something more enticing.
One answer to this question is addiction. While my bread story is a light example of what addiction can look like, it is often much more dangerous and self-destructive.
Many people experience someone close becoming victim to addiction, many experience it themselves. I know personally what it is like to fall slave to addiction. An example from my life is YouTube. I started out using it as a fun way to relax, I picked my niche of videos and would watch a few every so often when I wanted time out.
But addictions don’t remain ‘every so often’, over time my YouTube viewing grew more and more lengthy – gradually it began cutting into time I should have been using for other activities (study, friends, exercise, etc.). I began using YouTube as my escape: my response to stress – where it was once to identify and fix problems – became burrowing myself into hours of mind-numbing videos.
RICH AND ADDICTED
The story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-22 paints a picture of a man addicted to wealth. This addiction has been part of him so long that he doesn’t even recognise it any more –
“Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”
– Mark 10:20
This young man is confident he is living a good life.
His response when Jesus reveals his addiction to him is fascinating –
“One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
– Mark 10:21-22
This young man was offered treasure in heaven, something that has value beyond imagination, but he is sorrowful that he must first give up his earthly things!
After the ruler went away, Jesus turned to his disciples and shared with them a crushing truth about addiction –
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
– Mark 10:25
By the time I realised I had an addiction it seemed almost too late. It had been weaving itself into my life, even into the way my brain functioned, for many years. When we take part in addictive activities it results in chemical pathways being activated in our brain. Think of these pathways the way you do a path through the bush – the more people walk along it, the wider and more defined the path becomes. It becomes easier and easier to walk along the path. This is similar to what happens in the brain – the neural pathways are made stronger and stronger, and it becomes easier and more natural to follow them. This eventually results in addiction, and it can be extremely difficult to break off the path.
As I repeatedly tried and failed to break free from the addictive path in my life I began to lose hope. As months passed I could understand more and more what Jesus meant about the camel. I asked the same question the disciples asked –
“Who then can be saved?”
– Mark 10:26
It was at this point that Jesus stepped in. He offered me hope, and that hope came from the Bible.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
– Hebrews 4:15-16
He has faced everything we could possibly face and has been victorious – He can show us a way through.
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
– Matthew 26:41
Constantly be on guard, asking God to help you face temptation.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
– James 1:2-3
In the same way that addictions form, they can be defeated. Every time we say no, we wear down a new path in our brain.
“… [God] will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”
– 1 Corinthians 10:13-14
There is always a way through.
There was more to the story of the rich young ruler. After the disciples asked Jesus who could possibly be saved, He replies:
“With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”
– Mark 10:27
Why does Jesus do all this for us? Let’s read the beginning of the story again:
“Now as He was going out on the road, one came running [and] knelt before Him … 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”
– Mark 10:17, 21
If you have an addiction in your life that you want removed, if you can feel the Holy Spirit gently knocking on the door of your heart, just turn to Him in prayer:
‘Dear Jesus, please help me. I can’t do this alone, but You have promised to stand by my side and give me strength. Thank You so much for loving me. Please wash me clean and help me to begin a new life in You today. Amen.’
By Mitchell Sonter
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