Within the last five years I have talked with many people, young and old, about how hard it is to quit some vices or habits. I have talked with people who have been smokers and had lung cancer, but continued to smoke until they died. I talked with alcoholics who started to drink and it destroyed their lives and their families and landed then in jail. I have talked with people who have lied since their childhood and have no friends because no one can trust them with anything.
Inevitably in our discussions, the conversation comes to the expression, “Pastor, you have no idea how hard it is to quit!” I agree that it is extremely difficult, but I gently remind them that the decision to smoke, to drink, or to tell lies is something that surrounds each one of us every day. I have stayed away from alcohol not because it has not been attractive or because I did not think that some meals would taste better with alcohol than with water, but I stayed away from it because I know that it can have a captivating and enslaving effect.
I also ask people to tell me how they started these habits. I ask them to tell me how it they got to that first cigarette or first drink. What were the reasons, the enticements, or the accomplishments that led them to that moment? I have found out that sometimes the enticement was that they wanted to be friends with a particular person and so they had to smoke or they wanted to be in a particular crowd and they had to drink. I continue to ask them if they considered the person who introduced them to smoking to be one of their best friends or if they had stayed with their particular drinking group. I find that people who start with an inadequacy, or a desire to be accepted, often find that fitting in for the moment does not create the relationships they craved.
In the OT and NT, God places life and death before people. I saw that in the end, so many vices ended in suffering, pain and death and so I was able to refrain from becoming involved in things that may have seemed pleasurable at the time. God says in Deuteronomy, “Behold I place before you life and death. Choose whom you want to serve in order to live!”
I pray that if you are young, you will not start certain habits and vices that will scar your life for as long as you shall live. And I pray that God will give strength to those that want to be free from habits that have been taken up in order to be in a particular crowd. Now you find that the crowd is gone and you have been left with these awful habits.