“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” ~Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
I’m sure we can all rattle off a list of foolish choices we made as teenagers. It’s part of growing up. We think we know everything, only to find out later in life that we really knew nothing. For me, the most unwise of all decisions was made when was I was 15 years old. In an attempt to “fit in,” I started to smoke cigarettes. In my teenage mind it seemed like no big deal and I did not ever intend to become a full-fledged “smoker.” We all know how this story goes, though, and it didn’t take long for me to become addicted. I was hooked and the thought of quitting never crossed my mind, at least for the first fifteen years.
I don’t recall what initiated my desire to quit, but for the next five years I made multiple, unsuccessful, attempts to stop smoking. I tried it all- hypnosis, prescription medication, nicotine inhalers, patches, gum, lozenges. If there was a tool out there to help me quit smoking, I tried it. None of it helped and as my family will attest, I was not a fun person to be around during my “practice quits!”
From the moment I got it in my head that I wanted to quit, I never enjoyed smoking again. I desperately wanted to quit, but continued to smoke because I didn’t want to go through the “pain” of quitting. Cigarettes controlled me. If I was invited to go somewhere, my first thought was, “I wonder if I can smoke there?” I would have a cigarette before going into work and was then a “clock watcher” until my next smoke break. When I left the house in the morning, I often turned around and drove back home just to make sure I had put my cigarette out. God tells us in 2 Peter 2:19 (NLT) that “you are a slave to whatever controls you” and cigarettes had definitely become my master.
On January 10th, 2003, I attended the 1st birthday party for my great-nephew, Carter. My nephew did not allow smoking in his house, so throughout the party, I, along with other smokers, would go to the garage to partake of our nasty habit. I have such a strong memory of coming back inside the house and feeling so self conscious about the way I smelled. Also, because I had gone out to smoke, I missed singing “Happy Birthday” to Carter.
I came home that night, fell to my knees, and cried out to God to release me from the control that cigarettes had over me. I don’t know just how long I knelt there, sobbing, but I had reached the “end of myself” and did what I saw as the only thing left to do…surrender to God. I pleaded with Him to do for me what I could not do for myself in five years of trying. I became a non-smoker on January 11, 2003, and my only regret is that I didn’t surrender sooner.
In Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV) Jesus is teaching about worry. Specifically, Matthew 6:33 (NIV) instructs us not to worry but to seek God FIRST, and He will give us everything we need. We tend to make life harder than it needs to be by relying on our own strength and wisdom, instead of seeking God. Oftentimes, as with my attempts to quit smoking, we cry out to God only as a last resort.
When I was trying to quit smoking, I spent countless hours in preparation. I set quit dates, made lists, read books, watched videos, and made more lists. My mind was focused on everything BUT the only One who could break the chains for me. That’s how Satan gets us. We think we can free ourselves by our own power and when we fail, we become disheartened and progressively more discouraged. We look all around us for answers, yet fail to look to the One who created us and knows our every need.
We all have hurts, habits and hang-ups in our lives that control and enslave us. If left to our own power, they become a foothold for Satan to enter in and deceive us into thinking we aren’t good enough, or that we will never be freed from the clutches of these things that consume us. Whatever you are worried about or held captive by remember that God is the answer NOT the last resort. Seek Him first above all else. Rest in His presence and be prepared for miraculous things to happen in your life.