Faith General Self-Management

What About Alcohol? Part 1

Sitting around the campfire, four of us stared at the dancing flames in the dark, cool, spring night. No eye contact with each other, yet the conversation continued; one topic morphing into another with the occasional pause. The cadence of that night carried on for hours. Occasionally, one would get up and grab another beer from the cooler. This one has a sweet taste. What is it? The BYOB cooler became an evening of sampling different ales. Conversations continued about work, life, women, sex, alcohol, God. To be honest, the conversations were quite rational. Quite engaging.

We live in an alcohol-saturated world.

Unless it’s a fast-food restaurant where the strongest drink they serve is a Pepsi or Coke, virtually every restaurant serves alcohol. After all, it’s a money-maker. In my State, alcohol is a  $2.2 billion industry, employing over 15,000. That’s an average of over $2,250 in alcohol per person age 21 or older!

Stupor and Staggering

Whereas a majority of the population who drink do so with reasonable law-abiding moderation, a lot of problems come with the abuse of alcohol. We’ve all heard of the horror stories; drunkenness leads to arrests, rapes, DUIs, and a host of stupid choices. A friend had his first taste of alcohol at 16. Obviously underage, he kept his drinking secret for several years. Eventually, when he was 24 his one too many got him pulled over by the police. Eight years of both underage, then excessive drinking finally caught up with him. While I was on a university internship, a roommate came home to our apartment drunk. He had a bottle of wine he tried to force me to drink. He wanted me drunk, too. I resisted but honestly, the tension that night was like nothing I had experienced before. I saw first hand what drunkenness looks like.

It’s about Who You Value Most

When it comes to lifestyle choices, many if not most are established by the time we are in our warrior phase of life, (18-30). Those choices will more or less set the course of our remaining adulthood. When it comes to alcohol, the question isn’t How much can I drink without getting drunk?  Rather, the question is How can I best pursue a healthy relationship with God through His Son Jesus, and, in doing so, enjoy the pleasures of this world without exploiting them?

Alcohol-Free

Having spent most of my adult life essentially alcohol-free, I’ll occasionally sample a few with sober-minded moderation and self-control in view. The truth is many of us make such lifestyle choices based more on cultural influences instead of what God has to say about it. This is unfortunately true for many young Christians. They want to follow Jesus, but they also want to live in the world around them with relative ease. The truth is, in Christ, there is great freedom to enjoy the pleasures of life; not making the pleasure the end but rather making a healthy walk with Christ the ultimate pursuit in all we do.

God has Something to Say about Alcohol

Scripture reveals His heart on the issue. Abuse of alcohol is clearly outside of His will and purposes for you. He goes to great loving lengths to remind us that anyone who becomes drunk, intoxicated or otherwise out of control due to alcohol has set themselves on a path that is leading far from God. He grieves over such choices. If your use of alcohol has led to such, as emphatic as I can be, STOP!

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. Proverbs 20:1 ESV

Freedom to Not Abuse

Christ brings us freedom, but He never intended it to be abused. Given that, scripture gives you a range of acceptable options as it pertains to alcohol; total abstinence on one end of the spectrum to self-controlled use on the other. If you decide that to abstain from alcohol best helps you have a healthy walk with Jesus, then celebrate that!  If, on the other hand, you find your pursuit of Christ includes the wise use of alcohol, then celebrate that! For the one who holds to abstinence, do not let your convictions become a source of pride. Likewise, for the one who uses alcohol in a healthy way, do not consider yourself any better than those who refrain. Romans 14 is a great chapter on how to handle preferences. The three key questions that come from Paul’s writings are:

Is God OK with your choice?

Are you doing it out of faith (growing your walk with God) or out of self-focused narcissism?

Will your choice help or hinder others in their pursuit of Christ?

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Romans 14:17-19 ESV

When Your Friend Is Doing Stupid

My hope is that you are in a healthy community of Christ-followers and that you lovingly help each other walk with Jesus. When a brother strays, you who are healthier in your walk with God, are called by him to come alongside your struggling brother. Galatians 6:1-2 speak to this truth.  

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Be willing to take the risk of losing a friendship for the sake of helping them avoid the cliff of drunkenness.  Four warrior-aged men were inseparable. They each followed Christ and were committed to helping each other grow in manhood. One of them, however, had a secret drinking problem. He concealed it such that the other three had no idea. That is until his girlfriend called his three friends. When he came over to her apartment drunk, she was scared. She asked him to leave. The three stepped up to the plate searching for him. They found him staggering down the street. At first, he resisted, but the three friends would not let him go. Over the course of time, their friend found a break from alcohol and his walk with Christ began to be restored.

Ensuring Good Doesnt’ Go Bad

When God peppers Scripture with a host of warnings against something, it is usually addressing the abuse of what He intended for good. For example, God loves sex! From Adam and Eve to this very day, sexual pleasure between a husband and a wife is His delight! Any other sexual relationships, outside of marriage God says is immoral. It’s not that God is a wet blanket on life. It’s that He wants us to use what He created for good; to get the most enjoyment out of it. And, that comes through marriage.

When it comes to alcohol, you can go your entire life without a drop and have a vibrant walk with Christ. You can also enjoy alcohol without excess and be just as much in God’s will. As I mentioned to a young man I mentor, who just turned 21. We live in an alcohol-saturated world. You need to work through where you stand on the issue, keeping the goal of a healthy walk with Christ in mind.

Next week, we will look further into what God has to say about alcohol.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of www.Mentoring-Warriors.com. Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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