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Why I Remain Sober

Spencer Traver

Ever since I graduated high school and stepped on to campus at TCU, I have been asked the same question over and over, "Why don't you drink?" 

I will waste no time in saying that underage drinking remains prevalent in college. I see it and its effects here practically on a daily basis. As a desk assistant for my dormitory, I constantly am monitoring and observing freshmen college students coming and going under the influence of alcohol. I must confess that I have, at times, grown numb to this. I have laughed at others under the influence. I have ignored it and made a small deal out of a growing problem. That is why I am writing to you about why I have been sober for 18+ years now, and why I will remain sober.

When asked why I choose not to drink, most people follow up with, "Is it for religious reasons?" This makes my job as a Christian so much easier. Little do they know, they just opened a door for me to share about my God and my Jesus without me having to poke and prod at the "religion card".

Typically, I respond with a couple of short, bullet-point answers:

1) It is against the law. We should be able to stop right here. This is redundant, yet so many people disregard the law anyways, so I choose to bring it up. The legal drinking age is 21 years old for a reason. Simply put, there are too many crazy, wild 18, 19, and 20 year olds running around as it is. The very last thing we need is alcohol in our systems. Please, keep in mind that I am a 18-year old college student who has never had a sip of alcohol in his life, yet I am telling you that the most irresponsible thing I could do is consume alcohol. While the majority of underage drinkers would say that they drink responsibly, breaking the law is dangerously irresponsible. It is impossible to drink responsibly when consuming even a single drop of alcohol breaks the law. For Christians, this is even more drastic because God has placed the law over us. Why? To protect us and keep us from harm. Regardless of how little or how much alcohol is consumed, if you are underage, you are sinning by breaking the law (However, this doesn't mean that the law is over our faith meaning it dictates how we honor God, we are called to go against that grain...but thats a different topic for another day!).

2) I'm not responsible enough. In all seriousness, I could not control myself when under the influence of alcohol. This is not just a personal opinion, but a psychological and biological fact. Our brain becomes disoriented when alcohol is consumed. As a Christian, I claim that my trust is in God and not myself. In order to drink socially or casually, I would have to trust myself or my friends to watch how many drinks I would consume to keep me from losing control. We are countlessly told throughout the entire Bible, especially the Old Testament, to keep our trust out of the hands of man and in the hands of God.

Proverbs 28:28, "Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered."

Psalm 118:8, "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man."

Micah 7:5-8, "Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house. But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me."

3) I see little to no purpose in it. Like any other decision, I weigh out my pros and cons. I ask myself, "Do I need a drink?" The answer is always no. My survival is not based on alcohol. So, this narrows the decision to drink not as a need but as a want, or desire. The decision to drink, or not to drink, is a reflection of the heart. It reveals your values, what truly matters to you. If I can go without it, why would I consume it? It is pointless. Purposeless. If it has little to no purpose, then drinking is nothing more than a shortcut, or a crutch...(aka "I had a long day", or "man, Im so stressed I just need a drink")...ultimately the notion of taking a shortcut in any route of life is unappealing because it NEVER pays off and is worth basically nothing. (So if drinking is a shortcut, why take it?)

4) There are more bad outcomes than good. For those who do see a purpose in the consumption of alcoholic beverages, this part is for you. God created alcohol, or the ability to make it, with a purpose in mind, enjoyment. God desires for us to desire Him. In that, He created ways for us to enjoy his creation. A common example of this is the gift of sex. Sex was created to be good, but when it is taken out of the right context or when it becomes a distraction away from God, it is sinful. Likewise, when the gift of alcohol is taken out of its rightful context or becomes addictive, it is sinful. So, while some may see pros to drinking, there are cons. Greg Laurie put it this way, "I can't think of a single good thing that comes from drinking, but I can think of many bad things that come from it: broken homes, violence, accidents, people killed on the road by drunk drivers, addiction, destroying your health . . . the list goes on." Yes, a small dosage of wine can be helpful to the heart. Jesus drank wine. The Bible does not directly condemn the consumption of alcohol itself; however, it does condemn drunkenness and the leading astray of others. If you legally consume alcohol, yet lead others astray by doing so, it is sin.

5) Biblically speaking, it is sinfully/morally wrong. As a Christian, I claim my life to the Gospel of Jesus. Thus, I must live in obedience to Christ and to the Word of God. I am not going to hit you with a barrage of verses that say, "Do not drink or you will surely die and go to hell." There is no such thing. However, every illustration in the Bible of drunkenness turns out disastrous: Noah (Genesis 9) became drunk, and in his nakedness, he acted shamelessly. Lot (Genesis 19) became drunk and his daughters committed incest with him. Belshazzar (Daniel 5) had a drunken feast and worshipped his false gods. He lost his kingdom that night. Many a kingdom, family, career, ministry, and life have been lost through drinking." As the apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, we have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. We must be wise in decision-making.

When Jesus said, "Therefore, by your fruits you will know them," He was speaking about the false prophets that put on an appearance of piety yet hide their true character. Typically, these people are referred to as wolves in sheep's clothing. We must listen to more than people's words. We must pay attention to their fruits. So, what are the fruits of alcohol? Does alcohol produce good actions? Does it bring out the best in people? Or does it impair us? Some of my close friends drink regularly, and yet they will always admit that their worst decisions came under the influence of alcohol. If we're all honest, there is an incredible fascination with the things that people do when they're drunk. What good is this? If we're judging alcohol by its fruits, the only things we will find is stupidity and misery.

I will not dispute your liberty to drink. In fact, I will drink as much as I want to, which is nothing.

Some people will argue that they drink, but refuse to get drunk. However, when you drink, you cannot truly comprehend your level of intoxication. This is how God created our bodies to function. There is always a risk of getting drunk when consuming alcohol. To these people, I give you this revolutionary thought: If you don't drink, you can't possibly get drunk; however, if you do drink, you can get drunk. Is it worth the risk?

Is it possible for those who are over the age of 21 to drink responsibly? Yes. Likewise, Can you play with matches without burning the house down? Yes. Then again, how does a forest fire begin? With a single spark. Is alcohol truly THAT important to you to risk burning down what really matters - your relationships, your witness, your reputation, your position?

For those who do drink, or choose not to but are interested, I want to share with you a conversation that I had today with a good friend of mine.

We talked about the purpose of drinking. We discussed the voids that people use alcohol to fill. Then, we reached the most profound part of our conversation. There are people who drink and then go days, weeks, months, or years without drinking in hopes to stop. This can be for religious reasons, reputation reasons, or health reasons. However, no string of time without drinking can supplement and satisfy the sinful nature in our hearts. We must replace that first sin with something pure and sinless that is all-satisfying. The answer is Jesus. When the love and grace of Jesus Christ infuses our bones and trickles into our hearts, we experience true life change. 

Likewise, in other areas of our lives we deal with the same issues. Are you bound by the chains of lust? Is your addiction to pornography tearing you and your relationships apart? Is your constant craving for another drink dragging you around tirelessly in hopes of satisfaction? Are you tied up by the urge to please others?

{Paraphrasing much below from Judah Smith's "Jesus Is Loving Barabbas"...check it out!}

What are you going to do? "I'm going to set myself free."

No you won't! STOP IT! You are no match for the powers of hell and the chains of temptation and sin. You will never overcome it. You will just be another statistic. No amount of dedication will save you.

I have the is Jesus, only Jesus. It will always be Jesus.  

I see Jesus walking to the cross to be whipped. I see Him saying, "Go, and be free." Jesus died on the cross for a reason. He put on the guilt of the world to save sinners like you and me. He knew that we could not save ourselves. Even though He knew many of us would reject his free gift of grace and salvation, He put on the crown of thorns, took the nails, and gasped His last breath so that we could be set free. And on the third day, He overcame the grave and rose from the dead. Why? Because Jesus has the power to overcome anything!

Could it be that there is a God with a love so scandalous, so wide, so inclusive, so deep, so vast, so high, so welcoming that could take our sin and nail it to a cross?

We can play these church games and pretend that some people are better than others and that is why they are blessed, or we can come to the honest conclusion that it is God alone. Forget us. This life is not about us. It is solely about God! It is about glorifying God, not ourselves. I find that while I do not struggle with drinking, I do struggle with arrogance. It is a daily battle not to self-gratify myself because I choose to do the right thing. I must daily place my hope and my boast in my Savior. I must live my life knowing that Jesus is enough and my soul is satisfied in Him.

The greatest challenge is not your discipline, your devotion, or your focus; it is believing the Gospel. The Gospel informs us that God is love and by this we live our lives according to the truth found in His Word. This is the redemptive testimony of our Savior.

{End paraphrasing.}

The secret to successful relationships and successful living is to live from completeness, not deficiency. Alcohol will leave you feeling empty. Sex will leave you feeling bare. People will leave you feeling abandoned. Yet, I promise you that God will only leave you feeling satisfied, for He is the Sole Satisfier.

We can run around and mess with these mortal pleasures for a lifetime or we could come to the realization that the only pleasure that will ever matter comes from the eternal, everlasting God.

Psalm 16:11, "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."

For me, the risk that comes along with alcohol is simply not worth taking. Not only does it violate the laws of God and the laws of this country, but it puts my heart at risk. I want to be real with you right now. I'm prone to make fact, we all are. I don't want to take the lead from God because I know that the second I step out from his umbrella of protection, I put myself at high risk to be harmed. Why would I take my life into my own hands by settling for worldly pleasures found in alcoholic beverages when I could experience the eternal, everlasting pleasures of God? By living from completeness found in Christ, I am satisfied by God.

Lastly, I do not stay sober out of mere moral duty, or list of 'do's and dont's.' I stay sober because, through my 18 years of living, I have learned that Jesus is enough. Jesus satisfies my thirst, no matter the craving {cr. Philippians 4:12-13}.

Heavenly Father, I ask that you would guide us. We are prone to make mistakes when we try to take control of our own lives. Teach us to put our full trust in you. Let us distinguish between mortal pleasures and eternal pleasures. Teach us to keep our eyes set on the prize, which is found in Christ Jesus. Make your love our cause. Help each of us that struggle with the hurting, vacuum of a God-shaped hole to find our satisfaction in You alone. Father...I pray for those who struggle with alcohol. I pray for the addicted. I pray for the drunks. I pray for the binge drinkers. I pray for the casual/social drinkers. I pray that they would turn to You and only You. Let their faith and hope be unswervingly placed in Your goodness. Forgive us our sins. Let us come to the cross, face in the dirt, pride put aside, in all due reverence and fear of You. Then, let us walk away carrying our cross on our backs, wherever we may go. I love you, Lord. All of this I pray in the all-powerful, all-sufficient name of Jesus Christ...amen.