Accept God’s Help to Overcome Secret Faults
“For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—PHILIPPIANS 4:13.
1. What request did one concerned father make?
THE lad was an epileptic.* He foamed at the mouth, had convulsions, and at times fell into the water or the fire. His worried father sought out a man noted for curing the sick. When it seemed that there was a lack of confidence in that man’s ability, the father cried: “I have faith! Help me out where I need faith!”
2. How can we be sure that God wants to help us overcome faults?
2 We can learn something from this father who sought Jesus’ aid. The man admitted that his faith might be faulty; he also was sure that Jesus wanted to help. It can be that way with us, as we face our own faults—even secret ones—and work to overcome them. We can trust that Jehovah God wants to help us, as he has helped others in the past. (Compare Mark 1:40-42.) He, for example, helped the apostle Paul to cope with faults that can result from having an abundance or being in want. A poor person might crave riches; a wealthy person’s failing might be his smugly trusting in success and looking down on those having less. (Job 31:24, 25, 28) How did Paul overcome or avoid such faults? He says: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:11-13.
3. Why is it wise for us to try to conquer our weaknesses?
3 Drawing on God’s power, we are wise to work at conquering our faults, not ignoring them just because they presently may be secret. The psalmist said of Jehovah: “He is aware of the secrets of the heart.” (Psalm 44:21) If we do not overcome our faults, they may surface to our greater detriment. The principle applies: “The sins of some men are publicly manifest, leading directly to judgment, but as for other men their sins also become manifest later.” (1 Timothy 5:24) Let us examine two common faults meriting attention by Christians who want to please Jehovah.
A Secret Fault Involving Sexual Desire
4, 5. (a) The Bible presents what balanced view of sexual desire? (b) What warnings do we find in the Scriptures regarding sexual desire?
4 One of God’s finest gifts is marriage, along with the ability and desire to reproduce. (Genesis 1:28) Sexual desire expressed in marital relations is natural and clean. The Bible commends finding sexual enjoyment with one’s own mate. (Proverbs 5:15-19) However, sexual appetite cannot go unrestrained. As a comparison, consider our desire for food. That we have a returning appetite does not mean that we ought to develop an inordinate craving for food, or that we need no control as to when, where, and how we eat.—Proverbs 25:16, 27.
5 Paul may once have been married, and he knew that normal sexual expressions between mates were fitting. (1 Corinthians 7:1-5) So he had to be referring to something else when he wrote: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness.” (Colossians 3:5) He must have meant sexual expressions beyond the proper marital setting and means. The apostle also said: “Each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in covetous sexual appetite.” (1 Thessalonians 4:4, 5) This frank, inspired counsel is beneficial both for married and for single Christians.
6. Why do Christians rightly avoid self-abuse?
6 One way in which such “lust of carnal desire” (1 Thessalonians 4:5, The New Testament for English Readers, by Henry Alford) often is expressed is by a person’s stimulation of his or her own sexual organs for the pleasure involved. This is called masturbation, or self-abuse. It is very common among single males and females. But it is engaged in also by many a married person. Its commonness leads many doctors to claim that it is normal and even beneficial. However, this practice runs contrary to God’s counsel against “covetous sexual appetite.” We can better appreciate why, and why Christians should overcome the habit, by considering some counsel that Jesus gave.
7. How does Matthew 5:28 provide added reason to abstain from masturbation?
7 Jesus said: “Everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) He knew that passionate thoughts of adultery are often the precursors of immoral acts. Yet, even those who excuse masturbation admit that it usually involves sexual fantasies. After speaking of youths’ “conscious attention to the pleasure masturbation can bring,” the book Talking With Your Teenager adds: “They may imagine themselves in wild sexual situations or with partners of the same sex or with older people like teachers, relatives, even [parents]. They might have fantasies about sexual violence. All of this is absolutely normal.” But is it? How could Christians consider such fantasies and masturbation “normal” in the light of Jesus’ warning about ‘adultery in the heart’ or Paul’s counsel against “covetous sexual appetite”? No, such fantasies and self-abuse—whether by a youth or by an adult, by a single person or by a married person—need to be overcome.
Overcoming This Private Fault
8, 9. Appreciation of what facts can help a person to break the masturbation habit?
8 If a Christian had this secret fault, what could he do to conquer it, “to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor”? (1 Thessalonians 4:4) Through his Word, God provides valuable help.
9 First it is important to recognize that Jehovah does have standards. He makes plain the wrongness of extramarital sex, both fornication and adultery. (Hebrews 13:4) Hence, if we believe that his ways are the best, we will seek satisfying rewards of sexual expression only within marriage. (Psalm 25:4, 5) The book Adolescence, by E. Atwater, points out that regarding masturbation, youths commonly express ‘reticence, embarrassment and misgivings.’ One reason given is that ‘the closeness of a love relationship that accompanies sexual intercourse is missing in masturbation.’ Yes, there is benefit in controlling sexual desire until this can be expressed in loving marital relations.
10. What are some steps that a person can take to help himself overcome the practice?
10 God’s Word provides additional help by counseling: ‘Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are well spoken of and whatever virtue there is, continue considering these things.’ (Philippians 4:8) Clearly, erotic pictures and immoral novels are not ‘chaste and well spoken of or virtuous.’ Yet these things are often the fare of masturbators. Anyone determined to overcome this fault must, then, absolutely avoid such erotic material. Experience has proved that if a person’s desires begin to be drawn toward the erotic in a way that previously resulted in masturbation, determined concentration on what is righteous and chaste can cool the desires. This is especially important if a person is alone or in the dark, when the secret fault of self-abuse is most common.*—Romans 13:12-14.
11. Describe additional things that have proved beneficial in coping with this fault.
11 A related aid is keeping active, in line with the admonition: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Ephesians 5:15) Ask a mature Christian confidant for suggestions about positive things to do. (Isaiah 32:2) Many who have overcome this fault admit that their knowing that a concerned Christian would be checking with them on their progress helped them to develop self-control. Of course, the One who should be our closest confidant is Jehovah. So it is vital to turn to him in prayer, seeking his help. (Philippians 4:6, 7) If someone who has battled this fault for a time should “stumble,” he can ask God for power, then he can renew his efforts and likely succeed again, for an even longer period.—Hebrews 12:12, 13; Psalm 103:13, 14.
Battling Misuse of Alcohol
12. What is the Christian view of alcoholic beverages?
12 ‘Wine makes God and men rejoice,’ says one Bible verse. (Judges 9:13) You may agree, for alcoholic beverages have been an aid to relaxation and a source of pleasure for many. (Psalm 104:15) Few would deny, however, that using alcohol can pose both physical and moral dangers. A major problem is outright drunkenness. This fault is so serious that God warns that drunkards can be expelled from the congregation and barred from the Kingdom. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13; Galatians 5:19-21) Christians are aware of this and would agree that they must avoid getting drunk. But, aside from drunkenness, how might use of alcohol become a secret fault?
13. Illustrate how dependence on alcohol could develop.
13 A Christian could drink only moderately, yet still have a serious fault. Consider the experience of a man whom we will call Heinz.
He, his wife, and children became true Christians and were very active in the local congregation. In time Heinz was appointed as an elder and came to be viewed as a ‘pillar’ among the congregations in the city. (Galatians 2:9) Understandably, he faced pressures in rearing his family and some anxiety in caring for the flock. (2 Corinthians 11:28) His job, though, brought on him a lot of stress because the company he worked for was growing, and his boss wanted him to handle numerous problems and decisions.
Many evenings Heinz was quite tense. He found that a drink or two would help him to relax. Of course, being a mature Christian he carefully avoided overdrinking or drunkenness. Though he did have some drinks to unwind in the evening, he did not need alcohol during the day, nor did he even drink with most meals. He was not known to be ‘given to a lot of wine.’—1 Timothy 3:8.
Unexpectedly Heinz was hospitalized for a common operation. Some unusual symptoms appeared. What was their cause? It did not take the medical staff long to determine that Heinz was experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Yes, his body had become dependent on alcohol. This came as a surprise to the family, but they rallied around him and supported his resolve to avoid alcohol completely.
14. What could lead to being ridiculed by alcoholic beverages?
14 Some sense that alcohol has taken on an unusual role in their lives, so they try to conceal their drinking, not wanting family and friends to realize how much they drink or how often. Others may not feel that they are dependent on alcohol, still, drinking has become a focal point of their day. Those in either category are at great risk of overdrinking on some occasion or of being hidden alcoholics. Consider this proverb: “Wine is a ridiculer, intoxicating liquor is boisterous, and everyone going astray by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1) The point is that drinking too much can cause a person to act boisterously and be ridiculous. However, wine might ridicule someone in another sense. A person merits ridicule if he thinks that his drinking is hidden from God.
15. How do Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 bear on a Christian’s use of alcohol?
15 One of the fruits of God’s spirit is self-control, and we need that in all aspects of life. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Paul likened the Christian to a runner. In a normal race the runner “exercises self-control in all things” just to “get a corruptible crown.” Similarly, the Christian needs to display “self-control in all things” in order to gain a prize of much higher value—LIFE. Paul stressed that we must ‘lead our body as a slave’ to be sure ‘that after we have preached to others we might not become disapproved somehow,’ such as over a secret fault involving alcohol.—1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
16. How can a person determine whether alcohol has become a fault in his case?
16 What can help a Christian to deal with this fault? It is helpful to appreciate that though a drinker may conceal his pattern from other humans, he is not hiding it from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5) Thus, honestly—in the sight of God—a person should think about his drinking habits. (We mean drinking for pleasure or effect, not just a small amount as a common beverage with meals.) Some, however, may say, ‘But I don’t have to drink. I just enjoy it; it relaxes me. I could abstain if I wanted to.’ Well, in view of the potential dangers of overdrinking or alcohol dependency, why not do just that for a month or two? Or, since there is a strong tendency to deny that there is a problem, resolve for a month to abstain at all times when having a drink is normal. For example, the person who usually has a drink after work, before going to bed, or at a social gathering could avoid doing so. He can thus monitor how he feels. If it is difficult, or he ‘just can’t relax,’ he has a serious fault.
17. Why must a Christian having a hidden fault involving alcohol work to conquer it?
17 Once a sincere Christian realizes before God that he has a fault involving alcohol, it will be easier to overcome it. He may already know that the Bible says that it is ‘a person of stupidity’ who reasons ‘that stolen waters are sweet, and bread [or alcohol] taken in secrecy—it is pleasant.’ However, such ones, says Proverbs, will wind up impotent in death. In contrast, the wise person loves reproof, and he happily ‘leaves the inexperienced ones and keeps living by walking straight in the way of understanding.’ (Proverbs 9:1, 6, 8, 13-18) Yes, God provides additional help to overcome secret faults by letting us know what lies ahead, what the end results will be.
God Rewards Private Actions
18 Some people live in fear that their bad ways will be found out, by men or by God. Let that not be so with us. Instead, let us live with an awareness that we cannot hide things from Him, “for the true God himself will bring every sort of work into the judgment in relation to every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14) Let us accept Jehovah’s help to overcome our faults, even hidden ones. We then can look forward to the time when “the secret things of darkness” are brought to light and “the counsels of the hearts” are made manifest. “Then each one will have his praise come to him from God.”—1 Corinthians 4:5; Romans 2:6, 7, 16.
Sometimes during sleep the body experiences an involuntary sexual release, which natural occurrence is not the same as conscious self-abuse.
Do You Recall?
□ How does God feel about secret faults on which we may be working?
□ What Scriptural counsel indicates that self-abuse is to be avoided?
□ How can a Christian overcome the habit of self-abuse?
□ Since the Bible does not condemn it, how could the use of alcohol become a secret fault?
□ What wise steps can be taken in dealing with a private fault involving alcoholic beverages?
[Box on page 17]
He Overcame Self-Abuse
AS A YOUNG MAN, C——— had normal sexual feelings, but he also had a problem. From the age of 13 he had the habit of self-abuse, usually in the secrecy of his bedroom. He was a bit ashamed of it, but he felt that it was not hurting anyone else.
By the time he was 19, the practice was ingrained. On occasion C——— confessed it to his priest, but he was told that though wrong, it was not too serious. When C——— joined the military, he did not have much privacy. Hence, he seldom resorted to self-abuse, which, incidentally, shows that his past habit was not the result of uncontrollable passion.
Upon getting out of the military, C——— returned home. He began purchasing pornographic magazines and, aroused by these, he was soon back to his former ways. When he began living alone, it was easy to get sexually stimulating material. Often he masturbated several times a day.
Then he began to study the Bible with a minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As he learned God’s view of immorality, C——— felt ashamed of purchasing pornographic materials, and he wanted to break the habit of self-abuse. He tried. But after a week or two he would feel sexual tension, would stop by some newspaper stand, and would become aroused by the immoral material. Back home, he would feel that since he had already failed, he might as well go one step farther. Afterward, remorse would come. Would he never be able to break this bad habit?
Finally C——— spoke to a spiritual elder at the congregation. This minister was understanding and helped him to look up Bible-based material that would help him to improve his self-control. The minister also explained:
‘Imagine the desire to be like a chain. The first link is small and weak. But each successive link gets larger and harder. That is the way it is with urges leading to masturbation. So you need to stop the impulse as soon as possible. The longer it goes on, the more intense your desire becomes. Finally it will be almost unstoppable. Yes, try to break the chain at the first link. As soon as you sense the urge coming, DO SOMETHING! Get up and change your position, polish your shoes, empty the garbage can—anything to break the link. You might begin reading something out loud, such as the Bible or a Christian publication that will channel your thoughts along clean lines.’
This minister would inquire of C——— at the meetings as to how things were going, regularly commending and encouraging him in his resolve. For seven weeks C——— succeeded. Then, when he was frustrated and discouraged over another problem, he succumbed again, buying some erotic literature. That led to a relapse. Such episodes were setbacks, but the minister urged him to continue the struggle. Gradually the intervals lengthened to 9 weeks, then 17 weeks, then even longer. Slowly his confidence grew that he would be able to master the secret problem.
Finally C——— faced up to the fact that Jehovah knew all that he was doing. Thus, if he wanted to serve God with a completely clear conscience, he would have to get this practice out of his life totally. He did it! Now he is not even able to recall how long it has been. As an exemplary Christian, C——— has been given responsibility in the congregation, and he is making plans to increase his service to God’s praise. He is a different person.