Men and women committed to giving up gambling soon discover the real issues they face are not about money after all — but rather about their relationship with God. True change is about turning our lives and our circumstances over to the Lord so we can use the practical tools of recovery meetings and counseling in a God-directed way. Prayer, the vitality and breath of the spiritual life, is the primary means to that goal.
Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline, says that prayer "brings us into the deepest and highest work of the human spirit. Real prayer is life creating and life changing."
Prayer leads us into the quieting presence of God where we can hear His guidance. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you" (Ps. 32:8 NIV).
What a comforting promise! God will close the old account and open a new one in partnership with Him — a spiritual bank account that deals in the currency of six spiritual disciplines: surrender, service, solitude, simplicity, solvency, and serenity — His gifts to anyone who will accept and practice them.
No lasting transformation can occur in our lives without giving God complete control. And yet no discipline has been more misused by individuals, families, schools and religious leaders.
Surrender has a bad reputation. In some circles, it suggests a form of bondage, a giving away of all that is valuable and unique about the individual. The discipline of surrender, however, has nothing to do with bondage. Giving up is releasing to God for His safekeeping those people and situations we have no control over anyway. We can then walk in freedom, knowing with certainty that the One who knows all things, who is for all time, will bring about in our lives what is right and good and pure and just, not only in the financial realm, but in every area of our lives.
Serving is giving something of yourself to another whether money, material goods, a listening ear, a prayer, a portion of time, a talent or a treasure. Men and women who serve from the spirit know when to say yes and when to say no — what part is theirs and what part belongs to another — because they stay attuned to the Lord for guidance.
That same clarity is available to each one of us. When our service is God-directed, there will be less and less struggle. We will not need to prove our worth. What is done in secret will be rewarded in heaven — where it matters.
Many people think of silence as the absence of sound, just as the dictionary defines the word. But as a spiritual discipline, silence is much more. It is also a presence — God's presence in quiet communion with our presence.
In repentance and rest is your salvation... (Isa. 30: 15 NIV)
Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps. 46:10 NIV)
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known. (Isa. 42:16 NIV)
Silence is not an easy discipline to embrace. It requires a step of faith, a willingness to stop the noise and listen for what's on the other side.
Wisely, the writer of Ecclesiastes says there is "a time to be silent and a time to speak" (3:7). Those of us who wish to practice the discipline of silence will pay attention to those words. As a result, we will gradually notice we do have the ability to give up our gambling addiction and to resolve other problems, as well. Wisdom and discernment will be there at the precise moments we need them.
Simplicity encourages us to be, as the apostle Paul experienced, content in plenty or in want, because simplicity, like all the disciplines, begins on the inside. When we are simple within, we are free without. We have no need to acquire attention or to accumulate possessions. We can drive an old car or a new and we can enjoy small pleasures — a walk in nature, a good book, planting flowers, preparing a simple meal. Simplicity: the discipline that brings us down to where we ought to be so we can move into a solvent lifestyle, free of gambling and of living on the edge.
Solvency — the ability to pay all that we owe — is the goal of men and women who desire real freedom from the indebtedness that comes from compulsive gambling. But there remains for many of us a great gap between the desire and the reality. That is when Twelve Step programs such as Gamblers Anonymous and other support groups can be so helpful. In these meetings, you can share your tragedies and your triumphs and be heard, understood, and loved.
However, solvency is not a discipline we can practice without support. What has taken a lifetime to dismantle cannot be restored through sheer willpower. But we can take the initial steps that prepare us for the support of others by confronting our patterns with money and asking for help to change them.
Practicing solvency in our lives also includes a willingness to learn all we can about practical financial matters that affect our everyday affairs — especially in the mature years where retirement and income for late life is so important to manage well. The discipline of solvency is the outworking of an inward commitment to become good stewards of the resources God provides. A solvent lifestyle, then, results in a deep peace that paves the way for a life of serenity.
Serenity is a state of calm, of peace, a deep inner knowing that all is well. This is the plane of life we most desire. Thankfully serenity is not tied to any one practice or any one area of life. It is, instead, a spiritual discipline that brings about a state of total well-being as a person comes to rest in God. To be serene is to be accepting, to hold life, self and other people with an open hand instead of a clenched fist, knowing one's power is limited and effective only to the extent that God is in control. Finally, and most important, they ask for the wisdom to know the difference between what they can change and what they cannot.
As we take up the spiritual journey, we can turn to the disciplines, like streams in a desert, to refresh our spirits when we feel dry and to guide us when we feel lost. And for those times when we feel strong and sure-footed, the disciplines enable us to explore new terrain with the confidence that God is with us every step of the way.
For "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless." (Ps. 84:11 NIV).