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Overcoming Vices

We all have habits, both good and bad. Anything we do automatically, consciously or unconsciously, is a habit. Good habits such as tidiness, courtesy, punctuality, or good manners are a wonderful thing. But when the habit is bad for us or others, it's what is known as a vice.

How many times have you tried to quit a bad habit but found yourself almost powerless to stop falling into it, no matter how hard you tried? The fact is that we all have human weaknesses that can turn into bad habits or vices if we're not careful.

What most people don't realize is that a vice is often more than just an ingrained natural reaction. When someone has a certain weakness and gives in to it repeatedly, very often the problem has its roots in the spiritual realm, where God and His angelic forces on one hand and the Devil and his evil spirits on the other try to influence our thoughts and actions. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood," the Bible tells us, "but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

So to overcome a vice, you have to get free of whatever evil spirit may be behind it. According to God's Word, there are evil spirits--demons, as they are commonly referred to--that specialize in playing up certain sins and vices to our harm, such as demons of alcoholism, drug addiction, smoking, gambling, gluttony, and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, etc. These are some of the most obvious vices, but there are others: hatred, bitterness, pride, jealousy, self-righteousness, anger, negativity, criticalness, and lying and deception, to name a few. The spiritual powers that bind people to these other vices can be just as strong and destructive as the ones that drive people to compulsive gambling or drug or alcohol addiction.

There are demons that will try to cause damage in almost any area of your life if you let them. This is especially true if you already have a natural weakness along a certain line, like a tendency to be jealous or critical of others, for example. The enemies of your soul--the Devil and his demons--will play on that weakness and tempt you with it every chance you give them.

This is why God's Word says to not give any place to the Devil (Ephesians 4:27). When you "give place" to evil spirits, it's like having a boarder in your house who is bent on annoying you and causing you trouble and all kinds of damage. You may tell him to leave several times, but if he refuses, finally by the authority of the law--in this case the authority of God's Word and the name of Jesus--you throw the rotter out!

But before you can get rid of him, you have to recognize that he is there--that there is an actual spiritual force binding you to that vice--and you have to want to be free of that vice badly enough that you are willing to confess your problem to Jesus, pray for deliverance, and take a stand against future temptation.

The moment you pray and ask Jesus to deliver you, you will be delivered. You have Jesus' promise on that: "All authority has been given to Me [Jesus] in Heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). "Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do" (John 14:13). "If the Son [Jesus] makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).

When you pray, remind the Lord of these and other promises He has made in His Word. This shows you have faith in His ability to fulfill His promises. Never doubt for a moment that the Lord is going to answer, and He will. He has to because He has promised to.

Some changes are instantaneous, but others take a while. Even after prayer and spiritual deliverance, it often takes time to completely break free from the habit. The Devil and his forces don't just give up and go away. They will try to retake the ground they have lost. But you have the advantage now. Before deliverance, the pestering spirit may have had quite a bit of control, but after deliverance it is within your power to resist its regaining control. This must become the new focus of your prayers. You must also take practical steps to fight falling prey to it again.

Some vices have such a strong grip on their victims that they're almost impossible to overcome without spiritual reinforcements in the form of others' prayers and encouragement. If, after praying for deliverance, strong temptation threatens to rob you of the victory over your vice or addiction, you may need to confess your problem to others who are strong in faith and ask them to pray with you against it, as well as to help provide support and safeguards to help you not give in to temptation. "Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed [spiritually and physically]. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results" (James 5:16 TLB). "If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in Heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:19-20).

Although you are delivered from the evil spirit's grip, you still have the ingrained habit and will probably continue to be tempted in that area for a while, especially if it has been a big problem for years. But don't give up! Resist the very thought of temptation! It's not your fault that you get tempted. Nobody can keep temptation from coming, but you don't have to yield to temptation. It's like the saying, "You can't keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair." The Devil can't win unless you surrender! Hit him back every time he tries his tactics on you! "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).

One of your best defenses against temptation, besides continuing to call on Jesus for help and claiming His promises, is to keep busy for God and others--work therapy that keeps you so busy with positive activities that you don't have time to think about returning to your vice.

Support groups can also be a big help--having others to turn to who understand your situation and have perhaps been through the same or similar problems. "Two are better than one ... for if they fall, one will lift up his companion. Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12). If you need help to overcome an addiction or other longstanding problem, contact your nearest community from The Family for prayer, encouragement, counsel, and fellowship.

In extreme cases such as longstanding physical addictions to alcohol or drugs, occasional help from a support group may not be enough--you may need the around the clock help of experienced professionals to get you through the detoxification and rehabilitation stages. It's humbling to admit the need for such help, but it could save your life.

No matter how severe the case, deliverance can be yours through prayer and faith in Jesus. No one is beyond His help and nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27). "He [Jesus] who is in you is greater than he [the Devil] who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Jesus is able to break any chain of vice or addiction that may bind you!