Last year’s best feel good story in Major League Baseball was one of this month’s books for me. I just completed Josh Hamilton’s book Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back. Josh was the hottest prospect in baseball when he graduated from high school. He was destined for greatness. But he threw all that away for drugs. After four years out of baseball, he was able to finally conquer his drug problem and return to the game he loved, quickly rising to the major leagues.
Here is a brief video interview with Josh that summarizes his experience:
The difference between the book and this televised interview is simple: Jesus.
I have to believe that somewhere between the raw footage of Josh being interviewed and the finished project above, Jesus ended up on the cutting room floor. Because in the book, Josh unapologetically gives Jesus Christ the glory for overcoming his addiction to drugs.
Do I believe people can overcome drugs without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Absolutely. People do it all the time. The reason is because addiction is a worship problem in a person’s life. The ability to overcome an addiction is found in successfully dealing with the worship problems in a person’s heart. That solution may result in worship of Jesus Christ, and it might result in worship of someone or something else.
Sadly, for those who overcome a drug addiction and replace their drug of choice with a false god, they have really only replaced one false idol with another false idol. They might be less dangerous to society and more pleasant to be around with the new false idol, but they are still worshipping a false idol nonetheless.
Almost a decade ago I heard Rick Warren predict that one of the greatest ways for the church to do outreach in the 21st Century will be to help people deal with their addictions. I think he was on to something. This generation is facing major addiction issues: legal drugs such alcohol, illegal drugs, gambling, and pornography are the especially alluring addictions in our society.
If we are going to be effective in ministering to people in this culture we most know how to point people to hope when it comes to addictions. I also recently finished a book by Edward Welch titled Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel. After finishing it, I am convinced that all humans struggle with addictions in one form or another. In other words, addictive behavior is common to all men. Some addictions are more obvious, while others are more subtle addictions. For those who know someone whose addiction is wreaking havoc on their personal and/or professional life, I highly recommend Welch’s work.
Josh Hamilton is proof that worshipping Christ can help a person conquer the demons of addiction.
UPDATE (8.22.09): The victory over addiction is not something easily won. It is not uncommon for people fighting addiction to slip back into behavior that is not the best. Josh Hamilton has apparently done that, having at least one episode of drunkenness a few months ago. He has owned up to his mistake and hopefully that is the full extent of it and he has not fallen into anything else. Our prayers should be with him as he seeks to pursue total victory in Christ.