God’s Success Rate

By Charles Slack

Evaluating drug treatments
“Success rates”, what do they mean? How should treatments be evaluated? Here are some stories about how God’s will plays out in drug rehabs and programs.

Our first case is R, a man unable to remain clean and sober in three different treatments. His initial try was a Christian rehab which he quit soon after entering. Next he attended a 12-Step program for a month or so. “Not for me,” he said. Then he entered a secular residential program which he completed. Then he relapsed again. Who is to blame for R’s failure?

Although “blame” may be the wrong word, which program should take primary responsibility for R’s relapse record? Or should all programs share equally in his failure? The Christian rehab claims an “80% success rate” due to “the Jesus Factor”. Does this mean Jesus is unsuccessful 20% of the time? Or does it mean Jesus would have a 100% success rate if well-meaning people didn’t interfere 20% of the time? Secular rehabs might have a lower success rate because they interfere even more.

R himself first blamed the Christian rehab which, said he, tried to “brainwash” him. However, stoned addicts like R are notorious liars and untrustworthy self-prognosticators. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that those advertising their successes should also take blame for their failures.

I’m glad I didn’t take R’s judgment seriously because later on he returned to his 12-Step meetings and remained clean and sober by “getting a sponsor and working the program”. Next thing you know, having asked Lord Jesus into his heart, R began attending church. He now says he has an open mind about that Christian rehab. “Maybe my brain needed washing back then.” Praise God!

Who gets the credit for R’s success? A secular ethics professor might say that whoever took the blame for failure should now get the credit for success. A humanist might insist that R himself take the blame or credit for whatever happens. However R refuses to take credit. “Jesus did it, not me,” says R. “My will and my life are in His hands.”

Wrong room?
Next Case is an alcoholic from the USA who finally got “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and went out one dark night to try to find an AA meeting. In the USA, AA meets in church basements (sheds in Australia). But Next Case was too disoriented to find the basement that night and ended up in the church rectory where the Ladies’ Auxiliary was meeting. The ladies welcomed Next Case warmly and let him rest on a soft seat at the back of the room. Next Case never took another drink. When his brain had cleared, he finally found AA, but he definitely credits the ladies for getting him sober.

God causes recovery, not rehabs
Last Case, totally clean and sober many years, says that given substantial recovery, a change in perspective occurs. The glory must go to God. The credit goes to ALL who tried to help. The healed addict just takes the privilege. He says rehabs and programs should get credit where credit is due although they do not cause recovery. Recovery occurs IN them – an important distinction. God is the only cause of recovery. And He heals addicts all the time in all kinds of places. (Unfortunately, many then go over to the pub to celebrate.)

Rehabs and programs may feel the need to make “success rate” claims but these can backfire. Contrast an expensive, Christian rehab claiming an “80% success rate for those who complete our program” with a no-cost, self-help group that can claim 100% for those completing its program because you stay “on the program as long as you live”. (The Christian rehab also requires life-long church fellowship.)

Christian programs don’t attract atheist addicts. But many unbelievers eventually accept Jesus as Savior after their thinking gets straight in a secular program. Last Case strongly supports Christian drug-programs but also says Jesus Christ reaches as many in the popular low-cost anonymous groups as He does in expensive, residential, faith-based rehabs. And the waiting list in the non-professional programs is zero.

What's on your mind?

To recover from drug addiction and drug abuse, an addict must a) develop a relationship with God and b) abstain from drugs. Christian programs and churches tend to emphasize the relationship with Jesus, allowing addicts to discover for themselves the importance of abstinence. The strategy works: that which is self-discovered may be retained better than that which is preached.
On the other hand, secular programs tend to focus on abstinence leaving the “God factor” to self-discovery. Does this mean Jesus gets neglected? Far from it, when the brain is drug-free, the mind can experience the Word. Faith comes from hearing (Romans 10:17) but you can’t hear until you can hear. God provides for those who need healing prior to hearing.

Final Case: a Pentecostal church keyboard player, Charles had got clean in Narcotics Anonymous before becoming a Christian. To promote understanding, Charles invited a church youth-leader, Dave, to an NA meeting. An assistant pastor criticized Charles and Dave. “Narcotics Anonymous is not Christian,” said the pastor. “It is, when Charles is there,” said Dave. And indeed, within the month another NA member came to church to invite Jesus into his heart.

Advice to all addicts: wherever you are, seek Jesus until He finds you. Advice to everyone: never covet credit. Forget about your success rate (except, of course, when fund-raising). God’s success rate is 100%. Yours is literally zero.