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The other day a sister of a man who was entering our program called me aside and asked, “What is your success rate?”

She was obviously very concerned about the future well-being of her brother who, from all appearances, was in critical condition. He was disheveled, sorely underweight, had glassy eyes, and was lethargic and slow of speech.

I told her that it all depends on how much time and effort her brother is willing to put into his recovery. We don’t control outcomes, but we do provide a loving, Christ-centered community of support in his journey toward a better self. As he is willing, so we are ready.

I think she understood.

I know many want hard numbers, evidence-based treatment. For years I accommodated others by offering statistics based upon a few studies conducted on our organization.

Not anymore. I think doing so is both disingenuous and, perhaps even more importantly, completely misses the point.

Studies reveal in the field of counseling, for example, that effectiveness is roughly 15% type of therapy, 30% client-therapist relationship, and upwards of 55% beliefs and motivation of client.

Think about that.

No matter how competent the therapist and his or her techniques, the largest part of counseling successfulness depends upon the client—his or her motivation and willingness to change.

It is no different in my industry. And this is no surprise.

In Mark 6 we read that Jesus “could not do any miracles there (his hometown), except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them” (vs. 5). Why? The next verse tells us—their lack of faith.

I’m not suggesting that if we muster up enough belief that we will see miracles every time. The Apostle Paul is proof enough. He prayed three times that God remove his thorn, but God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). What I am saying is that a deficiency of confidence, desire, and effort on our part can become an “obstacle” even with God.

Yes, God is sovereign, and he does what he pleases. Sometimes he dynamically answers our requests, and sometimes he doesn’t. He has his reasons—most of which remain a mystery to us.

Still, most “miracles” are a cooperative effort—God AND us . . . working together. No, it’s not a 50/50 ratio (more like 99/1), but we have a role:

  • go on a diet;
  • live within our means;
  • be friendly;
  • practice gratitude; etc.

You understand. We have to do our part.

Twelve Steppers have a saying, “It works if you work it.” Yes! The outcome may not be exactly what we expected or imagined (seldom is it), but some kind of breakthrough, some form of healing, will happen. God still moves mountains. That’s good news!

At Life Challenge, we give addicts not only the necessary tools, structure, and support to move forward in their recovery . . . we lead them to Jesus—the one and only Savior. He alone can address the deepest part of our brokenness, our sin.

But here’s where we are limited. We can’t push Jesus on anyone. No one is ever strong-armed into recovery or the kingdom. That is a matter of free will and the Spirit of God.

So what can we do? Point, plead, warn, and most importantly, be present as the body of Christ, companioning with people on their journey. All of this, of course, bathed in prayer and patient endurance.

We must remember too, that success means different things to different people.

When someone asks me what our success rate is, I can’t assume that we are thinking the same thing.

One of my fellow Adult & Teen Challenge directors texted me a few days ago, “Walked 100 feet without a walker today during PT!” That is success for someone who had a stroke five weeks earlier (but certainly not for an active professional athlete).

A man can be sober but still be a son of hell. A woman can grow in faith in Christ but still struggle with abusing prescription pain meds.

What might be considered success for one person is failure for another. Only God knows.

At the end of the day, success is one less drink, one less hit, one less vengeful thought, one less lie, one less profane word, and one more act of kindness, one more offer of forgiveness, one more embrace of another, . . . one more step forward.

But who’s counting?  

We dare not compare ourselves with others. We have nothing to prove. Christ died, rose again, and is coming back. That is enough.  

And so may we bear faithful witness to his reign.


  • Lori Bonzelaar says:

    Nicely put.

  • Earl Smith says:

    That’s a good word pastor Jeff

  • Debbie Morris says:

    Once again, a timely and timeless message of truth. Thanks for all you do.

  • Steve Miller says:

    Excellent thoughts, Dr. Bonzy!

  • Lynda Stirnemann says:

    Such a well-written and meaningful message.

    We are co-laborers with Christ, co-workers with the divine, what an honor!

    We have different job descriptions:
    We believe; He saves.
    We pray; He responds.
    We obey; He instructs..

    Often times people take the easy way out, “Well, it is all God’s job.”

    We have a job description to help us to mature in Christ, to recover from life-controlling issues, to glorify God with our lives.

    And God has a job description, and He always does his part.

    Will we do ours?

    Together with God, we can all grow and do great things!

    Our efforts as Life Challenge staff matter!!

    Residents’ efforts in their own recovery matter, just as you so aptly wrote, Dr. Jeff 😁

  • Sherry Stemmler says:

    Very well said. Have a blessed day pastor Jeff

  • Herman Yoder says:

    What a great way of looking at life. Thank you for the encouragement.
    Sometimes I become depressed in my own life, although I really don’t have addictions, other than negative thoughts.
    This gives me courage for one more step forward, even if I might not be where others are.

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