Sidetracked by Symptoms

17 years ago, as a Pastor in Virginia, I was helping other men in our church replace a roof on a widow’s house. Strange events begin to happen to me that became quite “repetitive”. I descended from the roof to go the restroom, followed by a strong desire for something to drink. I drank an entire can of Coke without hesitation. Then I went back on the roof. Fifteen minutes later, the same urge repeated itself – bathroom break and can of coke. This cycle went on until I was worn out!  I really do not know how many cans of coke I drank that day, but I do know that it was many! The next day, I woke with blurriness in my vision. I was convinced I needed to see the eye doctor or else my allergies were really giving me fits! These “symptoms” continued to sidetrack me for days, though I really didn’t think they were related in any way.

The word symptom is defined as: any phenomenon or circumstances accompanying something and serving as evidence of it; a sign or indication of something; a signal. The signs were not obvious to me or my wife (though she knew it was more than just allergies!) Several days later, when I couldn’t get an appointment with my eye doctor, my wife convinced me to go to my regular doctor. I was diagnosed with diabetes.

In Reformers Unanimous, the “symptoms” of those seeking our help are sometimes obvious, but sometimes they are hidden to us and them. It is important for us to respond correctly to all symptoms. All of us need to stop ignoring symptoms, or making excuses for the symptoms (self diagnose) and seek the solution to the problem! In our society today, we are not doing a very good job at properly diagnosing problems. We want to blame guns for the death of children, when it is really the hearts of evil men! We want to be politically correct, but not biblically correct. It only stands to reason that the Designer of humans knows more of our problems than anyone else!

We must approach all of life’s problems as traceable to sin and or Satan! Recently, I read in my Pastor’s book, 3D Holiness, “If we treat problems with Band Aids and Kleenex, we are going to continue to hurt ourselves and others”. Putting a Band Aid on our symptoms of sin only prolongs and increases the devastating results!

When my symptoms of diabetes began, I followed the path most people follow in their lives. This only delayed the real help I needed, making my condition worse and almost placing me in a diabetic coma! I want to discuss three ways we should not respond and one way we should respond to symptoms in our spiritual lives:

When I began to show symptoms of diabetes, I just ignored them. My goal was to work hard and finish the roof! I had one thing on my mind, and I was completely focused on that and simply ignored any physical issues that were trying to stop me. I can tell you it is not good to ignore physical symptoms, but it is even more catastrophic to ignore symptoms in our spiritual lives!

Somebody needs to discuss the BIG PINK ELEPHANT that we are choosing to ignore. Perhaps you have a spouse, or relative, friend, or neighbor who is showing symptoms of spiritual decline. If you truly love them, you will tell them that you see the symptoms! If they were showing symptoms of some type of physical issue, would you try to get them to go to the medical doctor? Of course! Then why is it that we choose to ignore symptoms that signal spiritual problems? I am thankful that my wife convinced me to go to my doctor that day! To ignore symptoms is only to delay the inevitable, followed by a new set of dreaded symptoms. Symptoms are God’s way of trying to get someone’s attention.

The Bible has many lists of symptoms. One such list is in Galatians 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, (20) Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (21) Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…”

The word manifest is found from a Greek word “phaneroo”. It is used 49 times in the Bible. Some of the words associated with this word in the scripture is “to show”, manifest, appear, shewed, and a few others. They are “symptoms”. We cannot ignore these types of symptoms as they show a deeper root problem. Don’t ignore them!

“Everybody’s doing it” or “what I do doesn’t hurt anyone else” or “if you knew my past you would understand why I…”. These are all statements that are used by someone who is just trying to cover their symptoms. They are covering their sin, making it seem like it is no big deal to them, to others, or to God.

Often people will play the blame game. Or justify their symptom with some explanation outside of the Bible. We are all guilty of this at times. When my symptoms of diabetes occurred, my answer was to just make sure I worked near the ladder to quickly find the restroom and the refrigerator. Then I stocked up on allergy medicine. What I really needed was to find a solution to the real problem.

We put a Band Aid on it, and expect it to go away…only to soon discover that we have blood poison! This is what Secular programs do. Secular programs only seek to give a person sobriety, but they only deal with the symptoms. We need to deal with the root problems…not just cover up the symptoms!

One of the biggest deterrents for a proper diagnosis for addictions is when we excuse the symptoms. This is often done with an attitude of entitlement. Our society today provides a Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) that often gives people a real “sidetrack” to finding the truth that can make them free by giving them a physical diagnosis for a spiritual problem. Others will even try to convince us that we have some puffed up “extra” chromosome that is the real culprit to our sinful problems.

We self diagnose; let Dr. Phil or Oprah diagnose; or simply come up with our own excuse as to why we have symptoms in our lives. Satan will gladly give you a list of “excuses” for your symptoms.

Regardless of which of the above solutions you turn to for comfort and peace of mind, you will not find the real cause of your symptom until you acknowledge your sinful nature and wicked heart, which is the root problem. No one likes to hear those words as human nature scrambles for a “free pass”.

If your flesh is manifesting the list of sins you often find in the scriptures, you have one of two choices to deal with the symptoms and get to the root problem:

1. Get saved! You need to decide you no longer want your sin and its temporal pleasures; but rather, you want a Savior. There is only One, and His name is Jesus Christ. Go to to listen to His way!

2. If you are already saved, then you must “walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). This is what RU is all about! Reformers Unanimous Recovery Program can help you overcome any fleshly habit. We simply teach people how to develop a real relationship with the Savoir and how to take repeated steps under His influence.

The biggest tragedy of being sidetracked by symptoms is that a person is held much longer under bondage. Let the Truth make you free…finally!


Sharing is Caring

God led Ben and his family (wife, Wendy; and three children, Josh, Caleb, and Hannah) to Rockford, Illinois in 2003 to become the International Director of the fastest growing addiction ministry in the United States. Bro. Burks is now privileged to travel and train others how to help the addicted within their communities.

One thought on “Sidetracked by Symptoms

  1. The truth of this article is phenominal and necessary to recovery, healing, and life. I am concerned that RU does not more boldly deal with food addiction. Gluttony is clearly stated in the Bible as sin against God. Food is rampantly set up as an idol in this country and accepted – even promoted in the church. I feel strongly that RU needs to include gluttony and food addictions and deal with it openly. I was offended when at the RU meeting, food was always offered at the end of the teaching which had been directed to me (by The Holy Spirit) regarding my love of food — my giving food and eating a higher place in my life than God. I am a believer in and follower of Christ. This is the issue He is working on in my life. In attending a faith based addiction recovery program, an enticing array of food was placed before me as acceptable. When I addressed this issue to the director, his solution was to offer “healthy food choices”. It is not the food that needs to obey, it is my heart. I felt no support in the program. I could easily enjoy sipping a glass of wine as I fellowshipped with the group without damaging my relationship with God, but I am sure that would not have been acceptable. I’m OK with that as I do not desire to deliberately entice a struggling brother or sister. I only ask the same love and caring in return. I feel this issue needs to be addressed and this is the opportunity God presented to me to do so.

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