Temptation: Helping People Change Their Autopilot

We’re all tempted by something. It’s proof of being alive. If you’re not tempted, you’re not breathing.

So the question isn’t, “Are you tempted?” The question is, “What are you doing about it?”

The key to overcoming temptation isn’t to resist it. You need to replace temptation, not resist it. Whatever you resist, persists.

You might be thinking, “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘resist temptation’?”

It doesn’t.

The Bible tells us to resist the devil” (James 4:7 NIV). We’re to resist the tempter, not the temptation.

Helping People Change Their Autopilot

When I was a little kid, my mom would make chocolate chip cookies, usually before dinner. When I would go up to the table to look at them, my mom would say, “Don’t you eat those cookies, Ricky.”

“I’m not, Mom. I’m just smelling them.” Of course, right?

But those warm, freshly baked cookies had my attention.

That’s where a lot of people are when they come to Celebrate Recovery®. Something has their attention. Maybe it’s alcohol. Maybe it’s sex. Maybe it’s codependent behaviors. Maybe it’s shopping.

Or maybe it’s chocolate chip cookies.

And here’s the worst part: Whatever gets our attention, gets us. The Bible tells us in James 1 that whatever gets our attention eventually becomes a deep desire—and desire, when it’s conceived, brings sin. And, of course, sin brings death. It’s a destructive cycle—and one many people are looking to escape.

I’ve often described repentance as “changing your autopilot.” I think it’s one of the best ways to describe what Celebrate Recovery is all about.

It goes like this. If I have a boat that’s headed east and I’m using an automatic pilot, the boat will go east. But what if I suddenly want to go west?

I need to make a U-turn.

I can do that one of two ways. One way works, and one way doesn’t. I can physically grab the wheel and force it to turn around. That’s willpower. It’s hard work because I have to use all of my strength to fight against the autopilot.

Many people who walk into your Celebrate Recovery ministry are exhausted because they’ve been doing this for years. They’ve been fighting the autopilot with their own willpower. They’re trying to stop doing something they don’t want to do (or start doing something they want to do), but they’re just relying on their own strength.

When everything in your body is trying to go east, it feels unnatural to go west. Your muscles are tense. You’re under emotional stress. It wears you down.

It may work in the short term. You may be able to turn the wheel for a little bit, but you can’t for long. Willpower has limitations. Eventually, you get tired of the stress.

But there’s another, better way to turn that boat around. Instead of fighting for control of the wheel, you can change the autopilot.

What’s the autopilot in your life?

Finish this sentence 10 times, and I’ll tell you. “It’s just like me to be…”

“It’s just like me to be lazy.”

“It’s just like me to be impulsive.”

“It’s just like me to always give in.”

That’s your autopilot.

It’s something you’ve said to yourself over and over again. Every time you think a thought, a little electrical impulse goes across your brain. When you do it over and over again, it becomes a rut.

That’s what is happening inside the brains of the people who are coming to Celebrate Recovery for help.

They’ve been telling themselves for years they’ll never change. They’ve set themselves up for failure.

Here’s the good news that you and I see every week: We know, without a doubt, that everyone can change.

But people have to change how they think before they can change how they behave. They do that by renewing their minds—they let God’s Word change how they think. The Bible tells us this in Romans 12:2: “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (NLT). 

The New Testament calls this mental shift repentance, and it’s at the heart of Celebrate Recovery.

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Rick Warren
Dr. Rick Warren is passionate about attacking what he calls the five “Global Goliaths” – spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease, and illiteracy/poor education. His goal is a second Reformation by restoring responsibility in people, credibility in churches, and civility in culture. He is a pastor, global strategist, theologian, and philanthropist. He’s been often named "America's most influential spiritual leader" and “America’s Pastor.