Has Coffee Mastered You?
I want to address a really sensitive topic. I want to talk about a really controversial topic, a truly hot topic. I want to talk to you about your coffee. And I want to ask you a very sensitive and very controversial question. And the question is, have you mastered coffee, or has coffee mastered you? In your relationship with coffee, who is in charge?
I want to talk to you about that this week, and I want to talk to you about it by telling you a story. Many of you will know about this problem that I have in my brain with these nerves that are damaged. Some blood vessels in my brain dislocated and rested on a nerve in my brain and began to do damage to those nerves, which began to cause problems with movement on the right side of my body. And it’s been years of treatment and surgeries and everything else. The problem is not as bad as it once was. But it’s not as good as it was before I started having a problem, and we’re trying to figure all that out. The spasms and the tension cause discomfort and headaches, and it makes my face look funny a lot of the time as we have tried to figure out how to manage symptoms that are, at this point, still ongoing. One of the things that my wife, Lauren, was doing was reading online about some things that we could do to try to help out with diet and that kind of thing, and there isn’t much. But one of the things that she did was she came across an article that talked about limiting your caffeine intake. Caffeine is, of course, a drug. It is a stimulant; it causes your nerves to engage in overactivity. And the spasms that I have are overactive nerves, an overactive nerve in my brain. And so, some people are recommending that if you can reduce your caffeine intake, it can help. Now I will just fast forward and let you know that I did cut caffeine completely out, and I cut it out for months. And there was absolutely no change in the problem with my nerves. So, I’ll just let you know in advance that this isn’t going towards a happy ending on the problem with the nerves in my brain.
But let me tell you the story about when I quit caffeine. I didn’t know enough to know that you need to wean yourself off. I wasn’t thinking that hard about it. I said I’ll just quit. And so, the day after Christmas, I said, this is going to be my first day with no caffeine, and I cut it out. No coffee in the morning. No soda in the afternoon, no tea, no nothing. I cut out caffeine. And by lunchtime, I felt horrible. I felt completely sick. It was Christmas time. I was on a little vacation. But if I had not been on vacation, it’s one of those deals where I would have had to have left work. I felt terrible. I thought something had a hold of me. And as I was talking with my wife, I realized I was having caffeine withdrawals. So, I thought about putting a little bit in my system, but I thought, well, no, this stinks enough. I’m just going to say I’ve already gotten this far. I’m going to just keep going. The next day, no caffeine, and I didn’t start feeling bad at lunch. I started feeling bad later in the afternoon and felt terrible the rest of the day. I woke up the next morning and felt better. That day, I made it to dinner before I started feeling terrible. And the next day, I made it to bedtime before I started feeling terrible. And the next day, I had fully weaned myself off caffeine and was feeling better.
Coffee and Your Heart
Here is what I realized as I went through that process. Again, it didn’t help me with my nerves, but it helped me see something about my heart. And I realized that caffeine had mastered me. I didn’t even know that I was guilty of some sin. That wasn’t it at all. It’s just that I had had this quiet little master sneak into my life and begin to control me, and it began to control me. And the reason that’s a problem is that 1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “’ All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” What the Apostle Paul seems to be doing here is he’s giving quotations. He’s quoting things he’s heard “All things are lawful for me.” This is the word on the street that he’s heard, hey, Christians are free; we have Christian liberty. We are not bound to anything other than the Law of Jesus Christ. Of course, we have to do everything Jesus tells us to do. But we’re free from every other law.
The clearest example of this in the New Testament is you can eat pork if you want. Christians are not under Jewish dietary laws. Christians don’t keep the Sabbath laws. And the ceremonial laws that were required of Jewish people. Jesus Christ, through his life, his death, and his resurrection, sets us free from those kinds of things. And so, we are free. All things are lawful for me. I can do anything I want that is within the law of Christ and the law of love. The Apostle Paul seems to be saying, yeah, that’s out there, and that’s true as far as it goes. But what he does is he puts a qualifier on that “all things are lawful for me,” you say, but here’s the other part of that. Not all things are helpful. There are all sorts of things that aren’t illegal for a Christian, but that isn’t helpful. It’s not a sin for you to stay up past 9:30 at night; it’s not a sin for you to stay up past 11:30 at night. But if every night you stay up until 4:00 am, and you’ve got to get up at 6:00 am to go to work. That’s not going to be helpful for you. It’s not a question of whether it is against the law for you as a Christian. It’s whether it’s helpful.
He says, “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. So, yes, you’re free, but there’s more to that. You’re not allowed to have something in your life that has dominated you. There are a lot of things that are not unlawful for the Christian. But that can dominate our hearts because our hearts love to be enslaved to things. Our hearts are little servants looking for masters. We love to be enslaved. We love to be dominated. One example is sexual activity. There’s nothing wrong with sexual activity within the bounds of marriage. But you can be dominated by that. It can be a controlling influence in your life. Cookies, cake, pie, ice cream, there’s nothing wrong with sweets, there’s nothing unlawful about them, but you can be dominated by them. And here is what I found out as we talk about coffee; I found out I had been dominated by coffee. I found out that in those four days of withdrawals, particularly the first two, I found out that I can’t function without coffee. I had put so much caffeine into my body that when I came off it, I was going through withdrawals like any other drug addict. I realized I had been dominated. I realized that I had taken a good gift from God, and through overuse and through, lack of thinking about it, and just negligence, I had been dominated by it.
I just made the decision that I was not going to be dominated by coffee, and so, even though I am I’m free to drink coffee, and I’m free to drink as much coffee as I want, I decided I’m going to be much more sparing in my use of coffee. I don’t mean that I cut it out altogether and that I never went back to it. I did come off of it completely until I found out that it was not helping me with my nerves and my brain. But after that, I have gone back to it. But only sparingly. I might have a cup every couple of days. I might have several cups in a week. But I’m not having it every day. I’m not depending on it to get me going in the morning. I’m not depending on it for that boost of joy and energy in the morning. And the same thing with sodas and other things because I don’t want to be dominated. I don’t want to be addicted.
Maybe coffee has dominated you, not in the caffeine sense. Maybe you’ve been dominated by spending too much money on it, by longing for it too much in the morning or in the afternoon. Maybe caffeine has dominated you in your prissy preferences about the kind of coffee that you’ll drink, and you’ve been a coffee snob, and you’re known more for your snobbishness about coffee than you are for the love of Jesus Christ. The reality is this wonderful kind gift of God’s grace called coffee can dominate over us and can master us in many, many ways. It’s not about whether it’s unlawful. That’s not it. It’s about whether it’s helpful. It’s about whether you have been dominated. I am not here to judge you. Coffee is a great gift. I hope you receive it with thankfulness if it is a gift you’d like to enjoy. I’m just here to ask you a question based on the authority of the Word of God and the grace of Jesus Christ. The question is: coffee as it mastered you?