Do we just not believe God when we look at porn?
Our fleshly desires are powerful but could they be a sign that we just do not believe or trust in God. In this episode of Man Talk, Vince Miller is joined by Irving Woolf, professional counselor with Hopewell Counseling and founder of Purity Platoon a men’s purity ministry which has helped thousands of men find victory over sexual sin. Today we hear Irv’s strong thoughts on what pornography addiction says about our relationship with God.
Vince: This is Resolute, and Man Talk. I’m Vince Miller, your founder, and host. And today we are looking at the topic of sexual addiction and unbelief.
Gentlemen, welcome to Man Talk, by Resolute. If this is your first time tuning in, well thank you for joining us. Here at Man Talk, we discuss every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 15 minute topics relevant to Christian men. This is because, at Resolute, it is our mission to disciple and develop men to lead. So never forget, if you’re looking for content for a men’s group or a men’s ministry – then you need to go to our website today, at beresolute.org.
We have a number of great tools for men leading men, including a new small group series that we know you would love. Check it all out at beresolute.org/promo. That’s a forward slash, promo. But now, let’s dive in.
Well, I’m excited to introduce to you to my good friend, Irving Woolf, the President and Founder of Hopewell Counseling, based in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Irv has served in church ministry as a Pastor. And founded his own men’s ministry, entitled, “Purity Platoon,” which has helped thousands of men battle for purity in their lives. Today Irv counsels with men on a regular basis. So Irv, welcome to the show.
Irv: Thank you, Vince. Nice to be here with you and your smiling face.
Vince: Yeah, this is going to be a lot of fun. Now Irv, most of our listeners may not know you, but I’ve got to tell you – this guy, Irv – he brings a lot of wisdom with him, over many years. Specifically working in the counseling industry today. And clearly, he has worked with men over many years in the church that have struggled with compulsions or addiction through pornography and sexual issues in life. And so Irv, I’m excited to talk with you and have a few conversations with you on this topic.
I know one of the things that you have found as you have talked with men, is that some of these men – or maybe most of them, have a real unbelief issue, alright? An unbelief issue regarding God. Can you help to unpack what you mean by that, so that guys can maybe understand what – where we go wrong as we have these sexual compulsions in life?
Irv: Sure. Well one of the things that strike me is I deal with men, and have dealt with them for over the last 30 years. Is men tend to be among the most untrusting creatures on the planet. They don’t trust – they don’t trust themselves, they don’t trust their wives. They surely don’t trust their boss. And in general, they don’t trust God. And part of the reasoning behind that is – we have been taught to be self-reliant.
Irv: Why do we need God? “Why do we need–? I can do it myself. I can – I don’t need to trust God for my finances. I can work overtime, I can work 2 jobs, I can provide for myself. I can get my wife to work. I can do other things. So I don’t really need to trust God for my finances. I don’t really need to trust God in so many areas of my life decisions. About which house to buy, which car to buy, who to marry. None of those kinds of things do I really need to trust God with. Because I’m the one that’s doing it.”
And so, men generally are pretty untrusting. And because they don’t trust God, they operate in the realm of unbelief. Almost like the guy whose son kept getting thrown into the fire because of epilepsy. And he said to Jesus, “I do believe, but help my unbelief.” And I see that from a lot of men.
Irv: They would say, “Yes, I believe in Jesus Christ. Yes, I believe that he died for my sins and rose again and that he’s the savior of the world. But the nitty-gritty of life, the everyday details–”
Irv: “I think I trust myself more.”
Vince: That’s really interesting. And – ’cause I think you and I would readily agree on this. I find that I bump into that a lot of guys, especially when they need help, right?
Vince: They believe that they can do it on their own. But that belief that they can do it on their own is actually unbelief in God. Isn’t that interesting?
Vince: And that little spin there, is like a deadly poison to our thinking, our soul, redemption, restoration, reconciliation, healing – and maybe discovering that there is a power greater than us? Is it maybe that we are – our egos are just too big to accept the fact that there’s a great God that wants to help us? What is is it man?
Irv: Well I think it – I think it’s a hindrance, by the way. I think unbelief is a hindrance to prayer. “Why pray if I can do it myself?”
Irv: “I don’t need God’s help.” And in fact, seems to us like prayer is pretty much a waste of time. It’s why men have a difficult time praying.
Irv: They pray little – little arrow prayers when they’re eating meals.
Irv: Shoot up an arrow prayer and thank him for the food. But when it comes to serious praying about deep needs in their life – lives – or about situations that are upcoming on the horizon. To actually pray, and even fast about those kinds of things – nada.
Vince: That’s super convicting Irv, because – as I hear it – I go, “Well what am I really praying about?” Well, usually it’s the things that feel out of control. But when I’m in control, and I believe I can do it on my own – those things I don’t pray about. And why am I not praying for them, right?
Vince: Why am I not praying for those things as well. Just even the little things in life that I actually can control – or I think I can control, right? Or it might be me building up unbelief toward God and might be building up my resistance to him. Rather than bringing them to God, offering them on the sacrifice of his throne, breaking down my will.
Now, I’ve got to ask you this. Because I think this totally relates to it. I wonder if the men that you see in counseling – or the men that you’ve talked to who are addicted to pornography or compulsively addicted to a sexual interaction that’s inappropriate. If they don’t come to you -when it’s too late, most of the time? Do you find that you meet with guys when things have gone far too long, far too long in their life? And then finally they realize they can’t go anywhere else, they finally come to you.
Vince: Has that been kind of the pattern?
Irv: And an awful lot of men are like that. They’ve reached the end of the rope, and I’m the last straw that they’re going to grasp for. Or their wife has said, “If you don’t get into counseling, we’re done. I’m contacting an attorney.”
Irv: And so then – then they wind up coming to me. For an awful lot of men, unbelief is the root sin underlying their use of pornography, masturbation and fantasizing. Because they’re basically saying, “I don’t trust God with my sex life, I don’t trust God that he will allow me to be as sexual as I want to be. My wife certainly doesn’t want to be as sexual as I want to be. So I think I’m going to find an alternative to that.” And the devil presents them with a path to false intimacy.
Irv: And false intimacy, as opposed to true intimacy with my wife – is all about pornography and masturbation and fantasy.
Vince: Right. Therefore, taking control of these issues in our life, right – building up our unbelief. Because we believe we can do it on our own, or handle the handle the situations in our own way–
Vince: We’re actually reinforcing our unbelief in God and the belief that we can handle it on our own. And man, I bet, and – ’cause see, I’ve seen this too. Guys don’t like to hear this particular message. They don’t want to be told that they don’t believe in God. But the reality is – is they have compartmentalized God.
Irv: Yeah, yeah.
Vince: With their sex life, their sex thoughts, their sexual feelings. Maybe it’s been built up with some shame and fear in their life as well.
Vince: And they’re too proud, or too ashamed to ask for help. And that belief is actually reinforcing their unbelief in God. And you’re saying that they only come when they’re pushed to the utter limits. Sometimes by their spouse, sometimes by the compulsion that seems to be driving their life – or, maybe to the point that they get caught on some sort of website by somebody? Or they get busted at work. Or they begin to engage in prostitution, and they get busted by the law, right?
Irv: Yeah, yeah.
Vince: That’s the pattern you’ve seen.
Irv: Yeah, that’s an awful lot of what happens. It is the bottom line. I mean, I have always contended that if a man is engaged in pornography, and sexual fantasizing and masturbation – that he equally has a problem with intimacy with God. His relationship with God is minimal.
Vince: Okay so, now describe that. Because now – what I hear you leaning towards right now as we share is – it’s learning how to be intimate, right?
Vince: It’s an intimacy issue. Let’s move from just sheer belief in self, and unbelief toward God, to how to turn that toward belief in God. And you might – I’m wondering, suggest that we need to relearn how to be intimate with God. If there’s a guy listening today who maybe is struggling with his unbelief, how does he turn that toward belief in God by developing some appropriate, intimate behaviors with God? What would you suggest to that guy?
Irv: Oh there’s a number of things. First of all, it’s beginning to realize, “I can’t control everything in my life. I can’t control whether I’m going to get promoted. I can’t control the kind of finances that are going to come in the door. I can’t control other people. I can’t control my wife. I can’t control my kids. I can’t control much of anything in my life. And I need to surrender that lack of control to God, and say, ‘God, you be the one in control. You are the one in charge because I can’t control it.'” And that’s going to drive me to prayer. It’s going to drive me to ask him – I’ve got to know the word.
Irv: That’s going to drive me into the Bible for answers. And hopefully, it’s going to even drive me to memorize sections of the Bible or verses in the Bible. And hiding them in my heart, because the Bible says in Psalm 119, 9 and 11, “Where, with all shall a young man cleanse his way, by keeping it according to thy word. Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against me, against them.” So if I want to cleanse my life–
Irv: I’m going to go to the Word. And I’m going to hide the Word in my heart. I’m going to memorize it. And it’s going to begin, over time to crowd out all of the garbage that I’ve ingested.
Vince: That you believed over years, right? That each of us has believed over years. And we’ve built up this resistance. So you’re saying – we’ve got to tear down our resistance to God by subjecting yourself to some humility, some submission–
Vince: Some willingness to listen to God. Rebuilding intimacy by taking in scripture. Understanding and believing in God, and developing maybe a more intimate relationship. And it involves a loss of control.
Irv: Yeah, that’s a hard thing. That’s a very hard thing.
Vince: Oh that is a really hard thing, I think for a lot of guys listening today – for them to move from controlling the issues in their own life, as it regards – whatever. It could be unbelief in any area of life. It doesn’t just have to be sexual compulsions, right?
Vince: It can be any area of unbelief in life. We have to let go of control, unlearn those behavior patterns. That by the way, have been built up over years and years and years and years and years. It isn’t just one area like you said.
Vince: Like you said, it’s like trying to control my family, control my finances, control everything. We’ve got to lose those things.
Vince: And develop an intimacy with God, where we trust Him, trust Him more than the things of this world, right?
Irv: Part of the issue with men is – there is a balancing thing. Because obviously, men have to work.
Irv: So I have to work, I have to earn income. I have to provide for my family. Providing is a very godly thing.
Irv: But on the other hand, I have to be able to trust God. So there’s a synergistic balancing act here.
Irv: “Him that will not work, neither shall he eat.” So I know–
Irv: I want to eat, so I know that work is important. But on the other hand, I’ve got to trust God. I’ve got to trust God with the results.
Irv: I can work, I can do my part. But God’s got to be free to do his part. And I’ve got to leave the results with him. And whichever way it goes, I’ve got to be able to trust him. Especially true when guys are seeking a job for instance.
Vince: Yeah, yeah.
Irv: You put on your resume, and you go for the interviews. And you do your level best. You look good, you smell good.
Irv: And then you go for the interview, and maybe you get a second interview. But you really have to trust God for whether you’re going to get hired. And you can’t have a hissy fit if you don’t.
Vince: Right, right. Exactly.
Irv: Yeah, you basically have to say, “God, you’re in control. I’m not in control.”
Irv: And I can’t be in control. There are forces outside of me that are controlling whether I get hired or not..
Vince: Yeah. I – as we begin to wrap this up today, Irv – I think your wisdom here, for guys – is– And guys, I hope you’re listening today to Irv. Because I think there’s so much wisdom behind his heart here, his words, the things that he’s thought about for years. Even the way that he’s counseled, men.
And what he’s saying to us today is this – is that – we all don’t believe in God in some area of life. Clearly today, we’re talking about some of our sexual compulsions in life, and the road that we walk down. We spend a lot of our time in life building up our own ego and our own walls, that fight with belief in God.
And our issue – at the core – is unbelief in God. The way that we tear some of that down, is we begin to come to the end of ourselves. We submit to God’s will for our life. It’s going to feel like you’re out of control for a while. It’s going to feel out of control. But out of control is exactly where God is in control. And therein those moments, God becomes our refuge.
Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength. An ever-present help in trouble. You are not your refuge and strength.” If you were, gentlemen – if you were – there would be no need for Jesus Christ. There’d be no need for God. You are not God. God is God. Let him be God. And he is your refuge and strength.
And so I want to encourage you guys today to fight the beliefs that have built up over years and move toward belief in God. And choose to turn that unbelief into belief, and trust Him with the issues you face, the intimacy you need. And turn to him in every area of life. Whether it be work or family or future or finances – or even sexual intimacy. Turn to Him, and trust in Him, he will provide.
And that’s the show, thanks for listening. As we close today, I want to remind you of a couple of things. First, if you want to connect with Irv, you can do so at Hopewell Counseling. There are links on this podcast if you’d like to connect directly to him.
Also, as we close, I want to remind you that we have great content for your men’s groups. Excellent small group videos and participant handbooks that will empower the men of your church to lead. Check it all out at beresolute.org/free-trial. That’s free dash trial. And yes, I will see to it that you get a free trial and a Resolute Men’s study guide to go with it.
So, guys, I hope you enjoyed this episode of Man Talk, but please know that the time that we spent together today is worthless, unless you choose to act on it. So do something today – by getting off the bench, and into the game. And I’ll see you right back here next time on another edition of Man Talk.