THE Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking is a work of healing. Ask any physician about his cigarette-smoking patients with coronary heart disease, emphysema, Buerger's disease, or peptic ulcer, and he will tell you how necessary it is for them to stop smoking if they are to arrest their disease, avert serious complications, and initiate healing.
Couple this fact with the statement of Ellen G. White that "the Saviour made each work of healing an occasion for implanting divine principles in the mind and soul. This was the purpose of His work. He imparted earthly blessings, that He might incline the hearts of men to receive the gospel of His grace." The Ministry of Healing, p. 20. Since the Five- Day Plan is a work of healing, we too should use Christ's methods if we are to fulfill His divine purpose in our ministry.
Since its inception ten years ago, the Five-Day Plan has generally been presented to our ministers and physicians as a to tally disinterested, public-service program free from all "spiritual hooks." In our effort to maintain this nonreligious posture, we have to a large degree eliminated or greatly weakened the strongest weapon available to us in combating smoking or any other destructive habit the power of God to change lives. To be sure, we do not want to preach to or openly evangelize and proselytize those who attend these stop-smoking sessions, but neither do we wish to hide our personal faith in the healing power of God.
After participating in more than 50 Five-Day Plans with some 33 different ministers in the past eight years, I would like to share some impressions about the pro gram and offer a few suggestions that might improve its spiritual impact.
On the opening night of the Five-Day Plan the tone of the meeting can be set by the minister. We often hear him use expressions like these:
"Let me assure you that this is not a religious program."
"I want to make one point clear. We are not going to try to make Seventh-day Adventists out of you."
"I make no apology for disscussing the spiritual implications of the smoking habit."
"The Five-Day Plan attacks the cigarette problem on all levels physical, psychological, and spiritual."
Such statements are in fact apologetic, potentially threatening to nonreligious persons, unnecessary, and often insincere. What dedicated gospel minister can honestly say that he does not view all men as potential candidates for the kingdom of heaven and all his speaking opportunities as occasions for implanting some seeds of spiritual truth?
How much better it is for the minister simply to introduce him self as a Seventh-day Adventist minister at the very beginning of the series of meetings. By so doing he identifies himself as a man of God whose role in society is to help others to solve personal problems by means of spiritual resources. Then the minister need only build his presentation on this firmly established foundation. There is no need for him to announce his spiritual intent or approach; it is inherent in the practical spiritual guidance. Sample expressions that are often used are:
"We all need power outside of ourselves" (with little explanation as to what that power is or how it can be mobilized).
"Let us not forget to call on the Man upstairs" (certainly an irreverent if not blasphemous reference to God) .
"We want to encourage you to call on divine power" (one minister abbreviated "divine power" to DP and thereafter referred to it as such).
"I don't know what your religious background is (and it is not really important here) but I want you to call upon whatever power you believe in for the help you need." (One minister suggested that the smoker might wish to offer his petition to Buddha or the virgin Mary!)
At times when the minister has avoided all references to spiritual needs and resources, some of the participant smokers have voiced their clear testimony to the power of prayer during the "group dynamics" section of the program. On one occasion an ex-smoker who accompanied his wife to the meeting got up and took us to task for omitting the power of God from our anti-smoking arsenal. All he had needed to stop smoking, he told us, was faith in the transforming power of God. What a rebuke to us!
Contrast such weak and even negative presentations that are offered in so many Five-Day Plans with that of the minister who unashamedly and joyfully bears his. personal testimony of faith in a personal, loving God, a heavenly Father who is interested in all our needs. He speaks with directness about the efficacy of Prayer in his own life and the lives of others. Even though he has never been a smoker he can say that he has had other serious Personal problems and can tell how prayer has been a great and never-failing source of strength 'him in meeting these crisis situations.
Seldom, if ever, will anyone be repulsed or offended by another person's genuine, sincere, straightforward statement of belief in the power of prayer. Praying people will appreciate the minister's testimony, and will gain confidence in him as a result. Nonpraying participants will often be charmed by the sincere testimony and will be challenged to try for themselves this spiritual resource that has obviously been of such practical help to others.
It is good for the physician to reinforce the pastor's testimony by telling of his own belief in the healing, restorative power of prayer as seen in his own experience. It has been my practice to relate on the third or fourth evening a personal prayer experience in which God healed an African baby dying of pneumonia. One of the most dramatic and personally rewarding experiences I have ever had in a public meeting occurred in the large People's Auditorium in Baghdad, Iraq, where we were conducting a Five-Day Plan for 350 people. At the conclusion of the prayer story, there was a spontaneous burst of enthusiastic applause, not in praise of me as a speaker but as an expression of approval for a physician who recognized God as the source of healing.
Last year Pastor Alan Crandall and Dr. Hubert Sturges held a Five-Day Plan in the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson for a group of 120 smokers. At the conclusion of one of the later sessions, Dr. Sturges quite spontaneously told the group that the Five-Day Plan team met briefly after each meeting to pray for all those attending the program. He then invited anyone who wished to do so to join them in the hospital chapel on the main floor of the building. To the utter amazement of the team the small chapel was crowded with 45 persons! It was wise indeed to meet in another room rather than in the auditorium where the Five-Day Plan itself was con ducted so that all could leave the program and make their decision to attend the prayer session with out pressure or embarrassment.
Recently we have been offering the Five-Day Plan participants a few select Bible texts for their consideration. The texts are offered as suggestions to help them, just as we suggest water drinking, deep breathing, and "I choose not to smoke" as valuable aids in their fight against the cigarette. The minister writes the texts on the chalkboard with appropriate but brief comment:
1. Matthew 7:7-11, to encourage the smoker to ask God for necessary beneficial gifts with the assurance that He will honor his requests of faith.
2. 1 Corinthians 10:13, to emphasize that no temptation, no craving, is stronger than we can manage with Cod's help.
3. Philippians 4:19, to point to God as the supplier of the resources to meet every need.
4. Romans 13:14, to stress the importance of our part in separating ourselves from the sources of temptation, in this case the cigarettes themselves, ash trays, cigarette lighters, the coffee pot, et cetera.
It is essential for the minister to resist the natural urge to sermonize and enlarge unduly on the texts. Make the point of the text clear, and do it with brevity. After several evenings of adequate spiritual preparation that comes from the bearing of personal testimony by both the minister and the physician, we have found no hostility toward our offering of Bible texts. To the contrary, many persons eagerly copy the texts, and some have given unsolicited reports at subsequent meetings about the help these scriptural passages have been to them. Others have asked specifically that we pray for them.
In the Five-Day Plan, then, we can offer the smokers not only physical and psychological techniques but also we can provide them with spiritual resources as well, and we can do it in an attractive and inoffensive way. By using simple and straightforward methods we can fulfill in this valuable community service the counsel of Ellen G. White:
"As witnesses for Christ, we are to tell what we know, what we ourselves have seen and heard and felt. If we have been following Jesus step by step, we shall have something right to the point to tell concerning the way in which He has led us. We can tell how we have tested His promise, and found the promise true." --The Desire of Ages, p. 340.