Published June 8, 2010

Paul's Epistle...

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that, in the United States, 24.8 million men (23.1 percent) and 21.1 million women (18.3 percent) are smokers. These people, the NCHS says, "are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke."

Why do people smoke? I've never understood it. But it certainly is something Christians need to deal with. I found an e-mail that I received a few years ago that was really a plea for help:

"Paul, I have a very special prayer request. I have been a smoker for years. I have prayed and I've tried to quit. I have had several ministries praying for me. Some said smoking will not send you to hell, they just make you smell like you have been there, and some say they will.

"Please let me know what your belief is. Where is there scriptures that says it will send you to hell? I am filled with the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidences of speaking in tongues and I have sang and saw many souls saved under my singing. The minister at the Church of God that just left said he did not believe they would send you to hell but they are not good for the body either.

"I really want to quit them but it seems I just don't have the will power. I need prayer from everyone that you can think of to call my name out in your prayers [so that] God will give me the will power and the desire to give them up.

"Love In Christ, [name withheld]."

Here was my response:

"It sounds as if you have heard all of the arguments regarding smoking, so I don't need to repeat them. But if you are a Christian singer, be aware that smoking will seriously damage the impression you make on others and, as a result, damage the cause of Christ. It's definitely one of those ‘stumbling block' issues that Paul talks about. It is very damaging to your witness. (‘Well, she smokes. What else does she do that Christians aren't supposed to?? What a hypocrite!' Etc., etc., etc.)

"I do not smoke and never have, and, frankly, even the smell of cigarette smoke makes me ill. I worked for years in a secular radio station and later a TV station where a lot of people smoked, and, just from breathing the same air, I was ill more often than ever since. It took YEARS in a smoke-free environment before I stopped having recurring colds all the time. It just is not good physically.

"Which brings me to this. You say you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Do you think He approves of the environment you are creating?

"You also asked for prayer, which is a reasonable request. It's great to have others praying, but unless you make it a matter of earnest personal prayer on an ongoing basis, it's not likely to happen. You're the one who has to change. And as you become in tune with Christ's will and His power, you will change. The interim pastor at our church used to smoke and tried several methods to quit before He was a Christian. But when he became a Christian he made this a matter of earnest prayer, and ‘just like that' (he snaps his fingers) the desire for cigarettes was gone and he hasn't smoked since. Christ makes the difference — but you must want Him to and you must ALLOW Him to. If you continue to smoke, it's because you have decided to do so, not because you can't quit.

"No, I don't know of any specific Scripture that mentions smoking. But I can guarantee you that's it's not on Paul's list of ‘fruits of the spirit.' And I do know that we are to be stewards of the bodies God gave us, and smoking harms the body.

"I'll pray for you (in fact, I just did). But this most fundamentally is a matter between you and Christ, and I have no doubt in my mind what He would prefer for you. Let it be so."

- Paul

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