Why I’m Giving Up Sweet Tea

July 3, 2017  - By Rachael Milner

There’s a story of a traveling pastor who came to town and taught at a church about what it meant to follow Jesus. At the end of the night, a man approached the pastor with a concerned look on his face and asked earnestly, “If I follow Jesus, does that mean I have to give up cigarettes?”

The Pastor’s reply was simple: “Well, now it does.”

Because the man saw cigarettes as something he couldn’t give up, or rather, didn’t want to give up if it was required to follow Jesus.

He had unknowingly articulated an idol of his heart.

Maybe, like me, you don’t smoke, so I’ll make this a little more personal.

I love sweet tea. I crave it. I love the taste, the memories associated with sipping it over good conversation on the porch swing, the southern charm and the sweetness. When I have a bad day, I want a sweet tea. It’s my crutch, my go-to, my comfort food.

For you, sweet tea may just be a beverage – maybe one you don’t much care for – but for me, it’s an idol of my heart.

I’m not exaggerating, friends. It’s not intentional or deliberate. But over the years it has snuck into a place of prominence in my thoughts and desires and I have literally wished for it more than Jesus at low moments and bad days.

So about a month ago, I prayed for the strength to give it up. Then today, I read Colossians 2 where Paul explains that we shouldn’t let the worldly or natural practices enslave us – because we miss out on Jesus. So I started to question, is that what I’m doing? But here’s what I’ve come back to: there’s a difference in giving up something to earn righteousness and giving up something to be obedient. For me, sweet tea is a matter of obedience.

Maybe that sounds silly to you, but friends, it was a big deal for me. I had a small chalkboard on my nightstand where I wrote “Days Without Tea” at the top and began tallying up each day. Not because I thought it would make God proud, not because I wanted it to earn me anything – but because I needed the accountability to finally say, “Enough. Sweet tea is not life-giving. It is not necessary. It is a crutch, a comfort, and something I desire more than the Lord in moments of weakness or sadness. I don’t need it. I’m done.”

And you know what?

I don’t miss it. I don’t crave it. I’ve gone 40 days and I’m not sad about it.

Maybe this all seems extreme or silly to you, because honestly, it’s just sweet tea.

But for me, sweet tea was something that stood in the way of needing Jesus more than anything else. There were moments where I would go out of my way to get a tea, thinking it would make my day better, and then drink every last sip until I was sick at my stomach. I had taken my need for comfort, joy and peace to something other than the only One who can satisfy those needs. And that, my friends, is sin. Because James 4:17 reminds us that, “anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

So what’s it for you? Maybe it’s a relationship that isn’t honoring Jesus, but you can’t seem to give up. Maybe it’s a job you’ve worked so hard to get that you’ve lost your identity along the way. Maybe it’s the pursuit of being the perfect wife, mother or friend, to the point that you long for approval and are crushed when you don’t get it. Maybe it’s coffee, Diet Coke – or something more serious – but anything you turn to in place of Jesus is worth evaluating. Jesus Plus Nothing. This is the Gospel.

We don’t need a little coffee and a lot of Jesus – we need Jesus. We don’t give up on things to earn a place at the table. We let go of things that hold us back from pursuing Jesus ONLY. We say farewell to the idols that have ruled and reigned in our hearts subtly, because Jesus is ENOUGH.

So, I’m giving up sweet tea. I’m chasing after Jesus on good days and bad. And I’m telling you here and now because I’d love the accountability to keep my pursuing Him above all. And because I don’t want to simply replace sweet tea with something else.

Jesus plus nothing. That’s the prayer of my heart this Monday morning.

Who’s with me?


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  1. Brianne.totman@gmail.com says:

    This is so good. I’m walking through something similar… I finally said no more to a particular TV show that I felt convicted watching. I wanted to be obedient to God, I wanted to choose His life-giving ways! I’m so thankful I made this decisive move…there is such peace and freedom in choosing His way! My tendency is to make this the end instead of a means to an end to know and rely on Him more. But I’m thankful for more space and opportunity and that His mercies are new every morning with a new invitation! He’s so faithful. The one thing I started to question in this article is the allusive "line"…where is it drawn, and I felt the Spirit immediately begin to quicken me to the reality of dependence. That the Holy Spirit will lead and guide our ways! The Spirit of God will search the heart and guide us into truth if we are willing to go there! The heart motive is the thing and the Spirit will convict and empower us to live a life that honors God more and more from a heart of love! I love how you speak of pursuing the Lord more in letting this go…how true it is that these things hold us back from the rich, abundant, fulfilling life He has for us!!

  2. shan.fung@gmail.com says:

    Thank you for sharing so truthfully and openly Rachael :’) your sharing really helped and convicted me to be obedient to Him, even in the seemingly small and insignificant, like finding comfort in things other than Him! May we desire and have the strength to obey Him when He reveals "little" sins to us, so that we can know and love Him more 🙂

  3. 1013alissa@gmail.com says:

    Love your post! I was addicted to Diet soda and potato chips…if I was frustrated, bored, or sad..I turned to those comforts immediately. Well, I finally gave them up since February, but my biggest hurdle that I think I’ve jumped over..only to find myself right back in the same spot a day or two later is…coffee with creamer!!!! If I don’t have the creamer, I don’t like the coffee. But I crave it. I look forward to drinking it…it’s like snuggling with a comfy blanket 🙂 I know it’s terrible for my health…and I thought I surrendered this to Jesus before…but I guess I kept a safety net there…because I haven’t been able to release myself from it. I need to though… so I will do that today 7/4/17…Independence Day 🙂 Freedom Day 🙂 thank you for your honesty in this post…I’m cheering you on 🙂

  4. Carol anne Mott says:

    I gave up sweet tea for lentertainment because I thought I couldn’t live without. It was so badfor Liver and my weight. So I prayed and I gave it up. Now it’s water. Jesus is everything to me. He gave up everything for me so I will give up whatever He wants me too.

  5. ashleyvanvleet22@gmail.com says:

    Wow! God is faithful, this is what I needed to read this morning. Thank you

  6. Loved this Rachael!!

  7. Pickleballpeggy16@gmail.com says:

    Thank you for having the courage to not only be obedient but then write about it. I too have had tea as an idol, God even asking me to use the $1 I spend daily in the drive thru, to use for sponsoring a child, so I did and then came a little stress or craving for the flavor and I went back to it. Well this my dear sister is awake call to me again to DELIGHT in the Lord more than in the taste of tea.

    • gretchen@lifelivedbeautifully.com says:

      Peggy, that is so beautiful!! We absolutely love hearing stories of obedience like this!! God is so good and He takes our little that we offer Him and multiplies it for the kingdom!

  8. Juliet says:

    Dearest Rachael, thank you so much for sharing an honest post. For me it is Diet Coke and laxatives (in the form of effervescent multivitamins) also because I am struggling with disordered eating- I am slightly underweight, not yet anorexic but was anorexic 4-5years ago. I am trying to work out my relationship with food, but basically – I find eating distressing and the idea of putting on some weight. I struggle with body shame, often thinking I am “like a whale” and will grow massively fat if I eat more. Diet Coke is something I reach out to when I feel stressed, ’empty’, bored, lonely, or ‘need to think/focus’, or even to suppress or satisfy hunger. I am very encouraged to change and will pray for strength to give up Diet Coke and laxatives.

    May I ask a few Qs:
    – Was it an immediate (i.e. next day) ‘give up’ for you, or was it gradual?
    – What difficulties, or did you find most difficult, during the process (of change and giving up)? What have you found to be helpful to cope?
    – Any other practical advice to sustain the habit?

    Thank you once again; God bless,

    • Juliet,
      Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share. One thing I’ve been learning lately is this: it’s all a journey. Change never happens overnight… at least not lasting change. It’s about a daily surrender to come back and hand over the things that creep into our hearts, giving them back to the Lord day by day. So, if you find yourself stuck or slipping back into old habits that aren’t God-glorifying, lay them back down. Don’t give up because you get discouraged. Lean into the power of the Holy Spirit to take one small step of faithfulness. There’s a quote from Elisabeth Elliot that I think of often: “Just do the next right thing.” How can I make the next small decision one that honors Christ? Let that be your guide as you’re in the process. It’s never immediate when it’s a deep-rooted heart issue!

      I’ve found that literally saying aloud what’s going on in my head also helps! For example, I had this dialogue out loud in the car last week: “I do not NEED sweet tea right now. I will wish I had not gotten it after the fact. I am overwhelmed, but tea will not fix it. I need to pray and shift my focus.” It may seem silly, but when I can verbalize WHY I want something or why I’m tempted to make a choice I will regret, it goes from feelings to facts, and that helps me think clearly.

      I’m praying for you, Juliet. Just take one step of faithfulness at a time and rely on the Lord along the way!

  9. Christina Schlatter says:

    Did you give up sweet tea for a season or permanently? I have given up coffee for 400 days. & to be honest didnt miss all that much other then the social aspect of it. Recently, it’s been a hard part of my life. I find when I have a good plan like I will drink coffee only twice a week. That I feel much better and on top of things. I know that if I want I could completely give it up again. But I do truly enjoy a nice cup of coffee on my front porch in the morning.

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