Abstinence: Saying No to Temptation and Yes to God

Ocean Currents. They are strong and mighty fellas; convincing enough to sway everything in their path in one direction. Picture yourself right smack dab in the center of one. Waves are weighing hard against you, pushing you down the easy path, the path that requires little to no effort to wade through. Does this image remind you of anything? 

As we take a moment to look around, it seems our culture today prefers the easy route. We are a nation conditioned to convenience, a nation that expects its desires to be met. Look anywhere and we can see businesses advertising their quickest and most convenient services or their product’s latest sky-high speeds. In a world such as ours, the ideas of self-discipline, control, patience, and living in truth over what we want become buried beneath a large pile of clutter and temptation. From advertisements, to television shows, to movies, to pop-culture in almost all forms; each of these, over time, influence our behaviors, our actions, and even our beliefs, pressing us along one, strong current crafted not by God, but by this world.

Being the quick-fix culture that we are, it is simple to see why so many turn away from God’s ways to, instead, live a life led by emotions, making moment-to-moment decisions dictated by how they feel. When considering the topic of abstinence, most would agree that those who stand for purity rings and waiting until marriage have become few and far between. It is evident that abstinence is not the popular practice within our culture today, but does this mean living in abstinence is not possible? Does this mean, as Christians, we have to be swept into the current of a world so willing to be controlled by temptations? Choosing obedience over living by our desires is not the easy route to take, however, it is the route that allows for God’s best to play out in our lives. It is the route that will lead us to discover the profound value in others, while forming for us relationships deeply embedded with true love.

Going against this current will first take commitment to our faith. This will grow in us the ability to see with new eyes, and the desire to live in ways that are honoring to God. Along this journey, we come to understand that our bodies were made for the Lord and as we surrender to him, he overflows our cup, lifts our spirits, and renews our vision. In the getting-to-know-a-person phase, if we choose to allow our partner to become distracted by our bodies, how are they going to fall in love with all that we are beyond just what we have to offer on the surface? We must learn to love and to be loved not merely externally, but above all, internally. After all, what matters most is our heart, as this lasts a lifetime and beyond.

Along this journey of faith, God will change our hearts to focus less on ourselves and more on others. We will begin to think less in terms of, “What can this person do for me?” or, “How can this person fulfill what I want?” and, instead, in terms of, “How can I respect and care for this person?” or, “How can I lead this person into a better state, closer to God?” We are creatures born with urges rooted within us. But how we choose to respond to those urges is up to us. Will we choose to use others to temporarily satisfy those lustful urges? Or will we give it all to God, learn discipline, and trust that his ways are better than our own? When we let him take control of all that we struggle with, we are allowing for his perfect timing and his deep fulfillment, worth more than we could imagine, to take over. We end up holding others at a higher regard and become more mindful of their hearts. Love was never meant to be self-centered nor was it meant to be a matter of getting our desires met by another. Taking things slowly, staying disciplined, practicing self-control, and giving consideration to the other all mean choosing God’s way over our own.

As Christians, we are called to live based not on what is easy or by what our feelings tell us we want, but instead to live by what is right. A life with Jesus leads us into a life of morals, discipline, and, above all, a life of true, deep, and lasting respect and love for the other. Commitment to a life directed by these is admirable and honorable and it strengthens our character and adds a deeper value to our relationships. After all, abstinence is not about what we’re saying no to, but about who we are saying yes to! Let us travel together, against the current and above the waves, as we confidently live in the strength, dignity, discipline, and deep fulfillment that God so graciously provides.

Tori Sollars is a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University. She can be reached at [email protected]

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