I remember the day I decided to go vegan. I couldn’t wait for the super-charged energy and keen intellect that my vegan friends told me about, but more importantly, I knew it was something that God was asking me to do. It was time for a change.
I began to make a mental checklist.
Replace ice cream with sorbet.
Replace milk with soymilk.
Replace cheese with…um, fake cheese?
I felt pretty satisfied at the replacements I had thought up. Until I remembered: Hershey Bars aren’t vegan. Then, panic struck.
What?? How could I go shopping and not buy a Butterfinger? What would I do without a Snickers when I was stressed out? How could I say no to Ms. Brenda’s famous peppermint chocolate fudge? Chocolate ruled with an iron fist and dictated my fingers and mouth to do actions against my will. But I liked it.
A fellow chocolate addict and I decided to quit together. We had a ceremony around a trash can and threw in all our chocolate. Then we deposited the entire garbage bag in the dumpster. We were done.
Have you ever had someone say to you the words, “just this one time?” or, “it’s just a little bit!”
Well, let’s just say that the trash-can ceremony was not the last time my fingers handled cocoa products. It’s been at least a couple of years since I’ve eaten chocolate, but the quitting process was not easy. I’ve thought about it since then, though. Isn’t it true that just a little bit of chocolate won’t kill me? We could debate the physiological effects of chocolate, but when we make it really simple, a little bit of chocolate, or chocolate just once, will not have a significant effect on my overall well-being.
So what’s the big deal?
Big deal number one is that God said to abstain from stimulating substances, like caffeine, which is in chocolate. Anything that messes with the brain messes with my vital connection with God. But let’s pretend, for just a moment, that this point was excused on the basis that just once won’t really hurt anything. There’s still more.
Big deal number two is self-control.
A lack of self-control looks like this:
1. A stimulus comes.
2. You desire the stimulus.
3. Reason tells you that the stimulus is not good.
4. You still desire the stimulus.
5. You act in favor of the stimulus.
It is not reason or conscience that is in control, it is the stimulus. You do not possess yourself; the thing of temptation rules you. Herein is the secondary reason for resisting the “just this once” trick: resisting builds self-control.
Learning self-control on little things like appetite becomes much more important when the stimulus is something more serious, like an immoral image or an improperly intimate thought. How do you respond when your conscience, reason, and judgment tell you that you have no right to interact with such things? But that thing of temptation moves you, controls you, forces you…If you have not been cultivating self-possession, your lust will possess you.
What about the day when you are brought to give an answer for your faith? Think not that this day is far in the future, my friends…the sword, guillotine, and scaffold have claimed the blood of countless martyrs in the past, and their work is not finished yet. The scaffold is unlike chocolate and immoral desires in that it is not a stimulus of craving—it is a stimulus of fear. Your emotions tell you to do whatever it takes to avoid it. How do you respond when your conscience, reason, and judgment tell you that you must accept it? But that thing of temptation moves you, controls you, forces you...if you have not been cultivating self-possession, your fear will possess you…
What am I saying with all of this talk about chocolate, immorality, and the scaffold? I mean to say this: our first and primary reason for obeying God is simply because He said so. But embedded within simple fidelity is another lesson—that of self-control. Self-control, self-possession, is to make decisions based on conscience, reason, and judgment rather than on desires. By exercising this every time that a temptation comes, God’s followers become people of integrity. I want that.
Watch out for the “just this once” trick. God is calling us to possess ourselves, and He will be faithful to complete that good work in us. "Let calmness and self-possession be cultivated and perseveringly maintained, for this was the character of Christ…Remember in Him dwelt all the fullness of the God-head bodily. If Christ is abiding in our hearts by faith, we shall, by beholding the manner of His life, seek to be like Jesus, pure, peaceable, and undefiled. We shall reveal Christ in our character." 2SM 22.3,4.
(Credits: God, through Jamie)