If you’re like me, you probably learned only half the truth. As a child I thought that to “abstain” from anything was to go completely without it – to give something up totally, at least for a period of time.
That’s not wrong – it’s just incomplete. The Greek word used in Scripture for “abstain” is formed by two smaller words that literally mean “to have one thing by letting go of another.” The actual focus in abstinence is NOT on what is given up, but upon what is GAINED by doing so!
Take for example Paul’s instructions below regarding immoral sexual activity.
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable… (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)
Certainly the followers of Christ were to forego sex outside of marriage. However to focus solely on what they were “giving up” was only part of the story. When Scripture tells us to give something up, it generally provides a better alternative. In the passage above, what is gained while letting go of immorality is self-control, holiness, and honor. May we never overlook God’s better alternatives.
Think about the things God may have asked you to do without. Now, ask Him to show you all you’ll gain by doing so. –Dave
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