Temperance has come to be associated with some sort of restraint or abstinence in the use of alcohol.
This association, taken alone greatly diminishes the original intent of the word. Temperance is defined by Webster’s 1828 Dictionary as “habitual moderation in regard to the indulgence of the natural appetites and passions.” Particularly interesting with regard to this study is Webster’s second definition of the word, temperance. Webster suggests “patience” as a definition for temperance.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter places the rung of temperance before patience in the ladder that leads towards charity (agape), which is the ultimate definition of the character of God (see 2 Peter 1). The importance of Peter’s sequence is reaffirmed when we read that “an intemperate man cannot be a patient man” (Ellen White, Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 50).
Saints – the people who are preparing to meet Jesus – are patient people (see Revelation 14:12). They are, therefore, temperate people. It seems, then, that we do well to understand and surrender fully to the principles of temperance if we would be ready to meet Jesus in peace.
This week’s memory verse (Philippians 4:5) speaks of moderation. This word has lost much of its original meaning in our minds because of society’s natural propensity for hedonism. The moderation of which Paul speaks is defined in Strong’s Concordance as, among other things, patient. Moderation is akin to that temperance without which there is no patience, and, by extension, no godliness; no agape.
The Biblical concept of temperance is exceedingly broad. “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” This results in “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 10:31 and 10:5).
Even the bravest heart could faint before a standard as high as this one. Everything we eat, drink, do, and even think is, under the umbrella of temperance, submitted to “the obedience of Christ.” Well might we cry, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).
Praise the Lord, our ground for hope, our motivation to persist in the upward way, our expectation that the goal can be met – all are found at the beginning of Peter’s ladder: “Add to your faith…”
Faith – Your faith – The faith of Jesus. This faith already belongs to you. You don’t have to hunt for it.
You don’t have to try to produce it. The saints are commended for “keeping” the faith of Jesus
(Revelation 14:23). Ephesians 2:8 says that faith is “the gift of God.” Faith we have. And having that, we are empowered to add the rest of the things on the list if we will.
If our faith is weak, we are told what to feed it in order that it may grow stronger. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). In that Word, we find the “exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).
All that God requires, He supplies. Before He maps out the heights to which He expects us to climb, He shows us wherein lies our strength and the guidance for our journey. He supplies us with faith. That “faith is the expecting the word of God itself to do what that word says, and depending upon that word itself to do what the word says” (A. T. Jones, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, January 3, 1899).
Nothing short of this “faith of Jesus” could have empowered Noah to take on a task as preposterous as building a giant boat on dry land. Nothing less than the “faith of Jesus” can empower us to control our appetites, our passions, our thoughts, our feelings. But if we keep the faith He gives us, and feed it with the Word of God, we will discover that His “yoke is easy,” and His “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).
Failing to walk by faith leads to disaster on all levels of human experience. Near the bottom of
Wednesday’s page, the Sabbath School Study Guide asks the following question: “Might you even now be suffering some negative effects from wrong practices?” I don’t know anyone who could honestly say that they have suffered no ill effects from wrongdoing. If, however, the ill effects of intemperance reach no farther than my own health and sense of well-being, then it would be easy to rationalize that a little vacation from strict temperance should not matter all that much since I, alone, suffer the consequences.
But this reasoning is false. There is an urgency about the temperance which precedes, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. That urgency has to do with God’s reputation. The urgency is about the shortness of time, and the small windows of opportunity during which souls around us are gaining, or failing to gain the information they need about the God we serve. Failing to walk by faith means failing to let God’s light shine through us into the life of some soul who needs to know Him now.
It is the very essence of all right faith to do the right thing at the right time. God is the great
Master Worker, and by His providence He prepares the way for His work to be accomplished. He provides opportunities, opens up lines of influence and channels of working. If His people are watching the indications of His providence, and stand ready to co-operate with Him, they will see a great work accomplished. Their efforts, rightly directed, will produce a hundredfold greater results than can be accomplished with the same means and facilities in another channel where God is not so manifestly working. Our work is reformative, and it is God's purpose that the excellence of the work in all lines shall be an object lesson to the people… In all our plans for missionary operations these principles should be kept in mind. (Ellen White, Testimonies volume 6, p. 24)
True temperance teaches us to dispense entirely with everything hurtful and to use judiciously that which is healthful. (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 562)
"To-day if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts." Each morning as we arise set our faith anew upon Christ as our Saviour; then show the virtue, the worth of our faith by confessing him
before men, both in our words an our lives; then study the words of God for knowledge to guide us during the day; then practice the temperance—the self-control—that is enjoined everywhere and in all things in the word of God; then add patience in all the affairs of the day; add godliness by exemplifying the life of Christ among men by doing good; add brotherly kindness in all our associations with our neighbor; and all crowned by adding sweet charity, the bond of perfectness; the love of God shed abroad in the heart, loving him with all the heart, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, thus completing the day with a well-rounded Christian character. Can it not be done one day? Can it not be done to-day? That is all the Lord asks of us. Do "these things" to-day "while it is called to-day," and so to-day each day as God gives us opportunity to do. And we shall then never fall, but unto all such an abundant entrance will be ministered into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (A. T. Jones, Signs of the Times June 11, 1885)
Sabbath School Today: "Temperance"