The subject of this study is one that many people never consider when determining whether or not they are going to stand in the last days. After we read the statements that will be presented here, I think you will see that, in the last days, the matter of appetite is at the foundation of standing for God. We are going to address seven questions, and we will rely on the Bible and the writings of Ellen White for the answers.
The question is, “What Will it Take to Stand in the Last Days?” The Bible promises salvation only to the overcomer. (See John 8:32–36; Romans 8:1–14; 1 John 3:4–10; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:5–7.) The work of overcoming begins with the overcomer.
Where did the workings of the temptation and the fall begin? How did the devil tempt Adam and Eve? The fall of man was on the point of appetite. When the devil came to Jesus on the mount of temptation, he used three temptations. What was his first temptation? It was appetite.
“If we would elevate the moral standard in any country where we may be called to go, we must begin by correcting their physical habits.” Counsels on Health, 505. We must begin by correcting peoples’ physical habits. Some people who have been Christians for a while might think that they do not need to be concerned about this. They may think that they have already corrected their physical habits, but think this through for a moment. We have to maintain control over our physical habits for the rest of our lives.
When we speak of physical habits, we are not just referring to smoking, drinking alcohol, or using some type of harmful substance. Now, these things are involved, and if you are using a harmful substance or drinking something that is harmful or smoking, you need to put all those things aside—if you are going to get your physical habits corrected so you will be living in harmony with the divine government. But we are talking about something more basic than that.
Every day of your life, you have to deal with what and how much you are going to drink and what and how much and when you are going to eat. As long as you live in this world, you will have to make these decisions. The choices you make lie at the foundation of either your success or your failure in developing a Christian character, going through the last days, and at last being ready for Jesus to come. It sounds like a long jump to make something that simple so directly involved in how we will stand, but let us read a few statements and ask some more questions and we will then see the answer develop.
What is the relationship between health reform and preparation for the Second Coming of Christ?
We are told in Testimonies, vol. 3, 492, that “those who are slaves to appetite will fail in perfecting Christian character.” Does perfecting of Christian character have to do with standing in the last days? If we are slaves to appetite, we are going to fail. That is what the prophet says.
We want to learn the relationship between health reform and preparing for Christ’s return, so we will read some more statements and then ask the question, What can we do to get in control?
In 1973, I began an educational process at the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University [Loma Linda, California]. One of the very first classes I attended was on the subject of nutrition. At that time, we were told that America had a greater problem with eating in that the weight of Americans was more out of control than in any other nation in the world. Now this was in 1973, and the findings were that, in America, over 40 percent of the population had a severe problem in this area. At that time, Europe was quite poor at 25 percent, but in places like India and Africa, it was only 10 percent.
When I first heard these facts, I could hardly believe them, but if you have been listening to the news lately, you know that over 60 percent of America’s population is overweight today. Why is this so?
Temptation to Indulge
“As we near the close of time, Satan’s temptation to indulge appetite will be more powerful and more difficult to overcome.” Ibid. Is the temptation to indulge more powerful today than when Ellen White wrote these words? When she penned this statement, was there McDonalds? No! Did we have Burger King or Taco Bell yet? No! The fast food industry did not exist.
Some of you are old enough to remember that there was a time when, if you wanted to eat out, you had to do so during the times the restaurants were open. They served breakfast for a set time in the morning, and then, in the middle of the day, they served dinner or lunch for so long a time, and in the late afternoon and early evening, they served supper or dinner for so long a time. You had to go during those times, or you could not get anything to eat.
After World War 11, that all changed. I remember, when I was a boy, something called Dairy Queen came to our town. A person could go to the Dairy Queen and get a great big ice cream cone for 10 cents. The Dairy Queen was not just open from 4 to 6 o’clock for supper; it was open extended hours.
As time went on, we eventually got to the place where we decided we needed to have our eating establishments open 24 hours a day. There are a number of eating establishments in Wichita [Kansas] that are open 24 hours a day. I am not usually downtown late at night, but the few times I have had occasion to be there late at night, I have found it to be an amazing sight! As you drive by some of these places at 10 o’clock at night—or even later—the cars are lined up, and they are not lined up to buy apples. They are lined up to buy food that has a very high fat and protein content. If you eat food like that late at night, the stomach and small intestines will be digesting and assimilating it until 6 or 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning. The more fat in the food, the longer it takes to digest, and if you eat a lot of deep-fat-fried food and a lot of meat with fat in it, it is not going to be out of your stomach in three or four hours. It is going to be in there a long time.
This kind of eating pattern did not exist 60 years ago. The places offering food like this were not on the market then. The concept of “fast food” had not yet been developed.
Our children are flooded with advertisements on television about eating. By the way, the food being featured on these advertisements is not apples either—or oranges or bananas. It is food that is high in protein and fat.
Let us look at some additional statements Ellen White gives that deal with the relationship between health reform and preparation for the Second Coming.
“Nine-tenths of the wickedness among the children of today is caused by intemperance in eating and drinking.” Review and Herald, October 21, 1884. That is a startling statement!
Then this one: “As our first parents lost Eden through the indulgence of appetite, our only hope of regaining Eden is through the firm denial of appetite and passion.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 59. So if we are to go to heaven, what do we have to learn? We must learn to control our appetites. That is foundational; that is number one. If I am not in control of my appetite, I will not be in control of my passions, and I will not be in control of my thoughts or my feelings. It is just that simple.
We have studied during this Week of Prayer about the necessity of controlling our thoughts. That is important, but if our appetites are out of control, we will find it impossible to control our thoughts and our sexual passions, too.
People come to preachers saying that somehow the plan of salvation does not work for them. Why does it not work? They say they have been praying and praying and praying. Let me ask you a question. Now this is a cruel question and a crude one, too, but I want you to think. If I were to climb onto the roof of a building and jump off, I am going to get hurt because of gravity. But can I jump off the building and then—if I pray hard enough—not get hurt? No, that would never happen, because I have violated a physical law. There are physical laws in the body, and the foundation of overcoming—so that we are ready to stand in the last days—has to do with learning to live in harmony with the physical laws in the body. If we do not live in harmony with the physical laws of the body, we will not be able to control our thoughts, and eventually, we will not have patience. Ellen White says that an intemperate person cannot be a patient person. (Review and Herald, February 21, 1888.)
She also wrote: “We want our sisters who are now injuring themselves by wrong habits to put them away and come to the front and be workers in reform. The reason why many of us will fall in the time of trouble is because of laxity in temperance and indulgence of appetite.” Temperance, 150.
That is quite a statement! Many of us are going to fall in the time of trouble, because we have not learned to control our appetites. Please, friends, let us not look at anyone else. Let me share with you some information I received from a physician about 30 years ago.
The digestive systems of some people are so efficient with food that they can overeat just a little bit, and over a period of time, they will gain a lot of weight. He said that there are other people whose systems are efficient enough that they can throw off all the extra food they eat and stay skinny. But, he said, the skinny sinners are just as much sinners as the fat sinners. So do not look at someone else who has a different kind of metabolism than you have. If you have not learned to be in control of your intake of food, you have just as much a problem as they have, even if you are skinny! The other person has to work on his problem, but we each have to work on our own problem.
You are probably familiar with this statement: “Many who are now only half converted on the question of meat eating will go from God’s people to walk no more with them.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 382.
Let us try to understand some relationships between how we eat, how it affects the body physically, and what happens to us mentally and spiritually. What do the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy say about the relation of physical habits and Christian living?
In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter shows that there is a relationship between our physical habits and our Christian experience: “Dearly beloved, I beseech [you] as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” Ellen White quotes that text and says, “Many regard this warning as applicable only to the licentious; but it has a broader meaning. It guards against every injurious gratification of appetite or passion.” Counsels on Health, 67, 68.
What we are studying is something to which a large part of the Christian world is apparently oblivious. They do not understand it, and this is one of the reasons there is trouble in many Christian churches. They do not understand the principles of temperance. In fact, there is such a lack of understanding that some churches even use fermented wine for communion! Are you aware of the fact that some people have become drunkards just by going to communion?
We are not focusing primarily on liquor and tobacco use. We are addressing the things that are more basic—the water we drink and the food we eat.
How would you describe the relationship between physical habits and Christian living?
For one thing, however we overload the physical system has a direct bearing on the mind and, consequently, on the spiritual and the emotional faculties. Our physical habits are going to affect our minds, our ability to think.
One of the faculties of the mind is willpower. If the willpower is weakened, is that going to affect the Christian experience, especially when we are faced with a temptation? Yes, it is. The classic example generally used is the way alcoholic drink will anesthetize the will. Someone in this condition will fall for just about anything the devil puts in his or her way. The Bible says, “Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.” Proverbs 23:33. People will do and say crazy things, and afterwards, when they come to their senses, they will ask, “What in the world did I do that for?” Their will was turned off by what they drank.
Although it is not totally anesthetized, the will can be weakened by improper physical habits. For instance, would you want to take a college examination after you have eaten something that has made you drowsy? It would not be too prof-itable, would it?
Your physical habits affect the different faculties of the mind and your ability to think. One of the faculties of the mind, as we have discussed, is the will. Another is the ability to exercise faith. If you are drowsy and cannot think, does that affect your ability to exercise faith in God? Yes, it certainly does.
Even eating too much of good things can make our minds drowsy. That is one of the reasons Ellen White told us that it would be well for us to eat less food on Sabbath than on other days. On the Sabbath, people are less physically active than on other days. If we eat the same amount of food on Sabbath that we eat on other days, we will have the tendency to go to sleep in church.
“We should not provide for the Sabbath a more liberal supply or a greater variety of food than for other days. Instead of this, the food should be more simple, and less should be eaten, in order that the mind may be clear and vigorous to comprehend spiritual things. A clogged stomach means a clogged brain. The most precious words may be heard and not appreciated, because the mind is confused by an improper diet. By overeating on the Sabbath, many do more than they think, to unfit themselves for receiving the benefit of its sacred opportunities.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 46.
This is something that is good to remember if you are ever driving a car for long distances. Eating too much food is a way to become drowsy, and even if you do not go to sleep, your reflex actions may be slowed, and if a quick response is needed, you may have an accident.
Where does the devil have the strongest hold on the human race? On appetite!
“[Satan’s] strongest hold on man is through the appetite, and this he seeks to stimulate in every possible way.” Ibid., 150. If, by the grace of God, we gain the victory on appetite, we are going to gain the victory on everything else. If we do not obtain the victory on appetite, Christian perfection will be impossible.
One of the challenges we face is that we have to eat every day. That is why it is such a struggle. To eat is necessary, yet it calls for control. We do not have to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, but we do have to eat every day. When I was at the School of Public Health, the instructors used to say that dealing with overeating and overweight was a much more difficult problem than even alcoholism. You can quit alcohol or tobacco, but eating, you cannot quit. You have to do it in a controlled way, and that is much more difficult than quitting something.
That is even true with dieting. There have been people who sought to solve their overweight problem by stopping to eat. The world record for fasting is 382 days—at least it was when I went to school. Ceasing to eat is not encouraged, because it is very dangerous.
There was a woman who fasted under medical supervision. Her electrolytes were kept up and medical professionals monitored her. She was not given any calories and she lost weight very quickly. She was on the fast for 210 days, and she did reach normal weight, but a week or two later she was admitted to the hospital and died. Since her fasting diet was medically supervised, an autopsy was performed to learn the cause of death. From the autopsy, it was found that approximately 64 percent of the myofibrils in her heart had been removed. When the body loses weight, about half the calories it loses are protein calories, so muscle mass is lost. The fasting diet took the protein right out of the heart, and she died.
The fasting diet then went out of vogue and was replaced with protein modified fasting, which was really the “in” thing for several years. In fact, it is still being done. This is dangerous, too. Numerous people have died on these various kinds of programs.
The important thing is not how much we weigh. The important thing is for us to get in control of our appetites. Then, if we are controlling our appetites and actively exercising, the Lord will help us with our problem with weight. The important thing is being in control of our appetites.
Control of the appetite is the most basic place where overcoming must begin. That is where the devil has the strongest hold on the human race.
Why is appetite the most basic human drive that must be brought under control?
“Entire cities have been swept from the face of the earth because of the debasing crimes and revolting iniquity that made them a blot upon the fair field of God’s created works. The gratification of unnatural appetite led to the sins that caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God ascribes the fall of Babylon to her gluttony and drunkenness. Indulgence of appetite and passion was the foundation of all their sins.” Ibid., 147.
What was the foundation of the whole problem? “The indulgence of appetite” was the foundation of all their sins. Indulgence of appetite! Does it sound important? It is at the foundation of a large number of things.
I want to tell you friends, I have been a minister for several decades now, but I do not ever go to the table, in private or public, without asking the Lord to give me wisdom to make the right choice—not just for the kind of food but for the appropriate amount of food to eat. I need wisdom; I need help; I need divine grace to make the right choice.
Appetite is the most basic human drive that has to be brought under control. Look at what happens if the appetite is not in control: “Through the channel of appetite, the passions are inflamed, and the moral powers are paralyzed . . . .” Temperance, 183.
Stop there for a moment. If your moral powers are paralyzed, are you going to be able to stand in the last days? There is no way! You are not going to make it. Your moral powers will be paralyzed, if your appetite is not in control.
“. . . so that parental instruction in the principles of morality and true goodness falls upon the ear without affecting the heart.” Ibid. If the appetite is not in control, it will be impossible for the parents to train their children to be Christians. Have you ever thought about that? It will be impossible; it will not work.
This is one of the problems in our society. The appetites of the children are not in control. They are eating at all hours of the day and night and eating all kinds of foods that are not healthful for them.
“Satan is no novice in the business of destroying souls. He well knows that if he can lead men and women into wrong habits of eating and drinking, he has gained, in a great degree, the control of their minds and baser passions.” Ibid., 161.
Sometimes we are dense. We do not know what is going on, but the devil knows. He knows that if he can get us to indulge our appetites, he is going to get control of our minds and our passions. Do you want the devil to be in control?
Are you going to go through the last days and stand? If the devil is in control of your passions, you are not going to make it.
How can I bring my appetite under the control of my mind and reason?
We can talk about the temperance pledge, about removing temptation as far as possible, but we cannot succeed unless we have help. We have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
We cannot succeed unless we receive divine grace, but God is not going to help us unless we cooperate. “This could not be the case if Christ alone did all the overcoming. Man must do his part. Man must be victor on his own account, through the strength and grace that Jesus gives him. Man must be a co-worker with Christ in the labor of overcoming, and then he will be partaker with Christ of His glory.” Review and Herald, November 21, 1882.
One of my favorite statements is, “Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. The greater the sinner’s guilt, the more he needs the Saviour. His heart of divine love and sympathy is drawn out most of all for the one who is the most hopelessly entangled in the snares of the enemy. . . .
“Today He is standing at the altar of mercy, presenting before God the prayers of those who desire His help. He turns no weeping, contrite one away.” Temperance, 124.
If you are trapped, keep praying! Jesus is not going to leave His children to be overcome and perish, even if they are weak and very sinful, as long as they continue asking for help, saying “Lord, I am stuck.” Friend, when we are referring to this problem of appetite, you and I are stuck. Unless we receive divine help, we are never going to get control of it, and if we do not get control of it, we are not going to get control of our passions. We are not going to be in control of our thoughts, and we are not going to be in control of our feelings. Then we will not stand in the time of trouble.
The Lord has made provision so that we can be overcomers, if we cooperate with Him. “What a work is before the Christian! Yet, however great the struggle, he may overcome. By the help of that divine power which withstood the fiercest temptations that Satan could invent, he, too, may be entirely successful in his warfare with evil, and at last may wear the victor’s crown in the kingdom of God.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 167.
I need help, do you? We might as well face it, we all need help. Unless the Lord helps us, we are not going to gain control, and we have to have control if we are going to go through to the kingdom.
It is human nature to go to extremes, and we want to be sure that we do not go to extremes. What are the two errors that the beginning temperance reformer must avoid with regard to diet?
Those who understand the laws of health and who are governed by principles will shun the extremes of both indulgence and restriction. “Health reformers, above all others, should be careful to shun extremes.” Ibid., 207.
There are different kinds of people in the world. When this subject is studied, some people recognize they have been overeating and determine to eat less. Other people are so gung ho that they restrict themselves until, Ellen White states, they damage their health.
“Some of our people, while conscientiously abstaining from eating improper foods, neglect to supply themselves with the elements necessary for the sustenance of the body.” Ibid. Diseases caused by improper nourishment are some of the most difficult with which the physician deals.
Mrs. White wrote to an aged minister about his extremes: “I have been informed that you have taken but one meal a day for a period of time; but I know it to be wrong in your case, for I have been shown that you needed a nutritious diet, and that you were in danger of being too abstemious. Your strength would not admit of your severe discipline. . . .
“I think that you have erred in fasting two days. God did not require it of you. I beg of you to be cautious and eat freely good, wholesome food twice a day. You will surely decrease in strength and your mind become unbalanced unless you change your course of abstemious diet.” Ibid., 191.
We are talking about temperance. We are not talking about restricting the nourishment our bodies need. Health reform, dietary reform in regards to getting control of our appetites does not mean that we restrict ourselves until we damage our bodies. God wants us to get all of the nutrition that our bodies need; He does not want us to deprive ourselves. We are to avoid the extremes of doing like the monks and the nuns and the priests during the Middle Ages.
Martin Luther wrecked his health fasting. He said if he had kept on doing it much longer, he would have died. He damaged his health for the rest of his life and shortened his life because he fasted so much. That is one extreme.
The other extreme is to eat so much that you damage your health because of your overeating. What if we are getting twice what we need? “We ought always to eat the most simple food. Often twice as much food as the system needs is eaten. Then nature has to work hard to get rid of the surplus.” Medical Ministry, 295. Have you ever done that? I am sure I have done it more than once, but I am determined that I am not going to live in this way any more. The Lord wants to deliver us from both extremes.
We have to have control of the appetite if we are going to have control of the thoughts and the passions. Remember, “The reason why many of us will fall in the time of trouble is because of laxity in temperance and indulgence of appetite.” Temperance, 150.