A good definition of temperance is, “True temperance teaches us to dispense entirely with everything hurtful and to use judiciously that which is healthful.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 562. In this definition we find a direct contradiction to the philosophy of the world which says, If it feels good do it, if it tastes good eat it, and if you want it, get it. Unfortunately, this philosophy has led the world into sin and rebellion, ruining lives all around us. This philosophy becomes a way of life and habits of sin become so ingrained into who we are that at times we do not see any way to break them.
The first step in changing an intemperate habit, whether it be overeating, smoking, alcohol, drugs, sexual sins, or any other host of sinful habits, is to come to God just as you are, admitting that you are helpless to change in your own power. Only God can change the sinful heart. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” Jeremiah 13:23. Although God can miraculously take away a bad habit, He prefers to give us the victory in His time.
The next step is to make a firm decision to change with the help of God. This involves a decision of the will and acting on that decision to starve the habit by avoiding situations that feed it. If the habit is one of tobacco usage, for example, starve the habit by eliminating all cigarettes from your home, car, purse, etc., and resist buying another cigarette. Then avoid, as much as possible, situations in which there would be a strong temptation to smoke. This will starve the bad habit.
Then, begin to develop new and better habits. When the urge to smoke hits, have a backup plan to resist the temptation. Send a quick prayer to the Lord for power to resist the devil and then go for a brisk walk. This will soon develop into a new habit. When this is done repeatedly changes are actually made in the brain. Activities are facilitated by chemicals moving between the nerve endings in the brain, and when an activity is repeated over and over, small grooves are formed between the nerve endings, thus creating a pathway for the chemicals. The more these activities are repeated, the easier it is for the chemicals and electrical activity to move within these grooves and a habit is formed in the brain. As old habits are resisted and new ones are developed, they become second nature. In this way we can actually cooperate with the Lord by developing new habits through repetition of good activities.
In I Corinthians 9:25 it says, “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.”
Examine the areas in your life that need change and ask for God’s help to change those bad habits and live a temperate life.