What’s the Point of Purity? Trust in the Delay

Think about a time or place when you chose food from a drive-thru and the service took just a little longer than you expected. How did you feel? Angry? Frustrated? Irritated? Or did you patiently wait, hum your favorite song, and greet the employee with a question about how their day is going? If you chose drive-thru food, you were probably seeking convenience. Part of your goal was likely to save time. So then, when someone had the audacity to slow down your plans, you probably did not like it very much.
Waiting is not easy. But it is worth it. The struggle that we face now is that we need to wait in a time of our history that waits for very little. What is news today will be forgotten tomorrow, what is new today will be out-of-date tomorrow. Facebook gives us instant updates. Twitter tells us of someone else’s thoughts. We don’t even like to spell out our words in text messages. So why should we wait?
There is a very simple answer to that question: because God expects us to conform to His timeline, not the other way around. When you can find out the news in another country in a matter of seconds, it can be hard to wait. When you can see your favorite celebrity’s outfit for today, it can be hard to save your money as you had planned. But if we treat our lives as one giant string of microwave moments, we will feel constantly unsatisfied.
About two years ago, our microwave died. With a notion contrary to most, I decided not to replace it. I chose that for one simple reason: it would force me to cook. Sure, I had prepared meals at home before, but there were times when I simply did not want to bother. But without a microwave, I had to approach things differently. And it forced me to slow down, which is not something I do well. Even when I eat leftovers, I now have to wait.
And I am restless. I feel that there is always something else that can be done. A few minutes ago, my mother called, and I had to make myself stop typing while I spoke with her. Why was that hard? Because I know that even after I finish this writing, there is more that needs to be done. Waiting, for me, is hard.
But what if we trusted that something better was coming our way? Could we wait then? The cheeseburger and fries may satisfy you right now, but how will you feel in an hour? Rice and salad may not sound very filling now, but will you be better in the long run? Consider Daniel and his friends of the Old Testament. They turned down royal food for the sake of vegetables and water! How many of us would do that? Daniel had to go against orders from the king – the king! – and ask for vegetables. And water. I’ll be honest, I have a difficult time going even one day with water as my only beverage. And just vegetables? I think I would rather fast for a day than tease my stomach with only vegetables.
But the Bible tells us that Daniel “resolved not to defile himself.” Our word “resolution” has lost much of its impact because of our weak resolve. We would be better off calling them our New Year’s Wishes; that would be more accurate. But Daniel resolved not to defile himself, and then what? At the end of ten days – just ten days – he and his friends looked better than those eating the royal food. Unfortunately our idea of an “instant makeover” falls closer to ten minutes than ten days.
I believe, though we are not told, that Daniel had been working on his resolve muscle even before this test. God has a way of preparing and rewarding those who seek to do His will. We see this again with Daniel later on in his life. When a decree was issued that forbid prayer to anyone about the king, Daniel continued to pray. Three times a day, by an open window, “just as he had before.” You see, when you work on your “resolve muscle,” your actions are not influenced by a change of circumstances. Daniel knew the decree, he knew the consequences, but thankfully he also knew God’s ability. He did not waver in his resolve. And, when Daniel was thrown in with the lions, God rewarded Daniel’s resolve – Daniel was not harmed at all.
When I lived in a different neighborhood, I often used to see a woman out walking. She must have had some sort of physical limitation, because her walk was always a shuffle. She did not stride, she did not walk briskly. She moved forward inches at a time. After a while I began to notice that I would see her shuffling along in many different places in the neighborhood. She clearly was not going down the block. And I saw her out in cold, in snow, in wind – the conditions did not matter. Her resolve was impressive, especially when I compared it to my own able-bodied motivation. And I always saw her walking alone.
I began to wonder if she went out daily because it was necessary. Maybe it was part of what she had to do for her body, or else. Or else…maybe her condition would worsen. Have you ever considered that the same may be true of your resolve for purity? That purity is a daily choice, regardless of the circumstances, and without that resolve your condition will worsen? Think about it.
This past Saturday morning, more than a dozen men from church gathered to discuss purity. I was impressed at the crowd we could gather at 7am on a dark, snowy, Saturday morning. I was even more impressed with the freedom that God provided for the conversation. The fact that purity is an every day battle was absolutely reinforced. Whether you are a man, woman, boy, girl, married, dating, or single, you are in this battle. And almost every message you hear tempts, “Why wait?” In the recurring form of the Tempter, we are asked, “Did God really say that you cannot have some pleasure, some satisfaction now?” After all, isn’t that what Adam and Eve decided – that they could take of the fruit that was right there? The Bible tells us that it was “pleasing to the eye” and “desirable.” Our enemy is not stupid, in fact he is quite crafty. So we must be wise.
We have to work on our resolve muscle. It is not an on/off switch. It takes work on some difficult decisions. Will you remove your tv rather than be impure? Will you put a filter on your Internet? Will you find others who demand your honesty on the matter? Will you cut off friendships that cause you to stumble? And will you trust God’s timing? Will you trust even when the results seem invisible?
Two weeks ago I sat down to have a conversation with a young man who was experiencing a rough patch. Our conversation wandered to a few different points, points I did not always understand. But I gave him my attention. A few days later, as I was pulling in to work, this same young man was leaving his P.E. class – without permission. A staff member followed the young man who soon broke into a run toward the street. On his way, this young man pulled a wooden marking stake out of the ground. Then he sat down – right in the middle of the driveway. I had been watching and following. I walked up to him and encouraged him to get up. At first he physically resisted, but before long he stood up and walked back with us.
I am absolutely convinced that he chose to listen to me because I had chosen to listen to him. And I am also convinced that we must view purity the same way. We cannot simply do as we please and then expect God to grant our wishes. We must listen to God. Then we can resolve to trust in the delay and expect God’s reward – in His time.
We are not promised immediate results, and we should be grateful. Consider Daniel once again. Even after the others were removed from the royal food and wine, still none were found equal to Daniel and his friends at the end of the testing. Isn’t it nice to know that God does reward our resolve? Isn’t it good to believe that God will provide for us even better things than we can imagine? When we seek immediate results, we give temporary effort. But when we are seeking eternal results, we give permanent effort.
Purity may not be en vogue, and it certainly will not be easy. But it is necessary, and it is good. We live in a time where Christian organizations will teach curriculum that offers “Sex Can Wait.” Where is the message that “Sex Must Wait”? In God’s curriculum. If you cannot find a strong enough reason for purity in your friendships, your media, your church – I promise that you can find it in God’s Word. It is His design. It is His will. And the only way to experience His rewards is to resolve to do His will.
Set your course. Determine what should and should not be in your life. Then trust in the delay, receive the grace God offers, and wait for His timing. It will be perfect.

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