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Delayed Gratification

I was at the grocery store the other day picking up a small carton of chicken broth that my wife needed for her famous Chicken Noodle Soup. I had one item to purchase and noticed that the check-out lines were excessively long with other shoppers who had carts full of groceries. Frustration started to settle in as I realized that there was no express lane open for “ten items or less.” Even the Service Counter (for buying stamps and returning bottles for cash) had a line. I got a bit agitated because I wanted to check out immediately without waiting in a long line.

In today’s harried society, we have a culture of impatience in need of immediate gratification and I’m no exception.

We have fast food, Quik trips, and convenient stores. We have instant messages and one hour cleaners. We have speed dating and jiffy lubes. We have movies “on demand” and same day delivery on almost any item we purchase. Why pay with Speedy cash (that you don’t have) when you can use a credit card?

Clearly, Americans want everything…NOW!

There was a series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s called The Marshmallow Experiment. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards (of greater value) if they waited for a short period (approximately 15 minutes) of time. The results of these studies found that children who were able to wait longer for the deferred rewards tended to have better test scores, educational attainment, and overall better life outcomes than those who gave in to their immediate need for gratification. Here is a URL to a video showing the Marshmallow Experiment:

There is a danger in short term thinking.

The danger is shown in our inability to defer immediate gratification in order to gain long term rewards. We have become a society of undisciplined people, who feel entitled to everything we want, as soon as we want it. If parents and educators don’t have the virtue of patience and long term thinking, how are they to teach these attributes to our children?

God’s Word makes it clear that we are to defer from the things of this world for eternal rewards.

“Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal. Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your heart will always be where your riches are.” (Matthew 6: 19-21)

Are you thinking short term or long term?

It means nothing to attain everything in this short-term world (where we only live an average of 79 years), if you lose everything for eternity. Would you wish for all the fame and wealth of this world for 75-80 years (one marshmallow, now) or would you ask for all the riches and glory in heaven, forever (two marshmallows, later)?

Short term thinking is worldly and self-centered with the goal of instant gratification. Be wise! Keep your eyes focused on your eternal future and think long term.

The Prophets of the Old Testament did not all receive the blessings that God had promised them on this earth. Abel, Noah, and Abraham all died not receiving the things that God had promised, but from a long way off they saw them and welcomed them. They did not keep thinking about the country they had left, but instead “it was a better country they longed for, the heavenly country.” (Hebrews 11:16)

It was faith and delayed gratification that made Moses, when he had grown up, refuse to be called the son of the king’s daughter. He preferred to suffer with God’s people rather than to enjoy sin (the pleasures of today) for a season.

“He reckoned that to suffer scorn for the Messiah was worth far more than all the treasures of Egypt, for he kept his eyes on the future reward.” (Hebrew 11:26)

We, too, must keep our eyes on the future reward!

The most important thing you can do in this life, is to insure where you will be spending the next.

Be wise! Try to avoid the temptations for immediate gratification and store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.

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