Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back in the Saddle

  Apparently, I took a blogging hiatus for the summer. Busy, got a new phone but my laptop operating system is too old to sync with it so I can't upload pics, and I keep procrastinating ordering a new OS because I know my laptop doesn't have enough space for it, which means I'll need to move lots of photos off of it first ... whatever. I haven't blogged in a few months but I miss it & want to get back in the habit. 

  I've been doing a little writing for other blogs, though, so since I never got around to linking up to them I'll just do a little re-post here. Just making sure I still remember how this whole thing works :)  I wrote this little ditty about the delayed gratification of faith a few weeks ago ... I would just link to it but our church's women's ministry blog is on Tumblr, so I'll just re-post. Hope it encourages you as you wait on the Faithful One!

Anticipating Delight

  Delayed gratification. Waiting for something better, later, instead of settling for less, now. The Scriptures tell us story after story of waiting for fulfillment: Abraham packed up his family and left home, waiting to be shown the land that was to belong to his descendents. The Israelites toiled in Egypt for hundreds of years while waiting to be delivered from slavery. Daniel spent the night with lions, and his friends went into the furnace—all of them awaiting rescue even in the midst of dramatically awful circumstances. Waiting may be a common theme throughout the Bible, but that isn’t the only source that tells us that waiting is good.

  In my role as a counselor, I often have the opportunity to see the truths of Scripture fleshed out (whether for better or worse) in the lives of my clients, as well as in psychological research. I love seeing God’s Word stand firm as researchers publish their findings that announce (in so many words), “Studies have shown your life will work better if you live like this … ,” while they don’t even realize that whatever basic truth they are proclaiming is one that God gave us thousands of years ago. One such subject of study is that of delayed gratification. Over the past fifty years, multiple studies have shown that children who demonstrate an ability to delay gratification will generally go on to experience greater success in life than those who act more impulsively.

  I believe this discipline of waiting is so vitally important because God does not intend for us to find our greatest fulfillment in things that can be obtained in the here and now—new homes, job promotions, good health, successful relationships, etc. These things can all be wonderful blessings, but if we allow any of them to become our end goal, we will one day be left wishing that we had waited for that which is greater. We have been promised that Jesus is preparing a place for us (John 14:3) and that our reward in heaven is great (Matthew 5:12).

  The cost of abundant life now and great reward later is high—we must be willing to take up our cross and follow Him. We must die to our own ambitions and dreams. We must make the commandments of loving God and loving others, and the commission to make disciples, the great pursuits of our lives. Might some earthly, material blessings and comforts be part of what we are given to steward? Of course, but we must strive to deny the addiction that can come with the immediate gratification those things bring.

  So how, practically, do we do this in our wealthy and materialistic culture? Once again, even modern psychology points us back to Biblical truths. More recent studies on delayed gratification have tried to answer the question, “What makes certain people willing to wait?” The findings from one study indicated that children who were able to distract themselves from the immediate prize had a much greater ability to wait for the greater reward that had been promised if they abstained. This truth calls to mind Colossians 3:2: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” If we will train ourselves to become distracted with the things of God—His promises and works—we will find it much easier to lay aside selfish living. On the other hand, if we feed our minds a steady diet of media and conversations that center on material stuff, we will constantly be frustrated in our attempts to deny self. It will always feel too hard.

  In addition, we don’t have to depend on ourselves to create this type of growth in our lives. Another study showed that a child’s ability to delay gratification was tied to the dependability of the one promising future reward. If the child was continually disappointed, he or she tended to grab at the immediate prize while it was available. They had been given empty promises and they knew it. However, children who had the experience of receiving what had been promised in earlier instances were much more likely to wait for the reward. They knew that the one who had promised was faithful.

  The One Who has promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). Do you know that? If you will set your affection on Him, if you will allow your mind to dwell on His promises to you and stories of the ways He has shown Himself faithful, a new excitement for eternal reward will follow. The more you know Him, the more natural it will become to wait on Him. He will convince you if you give Him the time. Will you make room in your heart for anticipating delight?

Reflect & Respond

1. “Take your temperature” in regard to waiting … are you already disciplined in setting your mind on long-term goals, or does impulsivity constantly derail you? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any areas in your life where you repeatedly grab at what is temporary instead of patiently waiting.
2. Consider the subjects that distract your mind. Do you find yourself often coveting things or relationships you don’t have, or putting your best energy toward goals that aren’t lasting?
3. Begin building a cache of truth and encouragement in your mind and heart. Read Scripture. Memorize it. Read autobiographies/biographies of men and women of faith, and learn how God showed Himself faithful to them. Spend time with people whose eyes are set on a prize more distant than a few decades from now, and let their passion rub off on you.
4. Ask God to grow you into a woman who seeks first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).

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