Which is Better? Instant Gratification, or Long Term Rewards?

My boys always discover ridiculous videos to entertain our family, like Good Mythical Morning with Rhett and Link or Dude Perfect. Well, one time they found this video called Brain Games. The producers of the show conducted an experiment with nine elementary-aged kids. They were stuck in individual rooms, each sitting at a table with a plate of irresistible, fluffy, pink cotton candy. Here were their instructions. “You can eat this now, or wait fifteen minutes and get two more cotton candy balls just like this one.” 

Two of the kids couldn’t resist. They shoved the pink delicacy down their throat just after their host left the room. But every other kid sat and stared, touched and poked, held and smelled. They all tried to look away only to have their eyes lured back by this pink goodness. Some pinched off tiny tastes, hoping no one would notice. Some sang the alphabet, while others counted. One girl asked herself, “I wonder how I can eat this without anyone knowing.” Anxious eyes, sneaky grins, miserable countenances, and overall restlessness filled their bodies. Fifteen minutes is a long time to gawk at a mouth-watering treat. 

The video was trying to prove that using will power alone doesn’t work against temptation. Those who overcame their temptation used distraction to their advantage. Whether it was rolling around in the room in their desk chairs, moving their chair to the other side of the room, singing, counting or talking to themselves, the victors did anything but sit and stare. Something inside told them they couldn’t obsess and successfully resist. The kids who didn’t wait got an immediate taste. But the ones who used self-control received three-times the treat.

Self control is one of my biggest struggles. Temptation tells me, "I know I shouldn’t speed, but the cop won’t pull me over if I’m only going 5-10 over, right? I know I need to go to bed, but I watch another episode because I HAVE to know what’s going to happen. I want to make the godly choice, but no one else is, and I can always ask for forgiveness, right?" But, my self-control says, "If I don’t speed, there’s no chance I'll get a ticket and make my insurance premium rise. If I go to bed, I won’t live in a daze tomorrow and people will actually like being around me. If I make the godly choice, I won’t feel guilty for taking advantage of Jesus’ grace."

I’m convinced we don’t resist because we’re not yet addicted to the results of good choices. We haven’t programmed our hearts to crave good things. We are addicted to bad choices because we’re used to the pleasure they bring in the moment. We keep eating that cotton candy before the fifteen minutes is up, and are later devastated to discover our friends got two cotton candy balls for every one of ours. Why is their life better than ours? Because they waited and we didn’t. Because they’re making good choices, while we make the easy ones.

If you want to make the self-controlled choice, it won't be easy, but it is possible. Sheer will power isn’t the key to success. Any good choice we want to make that is against our sinful will has to originate from our identity in Christ. So, when I want to teach my will to obey scripture, I ask myself two questions: Who is God? And, Who am I?

Read I Thessalonians 5:23-24.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

Who is God? 
According to this verse, what qualities does God have?

The Israelites used to call God Jehovah-Nissi, which means The Lord is My Banner. God is our banner because he “gives us victory against the flesh, the world and the devil. Our battles are his battles of light against darkness and good against evil.” (Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps and Timelines, Regent Publishing: 2015. p.36) He is the one who makes and keeps us blameless; and he is faithful, so he will do it!

Who am I?
According to this verse, what godly character trait is he adding to our lives?

I've always seen self-control as a quality God expected me to use to prove myself. I was trying to prove I was worth his sacrifice and his acceptance. But, this kind of self-control is motivated by our will power instead of His power. But when my self-control failed when someone else’s worked, I felt defeated, frustrated and resentful. If God is Jehovah Nissi, my banner and the one who MAKES me blameless, I don't have to strive and perform for Him. My spiritual walk is not about getting straight A's (my performance), but making progress. I put my trust in Him instead of me. I don’t produce self-control, I ask him to help me find it. Instead of failures, we become victors because we no longer fight for Him out of guilt, but with Him for our victory.

Dear friend, as you start this new year fresh, I pray you would do anything but sit and stare at that cotton candy. I pray you would sing to Jesus, talk to Jesus, or maybe even take a walk with Him. Let Him be your Jehovah-Nissi, your banner, your catalyst for self-control! He created self-control, so he can help you find and use it.  

Until next time, keep moving forward in your faith and freedom. -Sharie

© 2017 by Sharie King.  All rights reserved.