Our new life in Christ is one of holy abundance, not reckless abundance. The practice of delayed gratification is a component of mindful and thoughtful abundant living. Our ability to delay gratification refers to putting off a little enjoyment and pleasure for the time being to reap a more significant and more long-term happiness.
An experiment on children was conducted in the 1960s and 1970s to investigate the concept of delayed gratification. This was known as the marshmallow test. The participants in the experiment were given the option of eating one marshmallow right away or two marshmallows after some time had passed. Many of the kids couldn’t stand it any longer, and a sizable proportion demanded the marshmallow immediately. The researchers, over time, then followed the children. It was discovered that children who could postpone immediate gratification for something better performed better academically. This demonstrates that self-control has far-reaching implications. It affects our spiritual walk and every other aspect of our lives.
Delaying gratification requires us to summon our rational willpower to control our emotional and irrational impulses. This is why, to practice self-control, we must be not only aware of ourselves but also be able to communicate our thoughts. As a result, we must keep track of what we think. This is accomplished by paying attention to the ideas that arise and directing our minds to the long-term benefits and advantages of waiting.
Resist the Temptation, Flee from Evil
The story of Joseph the Dreamer in Genesis 39 is a prime example of resisting temptation and fleeing evil. Joseph, one of Jacob’s sons, finds himself in Egypt. His brothers sold him and told their father he was dead in an attempt to get rid of him. In Chapter 39, Potiphar, an Egyptian leader, appointed Joseph as the caretaker of his household. Joseph has always acted honorably, which is why God and man began to treat him favorably. Even Potiphar’s wife became interested in Joseph because he was honorable and attractive. Potiphar’s wife told Joseph to lie with her in bed one day, intending to have an illicit affair with him. Joseph, a trusted servant in Potiphar’s household, could easily have said yes. But what happened to Joseph? Joseph did not simply say no; he also did not simply walk away—he fled! He ran as far as he could, as quickly as he could. He ran away from the situation without a second thought.
Joseph knew sleeping with another man’s wife was a sin against God. His relationship with God and strong convictions compelled him to resist temptation and control his desires. This teaches us that we must also set clear boundaries within ourselves. We must first decide what our convictions are and what our non-negotiables are. There will be no time or space for thought or rationalization this way. A yes is a yes, and a no is a no. Thus, if we want to improve our self-control, we should emulate Joseph, who was well aware of his limits. We, too, must understand what is sinful, what is wrong, and what constitutes a compromising situation so that we can flee temptation and resist evil when we find ourselves in it.
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