Delayed Gratification

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, July 8, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

One of the greatest movies of all time is “The Shawshank Redemption." I don’t think there are many who disagree with that statement. If you are one who does, it’s okay and we can still be friends. Contrary to popular belief, people don’t have to agree on everything to get along or have mutual respect for one another. One of the central themes of the movie is hope. The two main characters, prisoners Andy Dufresne and Red, have a very pointed conversation about it after Andy comes out of solitary confinement. Andy states that he made it through the punishment because he had his favorite music with him. When the other prisoners are confused because they know he can’t take his radio to the cell, he shares that it is in his mind and can’t be taken away. For Andy, the music reminds him of freedom and gives him hope, something else that can’t be taken away. But Red will have none of it. To him, hope is dangerous and nothing more than a pipe dream. By the end of the movie, Red’s attitude is changed. He embraces hope and looks forward to whatever his life will bring him, trusting that it will be worth the wait.

Have we lost the joy of hoping? I ask because it seems to me like we are so desperate to get what we want and get it now. This happens in so many areas of our lives. I’m a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, I understand that professional football carries a lot of entertainment value and not much more than that. But I still think the Steelers are a perfect example of what I am talking about. They have had exactly THREE head coaches since 1969, by far the fewest of all NFL teams. By comparison, the Cleveland Browns have had 17. While all other teams are demanding immediate results and getting rid of their coaches and players who don’t produce those results at the desired time, the Steelers are patient. They trust in their plan and hope (aka “wait”) for the reward. As a result, they have won more Super Bowl titles than any other franchise and each of those three coaches as won at least one title.

The art of waiting with hope is something that every follower of Christ must learn to practice. The Apostle Paul addresses this in Romans 8:18-25. In v. 18, he writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." That is such a foundational statement for all believers! When you experience troubles in this life, no matter what kind or how difficult they are, your faith tells you that your eternal reward will make it all worth it. Paul doesn’t just say that the glory would win over the sufferings if you compared them, he says that they aren’t even worth comparing!

Paul’s statement actually has dual meanings. While it’s clear that we as believers will experience the glory of an eternity with Jesus, he is saying that the glory is also revealed IN us. In other words, followers of Jesus have faith that we will be resurrected and joined with him in his kingdom. However, that kingdom is also revealed in this earth through the lives of those who have been born again and received the Holy Spirit to guide and empower them. When others see how we live and act in the midst of suffering, they observe something that cannot be experienced in this fallen world without the hope of Jesus. Persevering through our trials with joy found only in Christ is what people notice. And they desire to have that hope for themselves. Paul declares in his letter to the Corinthian church that the hope has to include a view of eternity. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Going back to the Romans 8:18-25 passage, Paul shares that even God’s very creation of this world is in “bondage to decay” as a result of the choices of man (vv. 19-21). So, if the world itself is decaying, it’s not something on which we can depend. To me, this means we must stop expecting things to go well in this life. So many believers are caught up in an attitude of complaining about the troubles of this world. Paul says we should EXPECT it! Later in the passage, he asks rhetorically, “Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (vv. 24-25). The reward that we are promised for following Jesus even in the midst of suffering is not something we can expect while STILL in a suffering world. Yes, we will see glimpses of God’s goodness and glory. We experience his grace, mercy, and love. But we experience and see those things in the midst of the suffering, not because we are shielded from it.

There are so many other areas of life where this idea of waiting for the results is important. If you begin a healthy diet, you’re not going to look or feel differently after one day. You have to suffer for a little while to get the desired result. The same is true with exercising. If you have joined a local gym or started a routine, there’s no doubt in my mind you are suffering if you are doing things the right way. I am suffering with you. But one month into some of the significant changes I have made regarding eating and exercising, I am reaping some of the benefits. It works the same way with reading the Bible and spending time alone with God. You may not know where to start and may not “get much” out of the first time you do it. This may be the enemy tempting you to quit and spend your time doing something more entertaining for you. If you stick with it, you’ll begin to see the positive changes in your attitude and actions.

There are many areas of life where this truth applies. I encourage you to stay on the right path even if you don’t notice any results at first. Trust God for the results and wait patiently for them. Allow your gratification to be delayed and don’t fall into the enemy’s trap of making you quit. Find a friend to hold you accountable and provide the encouragement you need to keep going. As you make these important changes that affect this life, let God reveal what they teach you about your eternal life and reward. As my seminary friends would say, “Keep on keepin on!”

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