The “Marshmallow Test” was a study conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford. Little children were offered a small reward immediately or promised double the reward if they would wait for a period of time, usually about 15 minutes. Follow up on those same children years later showed that those who choose to delay their gratification, choosing the double reward, scored higher on tests, completed higher education, and had generally better health!
What choices do you make when it comes to investing in the future rather than taking immediate gratification? Many years ago a wise uncle advised me to take a small amount of money each month and put it into my retirement account. Every dollar was precious in our little family, living on a rather small salary. But, I trusted his counsel and today that account has grown into a sizeable sum of money. Investing demands a vision of an as yet unseen future, doesn’t it? When I was in my late 20’s, retiring was just an idea, something old guys did. Now, less than a decade away, I am glad I made some choices long ago that will, Lord- willing, help me to have a better quality of life.
Christians who would serve the Lord best, who would enjoy His rewards, must invest in a place they cannot see, making choices of faith that rests on the Promise of God!
Jeremiah, the prophet of Judah, whose ministry was filled with gloomy, grim predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem by her enemies lived out a parable of future oriented faith before the people. The story is told in the 32nd chapter of his book. God revealed to him that a cousin would come to him with a real estate deal. Of course, buying property while the city was besieged by invaders was, to every appearance, the height of folly!
Let’s see what he did. “And sure enough, just as God had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me while I was in jail and said, ‘Buy my field in Anathoth in the territory of Ben-jamin, for you have the legal right to keep it in the family. Buy it. Take it over.’ “That did it. I knew it was God’s Message. “So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel. I paid him seventeen silver shekels. I followed all the proper procedures: In the presence of witnesses I wrote out the bill of sale, sealed it, and weighed out the money on the scales. Then I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy that contained the contract and its conditions and also the open copy— and gave them to Baruch … “Then, in front of all of them, I told Baruch, ‘These are orders from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: Take these documents—both the sealed and the open deeds—and put them for safekeeping in a pottery jar. For God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says, “Life is going to return to normal. Homes and fields and vineyards are again going to be bought in this country.” (Jeremiah 32:8-15, The Message) Common sense told Jeremiah that when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, it was ‘game over’ for the Jews. But, God said, “Life is going to return to normal 70 years from now.” Jeremiah chose to believe the promise and bought property to put his money where his mouth was.
Interestingly enough, later in that chapter, he has a conversation with God about his choices, wondering out loud if he had made a foolish decision. He says that the siege ramps can be seen outside the city walls, that there is every evidence of pending destruction. God answers his doubts. First, the bad news – “I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me? Therefore, this is what the Lord says: I will hand this city over to the Babylonians and to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and he will capture it.” (Jeremiah 32:26-28, NLT) Then, the good news- “I will certainly bring my people back again from all the countries where I will scatter them in my fury. I will bring them back to this very city and let them live in peace and safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them. I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me.” (Jeremiah 32:37-40, NLT)
Will you say no to that voice of Self that is demanding gratification today for the sake of receiving the rich rewards of Heaven?
Will you choose to ‘lay up treasure in Heaven’ rather than to spend yourself and your wealth on things that are subject to loss?
Will you live by faith investing in the unseen, even when those around you mock your choices as foolish, naïve, or resulting from religious delusions?
Here are words from the Word. May the Spirit make them alive and full of promise for us today. Lord, find us faith-full!
“See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous will live by his faith— indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.” (Habakkuk 2:4-5, NIV) “But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:38-39, NIV)
Would you pray with me?
Father, my soul and body clamors for satisfaction.
My appetites for things, for comfort, for ease, and for pleasure
Are strong and the culture in which I live praises the man who
Feeds himself and feathers his own nest.
So, I pray for the gift of faith to see beyond the horizon of time.
Speak to me, like you did to Jeremiah, to renew the Promise.
Holy Spirit, set eternity in my heart and inspire me to live to give,
To love and to serve, to work and worship with You and
Our Eternal Home to guide me.
For the honor of Jesus, and in His Holy Name, I pray. Amen.