Delayed gratification is among the marks of successful people and this is something that Christians must apply in their lives as well. The principle of delayed gratification is easy. It simply means that a Christian is willing to give up something now to obtain a better reward in the future. As easy as it may sound, delayed gratification demands a great deal of discipline, self-mastery, and will-power.
For this reason, it is important to know how to become a master of delayed gratification. No Christian will ever be successful in his or her Christian walk without knowing how to say “no” to the pleasures of sin today in order to receive the crown of life when Jesus Christ returns.
Check out our 5 strategies to improve our ability to perform delayed gratification.
1. Deny yourself
Jesus Christ plainly tells us:
Matthew 16:24: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Christians are called to follow Jesus Christ. This is the main reason we are called CHRISTians. Before we can follow Christ, we need to first deny ourselves and take up our cross on a daily basis.
Denying ourselves is part of delaying our own gratification. Denying ourselves means putting the will of God above our own will. As humans, we want to have a life of comfort, convenience, and wealth. That is not bad of by itself, however, if we put our own “wants and desires” first in our lives and the will of God second, then we are going to fail in our Christian life.
Jesus Christ continues:
Matthew 16:25-26: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”
As we look into our world today, we see people who chase the wrong things in life. They begin to become the god of themselves and the ultimate authority. They seek to “save their lives”.
However, that is not how we, Christians, are supposed to live our lives. As long as we keep God’s commandments and follow His will, though we may lose our life now, we will find our life in God’s presence. That is more desirable than living a comfortable life away from God.
Living a life away from God will ultimately lead to destruction and death but living a life close to God will ultimately bring eternal life.
Delayed gratification should motivate us to prioritize the things in our lives. So what should be our number 1 priority in life?
Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you”.
Seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness should be our TOP priority. Being in God’s kingdom is MANDATORY. Others are just optional. We must be willing to sacrifice our needs and desires in order to obtain a better reward in the future. This is the main goal of delayed gratification.
Prioritizing demands us to spend our time wisely. Prioritizing means to recognize the things that are really important for us. If you recognize the kingdom of God as something of value, then it is natural for us to spend time pursuing that goal. We cannot just claim to be in God’s kingdom without exerting the energy and time to pursue it.
We spend our time on the things we value most. So how do you spend your time? Do you spend it to mindlessly surf the Internet? Do you spend it playing addictive games such as COC or DOTA? Do you spend it all day watching TV?
I hope we don’t do these things. As Christians, we have better things to do than spend our time on vain and useless things. If God’s kingdom is really the top priority in our lives, we must find time in studying the Bible, preaching the Gospel, helping other people, visiting the sick, and keeping the commandments of God.
That is how you prioritize your life!
Delayed gratification does not come naturally. You will not wake up in the morning and find yourself to having mastered delayed gratification. It needs to be intentionally and deliberately planned.
Jesus Christ tells us:
Luke 14:28: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
Planning involves counting the cost. No rational thinking man would start building a structure without first planning how to go about it.
We all have 24 hours a day. No matter who you are and what your status in life are, we are all given the same amount of time. We should have the ability to properly plan how to spend our time wisely.
Creating a plan and really putting it down to a paper will go a very long way. Having short-, mid-, and long-term goals in life will help you to stay focused. Planning will give you direction. Therefore, take the time to plan your life and have the will-power to stick to it.Know the value of the reward
4. Know the value of God’s reward
If you don’t know what you are fighting for, then you will lose the will to fight. This is a very crucial concept when it comes to delayed gratification.
Our world is now geared toward instant gratification. People give in to different temptations because they feel that the temporary pleasure of sin is better than what God is offering us right now. Satan is a master deceiver. He is a genius when it comes to presenting sin in beautiful wrappings.
In order for us to master the art of delayed gratification, we must have the knowledge of God’s reward for us. If we have that VISION deeply ingrained in our hearts and minds, we will have a powerful motivation to stick in our course.
God promises us a very bright future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11). He promises to provide all our needs (Philippians 4:19). He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Ultimately, God will grant us ETERNAL LIFE and the privilege to be rulers in His coming kingdom (Revelation 5:10).
As hard as we might want to perceive the magnitude and enormity of God’s reward for those who will be part of His family, we just don’t have the ability to comprehend it. It is simply INDESCRIBABLE. Our human mind cannot even start to fathom what it will feel like being a spiritual being and living for all eternity.
I Corinthians 2:9: But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
So how much do you value God’s reward? Will you be like Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup? Will you exchange a couple of sinful pleasurable hours to everlasting life?
Remember the ultimate reward of God to those who diligently seek and follow Him. Let no one take your crown (Revelation 3:11) and fight as hard as you can (I Timothy 6:12). Keep in mind the reward of God and you will have a better chance of mastering delayed gratification.
5. Be patient
As we always have heard, “Good things come to those who wait”. This is definitely true when it comes to our Christian calling. God often tells His people to “stand still” and be patient. However, this is among the most difficult commands to follow. When we start to use our human reasoning, we sometimes want to stop waiting and solve our problems by ourselves and without God’s help.
Patience is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). This means that every Christian must strive to increase their level of patience.
Delaying gratification means you have to WAIT. The reward of delayed gratification is not usually felt immediately. Sometimes we wait for a short period of time but most often than not, we may need to wait for a longer period of time.
As this might be the case, the more we wait, the bigger the reward. We know that something is worth our time and energy when it is difficult. Easy things bring small reward. Difficult things bring bigger reward.
Galatians 6:9: “And let us NOT grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Our reward is not found in the beginning of the race. It is found at the finish line. Therefore, be patient, stand still, and see the salvation of God. We can all have the confidence that delayed gratification will bring its sweetest fruits in due time. And when that time comes, we can confidently look back and tell ourselves, “It’s all worth it!”
All of the people of God throughout the Bible learn how to apply delayed gratification. From the time of righteous Abel, we can read many stories of God’s people applying the art of delayed gratification. They have used their eyes of faith to visualize the rewards of the coming kingdom of God.
This is certainly true when we read Hebrews 11:35-40.
“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a BETTER resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, GOD HAVING PROVIDED SOMETHING BETTER FOR US, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
As we read this passage, there will come a time when delayed gratification would become a matter of life and death. Our Christian calling is never easy but the REWARD is much greater than what we can imagine. Therefore, be it a small or big matter, the art of delayed gratification will ultimately bring you physical and spiritual successes in life!