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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Thirty-Fifth (Delayed Gratification)

I'm sure you've noticed the direction the world's gone in terms of responsiveness even over the course of your life. It's been trending towards faster, faster, faster and whatever is going to give the most pleasure or gratification to whoever the intended audience is. It's even been given a term: instant gratification.

If you haven't thought about it before, even this aspect of the world is an anti-Christian one. Practically every major event recorded in scripture has some aspect of delayed gratification involved. From Naaman's healing of leprosy after the seventh dip in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:1-14) to the Israelites escape from Egypt to the promised land taking a little over a year (counting to the time they should have entered, not the additional 40 year punishment inflicted due to their disobedience) (Numbers 10:11), they show a pattern of YHWH's intention for us to embrace hope and His promises in order to provide motivation and strength.

My personal belief is that the trend towards instant gratification is another of Satan's multi-pronged efforts to move us away from YHWH and discourage people from following Him in the first place. I mean, why read about some promise of something that may not even happen in your lifetime when instead you can pull something up on your phone and get that instant dopamine release that gives us a temporary satisfaction? Why sit through some person standing there talking at you once a week about something you may or may not get anything out of when you can get an instant reward doing something else?

The fact is, there are more and more people leaving churches, and I think instant gratification is one of the reasons why. You may have caught on that I'm not a huge proponent of man-organized religion as I don't believe that was Yeshua's intent when speaking about building His church, but I'm not in the least bit confident that the reason for the decline of church attendance is because Christians are suddenly building His true Church en masse. But hey, I could be wrong! I think these people are leaving Christianity altogether.

We however, should look forward to, and be prepared for, a promise that may happen today, maybe tomorrow or next week, or maybe not for 1000 years! Peter wrote words of encouragement on this to those who were dispersed to what is now Turkey, and subsequently to us as his words were preserved for us to read as well (2 Peter 3:9). He even mentioned those of his day that essentially were looking for the fulfillment of promises in their day rather than some time in the future (2 Peter 3:4).

The importance of having fortitude in your hope and longing for the fulfillment of Yeshua's promises was reflected by Yeshua Himself in His parables. The ten virgins immediately comes to mind when looking at them from this perspective (Matthew 25:1-13). Five wise virgins prepared themselves for a lengthy night of waiting for the bridegroom, but the five foolish ones expected an on-time arrival and did not have extra oil as a contingency if the bridegroom was delayed.

He also went on to tell of servants who were given a sum of money by their master for it to be taken care of while he was gone (Matthew 25:14-30). The focus when studying this particular parable is usually on the judgment given to the servant with one talent (Matthew 25:30). What's glossed over is the fact that the master was gone for a long time (Matthew 25:19).

Both of these parables have an element of delayed gratification. Sure, the servants were increasing the funds they were given...well, at least two of them were...which may give some sort of gratification. But, those funds were not theirs and they had no expectation of either keeping them or getting rewarded for increasing them. They were "entrusted with his possessions," not gifted the money, and the master said nothing about either what they should do with it or that they would receive anything as a result of being wise with it.

They also were not told how long they would have to take care of it, but we see that at least the one with five talents did not delay in putting them to work. There was no procrastination there. The servant didn't go throw a party first while his master was away, to "let off some steam" or "relax a bit" before getting to work. Unfortunately, some people are fine with delayed gratification, but also subscribe to delayed repentance as well.

You may be fine with delayed gratification. Maybe it's not discouraging or a hindrance in you following YHWH and Yeshua. But how far does that go? In the next passage, Yeshua prophesies of the sheep and goats judgment, which we've looked at previously (Matthew 25:31-46). In the prophecy, He talks about giving food to the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, taking care of the sick, and housing the strangers.

Let's say you spent the better half of a decade saving up to purchase a boat, or perhaps a really nice RV. When that naked person passes through your life, do you spend some of that money to clothe them? When you see that hungry person to you feed them? Would you delay that big purchase to preserve the delayed gratification promised at Yeshua's return? Or would there be an excuse, like that person should have taken better care of their money, or they must have a drug/alcohol problem so they'd probably just end up spending anything I gave them on that?

Yeshua is clear what will happen to those who do not take care of Him. They will be sent to the fire of Gei-Hinnom. The same fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Sometimes neither delayed gratification nor the promise of a major punishment is enough to influence behavior.

But this whole topic of delayed gratification is not as simple as just looking toward the future, is it? It might be easy to just remind ourselves of His promise of eternal life and His coming (1 Thessalonians 4:17) by reading His word if living day to day was calm and simple. But it's not. We wrestle against things we cannot see (Ephesians 6:12) and try to live in a place where we are foreigners (Philippians 3:20).

Comparatively, our lives as Christians here in America is easy. While we deal with infringement of our rights to religious liberty in areas like freedom to worship (churches being shut down to prevent spread) and denial of religious exemptions from vaccines, in other parts of the world Christians are imprisoned or even murdered. Simply for believing in the one true God.

It may not be that difficult right now to stick to that hope for the future and that delayed gratification. When things get worse though, as I believe they will here, it will be harder and harder to hold on to His promise and continue to follow His commandments. Food may get scarce, and you may become hungry. Will the desire to satisfy that hunger cause a compromise, or maybe even just a questioning, of your beliefs?

What if it was the death of you, or maybe your loved ones? Would preventing that be sufficient to cause doubt? These are things we should think about and prepare for before it comes upon us. While I wholeheartedly believe that YHWH will protect us through the hardship to come, that doesn't mean it won't be hard. It will be a challenging time for anyone who lives through it.

The bottom line is, there are a lot of questions about what's to come. While we have a lot of prophetic language in scripture talking about what's to come, there is no agreement on what any of it means or even what was fulfilled and what is to come. The result is the only thing we're really guaranteed is being given eternal life through Yeshua Ha-Mashiach our Adon (Romans 6:23). That's our delayed gratification, but not the full picture. We'll be with YHWH and Yeshua for that eternity, and that's the gratification we're looking for!

Take some time this week to prepare for what's to come. As always, pray about it. Ask for strength for when times get tough. And trust Him!

Shabbat shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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